June 28, 2013

Taxes are a fact of life. Love them or hate them, taxes are the life-blood of all levels of government. When taxpayers’ money is spent for necessary services such as education and public safety, there are virtually no complaints by taxpayers. However, when this money may be used for questionable expenditures, taxpayers have every right to ask “Is the IRS using taxpayers’ funds effectively?”

According to Forbes’ contributor William Dunkelberg there is a simple explanation for government waste and why so many people question the government’s allegedly ineffective use of taxpayer’s money. Dunkelberg believes there is, “no accountability but government employees get ‘credit’ for giving money away.” He contrasts this to small business owners who are faced with making decisions that affect their survival, almost on a daily basis. The IRS’ expenditures will be looked at to see how effective their use of taxpayer’s money really is.

Dancing the Night Away?

According to a report by MSN Money, IRS employees are learning how to “Shuffle.” During a 2010 conference in Anaheim, Calif., taxpayers allegedly paid $4 million for managers to learn “The Cupid Shuffle.” In the spirit of non-discrimination, MSN also reports that no one was discriminated against. A female attendee with a cast on her ankle attempted to take advantage of the “free” dance lessons this tax-payer subsidized conference provided.

Adult Entertainment & Music

CNN Money reports that IRS employees have allegedly used taxpayers’ money for questionable business expenses. Some IRS workers, using agency-issued credit cards, are believed to have bought unrelated work items including:

  • “Thomas the Tank Engine” themed rubber bands
  • A 41 party-dinner serving its guests 28 bottles of wine
  • An order for kazoos totaling $4,000
  • Undisclosed amounts of digital pornography

All of these expenses were discovered by the Treasury Department’s Inspector General.

Beam Me Up Uncle Sam?

According to the New York Daily News, the IRS may not have Hollywood’s next actors, but is certainly good at spending taxpayers’ money. Congress has called to attention the IRS’ questionable use of $60,000 of taxpayers’ money. Parodies of “Gilligan’s Island” and “Star Trek,” based on the report, have zero instructional value, pointing out an example of government spending waste. The Star Trek video was released and comment was given from the IRS after Congressperson’s from the House Ways and Means Committee asked for it.

A Picture is Literally Worth 1000 Words

The New York Post recently came up with even more reports of ineffectively spending. They found the IRS may have spent money on the following questionable expenditures:

  • Commissioning paintings of U2 front-liner Bono and basketball great Michael Jordan. Both paintings reportedly cost $17,000.
  • Hotel rooms for the earlier mentioned California conference allegedly costing $1,500 to $3,500 per day.

Many Government Agencies See the IRS’ Spending as Wasteful

According to the Government Executive’s website, non-Executive Branch government agencies have seen this spending, including past and present waste by the IRS’s, and have implemented new instructions to reduce the likelihood of further government waste. The Office of Management and Budget’s 2012 guidelines include:

  • Net expenses per conference may not exceed $500,000.
  • If expenses exceed $100,000, excess expenses must be publicly documented on an agency’s website.

Also added to these regulations was a requirement that “any conference hosted or sponsored by Department of the Treasury bureaus costing $250,000 or more must be approved by the Secretary of the Treasury.”

The findings by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, who completed the internal overview and audit of the IRS also made additional recommendations to make sure expenses and costs for all functions, including employees and conferences, are more financially efficient. Congressional hearings, attended by many Treasury officials, have been held in June to get to the bottom of all of the allegations and get a complete and accurate accounting of the IRS’ recent spending.

These recent discoveries don’t bode well for trusting the IRS to handle tax dollars wisely. However, Congressional hearings should answer more questions and determine how extensive the allegations are and what the truth is.