Coburn to Lew: ‘Prioritize taxpayers rather than tax collectors and spenders’

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In the most recent installment of Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn’s letter-writing campaign to highlight reasonable cuts in light of the sequester, the Republican lawmaker offered several proposals to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and urged him to put taxpayers first.

In the eleventh letter to administration officials since Feb. 21, Coburn addressed several areas of what he believes to be “dubious spending” in the Treasury Department.

“The IRS should prioritize taxpayers rather than tax collectors and spenders,” Coburn wrote to Lew. “While the IRS is furloughing the very workers who provide assistance to Americans paying taxes, the agency is failing to collect millions of dollars in taxes owed by federal employees, wasting more sending officials to conferences around the country, and subsidizing the export of American jobs along with the taxes they generate.”

Coburn noted the continuation of high priced hiring and job advertising in the wake of the sequester — including an “outreach manager” with a salary of up to $136,771, “leadership development specialist” with a salary of up to $182,428, and 100 new tax compliance officers with salaries from $31,315 to $73,019.

Coburn further targeted high spending on Blackberry smartphones and travel in the department.

“The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration recently revealed the IRS spent more than $1 million during FY 2011 for 754 Blackberrys and 13,878 aircards that remained unused for months. 68 of the Blackberries were not used for an entire year,” he wrote to Lew. “The IRS spent more than $950,000 on Blackberrys in FY 2011.”

The Oklahoma senator requested that the department reduce an alternative energy tax credit, which he said has sent 4,500 jobs overseas.

“Eight out of ten stimulus dollars spent through the credit on wind energy farms went to foreign companies, creating approximately 4,500 jobs overseas,” Coburn wrote. “Of the 11 American wind farms that received grants from the U.S. Treasury, 695 of the 982 turbines were imported.”

He further called on the department to find solutions to retrieve the more than $3.5 billion back taxes owed by government employees in 2011 by 311,566 federal employees.

“Back taxes owed from government employees continues to rise, and the department should strongly consider working with the administration to find savings by suspending pay for those employees in debt to the Treasury,” he wrote.

“Taken together, these proposals could save the Department of Treasury millions of dollars over the next months and years,” Coburn said in a statement and echoed in his letter. “The spending reductions from sequestration should be achieved through commonsense reforms, instead of furloughing essential employees and reducing IRS efforts on the money-saving work of fraud prevention.”

A day earlier Coburn called on the National Science Foundation to prioritize its grants and focus on “transformative science” rather than “questionable” projects which he said has accounted for $3,410,617 in spending.

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