IRS Troubles-Agency Spent $4 Million on Employee Conference

As if the intense scrutiny the IRS has faced over the last month wasn’t enough, a new report has emerged about wasteful IRS spending that has lawmakers demanding more answers from the new acting IRS Commissioner, Danny Werfel.

An NBC article and video clip from NBC titled: “2010 IRS conference featured ‘happiness expert,’ $17K art session” highlights a specific 2010 Internal Revenue Service conference in California where goofy, expensive video parodies were shown. (I wrote a post about the IRS having to explain these videos back in March). The same conference, according to NBC also yielded $135,000 in spending on outside speakers like a “happiness expert” and a session titled “Leadership Through Art.”  The NBC article gathered information from sources briefed from a report by the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA). Here are a few details the TIGTA report mentioned:

  • The IRS hired 15 speakers to present at the conference in Anaheim, California.
  • One was positive psychology guru Shawn Achor referred to as a “happiness expert” and who was paid $11,430 to lead a 90-minute workshop.
  • Another was artist, Erik Wahl who was paid $17,000 to hold a session that used painting as a learning tool. The article states that during Wahl’s presentation, he painted portraits of Michael Jordan, Abraham Lincoln, Bono, and the Statue of Liberty.
  • Tens of thousands of dollars were spent so that IRS employees could also hear from an “innovation expert” and a “diversity and inclusion expert.”
  • One of the speakers received a $25,000 fee in addition to a $2,500 first-class airline ticket to fly the speaker to the conference.
  • The contracts for the presenters were awarded as sole source contracts, meaning no competition occurred, and that taxpayers may not have received the best price for the speakers.

These revelations were made as part of the Treasury Department’s Inspector General’s report on IRS spending for travel and conference. According to the report, the IRS spent nearly $50 million on at least 220 conferences for employees between 2010 and 2012.

The Anaheim conference was of particular interest as it cost taxpayers $4 million, a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee said in a statement. This Committee faulted the IRS for failing to adhere to the standard government practice of negotiating lower room rates and instead giving some attendees stays in presidential suites.

Danny Werfel, acting IRS commissioner released a statement Friday calling the conference “an unfortunate vestige from a prior era.” Werfel has also insisted he’s committed to restoring IRS credibility and “trust.” We can only hope he starts by reigning in Agency “creative” tax dollar spending and squandering.

At Tax Resolution Services, we are IRS problem solvers. For a free, no-risk tax relief consultation, please call our office at (888) 699-7630.

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