Watchdog finds IRS executives racked up six-figure travel bills

A select number of IRS executives racked up thousands of dollars in travel expenses by commuting long distances to Washington, according to a new federal report.

Treasury’s inspector general for tax administration said in a report released Tuesday that a dozen IRS executives traveled for more than 200 days between fiscal 2011 and 2012. The top 15 travelers among executives combined for more than $1 million in expenses each of those years, or about a quarter of travel expenses for all executives.

“The cost and frequency of travel for these executives indicate that some executives may not live in the best location to economically accomplish their roles and responsibilities,” the report said.

The inspector general report found that around three in five executives incurred less than $10,000 in travel expenses in both 2011 and 2012. Around 3 percent racked up more than $60,000, with a high mark of more than $160,000 in 2011 and $145,000 in 2012.

But the report also said that, in general, executive travel at the IRS is not excessive, with roughly 60 percent of top officials living in the D.C. area and travel costs coming in at under $5 million for both 2011 and 2012.

The IRS has already faced sharp criticism over the last two months after the inspector general first outlined the agency’s targeting of conservative groups and later the millions of dollars it spent on conferences. Danny Werfel, the interim leader at the agency, has vowed to clean up problems at the agency.

Democrats on Capitol Hill have become increasingly critical of Russell George, the tax administration inspector general, saying that the watchdog’s examination into the targeting was too narrow.

In a statement, the IRS stressed that it is committed to cutting costs, and that it has new rules in place to stop the sort of routine travel discussed in the inspector general’s report.

“The previous practice, while allowed under federal rules, is no longer appropriate for this tight fiscal environment,” the IRS said.

“Travel by leadership is critical because the IRS is a national operation, with about 90,000 employees located in 620 locations from coast-to-coast,” the statement added. “Face-to-face interaction with employees and managers is critical to ensure that sound practices and proper procedures are being followed both for taxpayer service efforts and tax compliance.”

In all, executives traveled to Washington around 40 percent of the time in both 2011 and 2012, with Atlanta the second most popular destination. All 15 of the top traveling executives were on the road for at least 125 days — or half of the roughly 250 workdays in a year.

Two executives in 2011 and one in 2012 had more than 250 travel days in that year.