EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Opinion

June 9, 2013

Column: IRS couldn't survive one of its own audits

J. Russell George, the Treasury inspector general for tax administration, has noted in a revealing audit that the Internal Revenue Service’s expenditures of $4.1 million for a training conference didn’t “appear to be a good use of taxpayer funds.”

Really!

Never let it be said that those government officials designated to watch over our best interests in their own agencies aren’t perceptive. You can’t fool old J. Russell. He went right to the point after his office’s perusal of spending for just one of the 225 “conferences” that totaled $49 million between 2010 and 2012.

Perhaps the fact that the schooling wasn’t done in a place like Las Vegas but in plain old Anaheim, Calif., made him a little more suspicious or incredulous. Well, at least the 2,609 IRS managers who attended weren’t gambling with U.S. money.

For just this one shindig — the most expensive of them all — 25 employees spent $36,000 to scope out the site. The bill for outside speakers alone was a tidy $135,350, including $27,000 paid to one speaker (not counting a $2,500 first-class air ticket) and $11,430 doled out to another for some workshops.

George probably looked at the spending as more than enough evidence that government service in this instance might just have a few more benefits than it should.

Supporting this contention, at least in the eyes of some unfortunates who have been beset by steely-eyed tax collectors, were the free engraved pens, briefcases and baseball tickets generously supplied to attendees. That’s not to mention a big-time conference reception that supplied free drinks. None of that tacky cash-bar nonsense so many other federal agencies offer.

The agency that not only diligently pursues our money also demands detailed proof that we don’t owe more than we claim we do, but its inspector general had to admit that the IRS managers were unable to provide documents about how much actually was spent on the Anaheim fling. Some of those dedicated to ensuring taxpayer integrity were afforded two-bedroom suites with amenities that included billiard tables. Apparently, the rate was what the government allows, if that makes things more acceptable.

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