IRS spent $49 million on conferences in three years

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The Internal Revenue Service spent $4.1 million on a conference in Anaheim, California, that included “questionable expenses” on video productions and giveaways to employees, according to a watchdog report released Tuesday.

The report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), the same watchdog that recently released another report on the agency’s targeting of conservative groups, found that the IRS held 225 conferences from fiscal years 2010 through 2012. In total, the junkets cost taxpayers $49 million.

The audit focused in large part on the 2010 conference in Anaheim for the 2010 Small Business and Self-Employed (SB/SE) Division’s All Managers Conference, which the report explained was the most expensive conference during that three-year period and for which the TIGTA received an allegation of excessive spending.

Over 2,600 IRS employees attended the conference.

“Effective cost management is especially important given the current economic environment and focus on Government efficiency,” J. Russell George, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, said in a statement. “Certain of the IRS’s expenses associated with the Anaheim conference do not appear to be a good use of taxpayer funds.”

Some of the highlights of the report include:

– $50,187 on videos for the conference including a Star Trek parody and a video titled “SB/SE Shuffle” featuring 15 IRS executives and managers dancing on a stage.

– $133,350 for 15 outside speakers, which included $17,000 for one speaker who painted six portraits of famous people — one of which the agency has since lost (two others were given away at the conference and three were given to charity).

-$64,000 on gifts and trinkets provided to conference attendees – including brief bags, travel mugs

– Over $30,000 for 45 IRS employees who live in the area to stay at the hotel and get per diem expenses.

The report comes at a time when the IRS is already under fire for its targeting of conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status.

According to the watchdog, the IRS has already taken steps to reduce the cost of conferences, going from a cost of $37.5 million in FY 2010 million to $4.8 million in FY 2012.

TIGTA made nine recommendations in the report. The IRS agreed to all nine and haa started implementing them, according to the report.

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