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IRS Executive Travel Deemed Essential Despite Spanning Half the Year

Jul 24, 2013 3:00 am

Skift Take

Federal government agencies have been ordered to cut back on their travel budgets, but an inspector general’s report found that certain IRS executive travel was essential for operations. Perhaps the IRS honchos should have visited more often the supposedly rogue offices that were targeting Tea Party applications for special treatment.

— Dennis Schaal

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A handful of Internal Revenue Service executives who live outside the Washington region commuted to the capital at taxpayer expense and spent more days traveling to Washington than working at home, according to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

In fiscal 2011 and 2012, five IRS executives traveled for more than half the year to a single location, mostly Washington and in one case Atlanta, according to a report released today.

The IRS could save money by relocating the executives to Washington’s national headquarters instead of paying for travel, lodging and rental cars, said David Holmgren, deputy inspector general for inspections and evaluations.

“We found no misconduct within the IRS on executive travel,” Holmgren told reporters on a conference call today. “When it was to the same location over and over again, it appeared that those individuals might not have the proper permanent place of duty.”

The report found that IRS travel costs for executives weren’t excessive. It focused on the top 15 executive travelers in the agency, who made up 4 percent of executives in 2012 and $1.1 million, or 23 percent, of executive travel costs.

The report redacts the names and titles of the executives. None of the top 15 is based in Washington, Holmgren said.

One IRS official, listed as Executive D in the report, received $161,105 in travel reimbursements in 2011 and $122,386 in 2012. In 2011, Executive D spent 172 days and 136 nights in Washington, followed by 187 days and 145 nights in 2012.

Policy Change

The IRS has already changed its policy on executive travel, ending the practice of executives commuting to Washington from outside the region.

Travel by leadership is critical because the IRS is a national operation, with about 90,000 employees located in 620 locations from coast to coast,” the agency said in a statement today. “Face-to-face interaction with employees and managers is critical to ensure that sound practices and proper procedures are being followed both for taxpayer service efforts and tax compliance.”

The IRS has been criticized by lawmakers on a variety of issues over the past few months, including spending on training conferences and giving extra scrutiny to Tea Party and other groups applying for tax-exempt status.

The agency, whose budget House Republicans want to cut by 24 percent, says it has found $1 billion in savings over the past few years.

The inspector general is conducting a second review as to whether some of the travel expenses should have been taxable. That will be released within 60 days, Holmgren said.

–Editors: Jodi Schneider, Robin Meszoly

To contact the reporter on this story: Richard Rubin in Washington at rrubin12@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jodi Schneider at jschneider50@bloomberg.net

 

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