Senator John Thune
Benjamin Franklin famously coined the phrase, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” While this is undoubtedly the case for those of us who are still recovering from last month’s tax filing deadline, we recently learned that far too many employees of the agency entrusted with collecting federal taxes are treating their own tax obligation as optional by failing to comply with the very laws they are charged with enforcing. To add insult to injury, in many cases the same Internal Revenue Service (IRS) employees who broke the law by failing to pay their taxes actually received bonuses for their subpar performance.
On April 22, 2014, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) issued a report outlining a number of alarming facts about the IRS’s system for awarding bonuses to its employees. Amid the findings, TIGTA found that between October 1, 2010, and December 21, 2012, more than 2,900 IRS employees with recent conduct issues resulting in disciplinary action received more than $2.8 million in monetary awards. Among these, more than 1,100 IRS employees with federal tax compliance problems received more than $1 million in cash awards.
This TIGTA report comes less than a year after the IRS was embroiled in another scandal. In May of 2013, TIGTA released a report outlining the IRS use of inappropriate criteria to target organizations based on the group’s political views or affiliations, namely conservative 501(c)(4) organizations. The TIGTA report also contained detailed information about how senior IRS employees found out about the misconduct and kept the information from the public and Congress for nearly two years, only disclosing information after learning that the misconduct would be released in the Inspector General’s report.
TIGTA’s latest findings represent yet another black eye for the IRS at a time when the agency’s reputation has yet to recover from the targeting of 501(c)(4) conservative groups. I believe Congress has a responsibility to the American taxpayers to ensure we institute a permanent fix to this egregious behavior. That’s why I recently introduced, along with Senators Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), the No Bonuses for Delinquent IRS Employees Act. This common-sense legislation would prevent the IRS from awarding taxpayer-funded bonuses to employees who have failed to pay their taxes or fulfill their responsibilities.I will continue to work with my colleagues on the Senate Finance Committee to press for answers from the IRS on this unacceptable double-standard, to immediately rescind the bonuses awarded inappropriately, and to pass legislation to prevent taxpayer dollars from ever again financing bonuses for employees who have violated U.S. tax law.