Jimmy Patronis proposal holds IRS employees, contractors liable for political targeting


Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis is proposing legislation to defend small business owners from political targeting by IRS personnel.

With his latest draft measure, Patronis — a Republican statewide official vying for re-election — wants to establish civil penalties against IRS agents who retaliate against Floridians for their politics. The legislation, announced Tuesday, marks his second proposal in six days in response to President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats’ plan to hire 87,000 IRS employees over the next decade.

“We know for a fact that the IRS targeted Tea Party groups, we know that tens-of-billions of dollars are moving from states like California and New York to Florida, and we know from that appalling Biden speech that he’s green-lit federal bureaucrats to go after Conservatives,” Patronis said in a statement.

“With 87,000 new IRS personnel, there is absolutely no doubt that some of those new agents are going to target Floridians based on their political beliefs, and in my view, you don’t get to ruin someone’s life without having your own skin in the game.”

Biden’s critics have likened the planned expansion within the Inflation Reduction Act, signed last month, to a private army that will hunt down political adversaries. Republicans’ distrust in the IRS has only been strengthened in recent years after the agency scrutinized conservative groups, for which the IRS has apologized.

The draft is the second proposal from the Panama City Republican’s four-part “IRS Protection Plan to Fight Back Against a Shakedown Targeting Florida.” Under the measure, which Patronis calls the plan’s fourth pillar, Floridians could sue individual IRS employees and contractors for violating Titles VI or VII of the Civil Rights Act or the First, Fourth or Fifth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. If successful, plaintiffs could win back their losses, punitive damages and attorney fees.

“This legislation will create financial penalties against IRS agents who target Floridians,” Patronis said. “If you’re trying to shakedown Florida businesses, non-profits, or families, then the State of Florida will also have tools to go after you too.”

On Thursday, Patronis released the text for his first proposal, legislation that would require banks and financial institutions to report all IRS inquiries each year. One of the two remaining proposals will be designed to incentivize Floridians to fight the IRS to the end instead of settling by making them whole again if they prove the IRS discriminated against them. The final “pillar” would allow the state to pull debt collectors licenses from IRS vendors that are proven to discriminate against Floridians.

The proposals come in the early leadup to the 2023 Session but also as Florida politicos hunker down for the 2022 Midterms, in which five of six statewide offices are on the ballot. Patronis faces former Democratic Rep. Adam Hattersley in his bid for four more years on the Cabinet.

The CFO oversees the state’s payments and receivables, and has direct oversight of the Department of Financial Services, which includes the Office of Insurance Regulation and the Office of Financial Regulation. The position also acts as the state Fire Marshal, overseeing the Bureau of Fire Prevention and the Bureau of Fire Standards and Training.

Although Hattersley flipped a GOP-leaning seat in 2018, a strong year for Democrats nationally, the Hillsborough County politician faces a tougher challenge in Patronis. Patronis holds millions more in fundraising and is endorsed by former President Donald Trump.

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