Lifestyles of the Rich and the Famous: Government Waste Edition
It’s all champagne wishes and caviar dreams for some IRS employees, according to a recent Senate Finance Committee Report. The report found that in fiscal year 2015 alone, the IRS spent more than $1.4 million on long-term travel for only 27 employees, with the average cost of each trip amounting to approximately $52,800 of taxpayer money. Despite internal guidelines requiring IRS employees to exercise the same “prudence and economy” when incurring expenses for official travel as they would in their personal lives, the report found IRS agents renting million-dollar town-homes and staying in luxury hotels.
One IRS employee spent 168 days of the year at the Grand Hyatt in Washington at a total cost to taxpayers of $38,799. The Hyatt, located just blocks away from the White House, boasts that its cosmopolitan rooms feature "infinite luxuries."
Another employee bounced around several hotels in the Washington area before getting cozy in the Ritz Carlton at Pentagon City, VA. Said employee’s hotel bills for the fiscal year totaled $72,544 of taxpayer money, $43,726 of which was for the Ritz Carlton alone. “Pinky up!”
Other employees were comparatively sensible and rented more permanent housing such as apartments or townhouses during their long-term travel. One pragmatic employee rented a $1.07 million, four-bedroom townhouse in Arlington, VA for a year, at a rate of $4,950 per month.
While the IRS allowed employees staying in the Washington D.C., area to spend up to $7,099 a month on lodging, the committee found “virtually no circumstance” in which an employee would need to spend that much. Further the IRS did little to ensure that employees were not exceeding their per diem rates.
In fact, despite internal guidelines to the contrary, the committee found that some IRS executives were not geographically located where their jobs are, which resulted in even greater unnecessary travel costs.
The committee concluded its report by finding that the number of employees who traveled more than half of the year were doing so at a cost which is “simply unacceptable,” and urged that the IRS better emphasize the personal responsibility of its employees to spend taxpayer money as they would their own. At the very least, maybe they could send us some of those swanky hotel towels?
–By Corey Spearman, Esq., Barnes Law
Corey Spearman is an attorney licensed to practice law in Illinois.
The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the firm, its clients, or any of its or their respective affiliates. This article is for general information purposes and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal advice.