Coburn, Gingrey demand answers on 201 full-time IRS union reps

Patrick Howley Political Reporter
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Republican congressional leaders are demanding to know why the Internal Revenue Service pays hundreds of full-time employees to do union work.

As reported last month by The Daily Caller, 201 IRS employees receive full-time pay while doing no actual work, instead devoting their entire work days to union business. (Related: FOIA: 201 IRS employees work full-time on union business)

The revelation came as a result of a Freedom of Information Act request from Americans for Limited Government.

“Recently, it has come to our attention that the IRS pays a number of employees full time salaries, funded by taxpayer dollars, for work they do not perform. Instead, these employees spend their time working for government employee unions,” according to a letter sent to IRS acting commissioner Danny Werfel by Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn, ranking member of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, and Republican Rep. Phil Gingrey of Georgia.

These workers collect taxpayer salaries to serve full-time as exclusive representatives of a union in dealing with the Department of Treasury, according to information the IRS provided to Americans for Limited Government.

 More than 200 IRS employees spend 100 percent of their work time doing union work, according to IRS documents cited in the letter.

“Known as ‘official time,’ in this arrangement (permitted under Title V of the U.S. Code, section 7131, enacted under the 1978 Civil Service Reform Act) federal employees are paid to perform union duties instead of the jobs they were actually hired to do.  While the IRS continues to request more funding to further close the more than 14.5 percent tax gap, especially under the current budget crunch and sequestration, it makes little sense to use taxpayer resources to pay for union work.  This kind of practice takes place only in the government – in the private sector, union work and staff are paid for by union dues,” according to the letter from Coburn and Gingrey.

“Documents from your department list more than 200 IRS employees serving in 100 percent official time capacity from January 20, 2012 through the date of response, June 6th of 2012. The IRS has shut down on certain days, and required employees to take unpaid furloughs, due supposedly to the effects of sequestration. However, the IRS is also planning to pay out $70 million in employee bonuses, and pays more than 200 employees to work for the union, instead of fulfilling the duties described in their positions of record,” according to the letter.

“How many IRS employees work official time 100 percent of the time?” Coburn and Gingrey write. “Please describe and provide the job descriptions of what these 100 percent official time employees do in a given day for the IRS. How do these activities relate to the mission of the IRS?”

The IRS, which is closed for Independence Day and then subsequently closed on Friday due to sequestration, did not immediately return a request for comment.

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Patrick Howley