Senate Finance Committee chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, sent a letter Tuesday to Internal Revenue Service commissioner John Koskinen questioning the agency’s expenditures on office furniture, toys and surveys at a time when the IRS chief has been complaining about budget cuts at the hands of Congress.
In the letter, Hatch asked the IRS to explain why spending on a number of items was necessary, especially as the agency continues to blame poor customer service and tax refund delays on underfunding. Among the items he cited were over $8,000 spent on a “fitness equipment stair climber;” $4.3 million spent on “market research” and “public opinion” polling; thousands of dollars spent on “decorative and give-away items,” such as plush animals, toy footballs, and “kazoos, bathtub toy boats, and Thomas the Tank Engine rubber wristbands, for managers’ meetings;” and nearly $4 million spent on office furniture.
“Since your agency continues to have problems prioritizing the use of its budget, which has been reduced in recent years after historic growth late in the last decade, I write to offer some courtesy suggestions on spending that might be curtailed,” Hatch wrote. “ I hope this is helpful in identifying additional areas of wasteful spending that might be better redirected elsewhere, such as helping taxpayers file their taxes.”
An IRS spokesman emailed a statement from the agency in response to Hatch's letter. "The IRS continues our efforts to find savings and efficiencies wherever we can," said the IRS. "It’s important to note that our furniture purchases last year were essential in our efforts to combine and reduce office space, leading to more than $15 million in space-reduction savings for taxpayers. Since 2012, the IRS has reduced rent costs by more than $47 million each year. The IRS also notes that many of the spending items the agency has been criticized for date back several years. IRS policies have been overhauled in these areas. For example, the 2013 TIGTA report on decorative items covers Fiscal Years 2010 and 2011. The IRS agreed years ago these were not appropriate expenditures and banned spending on such items."
Earlier this year, Hatch, along with all the other Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee, sent a letter questioning other areas of wasteful and unnecessary spending at the agency including paying millions of dollars in bonuses and giving vacation hours to IRS employees who owe back taxes, as well as spending over $23 million to pay IRS employees to do union work on the job.
On Monday, Hatch sent a separate letter to Koskinen calling on him to cancel plans to broaden a proposed rule that would restrict the speech and activities of tax-exempt organizations. In March, according to Hatch, Koskinen announced the IRS was looking to expand the pending rule after previously calling off a proposed rule regulating 501(c)(4) organizations in May 2014 after objections from organizations across the political spectrum.
Register or login for access to this item and much more
All Accounting Today content is archived after seven days.
Community members receive:
- All recent and archived articles
- Conference offers and updates
- A full menu of enewsletter options
- Web seminars, white papers, ebooks
Already have an account? Log In
Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access