Michael Nagle/Bloomberg

The Internal Revenue Service is hiring up to 700 new employees to do audits and go after delinquent taxpayers in an effort to turn around years of what the agency has acknowledged is lax enforcement.

“When you look at the IRS overall, every dollar invested in us returns at least $4 to the Treasury,” Commissioner John Koskinen told his employees in a memo Tuesday. “The numbers are even higher when it involves enforcement.”

He called the hiring spree “our first significant enforcement hiring in more than five years.”

[In Dallas, the IRS says it can’t chase tax cheats who owe less than $1 million ]

“While adding 600 to 700 new enforcement hires will not replace those who have left, it will help fill key gaps in our enforcement workforce created by years of attrition,” said the memo, first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

After five years of massive budget cuts prompted by congressional Republicans, the agency’s enforcement ranks have been drastically whittled down, officials say. As of 2015 the IRS had absorbed a 15 percent reduction in the number of revenue officers, the employees who put liens on delinquent taxpayers’ property and knock on their doors to get them to pay up. Revenue agents, who conduct audits of individuals and businesses, were down 16 percent.

Congress gave the IRS an extra $290 million this year. But that money was earmarked for customer service and cyber security improvements to beef up the agency’s fight against identity theft.

[A standard dejection in the IRS help line]

The money for the enforcement hires will be freed up by retirements, attrition and budget “efficiencies,” although Koskinen was not specific.

The first group of job openings will be announced in a few weeks, he wrote, and will work in the department that oversees self-employed taxpayers and small businesses. Hundreds of higher-level enforcement jobs will be filled later this year.

Read more:

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