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Images Show IRS Educational Program, Not Training of Agents

Quick Take

The IRS Criminal Investigation division’s “Adrian Project” educates the public about the IRS through community outreach sessions with high school and college students. Posts on social media are sharing a video from one of the sessions to falsely claim it shows agents in training. The images were posted by a New Jersey university in 2017 and earlier this year.

Full Story 

The IRS has been in the spotlight — and has become a target of Republicans and conservative social media posts — because it will receive nearly $79 billion over 10 years from the Inflation Reduction Act.

Critics have misleadingly claimed that the IRS will now hire “87,000 new agents” to investigate average citizens, and baselessly claimed that recent IRS ammunition purchases may be part of a “broader effort” to get ammunition off the market. 

The agency is now the focus of a new viral claim. Social media posts are spreading a video and photos that purport to show agents training for the IRS Criminal Investigation division.

As we’ve previously explained, the IRS Criminal Investigation division is the sixth-largest federal law enforcement agency in the U.S. The division doesn’t perform routine IRS audits on average Americans. It investigates criminal cases related to money laundering, cybercrime, bank secrecy, national security, national defense and narcotics organizations, which requires firearms and training for its special agents.

But the content in the posts is not from an IRS Criminal Investigation division training. The images actually show the division’s community outreach sessions with high school and college students.

The title of a video shared on Rumble by the Bongino Report, a website of conservative commentator Dan Bongino, falsely claims: “Newly surfaced IRS training video BREAKS the internet.” 

A post on Facebook shared the same video with the headline, “Video shows armed training for IRS criminal division.” The post received more than 44,000 views and nearly 3,000 likes. 

Another Facebook post shared photos — some showing the same individuals as in the video — with the caption, “These are actual photos of an IRS agent training class.” They are not. 

Justin Cole, a spokesman for the IRS Criminal Investigation division, told us in an email the photos and video are from a program called the “Adrian Project” that has been presented at dozens of universities and high schools throughout the country.

“To be clear, this is NOT training that IRS-CI is providing to any prospective special agents,” Cole said. “This is a community outreach event that educates the public about who we are and what we do.”   

The Adrian Project — named after the first college where the IRS Criminal Investigation division conducted the project 20 years ago — is a day-long program in which students participate in a simulated criminal investigation. 

Cole said the photos and video appear to be from 2017 and earlier this year, all taken at Stockton University in New Jersey. The university posted the images to the school website and on Flickr in October 2017 and March 2022, identifying them as Adrian Project activities. The video shared in the post on social media was posted in 2017 on Stockton University’s YouTube channel. 

The caption of the video said,The IRS Criminal Investigation Newark Field Office brought the Adrian Project to Stockton’s Campus Center for a day-long simulation of a mock criminal investigation.”

Cole said that during the program, “participants investigate a mock financial crime while being monitored by IRS-CI special agents and professional staff. The nearly two-decade old program takes students through a basic overview of undercover work, surveillance, subpoenas and search warrants in scenario-based instruction led by IRS-CI special agents.”  

The program’s website says, “Students are ‘sworn in’ as special agents in the morning and wear IRS protective vests, use handcuffs, toy guns and radios to communicate with their counterpart agents on the 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, which is a bureau of the Treasury Department, will use money provided by the Inflation Reduction Act “to modernize the IRS” and “improve taxpayer services – from answering the phones to improving IT systems – and to crack down on high-income and corporate tax evaders,” according to a Treasury Department spokesperson.

Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen directed IRS Commissioner Charles P. Rettig not to use the new funding to increase enforcement of taxpayers earning less than $400,000. 

Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on social media. Our previous stories can be found here. Facebook has no control over our editorial content. 


Cole, Justin. Director of communications, IRS Criminal Investigation Unit. Email to FactCheck.org. 18 Aug 2022.

IRS. Adrian Project allows students to become IRS Criminal Investigation special agents for a day.” IRS.gov. Last updated 15 Nov 2021. 

Jones, Brea. “IRS Will Target ‘High-Income’ Tax Evaders with New Funding, Contrary to Social Media Posts.” FactCheck.org 18 Aug 2022.

Stockton University. “Accounting Students Get Hands-On Lesson in IRS Criminal Investigations.” Stockton.edu. 30 Oct 2017.

The ‘Adrian Project’ to Make Its Final Presentation.” Adrian College. 8 Feb 2012.