July 24 (Bloomberg) -- Some Internal Revenue Service executives who live outside the Washington region commuted to the capital on most work days while taxpayers paid their travel and lodging costs, an inspector general said.
In fiscal 2011 and 2012, five IRS executives traveled for more than half the year to a single location, mostly Washington and in one year Atlanta, according to a report released yesterday the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.
The IRS could save money by relocating the executives to Washington’s national headquarters instead of paying for travel, lodging and rental cars, said David Holmgren, deputy inspector general for inspections and evaluations.
“We found no misconduct within the IRS on executive travel,” Holmgren told reporters on a conference call. “When it was to the same location over and over again, it appeared that those individuals might not have the proper permanent place of duty.”
The report found that IRS travel costs for executives weren’t excessive. It focused on the agency’s top 15 executive travelers, who made up 4 percent of all IRS executives in 2012 and accounted for $1.1 million, or 23 percent, of the travel costs for this group.
The IRS has been criticized by lawmakers on several issues over the past few months, including its spending on training conferences and extra scrutiny the agency applied to Tea Party and other groups applying for tax-exempt status.
The IRS, whose budget House Republicans want to cut by 24 percent, says it has found $1 billion in savings in recent years. Senate Democrats yesterday proposed a $12.1 billion agency budget for fiscal 2014 -- 34 percent larger than the $9 billion being proposed by the House.
That difference will get negotiated as part of a broader -- and thus far elusive -- agreement on the government’s fiscal 2014 spending plan.
House Republicans also plan to pass a series of bills aimed at curbing the IRS. Today, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is considering four such measures, including one that that would allow taxpayers to record meetings and phone calls with federal enforcement officials.
The inspector general’s report redacted the names and titles of the executives whose travel was examined. One IRS official, listed as Executive D in the report, received $161,105 in travel reimbursements in 2011 and $122,386 in 2012. In 2011, Executive D spent 172 days and 136 nights in Washington, followed by 187 days and 145 nights in 2012.
The IRS has changed its policy on executive travel, ending the practice of executives commuting to Washington from outside the region. An interim policy implemented in April generally prevents employees from being on travel status more than 75 nights in any fiscal year, the report said.
“Travel by leadership is critical because the IRS is a national operation, with about 90,000 employees located in 620 locations from coast to coast,” the agency said in a statement. “Face-to-face interaction with employees and managers is critical to ensure that sound practices and proper procedures are being followed both for taxpayer service efforts and tax compliance.”
The inspector general is conducting a second review on whether some of the expenses for people on long-term travel arrangements should have been taxable. That will be released within 60 days, Holmgren said.
The House bills are H.R. 2711, H.R. 2549, H.R. 1660 and H.R. 1541.
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