What to expect from the IRS crackdown
By Carl Hiaasen
Published: Saturday, June 15, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
(Emergency revisions to conference-planning guidelines for the Internal Revenue Service.)
To all state and regional IRS managers:
As a result of the critical government report about our agency's 2010 convention in Anaheim, Calif., the following changes are being implemented immediately.
1. Funds are hereby terminated for all future training videos, including but not limited to “Cupid Shuffle” line dancing and “Star Trek” parodies.
This rule is retroactive, which means that, sadly, we are canceling the “Game of Thrones” parody that is now in production at our Cincinnati office.
(I screened the rough cut of the video and it was impressive. The costuming was authentic, and I thought Herm from our 401(c) Task Force totally nailed it as Tyrion Lannister — especially that British accent! Unfortunately, building a medieval castle on the set cost way more than all those puny tea party returns could ever bring in.)
Another casualty of the new spending rules is the multimedia dance video that was to be featured during our coming convention in August. The entire Birmingham office has been working out some smooth moves every afternoon (between audits) for nearly a year.
I'm told the choreography and exotic stagecraft put the Cupid Shufflers to shame. Unfortunately, because of the recent controversy, we won't get to see Big Ira and the Itemizers show off their Gangnam-style groove.
2. Funds are hereby terminated for the hiring of event planners for IRS conferences.
As the inspector general noted, the agency spent more than $133,000 on three outside planners to secure our hotels and catering arrangements in Anaheim. The inspector general's view is that taxpayer money could be more prudently spent and I agree.
From now on, all convention planning will be done in house by IRS personnel utilizing websites such as “Google” and “Bing,” which I am told will actually provide current information about hotel pricing in almost any city.
Apparently even the phone numbers of hotels are available online, thereby eliminating the need for our agency to pay an outside contractor to find the numbers and dial them. Who knew?
3. Funds are hereby eliminated for so-called “scouting trips” to IRS conference sites in advance of the event.
Back in 2010, we dispatched 25 employees in the months before the big annual convention, at a cost of about $36,000. The harsh criticism now being heaped upon our agency overlooks the steep logistical challenges in a city as cosmopolitan and confusing as Anaheim.
To simulate the tourist experience, a squad of our designated convention scouts went to Disneyland to navigate the intimidating labyrinths of Mickey's Toontown and Splash Mountain.
Others ventured to an Angels baseball game, where it's not uncommon for zestful visitors to become disoriented and require police escorts from the ballpark.
All scouting exercises were conducted in order to steer convention attendees away from local pitfalls. From now on, however, agency guidance will be limited to providing detailed street maps and portable Breathalyzers.
4. Funds are hereby eliminated for hiring outside speakers to address IRS conferences.
In Anaheim the agency paid more than $135,000 in fees to 15 different speakers. The well-meaning effort, meant to motivate and inspire our managers, has become part of the nasty media controversy.
One speaker who received $27,000 got up and told us that “seemingly random combinations of ideas can drive radical innovations.”
Another paid guest speed-painted portraits of six famous persons to dramatize the value of creative thinking. For the record, not one of the Kardashians was featured as a portrait subject, yet still the backlash has been intense.
The total cost of the Anaheim shindig was $4.1 million, part of $37.5 million spent by the IRS in 2010 on conferences, meetings and conventions. Those days are over, as you are all aware, because the Obama administration cracked down the following year.
In 2012 the agency spent only $4.8 million on conventions, and we're committed to reducing our partying budget even more. This year all our speakers will be unpaid.
Linda in our east Portland office has volunteered to present the keynote (“Re-Thinking Form 8949 — Whither Short-Term Capital Assets?”). Afterward she'll be doing pencil sketches of your favorite family pet, so don't forget to bring snapshots!
Yours in service,
Acting IRS Commissioner (for now) Danny Werfel
Carl Hiaasen is a columnist for The Miami Herald.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Obama losing close adviser to end 9 years of service
- Analysis: Kesler remains on Penguins’ radar as Shero looks bring back ‘Big 3’ formula
- Starkey: Steelers know when to say goodbye
- Pirates’ big risk with pitch-heavy draft focus might soon pay off
- Penguins GM Shero’s deadline deals: Addition by subtraction
- Eastern European military officers say security, economic ties blunt Russia’s war threat in Ukraine
- Penguins minor league report: Defenseman Dumoulin optimistic for home stretch
- With so many needs, Steelers can ill afford to miss in draft
- Fashion essentials: Pittsburgh’s style watchers tell what they can’t live without
- College basketball coaches vary on importance of league tournaments
- Ex-Colts executive Polian: Approach free agency with caution