Late Tuesday night, the House of Representatives voted to cut 13 percent from the Internal Revenue Service’s budget. Two proposals submitted by Republican legislators in the House were quickly passed by voice vote, resulting in a cut of $1.14 billion from the tax collection agency’s enforcement budget.
“The changes would leave the IRS with a budget of $9.8 billion for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1, 13 percent below this year’s funding level and 21 percent below the administration’s request,” Bloomberg News reported on Tuesday.
The Associated Press attributed the move to cut the IRS’s enforcement budget to “GOP outrage over the agency’s scrutiny of tea party groups.”
“The use of a government agency to harass, target, intimidate and threaten lawful, honest citizens was the worst form of authoritarianism,” said Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., author of an amendment to cut the IRS tax enforcement budget by $353 million. Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Mich., followed up with an amendment to cut $788 million more.
President Barack Obama has vowed to veto the measures if they passed the Senate, which is itself an unlikely prospect.
Democrats are incensed over the move to hobble the IRS. “Administration officials have said that additional enforcement spending yields a return of as much as $6 for every dollar spent,” the Bloomberg report noted. But not every dollar spent by the IRS is directed toward tax collection.
A report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration released in April revealed that, between October 2010 and December 2012, the IRS paid out $2.8 million in bonuses to employees cited in what often amount to criminal offenses.
The offenses that bonus recipients committed, The Washington Post reported, include “drug use, making violent threats, fraudulently claiming unemployment benefits, misusing government credit cards and — get this — failing to pay their taxes.”
The report said more than 1,100 employees who failed to pay their taxes received discretionary awards of more than $1 million in cash bonuses and more than 10,000 hours in extra paid vacation.
At least five employees received performance awards after being disciplined for intentionally under-reporting their tax liabilities for multiples years, paying taxes late and under-reporting income.
Like many companies and government agencies, the IRS sweetens the deal for its employees by giving bonuses based on performance. But at the IRS, breaking the federal tax laws you were hired to enforce and running afoul of other agency rules aren’t considered relevant to performance-based awards.
The IRS may be only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to federal regulatory agencies that could benefit from a haircut.
This news comes amid new questions about April Sands, a former Federal Election Commission official and outspoken supporter of President Barack Obama on social networks like Twitter, who suffered a hard drive crash similar to that experienced by ex-IRS official Lois Lerner and seven others at the tax collection agency. Also similar to Lerner’s experience, the FEC “recycled” Sands’ hardware following the crash.
“The twist,” The Daily Caller reported, “is that Sands also worked under Lois Lerner when the ex-IRS agent — who is currently embroiled in a scandal over the targeting of conservative political groups — worked at the FEC’s enforcement division.”
Sands has been under investigation and was cited by the House Oversight Committee in a document released yesterday in which she appeared to have “posted Twitter messages during regular working hours soliciting or endorsing political contribution to Democratic candidates, including President Barack Obama.” Sands he was also sharply critical of Republicans and called them her “enemy” in some those messages posted on the popular microblogging service.