IRS rehires reprimanded ex-staffers

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The IRS rehired hundreds of former staffers with conduct issues, even bringing ex-employees with tax issues back into the fold, a new federal audit has found.

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Treasury's inspector general for tax administration said that the IRS generally followed the federal guidelines, which take into account whether a potential employee has a criminal record or failed a drug test, when bringing back former staffers. 

But other staffers rehired had documented conduct issues from previous tenures at the IRS, including purposefully not filing their taxes, wrongly authorizing taxpayer information and lying on official forms. Of those rehired, roughly one in five then went on to have further performance problems.

“Based on the types of prior performance and conduct issues we identified, rehiring certain employees presents increased risk to the IRS and taxpayers,” J. Russell George, the tax administration inspector general, said in a statement.

The inspector general's report also raised the ire of congressional Republicans, who already have a wide range of issues with the IRS. 

GOP lawmakers this week criticized John Koskinen, the IRS commissioner, for awarding bonuses to staffers with conduct issues, including being late on their taxes, at the same time the agency was decrying budget cuts. 

“As if asking for a budget increase while still awarding bonuses to IRS employees that owe back taxes wasn’t rich enough, today we learn the IRS spent federal funds to rehire those with known, and often serious, employment problems,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin HatchOrrin HatchTreasury officials to meet with lawmakers on inversion rules A bipartisan bright spot we can’t afford to pass up: child welfare reform Medicare trust fund running out of money fast MORE (R-Utah) said in a statement.

“IRS employees must be held to high standards to ensure that taxpayers are protected, and there is no reason to hire employees who have already failed to uphold those expectations. Sadly, such double standards often fall on the backs of hard-working taxpayers."

In all, the inspector general found that more than one in 10 of the employees that the IRS rehired between January 2010 and September 2013 — 824 of 7,168 — had prior employment issues. Of those, 141 had documented tax problems.

The IRS brushed aside the inspector general's concerns over its hiring practices. The agency's Daniel Riordan told the watchdog that the IRS has "determined its current process is more than adequate to mitigate any risks to American taxpayers, federal agency and its employees."

"IRS already fully considers prior conduct and performance issues before the final job offer is issued to all new hires," Riordan added.