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House votes to slash IRS tax enforcement budget

WASHINGTON — The GOP-controlled House has voted to slash the budget for the Internal Revenue Service’s enforcement division by $1.2 billion, a 25 percent cut that would mean fewer tax audits and make it more likely that people who cheat on their taxes will get away with it.

The House approved the cuts by voice vote after little debate Monday night as it took up a $21 billion spending bill that sets the IRS budget.

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The cuts reflect GOP outrage over the agency’s scrutiny of Tea Party groups seeking tax-exempt status and frustration over the agency’s failure to produce thousands of e-mails by Lois Lerner, the official formerly in charge of the IRS unit that processes applications for tax-exempt status.

‘‘The use of a government agency to harass, target, intimidate, and threaten lawful, honest citizens was the worst form of authoritarianism,’’ said Representative Paul Gosar, Republican of Arizona and author of an amendment to cut the IRS tax enforcement budget by $353 million. Representative Bill Huizenga, Republican of Michigan, followed with an amendment to cut $788 million more.

The Democratic floor leader on the bill, Representative Jose Serrano of New York, opposed the amendments but decided against demanding a roll call vote.

A companion Senate measure has stalled.

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