June 2nd, 2013
01:50 PM ET
1 year ago

IRS faces new battle on overspending

(CNN) - The Internal Revenue Service is playing defense on a new front: excess spending on conferences.

The IRS spent close to $50 million on 225 conferences between 2010 and 2012, according to briefings given to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

TIGTA will release an audit Tuesday that details surplus spending at a conference in 2010 for 2,700 people in the IRS Small Business/Self-Employed division.

At a House oversight committee hearing on the issue next week, lawmakers will focus on the August 2010 conference held in Anaheim, California, at a cost of $4 million. Several IRS employees stayed in presidential suites at hotels, the committee learned. Such suites currently cost between $1,500 to $3,500 per night.

"The culture of the federal workforce is one where I don't think you can underestimate that if you don't keep reminding the voters - but also the federal workers - that we're watching, this will happen again," Rep. Darrell Issa said on CNN's "State of the Union."

Last year, the General Services Administration drew fierce congressional criticism and scrutiny for spending nearly $1 million on a conference in Las Vegas, also in 2010. It featured a controversial video and ultimately resulted in the resignation of the GSA administrator. The administration implemented efforts to clamp down on such spending.

"It doesn't stay fixed," Issa said. "One example in Anaheim, when they bought their tickets they said, 'Well, we'll pay the per diem rate for these hotel rooms.' They didn't negotiate, they didn't bid it. And this was 2,700 folks. So they could have gotten a considerable reduction. Instead what they said is, 'We'll pay full boat, but we want some perks.' So they ended up with free drinks, they ended up with tickets to games, basically kickbacks."

Fifteen outside speakers were hired to give presentations at the conference, totaling $135,000, the oversight committee was told. One of the speakers, who was paid $17,000, led a session called "Leadership Through Art."

The IRS spent $50,000 to produce two videos that were shown at the event. One had a "Star Trek" theme and was reported on earlier this year, while the other video – in which employees learned the Cupid shuffle dance – was released this weekend.

The purpose of the conference was listed as continuing professional education, but credits were not given to attendees, the committee learned. Also, no sign-in sheets were posted outside training sessions, making it difficult for TIGTA to determine if attendees actually went to the sessions.

The IRS has not taken disciplinary action over the conference, TIGTA told the oversight committee, adding that planners were given cash awards for their efforts.

The report comes as the IRS is already under investigation for its admitted targeting of conservative groups that were seeking tax-exempt status in 2010 and 2011.

Acting Commissioner Danny Werfel released a statement Friday about the upcoming audit release, saying such spending is "inappropriate."

"This conference is an unfortunate vestige from a prior era. While there were legitimate reasons for holding the meeting, many of the expenses associated with it were inappropriate and should not have occurred," he said, adding that such a conference would not take place today.

"Sweeping new spending restrictions have been put in place at the IRS, and travel and training expenses have dropped more than 80 percent since 2010 and similar large-scale meetings did not take place in 2011, 2012 or 2013."

- CNN's chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash contributed to this report.


Filed under: IRS
soundoff (59 Responses)
  1. Outraged_Taxpayer

    IRS does a god's work too..like mafia

    June 2, 2013 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  2. mb2010a

    Since they are technically the only government agency that turns a profit in our government and a very large one...I think all of the faux concern by Congress should be taken with a grain of salt....

    June 2, 2013 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  3. Ed

    I am happy they are checking into wasteful conference spending as long as they also check GOP sacred cows such as DoD and Homeland Security AND that the news agencies provide some perspective (e.g. does Homeland spend 10x to 1000x what the IRS does).

    June 2, 2013 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  4. kg

    Well, it's no wonder they were targeting Tea Party groups who want a smaller and more accountable government. As taxpayers, we have got to take our government back. It is clearly out of control, especially when the agency responsible for managing revenue acts this irresponsibly.

    June 2, 2013 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  5. Anonymous

    I have a breathtaking idea! Why not issue a 1099 for the pro rata amount over the "usual and customary" amount, deemed appropriate by the GSA, to each and every IRS employee who enjoyed these lavish perks and accommodations. After all, the IRS doesn't care if how nice a car a salesman drives, even though he may spend half his working life on the road, he's only allowed 56.5 cents per mile as a deduction. What's good for the goose.....

    June 2, 2013 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  6. Concerned Citizen

    I think this is an example of how our tax system is too complicated.

    Dems in congress have been picking winners and losers via the tax code and regulations for decades. People say that Obama does this, but he just does it much more excessively and with many more abuses.

    We are in dire need of tax code reform that stops giving priority to the Dems policies and projects

    June 2, 2013 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  7. Kevin

    The IRS was crying about the sequester and not having enough money -- pretty shameful

    June 2, 2013 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  8. Regime

    I'm sure Obama will figure it out and you won't hear it shortly from the media.

    June 2, 2013 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  9. brad1001

    Wow .. just wow ... this is out of control, and it's our money these people are spending

    June 2, 2013 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  10. javaman

    What a crock

    June 2, 2013 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  11. SheilaKA

    Your tax dollars "at work"....

    June 2, 2013 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  12. William Poole

    The IRS needs to repay every single American out there. the IRS Steals money. The IRS is like any other criminal out there. There is no law that states, that you have to pay tax's. You don't have to pay tax's, it isn't a duty and the tax system should be abolished once and for all. And the people who run the IRS, should be put in prison and never allowed out or banned from the United States.

    June 2, 2013 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  13. AZWarrior

    The IRS's culture of arrogance is being revealed almost daily now. Those who still insist on defending them based on their political stance are nothing but unindicted co-conspirators.

    June 2, 2013 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  14. komododr

    Mr. Issa, the U.S. Congress can really help by simplifying the tax code. Probably half of the IRS employees don't know the tax laws so they have to hire an outside expert to help them understand it.

    June 2, 2013 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  15. catfish252

    I will never again trust the IRS to be fair and just. The entire agency needs to be stripped down and rebuilt using a fair tax method. $4,000,000.00 for a conference, $3,500.00 to sleep in a bed, and all the acting Commissioner can say is"inappropriate". No S–t Sherlock. The abusive individuals who took advantage of the government spending and those who approved it all need to be fired and their pensions stripped. Then there is the Tea Party scandal. The entire IRS stinks. These few acts demonstrate the IRS cannot be trusted with our money and can't be trusted to deal with individuals and organizations in a fair manner. It's an organization that seemingly is rife with corruption and political back-alley handshaking. Now the Healthcare system is going to be administered by them? We need another plan and we need it now. They'll be in bed with the Big Pharmaceuticals soon too. I don't want these folks anywhere near my health care. The IRS has too much power and obviously too little oversight. We need more government whistle-blowers, this is just a small percentage of how America is raped each day. God save our Republic.

    June 2, 2013 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  16. Anonymous

    I would like to see what the hotel rates were in Anaheim because they were probably extremely low and if the IRS actually looked into the ROI of such conferences, which tends to be very high. Before persecuting the planners of the meetings, the public should demand to see the full bills. Believe me. You have a panel of overseers here who have no idea what they are looking at or how such functions run. So, we will be paying the overseers who are inexperienced and uninformed to investigate something they know nothing about. Therefore, wasting more money.

    June 2, 2013 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  17. ECONOMYSTIC EXTRAORDINAIRE

    autonomous power breeds contempt.

    June 2, 2013 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  18. FragmentFour

    I wish to heaven I could be surprised at this piece of behavior.

    June 2, 2013 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  19. Larry L

    I know of one government that takes excessive vacations, always flys first class, takes bribes from special interest groups, and never, ever performs it's most basic job. That organization is the U.S. Congress.

    June 2, 2013 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  20. None

    About time IRS tastes its own medicine.

    June 2, 2013 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  21. WalrusJohn

    Big government gone out of control

    June 2, 2013 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  22. henryh

    IRS is not above the law. This is a typical government officials/employees mentality that jobs are guaranteed and money is FREE.

    June 2, 2013 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  23. Tell it like it is

    The current White House administration including Obama get a big fat F on their report card from me. This kind of abuse of the tax payers money should not be tolerated, but all of the low income voters that pray to Obama have their hands out too. They won't give a crap when they read this article, because they don't pay a dime in taxes, so they could care less that $1500-$3500 a night was spent on a hotel room. FIre the entire corrupt administration, and get some people in there that actually know what they are doing, and what the heck is going on in our government. The I didn't know about it lame excuse has been used up Mr. President.

    June 2, 2013 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  24. Tenie

    That bottomless pit of money they steal from taxpayers every day

    June 2, 2013 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  25. Tadow

    Looks like they took the advice from the NSA !! Or did we forget all of their waste spending?? Enough with dems vs. republicans, they all need to be replaced.

    June 2, 2013 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
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