Washington (June 26, 2003) -- A 2001 report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration showed that Internal Revenue Service employees engaged in "extensive" personal use - more than 50 percent of total hours - on the Internet over a seven-day period, including time spent on Web sites devoted to stock trading, chat rooms, streaming media, sports, sexually explicit content and gambling. As a result of the report, the IRS implemented a new policy prohibiting certain Internet uses.

Despite the new rules, a new TIGTA report states that IRS "employee abuse of the Internet is still widespread." In one week, IRS employees representing 19,581 computer addresses accessed inappropriate categories. Of those addresses, 8,204 were visiting Web sites with sexually explicit materials; 8,231 were visiting chat rooms. The report said "a relatively small number of employees appear to be chronic abusers."

"This is a classic case of people getting an inch and taking a mile," said Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Committee on Finance. "The IRS policy on personal Internet use is pretty generous. IRS employees can use the Internet for personal use, within reason. But clearly some employees are abusing that generous policy and making chumps out of the taxpayers who fund their salaries."

"I'm especially troubled that this is the second time that TICTA has reported on inappropriate Internet usage at the IRS. The IRS is responsible for enforcing all kinds of rules for taxpayers. Honest taxpayers appreciate this function. To protect its integrity, the IRS must be able to enforce the rules it sets for its own employees," Grassley said.

-- WebCPA staff

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