During congressional hearings on the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) scandal, Congressman Hal Rogers (Republican – Kentucky) said, “It seems we have a new misstep every day at the IRS.” This is on the heels of news of lavish spending on conferences by the IRS. This of course was expected after new broke in March about the ridiculous Star Trek Parody Videos.
A report released Tuesday by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) details frivolous spending by the IRS which included $27,000 on an innovation expert, $10,000 on diversity and inclusion expert, $11,000 on a happiness expert, and $17,000 for something called leadership through art. Given the overall demeanor of the IRS employees I’ve had the pleasure of dealing with as a tax attorney; I don’t necessarily disagree with the IRS trying to improve their happiness.
TIGTA conducted its audit to identify the IRS’s spending on conferences during fiscal years 2010 through 2012. The audit’s primary focus was on the IRS Small Business and Self-Employed division’s 2010 conference in Anaheim where it spent $4.1 million for planning trips, outside speakers, video productions, and promotional items and gifts for IRS employees.
“Excessive spending by federal agencies on management conferences has been highlighted by recent Inspectors General reports and in congressional hearings,” said TIGTA Inspector General J. Russell George. “Effective cost management is especially important given the current economic environment and focus on Government efficiency. Certain of the IRS’s expenses associated with the Anaheim conference do not appear to be a good use of taxpayer funds.”
In watching the recent hearings, it seems like members of Congress are out of touch with their constituents and surprised as to the frustrations the public has to endure while dealing with the IRS every day. The surface is just being scratched as to inappropriateness at the IRS as the issues under scrutiny have not even (yet) dealt with IRS collection and audit issues. However, there may be pressure to not bring such issues to light as I suspect the IRS collection and audit practices may scare the public, and as Congressman Mike Kelly (Republican – Pennsylvania) repeatedly lectured during Tuesday’s hearings, “do not be afraid of this government.”