Lawmakers ask IRS to stop rehiring problem employees

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A group of five Republican members on the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee wrote a letter Thursday to Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen urging the IRS to stop rehiring former employees who had previous conduct or performance issues.

The letter comes in response to a recent report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration that found the IRS had rehired more than 200 such employees (see IRS rehired hundreds of fired employees).

“In TIGTA’s recent audit, they determined that the IRS has not effectively updated hiring policies to fully consider past IRS conduct and performance issues prior to making a tentative decision to rehire an applicant,” wrote the lawmakers, led by Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas. “Specifically, past IRS employment history is not provided to the selecting official when making a tentative hiring decision. TIGTA warned that ‘the selecting official may select employees for hire from a list of similarly qualified applicants without knowing that certain applicants may pose a risk to the IRS and taxpayers based on prior conduct or performance.’”

They noted that the IRS instituted a revised process to address similar concerns raised by TIGTA in 2014, but TIGTA nevertheless found the IRS—nearly three years later—still doesn’t have a process in place that fully and adequately considers past conduct and performance of rehired employees.

“We write today to voice our concern about the rehiring of such employees and to stress to you that the IRS must immediately stop rehiring employees who were previously involuntarily separated from service for misconduct,” they said.

They pointed out that TIGTA concluded that an issue such as the one cited in their 2014 report—the rehiring of an employee with conduct or performance issues whose personnel file was marked with “do not rehire”—would still occur.

“Known issues such as this should not be possible at the IRS years after they were first identified,” the lawmakers wrote. “And yet, the percentage of those rehired after having been terminated or separated while under investigation for a substantiated conduct or performance issue has increased from approximately 12 percent to 15 percent since the last time that TIGTA reviewed this issue. TIGTA also found that some employees repeat conduct or performance issues upon rehire, with at least seven percent repeating past violations once rehired.”

They are disappointed with the IRS’s response. “Given these troubling findings, we are disheartened to see that the IRS responded to some of TIGTA’s recommendations by agreeing only with their ‘intent.’ Such a response does not instill confidence among the members of this committee that the IRS will fully implement all of the recommendations,” the lawmakers wrote. “Additionally, such a response does not serve the many hardworking and honest IRS employees. The IRS systematic failure to address this longstanding problem is a disservice to the men and women who serve at the IRS every day.”

They pointed out that Congress has repeatedly sought to signal to the IRS its concerns about this issue through legislation such the IRS Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998 and the IRS Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016, and yet the IRS still continues to struggle with this issue.

“While we do not believe that the desired outcome should require further clarification, TIGTA’s most recent findings would suggest that further Congressional action is needed,” Brady and the other lawmakers wrote. “However, we urge the IRS to better address this issue while ensuring that it hires the requisite number of employees. Failure to do so jeopardizes the internal workings of the IRS, the security of taxpayer records, and the service that a taxpayer receives.”

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