IRS to award new round of employee bonuses

John Koskinen, the IRS commissioner, told agency employees on Monday that they will receive bonuses for the recently completed fiscal year in March, according to an email obtained by The Hill. 

Koskinen told agency staffers that members of the National Treasury Employees Union would get the same size bonus as they did for 2013, a payout lower than in previous years that the commissioner blamed on the IRS’s tighter budget.

IRS managers will get a similar size bonus — around 1 percent of an employee’s salary base — while awards for senior executives are still being finalized, Koskinen added.

But while the size of the bonuses is unchanged from 2013, Koskinen did say there was one major change: employees found to have violated the IRS’s code of conduct would not be eligible for awards.

That change comes after Treasury’s inspector general for tax administration found that the IRS gave some $2.8 million in bonuses to thousands of staffers who were delinquent on their own taxes.

In his message to employees, Koskinen reiterated his belief that awarding bonuses to employees, at a time when the agency’s budget is hundreds of millions of dollars less than several years ago, is an important way to reward staffers for doing more with less.

“I believe that rewarding our high-performing employees is a vital investment for our nation's tax system. I believe that even more today,” Koskinen wrote to employees.

“Here's an example: Since FY 2010, we are down 13,000 employees, but we are still delivering the filing season and running a tax system with new mandates, all the while ensuring the nation collects nearly $3 trillion in revenue to fund everything from defense to social programs,” the commissioner added. “Performance awards are a good investment that pays off — and they reflect the hard work you and your colleagues do for the nation.”

Not surprisingly, Republicans on Capitol Hill — still angry over the IRS’s improper scrutiny of Tea Party groups — didn’t see it that way. Koskinen’s announcement came just days after the tax administration inspector general found what could be thousands of emails to and from Lois Lerner that the IRS previously said couldn’t be found.

“This Thanksgiving, Americans are grateful for many things, but the IRS is not one of them,” said Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchDemocrats urge colleagues to oppose prison reform bill The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by CVS Health — Trump’s love-hate relationship with the Senate Senate GOP anger over McCain insult grows MORE (R-Utah), the likely next chairman of the Finance Committee. 

“The agency — rife with scandal, mismanagement and unaccountability — is awarding bonuses with the very tax dollars they collect from hardworking Americans. At the same time, they are telling Congress they need more money to do their job," added Hatch, who also questioned whether the IRS's agreement with its union would bar employees who owe back taxes from getting bonuses.

Danny Werfel, Koskinen’s predecessor, had sought to block those awards.

Lawmakers from both parties introduced legislation to block IRS employees delinquent on their own taxes from getting bonuses when the Treasury inspector general report was released in the spring. But Koskinen said at the time that he was hopeful that negotiations with the National Treasury Employees Union would make such legislation unnecessary, even as he cautioned that IRS employees were far better at tax compliance than the population at-large.