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IRS has a knack for scandals

Episode involves bonuses for dishonest workers

By The Mercury

You’d think the folks at the Internal Revenue Service would be smarter. After all, the IRS is the agency Americans love to hate.

You’d at least think that after being raked over the coals for bullying taxpayers a few years ago and more recently for targeting organizations for political rather than legitimate purposes, it would become scandal-averse. Not so.

If it were, it would have known better than to give bonuses to employees who cheated on their taxes. Yet according to a report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, the IRS distributed some $2.8 million in bonuses to employees with disciplinary and tax problems.

Granted, $2.8 million might be pocket change in our nation’s big budget picture, but it’s still a lot of money. So is the $1 million of it that went to IRS employees whose offenses included underreporting and willfully understating their income. In fact, more than 1,100 IRS employees received bonuses within a year of their respective tax compliance problems. The Inspector General’s report covered bonuses in 2011 and 2012.

Not all the bonuses were in cash. The agency also gave employees paid time off apart from vacations, including more than 10,000 hours to employees with tax problems. Maybe the agency gave them paid time off so they could audit themselves and then gave them bonuses for ratting themselves out.

On a positive note, the IRS says that for the last four years, it has not given any bonuses to executives who were subject to disciplinary action. Also, to save money and prevent furloughs, the IRS suspended most bonuses in the 2013 fiscal year before restoring them in FY2014

On a not so positive note, at least two IRS employees spent so much time traveling in the past two years that they traveled more days than they actually worked. One executive — “Executive D” — was on the road for 413 days in 2011 and 2012, running up a travel tab of $283,491.

The IRS points out that executive travel is necessary in an agency with 90,000 employees and more than 600 offices. And it ought to be noted that the Inspector General’s report has found no evidence that executives took improper perks like lodging upgrades or claimed excessive reimbursements.

Still, at least with cases like Executive D’s, most of whose travel involved trips to and from Washington, D.C., you’d think frequent flyer miles and other discounts associated with repeat business would have eased the burden on taxpayers.

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