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Living Large: IRS Spent $4.1 Million Dollars on a Single Conference in California

According to a report issued Tuesday by Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration [TIGTA], the IRS spent $4.1 million dollars on a single conference in Anaheim, California for the small business and self-employed division. The conference was held in August 2010 and attended by 2,600 employees who stayed at Marriott, Hilton and Sheraton hotels.

TIGTA found through an audit of fiscal years 2010-2012 that the IRS had questionable expenses for "planning trips, outside speakers, video productions, and promotional items and gifts for IRS employees."

“Excessive spending by Federal agencies on management conferences has been highlighted by recent Inspectors General reports and in congressional hearings,” Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration Russell George said in a statement.  “Effective cost management is especially important given the current economic environment and focus on Government efficiency,” he added.  “Certain of the IRS’s expenses associated with the Anaheim conference do not appear to be a good use of taxpayer funds.”

According to the report, the IRS broke its own policy by failing to use internal IRS employees to search for the best rates on locations, hotel rooms and other accomodations.

"They relied on outside event planners who were not under contract with the IRS to identify possible off-site locations. These planners had no incentive to negotiate a favorable room rate for the IRS. Instead, the three hotels paid the event planners an estimated $133,000 commission based on the cost of the rooms paid for by the IRS," a report summary states. "The IRS also paid over $30,000 for 45 IRS employees who reside in the local area to stay at the hotels and incur per diem expenses while at the conference."

In addition, the IRS paid $135,350 for 15 outside speakers at the conference. The keynote "speaker" was a painter who painted six pieces in order to "reinforce his message of finding creative solutions to challenges." Some paintings were given to charity and employees and one was.

In total, TIGTA found from 2010-2012 the IRS spent $49 million on 225 conferences. Federal agencies are not supposed to incur expenses that amount to more than $500,000 for a single conference according to the Office of Management and Budget.

UPDATE: As a reminder, these are the videos the IRS spent thousands of taxpayer dollars making for the $4.1 million Anaheim conference.

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