Money & Business

Acting IRS Commissioner: Conference Spending in Check

By / Jun 10, 2013 Acting IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel. (YouTube screenshot)

Facing lawmakers’ questions last week at a House hearing about lavish IRS spending on a 2010 conference, Acting IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel assured the panel that current policies prevent such spending today.

Lawmakers continued to scrutinize the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) late last week after a report was released June 4 by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration detailing excessive spending for a 2010 management conference in Anaheim, California.

Taxpayers should take comfort that a conference like this would not take place today.

At a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing June 6, Treasury Inspector General J. Russell George said the 2010 conference cost more than $4 million and was paid for mostly from funds originally intended for hiring additional enforcement agents. George said employees in the IRS Small Business/Self-Employed Division did not attempt to negotiate lower hotel room rates for the conference, instead accepting free food and drinks and suite upgrades. The IRS also reportedly spent more than $50,000 to create two training videos for the conference.

Acting IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel said there were “legitimate reasons for holding the meeting” but that many of the expenses were inappropriate. Werfel placed two managers on administrative leave this week for accepting gifts in violation of government ethics rules.

“Taxpayers should take comfort that a conference like this would not take place today,” Werfel said.

The IRS adopted new guidance on travel and conferences in 2011 and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued guidelines last year stipulating that agencies may not spend more than $500,000 on a single conference. According to the TIGTA report, the IRS reduced its spending on conferences from approximately $37.5 million in fiscal year 2010 to $4.8 million in fiscal year 2012.

Chris Vest, CAE

Chris Vest, CAE is director of public policy at ASAE. More »

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