Menu

Politics

Politics

IRS turns over to Congress video of employees line dancing

 

In the wake of the scandal over the Internal Revenue Service's targeting of conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status, the embattled agency has provided lawmakers with a video featuring about a dozen of its employees line dancing on a stage.

The video of the IRS workers practicing their dance moves, which lasts just under three minutes, comes weeks after it was revealed that agency workers produced two other videos parodying the "Star Trek" and "Gilligan's Island" TV shows.

All three videos were given to Congress on Friday in response to a request issued by Rep. Charles Boustany, R-La., a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee, after learning that the videos were recorded at IRS offices in New Carrollton, Md., outside Washington, D.C.

The latest recording cost about $1,600 and was produced to be shown at the end of a 2010 training and leadership conference held in Anaheim, Calif., said IRS spokeswoman Michelle Eldridge. At a time when most government agencies are coping with across-the-board spending cuts by furloughing workers and finding other savings, that conference has become the target of a report a Treasury inspector general plans to release next week.

The report, called "Collected and Wasted: The IRS Spending Culture and Conference Abuses," will be the subject of a hearing Thursday by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, that panel said Friday.

"Whether it is the tens of thousands of hard-earned taxpayer dollars spent to produce frivolous entertainment for agency bureaucrats, or the IRS’s own admission that it targeted the American people based on their personal beliefs, the outrage toward the IRS is only growing stronger," Boustany said in a statement.

"Clearly this is an agency where abuse and waste is the norm and not the exception. It is clear that this is a broken agency that is empowered by a broken tax code. We need to fix this and make not only the agency, but the tax code, more effective and efficient.”

In a written statement, the IRS said the video was "unacceptable and an inappropriate use of government funds." It said the agency has new policies in place "to ensure that taxpayer funds are being used appropriately."

In the video, various workers comment as colleagues practice their dancing in the background to music that sounds like "Cupid Shuffle," a 2007 hit by the performer Cupid. In the version obtained by The Associated Press, IRS employees' names have been erased.

At one point, one woman says, "And I thought doing the 'Star Trek' video was humiliating."

That "Star Trek" video was produced for the same 2010 conference. The agency called the "Star Trek" video, which lasted six minutes and featured employees dressed as characters from the popular show, a mistake.

The "Star Trek" and "Gilligan's Island" videos cost about $60,000 combined to make, the IRS said in March.

The "Gilligan's Island" parody was used at the beginning of a 12-hour video the IRS used in 2011 to train its workers on various tax issues, Eldridge said. The entire video was used to train 1,900 workers who assist taxpayers over the phone and in offices around the country, she said.

In a separate statement, Danny Werfel, the IRS' new acting commissioner, called the 2010 conference "an unfortunate vestige from a prior era."

He added, "While there were legitimate reasons for holding the meeting, many of the expenses associated with it were inappropriate and should not have occurred."

Werfel said the IRS has since instituted spending restrictions that include scaling back travel and training expenses by more than 80 percent since 2010.

"Taxpayers should take comfort that a conference like this would not take place today," Werfel said.

In a statement, the Treasury Department — of which the IRS is part — said it puts "the highest priority on protecting taxpayer dollars." It said it would work with Werfel as he reviews his agency's operations and tries to "restore public confidence in the IRS."

The 2010 conference was attended by 2,600 IRS workers from 350 offices around the country that handle tax returns for small businesses and self-employed individuals, Eldridge said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.