Viral photos show no IRS training courses

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Viral Facebook post: The photos show “an IRS agent training class”.

PolitiFact’s decision: Fake

Here’s why: You may have seen the images online showing people wearing protective vests and brandishing fake handguns.

“IRS CID POLICE” say the white letters engraved on their vests.

“These are real photos from an IRS agent training course,” said a Facebook post about four of the photos. Another post showed a video clip of some of the same people in the photos, describing it as “new video and photos from officer training.” These types of claims were further fueled by U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., who tweeted the footage and said, “These are not auditions for the upcoming Police Academy sequel. It’s This is a real IRS recruiting program.”

These posts are being shared online amid misinformation about the IRS’ plans to increase its staff and enforcement. And they were flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat fake news and misinformation on its News Feed.

The four photos and the video do not show tax officials. They show accounting students at the University of Stockton and the University of Alaska in Anchorage. Students participate in a mock crime investigation simulation, playing the role of IRS Criminal Investigations Special Agents.

“Accountants don’t usually carry guns,” says a 2017 press release from the University of Stockton about what it calls a “hands-on lesson in IRS criminal investigations.” “But, as 24 University of Stockton accounting students have learned, being an IRS Criminal Investigations Special Agent means you could uncover a money laundering operation for terrorists, resulting in a raid. armed.”

Students reviewed bank statements, bills and tax returns. They monitored and interrogated witnesses. They asked for arrest and search warrants.

The simulation was part of what’s called “Project Adrian,” an IRS program that visits college and university campuses “to provide students with a first-hand look at what it’s like for IRS special agents to conduct an investigation, to track illicit money from crime to criminal,” according to the agency.

Stockton professors said they brought the program there to expose students to different types of accounting careers. IRS Criminal Investigation is a division of the IRS and its agents have been armed for over a century. Nor are these federal employees the typical auditors that Americans facing routine audits will encounter. Notorious mobster Al Capone, for example, was investigated by the division, then called the Intelligence Unit, and later convicted of tax evasion. More recently, criminal investigators have been part of a task force tracking the assets of Russian oligarchs.

We are evaluating claims that these photos show a fake IRS agent training class.

Our Sources

  • Facebook post, August 16, 2022
  • Instagram post, August 17, 2022
  • YouTube, IRS Project Adrian in Stockton, October 2017
  • University of Stockton, accounting students receive a hands-on lesson in IRS criminal investigations, October 30, 2017
  • Stockton University Flickr, Project Adrian 2022
  • Stockton University, IRS – You’re Under Arrest!, March 15, 2022
  • University of Alaska Anchorage, Slideshow: UAA and IRS Criminal Investigation Division co-host Project Adrian, February 12, 2020
  • IRS, Adrian Project allows students to become IRS Criminal Investigative Special Agents for a day, last updated November 15, 2021