The conference was held in 2008, during President George W. Bush’s administration. Some of the attractions included fancy hors d’oeuvres, an open bar and a dinner at the Georgia Aquarium catered by Wolfgang Puck.
Two employees spoke to The Hill on condition of anonymity about the conference, saying it was “over the top” and “very lavish.”
Other perks included discounted tickets to the aquarium and to a night baseball game. The four star Marriott Marquis is located in downtown Atlanta and boasts “spacious bathrooms with granite countertops” along with “stunning city views from each stylish hotel room” according to the hotel’s website.
The attendees also played games with questions such as “name your favorite IRC code section.”
In an official statement, the IRS said that “the size and details of [the] 2008 conference reflect a different era at the IRS. While there were legitimate reasons for holding the meeting, a number of the expenses associated with it would not occur today under our tough new guidelines.”
Jeremy Cohen, an attorney who attended the conference, told The Hill that “it was a great meeting” which helped build solidarity among government tax lawyers. He added, however, that such a conference would not be held nowadays “because [the IRS] got burned.”
The IRS stressed that the conference was educational as well, providing 126 hours of Continuing Legal Education with more than 1,200 earning credit.
But this conference is far from the only spending controversy the IRS has been involved in. A recent watchdog report revealed that IRS employees paid for $140 dinners, wine bottles and pornography with their company credit cards.
The IRS also paid $70 million in bonuses this year.