For years, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has run a recruitment program called the Adrian Project during which high school and college students are given tactical vests and fake guns to carry out mock arrests of individuals who are wanted for tax-related crimes.
Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) brought renewed attention to the IRS this week amid criticism over the IRS’s plan to hire 87,000 new agents, who are expected to carry guns, and conduct criminal investigations and arrests. Massie also tweeted a video showing the IRS demonstrating its criminal investigation activities to college students on campus via the Adrian Project.
According to the IRS website, students who take part in the Adrian Project are first “‘sworn in’ as special agents.” Students then wear IRS protective vests, use handcuffs, toy guns and radios to work on a case.
“The students sharpen their forensic accounting skills and are introduced to interviewing suspects, conducting surveillance and document analysis. The day ends when the students solve the crime and arrest the mock offender,” the IRS website states.
In April, Dixie State University in Utah hosted the program, which allowed students to experience arresting a man wanted for tax evasion. In one scenario presented to the students, IRS special agents targeted a small business owner of a landscaping company.
In 2019, both Indiana State University and Walsh College in Michigan hosted the program. The assistant special agent in charge of IRS Criminal Investigation at the time said Project Adrian helps “get the message out” about the IRS’ role in solving crimes.
Rowan University in New Jersey also hosted the program, according to a video posted on YouTube in 2018. In the video, students use fake guns to conduct a mock arrest of a man who committed tax fraud.
“I like that it’s not just bookkeeping. We learned how to carry firearms. We learned how to enter a room,” says Jose Paredes, an accounting major at the time.
In a video featuring the Adrian Project at Stockton University in 2017, students facilitate multiple mock arrests of individuals who have committed tax violations.
In 2016, Purdue University, Northern Illinois University and University of Mary hosted the Adrian Project.
“I think it’s important because this really gives the students a hands-on look at what it’s like to be an IRS agent. In this case, in the criminal investigation side. So, we have accounting majors and criminal justice majors who will work together to solve some tax fraud today,” says then-University of Mary Faculty Accounting Director Susann Cuperus in a video on the project.
Rider University hosted the Adrian Project in 2011, in what one woman called “such a great opportunity for the students.”
“This is such a great opportunity for the students to take what they’ve learned in various courses and see how it all comes together. You read about how to interview, how to do things, but when it’s a real live person and you’re thinking on your feet, you just can’t learn that from a book,” an unidentified woman apparently affiliated with Rider University says in a video on the project.
In 2010, the Metropolitan University of Denver hosted an Adrian Project demonstration.
The IRS’ criminal division has been running the Adrian Project at universities since at least 2007, when agents visited University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
“It’s basically exposure to who we are and what we do, because I don’t think a lot of students even know that we exist,” IRS supervisory special agent Sam Holland says in a video at UNLV.
“You hear about people going to jail because they don’t pay their taxes. Well, we’re the guys that make it happen,” Holland adds with a grin.
The IRS Criminal Investigation Division is receiving renewed attention in recent weeks due to a job posting that said the agency is hiring special agents who will be required to “carry a firearm” and “be willing to use deadly force” during possible “dangerous assignments.”
President Joe Biden signed new legislation into law this week that includes nearly $80 billion in funding for the IRS. The massive funding boost will allow the IRS to hire nearly 87,000 new employees, more than doubling the service’s current size and making it larger than the Pentagon, State Department, FBI, and Border Patrol combined.
The Biden administration claimed last week that no one making under $400,000 per year will face new audits as a result of the funding. Notably, an amendment to the bill that would have forced the IRS to follow that standard – limiting new audits to those making $400,000 or more per year – failed 50-50 in the Senate.
Every Democrat voted against the proposal, whereas every Republican voted in favor of protecting “low- and middle-income earning American taxpayers from an onslaught of audits from an army of new Internal Revenue Service auditors funded by an unprecedented, nearly $80.000.000.000, infusion of new funds.”
According to IRS data, more than half of the audits performed in 2021 targeted taxpayers making less than $75,000 per year, as reported by The Washington Post. Additionally, over 40 percent of audits were aimed at taxpayers who received the earned income tax credit, which is a measure to help reduce poverty.