Report: Treasury finds IRS spent $50M on conferences in 3 years

A review by the Treasury Department’s inspector general found that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) spent $50 million dollars on conferences for employees between 2010 to 2012, according to reports.

The audit, set to be released on Tuesday, says the agency spent the funds on more than 200 employee conferences, including an August 2010 meeting in Anaheim, Calif., which cost taxpayers $4 million.

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According to a statement from the House Oversight Committee, 15 outside speakers at the event were paid a total of $135,000 and many attendees were given perks including baseball tickets and suites at the hotel, the AP reported.

The new report comes as the tax agency already faces congressional anger over its targeting of conservative political groups and will likely bring further scrutiny on Capitol Hill.  

Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) is set to hold a hearing on IRS conference spending on Thursday.

“The culture of the federal workforce is one where I don't think you can underestimate that if you don't keep reminding the voters but also the federal workers that we're watching, this will happen again,” said Issa on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.

Issa said organizers of the Anaheim conference had failed to negotiate on the cost of hotel rooms, instead paying full price in exchange for additional perks, which he characterized as “kickbacks.”

The House Ways and Means Committee on Friday released a video showing IRS employees line dancing on a stage, believed to have been recorded at the 2010 California convention.

Other videos in recent weeks showed IRS employees acting in skits parodying “Star Trek” and other shows.

Acting IRS chief Danny Werfel on Friday sought to tamp down the growing controversy by calling the conference spending “an unfortunate vestige from a prior era.”

Werfel said that “While there were legitimate reasons for holding the meeting, many of the expenses associated with it were inappropriate and should not have occurred.”

Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.) on Sunday said he expected Werfel to “put an end” to such spending practices. 

“Any kind of wasteful spending like this must be put down, particularly at these times,” said Schumer on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Congressional inquiries into the use of higher scrutiny for Tea Party groups seeking tax exemption will also continue this week, with Werfel making his first appearance before a House Appropriations subcommittee on Monday. 

The House Ways and Means Committee will also hold its second hearing on the political targeting on Wednesday.