The days when the IRS scandal was front page news are well in the rear view mirror, but that doesn’t mean that the agency has been purged of all its demons. They regularly run into issues with their workers acting out in the workplace, accessing people’s tax records inappropriately and, probably most commonly, not bothering to pay their own taxes. How does this keep happening? According to an internal IRS audit, one key reason has been discovered. After they identify and eliminate a delinquent worker, they keep hiring them back the following year without bothering to ask why they were let go the last time. (Government Executive)
Despite promises to Congress, the Internal Revenue Service has yet to take advantage of a red-flag alert system designed to prevent it from rehiring past employees with blots on their records, a watchdog found.
During the push to expand staff for the annual filing season, the tax agency is supposed to comply with a provision in the 2016 omnibus spending bill that requires a review of any rehire with past conduct or performance problems ranging from tax delinquency to falsification of documents to disruptiveness in the workplace.
But the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration found that more than 200 of 2,000-plus former employees “whom the IRS rehired between January 2015 and March 2016 had been previously terminated or separated from the tax agency while under investigation,” according to a report released on Thursday.
The IRS is forced to hire a lot of temporary help every year for as much as six months or more, which is completely understandable given the seasonal nature of the work. It’s also easy to see why they might consider rehiring people who have already held those jobs because they bring direct, on-the-job experience with them. But Congress already wrestled with this problem last year and tried to correct it. If someone is applying for one of these seasonal jobs who was terminated for cause previously, the agency is at least supposed to be checking into why they were let go. Failing to do this brings the same problem employees back into the mix over and over again. (Though you almost have to give some grudging respect to anyone with the chutzpah to come back and apply for the same job they were fired from six months earlier.)
If you dig into the details of the report it appears that roughly ten percent of the rehires this season were previously dismissed for cause. But it wasn’t evenly spread across all of the offices. The Covington, Ky., office had 213 rehires examined and 96 of them were found to have been previously dismissed “while under investigation.”
- 19 had potential tax code violations
- 4 had accessed taxpayer accounts without authorization
- 13 had falsified forms
- 2 had misused email or equipment
- 6 had been accused of misconduct
While any of these alleged violations would be cause for concern, the biggest red flag seems to be the employees who were busily accessing the private information and tax records of individuals without authorization. How many possible reasons for that could there be? Idle curiosity doesn’t seem likely given the danger of winding up in jail, so one would assume that they were either intending to commit fraud using someone else’s identity or they were researching taxpayer background information for political purposes. Either is completely unacceptable.
Sort of puts that “ban the box in federal hiring” movement in a whole new light, doesn’t it? Even if you approve of such lax screening protocols in some jobs to give felons a second chance, the IRS doesn’t seem like a very good laboratory to experiment with it. Oh, and just for some icing on the cake, the IRS just asked for their salary cap to be lifted again. Because, you know… all of this top notch talent costs money.