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Another view: Tax-takers living large on our coin

6:47 PM, Jun. 20, 2013  |  Comments
Werfel
Werfel
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The IRS went wild.

Five weeks after the IRS acknowledged at least one of its offices scrutinized conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, lawmakers are still trying to sort out the facts.

More troubling than the IRS targeting groups with conservative-sounding names, is the incompetence of the management within the agency.

An inspector general report found that Lois Lerner, the director of the IRS tax-exempt office, "immediately" stopped the targeting of tea party groups as soon as she learned about it. Yet those employees restarted the practice later without "executive approval."

Lerner has since been put on administrative leave. The acting head of the IRS, Steven Miller, was fired.

As with the mismanagement of the tea party scandal, the IRS' conference spending shows a similar lack of oversight and sound judgment.

The inspector general's audit found that from fiscal years 2010 to 2012, the IRS spent $49 million on 225 conferences.

Now, in the midst of government furloughs brought on by sequestration, the irresponsible spending is jaw-dropping.

Just more than $4 million was spent on a conference in Anaheim, Calif., in 2010. That includes $50,000 in video production costs including a "Star Trek" parody featuring 15 executives and managers; $64,000 for gifts and promotional items for IRS employees; $44,500 for two keynote speakers, one of which was paid to create paintings during the presentation; and $133,000 in commission for two event planners.

It's possible the total cost of the conference could be as high as $5 million. The inspector general reported, "The IRS was unable to provide documentation to support all costs associated with the conference."

Two more IRS senior officials, including one in charge of implementing the Affordable Care Act, have been put on administrative leave after an effort to hide alcohol-related expenses during the Anaheim conference from the government.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said the IRS was "effectively guilty of tax evasion" when it gave its employees lavish presidential suites, free meals and gifts paid for by taxpayers without disclosing it as income.

Talk about irony.

Daniel Werfel, the new acting IRS commissioner, has a tough job ahead of him: fixing the agency's management failings, not to mention its image problems.

Cleaning house of the irresponsible management and drafting policies to prevent the agency's abuse of taxpayer dollars would be a good place to start.

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