In Animal House, Dean Vernon Wormer complains that every Halloween the trees are filled with underwear and every spring the toilets explode. The Inspector General of a federal agency likely feels the same way about federal employees watching pornography at work on government computers, misusing government credit cards, and running into tax problems.
Two weeks ago, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) issued a report pointing out that IRS employees with recent tax and conduct issues continue to receive awards of cash or time-off for their outstanding performance. Section 1203(b) of the IRS Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998 identifies 10 acts or omissions, including willful tax noncompliance, for which IRS employees are to be removed. In its report, TIGTA observed that while the IRS barred some 1,048 employees with conduct or tax issues from receiving awards, it gave them to 26 employees with “recent substantiated § 1203(b) violations” in FY 2016 and FY 2017. In addition, in FY 2016, the IRS gave more than $1.1 million in awards and other recognition to 1,147 employees who “had disciplinary or adverse actions ranging from admonishments to removal within 12 months of the effective date of the award.” In FY 2017, 815 employees in the same position received almost $642,000 in awards.
TIGTA found that the IRS screening process did not “look for or identify employees with tax compliance issues unless those issues have resulted in disciplinary action.” Its recommendations included examining the tax compliance status of all employees before making any awards.
As TIGTA dryly pointed out in IG-speak, “Providing awards to employees with conduct issues, especially those who fail to pay Federal taxes, appears to conflict with the IRS’s charge of ensuring the integrity of the system of tax administration.”