The Internal Revenue Service told its employees and the union representing them Tuesday that it has taken various budget-related steps that will enable it to cancel the next planned unpaid furlough day for employees on Monday, July 22.
IRS employees already have undergone three such days, according to the National Treasury Employees Union.
“While I am concerned that this announcement comes so close to the planned furlough day, it is a positive development arising from our continuing discussions with the agency on furloughs,” said NTEU president Colleen M. Kelley in a statement. “We have been encouraging the agency, and working with it, in an effort to find savings sufficient to allow it to cancel employee furloughs. As we continue these discussions, we will be pressing for cancellation of the fifth and final planned furlough day, on August 30.”
Kelley added that the NTEU is also pleased that the IRS has embraced the union’s recommendation to allow employees to use unscheduled leave next Monday. She emphasized that the IRS will be open for business next Monday. It was closed to the public on the three furlough days (see IRS Closed Friday Due to Budget Cuts and Sequester).
“Dealing with tax matters is a year-round business, not just during the traditional tax-filing season,” Kelley said. “Whether you have an estate issue, want to know about filing an amended return, are dealing with the growing crime of identity theft or have any of a number of tax-related questions or issues, the IRS needs to be open for America’s taxpayers,” she said. “Closing it is not just unprecedented, it is damage caused by the foolhardy policy of sequestration.”
The NTEU noted that it is still in talks with the IRS about the payment of awards earned by employees for performance in 2012. NTEU earlier had rejected the suggestion from senior IRS leaders that canceling furlough days was contingent upon not paying performance awards. NTEU believes both objectives can be reached.
Last week, IRS principal deputy commissioner Danny Werfel emailed an internal memo to IRS staff saying he hopes to eliminate the estimated $70 million in bonuses this year for IRS employees because of automatic spending cuts imposed by the budget sequester.
According to the Washington Post, Werfel said he had directed senior staff members at the IRS to come up with ways to eliminate the performance awards even though the IRS has collective bargaining agreements with the NTEU guaranteeing the bonuses if certain conditions are met.
“It is my intention to continue to pursue eliminating award payouts this year to bargaining unit employees,” Werfel said in the memo, according to Fox News. “This approach is consistent with government-wide policy, which requires suspension of awards during sequestration to the extent appropriate legal procedures are complied with.”