June 2nd, 2013
01:50 PM ET
9 years 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.

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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. Peace

    Are they now coming up with IRS excess spending? Why don't they come up with congress being paid each month without doing anything? Is it not also tax payers money?

    June 2, 2013 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  2. king

    i wonder if anyone check how these agencies were spending under the bush administration, or did anyone noticed, since bush was pushing wars on 2 fronts. i agree these unnecessary spending must be curtailed, but just dont act like all these stuff didn't expand a number of president. so if the repubs are turning every stone to find anything
    to scandalized even if these tactics expand generations, of presidents.

    June 2, 2013 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  3. don in albuquerque

    Has the Witchfinder General actually done anything for the people who elected him? Throw this Bum out on his butt.

    June 2, 2013 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  4. jpmichigan

    While the average middle class taxpayer goes with no vacation, the federal government spends money like a drunken sailor , as the saying goes. Cut back tours to the White House, furlough leaves for staff at Walter Reed, but the IRS goes on a spending spry. This Obama administration has NO control on what is happening.

    June 2, 2013 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  5. rs1201

    obama is allowing this!

    June 2, 2013 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  6. PJ

    This excessive spending is an outrage.
    But, does the IRS, or any other federal agency, reconcile their spending each year?
    Does the Oversight Committee know, or ever ask for this reconciliation? If not, why not?
    What does the "Oversight" committee do, if not checks and balances on these agencies?
    Or, is this being investigated because the Republican's "good buddies", the Tea Party tried to rip-off the
    taxpayers and engage in political activities under the auspices of "social welfare".
    Exactly what "social welfare" activities have these people engaged in? Nobody asks and when we
    do, nobody answers.
    Anybody care to answer? Any reporter ever ask?

    June 2, 2013 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  7. s. acheson

    You can't fix stupid, and the irs is loaded to the brim with it.

    June 2, 2013 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  8. TAJW

    Are you freaking kidding me? Somebody better being going to jail...several somebodies.

    June 2, 2013 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  9. ARdude

    It's time to just get rid of this agency, and its issues. We need to move from an income based taxation system to a use and sales tax system. Base the the governments wallet on what WE spend, not what the rich people "declare" their income to be. This is a joke, and it's time to revamp it. CALL CONGRESS.

    June 2, 2013 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  10. oldguy68

    And some don't want to sequester the IRS. I would be willing to bet nearly every branch of the government, at every level, has a story like this-not the same amount of money, but needless overspending.

    June 2, 2013 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  11. sonnie3

    Just another liberal democratic scandal!!
    the obama crusade in full mode
    Bunch of back stabbing fools I say

    June 2, 2013 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  12. Dave

    I sure hope they used it as a deduction....lol.

    June 2, 2013 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  13. Dont matter

    Not overspending when one considers the amount of people at the convention. If the GOP is so concerned with spending then they should stop supporting the trillions in tax breaks to the Oil Corps.

    June 2, 2013 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  14. Bryan

    Well that's just wasteful. Man, the government is really making it hard to support them. I'm a progressive, but Republicans may have a point about spending.

    June 2, 2013 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  15. Mike500

    When I was in the Navy and traveled, I had to stay within the per diem rate for the location I traveled to. there was a maximum amount for food and lodging that would be reimbursed. If you went over that, you paid out of your own pocket/ Why doesn't the IRS live by that too?

    June 2, 2013 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  16. Keith Long

    So what else is new. Government agencies spend money like a bunch of drunken sailors without any oversight because they can. It is easy to spend a lot of money when it is someone else's money. They waste even more so they can justify an increase in next years budget.

    June 2, 2013 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  17. sonnie3

    The word CONFERENCE in Webster's dictionary does not mention
    expensive top grade rooms @ well over 1000$ per nite
    party perks
    the IRS don't even come close to passing the smell test.

    We need term limits and common sense in America to get a hold on the wasteful spending allowed by Government Officials. Time for big changes in the bloated over taxing, over borrowing, bunch of lunatics that are currently running our government. Especially we need accountability and transparency in the spending categories. Time to white wash Washington and give it a new outlook.

    June 2, 2013 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  18. jason

    IRS is the most corrupt organization in the world. The sad thing is that they somehow convince the gov to throw law abiding citizens who pay more than their fair share of taxes behind bars.

    June 2, 2013 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  19. cpc65

    Sounds like they need an intense audit.

    June 2, 2013 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  20. Anton

    Abolish the IRS.

    State and local taxes are enough.

    The federal government and the military can hold bake sales to get cash.

    June 2, 2013 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  21. Anton

    How much does Mr. Issa spend on his custom Italian suits?

    June 2, 2013 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  22. George Miller

    Why should the IRS be singled out by the trough eaters on Capitol Hill who spend millions on "fact finding Junkets " to all the expensive places in the world at the tax payers expense or at the expense of their corporate friends who have their votes in their back pockets. Before pointing fingers at any other department, and what the IRS did was criminal, then clean up their own act and have inquiries into the NRA and what they spend on the aforementioned trough eaters, at the expense of human life in this country

    June 2, 2013 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  23. Will S

    So I'm supposed to be outraged about something that happened 3 years ago?

    June 2, 2013 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  24. Rudy NYC

    This is old news about a culture that's come to an end.

    June 2, 2013 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  25. Anonymous

    pull their feet to the fire

    June 2, 2013 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
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