Articles

IRS Hasn’t Been Pennywise:

In Accounting & Finances, Business, Culture, Entertainment, Taxes on June 11, 2013 by Sufen Wang Tagged: , ,

MH900185740Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) Audit Identifies Excessive Spending at IRS Conference

The IRS might need to brush up on its coupon clipping skills after TIGTA’s recent audit of the agency’s spending at conferences from 2010 to 2012. Let’s just say that although every penny counts, the Internal Revenue Service hasn’t been counting every penny when it comes to planning out-of-office events.

TIGTA’s audit focused on a certain very expensive Small Business/Self-Employed (SB/SE) Division’s All Managers Conference in Anaheim, California in August 2010. Held at the Marriott, Hilton, and Sheraton hotels, this event was attended by 2,609 SB/SE Division executives and managers and reportedly cost $4.1 million – yikes! Because IRS management didn’t have to track and report actual conference costs at the time, there’s no way to double-check that number. It doesn’t matter though – TIGTA found plenty of splurging anyways.

MH900310838First of all, the IRS didn’t use available internal personnel to find the best deal in town. Instead, SB/SE management hired two non‑governmental event planners to choose a location for the conference. This non-IRS pair obviously wasn’t looking out for the IRS’ (and the taxpayer’s) pocket book, they were looking to get paid. And – what do you know – the event planners received an estimated $133,000 commission from the three hotels based on the cost of rooms paid for by the IRS.

MH900023026It’s safe to assume those planners didn’t do much hotel room bargain hunting online. Still, some bargaining did occur. They made sure to negotiate a bunch of concessions for the managers and executives at the conference. Attendees got daily continental breakfast. And a welcome reception with two drink coupons. And there were lots and lots of suite upgrades.

And that’s not all folks – TIGTA also found other very fishy expenses like“planning trips” held before the conference, the production of a Star Trek parody and “SB/SE Shuffle” video, a keynote speaker who painted portraits of Michael Jordan and Abraham Lincoln, an information corridor that raffled off baseball tickets, and various promotional gifts given to IRS employees.

Sure, brief bags and hard-covered spiral journals replete with imprinted logos are nice souvenirs to bring home, but they’re definitely not necessary costs. The IRS could have got a much lower lodging rate for the conference by using governmental event planners and eliminating those extra hotel amenities.

MH900363294Accordingly, TIGTA had more than a few budgeting tips for the IRS, which the IRS agreed to follow: verify that conference-costs and attendance are being tracked, use IRS personnel to plan future conferences, evaluate whether there should be hotel upgrades, ensure that taxable travel is identified and that Forms W-2 are issued to applicable employees, etc. Excessive Federal spending is a hot topic right now, so the IRS is going to have to start saving money if it wants to save face.

Sufen Wang, M.S. Accountancy

Wang Solutions, Long Beach, CA (562) 856-0793

Editor: Hannah Huff, M.F.A. Creative Writing: Poetry, (626) 806-5805

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