IRS agents, delinquent in paying their own taxes, are awarded bonuses and extra time off.
No this is not the lead story in The Onion, although it should be. It’s a watchdog report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration this week, revealing that the IRS gave out over $1 million in bonuses to employees who were delinquent in paying their own federal income taxes. Not only did over 1,000 IRS employees receive bonuses, but they also received extra time off, over 10,000 hours valued at more than $250,000. In addition, 69 of these employees also received raises.
The IRS’s mission includes helping taxpayers meet their responsibilities and enforcing the law with integrity and fairness. If you and I don’t pay our tax obligations, you can be sure the IRS will make sure we cough up what we owe. Yet some of their own employees, who are charged with administrating and enforcing tax laws, can’t seem to handle this task themselves. And how does the IRS handle these wayward employees? Give them a bonus, with money paid in taxes by Americans who do manage to follow the rules and pay their obligations. Will they even pay taxes on their bonuses?
This same IRS is home to Lois Lerner, senior executive in charge of tax-exempt organizations, who is under fire for selectively targeting conservative political groups. Between 2009 and 2001, when she was busy targeting conservative, evangelical and pro-Israel non-profit groups, she received over $42,000 in bonuses.
Not surprisingly, NBC Nightly News and CBS Evening News didn’t find this recent IRS story newsworthy, instead focusing on stories much more important to Americans such as the 1964 World’s Fair or Prince William and Princess Kate’s visit to Australia. Government abuse of power stories are much more interesting to news networks when a Republican is in the White House.
Trust in government is near record lows; “Just 19% say that they trust the government in Washington to do what is right just about always or most of the time.” Of the federal agencies, the IRS is viewed the least favorably; worse than Homeland Security, with their TSA agents groping air travelers, and worse than the NSA, with their domestic surveillance programs. Only Congress is viewed less favorably than the IRS, and by a large margin. The same Congress charged with oversight over rogue government agencies that does little besides holding hearings and gracing the Sunday morning talk shows.
Even President Obama acknowledged that if we can’t trust the government, we are going to have some problems. How does an agency, whose employees disregard the rules and task of that agency, only to be rewarded despite this disregard, engender trust?
Brian C Joondeph, MD, MPS, a Denver based physician, is an advocate of smaller, more efficient government. Twitter @retinaldoctor.