Party Time at the IRS

You probably don’t think a conference for a bunch of IRS bureaucrats would be much fun. Apparently, though, the IRS knows how to throw a party. Back in 2010, they hosted an event dedicated to “Leading into the Future” for 2,609 executives and managers in the Small Business/Self-Employed division. (You’re excited already, aren’t you?) It turned into a $4.1 million boondoggle, complete with first-class air travel and Presidential Suites at three different hotels, that even Jay Gatsby might appreciate.

We’ll never know how many of our friends at the party woke up hung over the next morning. But predictably, someone blew the whistle on “excessive spending,” and now we have another IRS scandal on our hands. Last week, the party poopers at the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration released a 56-page report titled “Review of the August 2010 SmallBusiness/Self-Employed Division’s Conference in Anaheim, California”. Not surprisingly, they found several ways to “enhance controls over conference spending.” How’s this for genius advice?

• Don’t spend $50,187 to produce parody videos like the one featuring IRS officials as characters from “Star Trek”, boldly going where no government employee has gone before. (New York Representative Carolyn Maloney called the video “an insult to the memory of ‘Star Trek'” and said “I could do a better Captain Kirk.”)
• Don’t forget to negotiate with hotels over “details” like room rates, continental breakfasts, wireless internet, or “free” cocktails at a welcome reception with salad, appetizers, fajitas, pasta, and dessert.
• Don’t spend $17,000 for a keynote speaker to paint portraits of historic figures, including Bono and Michael Jordan, to illustrate lessons on “unlearning the rules, breaking the boundaries, and freeing the thought processes to find creative solutions to challenges.”
• Don’t spend $29,364 to let IRS employees living within 30 miles of the meeting stay at conference hotels “to reduce the demands on local travelers who would otherwise experience lengthy commutes daily during the conference and to foster employee morale and team spirit.” (Oh, and while you’re at it, would it kill you to issue a
W-2 to those local employees so they can pay tax on the value of those stays?)

Does $4.1 million really sound like too much for that sort of fun? Unfortunately, IRS procedures in effect at the time of the conference didn’t require management to track or report actual expenses, so the Inspector General can’t verify how much the whole thing cost. Reassuring, right? The people who make us track receipts for a $4 coffee can’t track their own expenses?

Just two days after the report came out, IRS officials trekked to Capitol Hill to commit hari kari. Faris Fink, who now heads the Small Business/Self-Employed division (and who played Mr. Spock in that infamous “Star Trek” video), apologized and confessed he didn’t know his agency could have negotiated for lower hotel room rates. Acting Commissioner Danny Werfel called the whole thing “an unfortunate vestige from a prior era” and reported that spending on travel and training has fallen 80% since then.

We send these emails urging you to come in for tax planning week after week. And usually we just assume you know why our proactive tax-planning service is such an obvious no-brainer. But seriously — don’t you think you can do a better job of spending your money than the IRS? If so, then call us today to get started with your plan!

Peter J Tarantino CPA
Tarantino & Company, CPAs
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Roswell, GA 30076

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