June 2nd, 2013
01:50 PM ET
10 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. Charmaine

    All of this back lash of the IRS may make the American tax payer not wanting and trusting to file their taxes every year! Especially if some tax payers may owe taxes and being audited to do so .How do we know if the IRS is corrected on that? We as tax payers follow the rules in filing our tax forms every year and some fear they owe and that causes people not to do so. Also when people owe back taxes the amount is through the roof along with interest!! interest can be a thousand dollars or more on top of what is to pay back. In which it may take years to pay it off!!! I wonder now where is the tax dollars really going to? The tax account bill or someone in the IRS pockets! This is a collapse of the government and trust of American tax payers!

    June 2, 2013 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  2. offgrid911

    Let's see... took secret oath in chambers to make Obama 1 term, held filibuster in Senate for last 3 years so nothing gets done, declared war on everyone except rich old white men, spent millions in $$$ and months of time trying to overturn AHCA 37 times in House, spent billions campaigning to put an out-of-touch jobs destroyer in the White House, have two supporters capable of purchasing the entire country, want to fill state homes with unwanted babies to get uneducated, peaceful working drones, think $1.50 an hour is a suitable wage to live on... And you really think the Republicans are going to survive another election? ROFLMAO!!!

    June 2, 2013 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  3. LostinSLC

    Now I know why they are asking for more money from me even though I paid them thousands this last year. They are hoping for a Hawaii trip next month.....damn criminals.

    June 2, 2013 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  4. offgrid911

    On the flip side... The IRS has been very bad. And perhaps Obama knew, and perhaps he didn't. I can't believe all IRS workers are liberals. What I can believe is that this is a very well-crafted set up by the GOP in a last ditch desperate attempt to impeach the black president they hate so much. The GOP would like nothing more than to see IRS disappear, and take Obama with them. Right now those two things are all that stands between us and plutocracy.

    June 2, 2013 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  5. nelbert

    It's politics Chicago style.

    June 2, 2013 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  6. cobra dan

    who is running our country? is anyone in charge anymore?

    June 2, 2013 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  7. cynical

    Is any of this really a problem for the IRS? I'm not hearing that there is any punishment in store for those found to have squandered taxpayer money. (And how does one explain wasteful spending to members of Congress without both parties snickering?) I'm guessing the new-hire will simply flood the congressional committee with a deluge of paperwork, poorly organized and littered with unrelated garbage, in order to make the discovery process as difficult as possible, then shake his head and look baffled at any future suggestion that he and his staff are not cooperating fully to resolve the issues. The congressional committee will announce that, while they're still a little confused about some things, it appears there was no clear intent to target conservatives or mismanage taxpayer dollars (this based on their inability to make heads or tails of the evidence provided them) and our faith in the system will be thus restored. ...Maybe I'm just being too cynical?

    June 2, 2013 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  8. Thaddeus Kozubal

    The IRS should be allowed to use the House chamber for their conferences since the representatives don't seem to be able to put it to good use. Do they have sign-in sheets for attendance at the House? I'll bet no one has ever received an award for perfect attendance at the House. It's good that government is starting to try to reign in excess spending - too bad they didn't start with Bush43. It's a shame that Republicans don't feel good unless this country is "at war" with anyone.

    June 2, 2013 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  9. Walter

    Spin away little libbies, spin away. It's laughably pathetic reading the comments from the libs on this site. When even far left libs like Jon Stewart, Chris Matthews, and Al Sharpton are calling this a debacle, it just shows how ridiculous your attempts at blaming Republicans are.

    June 2, 2013 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
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