Tax Analysts has released an article examining Internal Revenue Service data on performance awards and retention incentives at the Office of Chief Counsel.

The records concern employees in the Office of Chief Counsel at the GS-15 level and above. The highest recorded performance award was over $35,000, while the highest retention incentive paid was over $44,000.

According to the authors William Hoffman and Tom Kasprzak, “The awarding of performance bonuses became an issue at congressional hearings last year over the IRS's spending priorities, especially after IRS Commissioner John Koskinen in 2014 officially reversed his predecessor's policy of suspending most bonuses.”

Most awards were paid during specific months of the fiscal year, according to the authors. The performance awards resumed just a few months after the appointment of Koskinen as commissioner in December 2013. Most of these awards were paid in February and March 2014, with 238 awards totaling $976,387. No further awards were recorded until November 2014 and January 2015, with 218 awards totaling $1,000,108.

The authors say that the data released show a wide variation in payments depending on the recipients’ titles. Most notably, according to the article, “The largest single performance award for the period was $35,400, received by Associate Chief Counsel Curtis Wilson in 2010. The largest retention incentive was $44,096, received by Deputy Chief Counsel (Operations) Christopher Sterner in both 2011 and 2012, and by Catherine Livingston, special counsel to the chief counsel, in 2012.”

The records were released to Tax Analysts on September 17 as a result of a suit against the IRS filed on June 23, 2013, asking a U.S. district court to compel the agency to release records of bonus awards it has paid to high-level executives since 2010. Tax Analysts originally requested the bonus awards in early February through a Freedom of Information Act filing.

Tax Analysts is a nonprofit provider of federal, state, and international tax news and analysis.

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