It's bad enough when the IRS doesn't do it's job, forking over your $ to crooks (see video). Now, Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn has reported on a travel fantasy come true for IRS agents in his annual Wastebook 2013.
While Internal Revenue Service (IRS) employees sacrificed work hours and associated pay during government-wide furloughs, some IRS employees are being paid to spend hundreds of thousands of hours conducting union work, including union training in desirable offsite locations like Las Vegas.
In the first six months of 2013, and the busiest part of the calendar year for tax filings, IRS employees already spent 399,772 hours of taxpayer-funded work time on union activity. In a practice authorized under law known as “Official Time,” federal employees may get paid by taxpayers to carry out union duties instead of the jobs they were hired to perform.
This and other information unearthed by the House Ways and Means Committee shows that the IRS’ cost of Official Time was $21.6 million in fiscal year 2012, and estimated costs for fiscal year 2013 are $15.3 million – including amounting to $437,548 on some but not all travel costs through June 2013.
In 2013, the IRS allowed some employees to attend training conferences sponsored by the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) occurring in Las Vegas, New Orleans, Saratoga Springs, San Antonio, Boston, and the Washington, D.C. metro area.
One such training convention took place at the Flamingo Casino on the Vegas Strip, known for its “Margaritaville Casino.”
While the union said it would pay travel costs, IRS documents show that staffers were told to charge the “Citibank Government Travel Charge Card,” and salary would still be covered by taxpayers under Official Time arrangements.
While some authorized use of Official Time may be appropriate, lawmakers have also questioned the extent to which agencies like the IRS are employing this practice. According to a Freedom of Information Request secured by Americans for Limited Government, over 200 IRS employees spend 100 percent of their work time performing union work.
In a June 27, 2013 letter to the IRS, U.S. Senator Tom Coburn and Representative Phil Gingrey also questioned the agency’s choice to protect Official Time over other national priorities. The lawmakers wrote, “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.”