So much wasted tax money!
The Senate Finance Committee has discovered that 27 IRS employees in fiscal 2015 spent over $1.4 million on travel expenses to use “high-end car services and luxury apartment and hotel stays.” One member of the committee said the report hows that the agency has not done anything to reduce waste.
Federal employees must spend like a “prudent person” while traveling. These 27 employees traveled only 125 business days and the bills averaged $52,000 a year:
The committee found more than half of the long-term travel time was spent in the Washington D.C., area. It found cases of five employees living in hotels, primarily in the capital, for months at a time without looking for lower-cost housing or having their per diem rates reduced as outlined in federal guidelines.
Further, the committee found “the IRS does not routinely or actively seek to reduce per diem rates for employees on long-term travel.”
The generous per diem rate allows employees traveling to Washington to spend up to $7,099 a month on lodging alone, despite the committee seeing “virtually no circumstance” in which an employee would need to spend that much on a month-to-month basis.
The report states that federal employees who travel to DC “for a month can spend up to $7,099 per month on lodging alone.” Members of the committee found that hardly anyone who has to do that can even justify spending $7,099 a month. The Committee wrote:
Five of the 15 employees lived in hotels, primarily in Washington in FY 2015. None of the five, despite residing in the same TDY location for months at a time, had their per diem rates reduced or sought out lower cost housing. For example, one employee spent 168 days in FY 2015 at the Grand Hyatt in Washington at a total cost to taxpayers of $38,799. Another employee moved among several hotels in the Washington area before primarily residing at the Ritz Carlton – Pentagon City in Virginia. The employee’s hotel bills for the fiscal year totaled $72,544, $43,726 of which was for the Ritz Carlton – Pentagon City. The other three employees, one of which is discussed further in example 1 later in this report, resided at various properties including the Mayflower Hotel, the Grand Hyatt, and the JW Marriott.
The Committee also found that two of the 15 employees rented out luxury apartments including a $1.07 million in Arlington for $4,950. The other employee signed a nine month lease for an apartment in downtown Washington for #3,110 a month.
The investigation found that the employees “claimed what appeared to be unusually high amounts of dry cleaning and laundry expenses.” Numerous times the employees had dry cleaning or laundry done the day before they left to go home. Some IRS employees took unnecessary Uber and taxi rides while racking up large food and dining bills. Another employee claimed $1,185 in Metro fares, “which is well beyond the daily commuting costs between Arlington and IRS headquarters.”
The Senate Finance Committee concluded that IRS officials must instill strict guidelines with its employees and “must also better emphasize the personal responsibility of each and every IRS employee to spend taxpayer funds as they would their own.” The members did not find any effort by the employees or their supervisors to reduce costs to the taxpayers.
This is not the first time the IRS has found itself in trouble for wasting taxpayer money. In January 2015, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) listed the many ways the IRS wasted money:
- Paying millions of dollars in bonuses and giving tens of thousands of paid vacation hours to employees with recently substantiated conduct issues and disciplinary actions, including bonuses to 1,100 employees owing back taxes;
- Spending over $23 million and more than 500,000 working hours devoted to union activity, as well as hundreds of thousands of dollars for union travel expenses;
- Spending billions of dollars every year on information technology systems – roughly twenty percent of its entire budget.
An audit for the years between 2010 and 2012 revealed that the IRS held conferences that cost us taxpayers $49 million, including one in Anaheim that cost $4.1 million:
•$50,187 in video production costs including a Star Trek parody and another video featuring 15 IRS division executives and managers dancing on a stage.
•$44,500 for two keynote speakers. One of the speakers was paid to create paintings during his presentation. The speaker created six paintings. One of the paintings was lost. The paintings consisted of portraits of Albert Einstein, Michael Jordan, Abraham Lincoln, U2 singer Bono and two of the Statue of Liberty.
•$64,000 for “numerous gifts/trinkets” for IRS employees.
•$133,000 in commission for two event planners not under contract with the IRS who “had no incentive to negotiate a favorable room rate for the IRS.”
Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.