Thursday, June 6, 2013

Understanding the IRS Conference Spending

The recent IRS news about extravagant spending on staff conferences made me wonder how the numbers worked. I did see a news story that reported spending had gone from $37.6 million in 2010 to $6.2 million in 2011 to $4.9 million in 2012.

That made me wonder what spending was like before 2010, maybe over the last decade or so. Was 2012 an anomalous high, or was it kind of average up until then? I haven't turned up that information yet, but this letter from today's Star Tribune put an interesting light on the situation:

Attention diverted from real issues

The Associated Press story “IRS paid for plush meeting facilities” (June 5) — a part of the corporate media’s concerted efforts to demonize the agency tasked with investigating the tax swindles of the Corporate State of America — was riddled with more holes than the U.S. tax code.

“One top official stayed five nights in a room that regularly goes for $3,500 per night,” the story reported. Shame! But, oops, in fact the IRS “paid a flat daily fee of $135 per hotel room.” But the room upgrades were a “package deal that added to the overall cost of the conference.” Shame again! Of course, the story — designed to make taxpayers recoil in horror at the idea of a public official in lodgings above the level of a Motel 6 — leaves out exactly how much that cost actually was.

Corporate America, which cheats U.S. taxpayers out of $92 billion annually, wants to paralyze the IRS. One way to do that is to ensure that working for the agency is so financially unattractive that no expert in his or her right mind, with the legal and financial know-how required to navigate the corporate tax swindlers, would ever consider IRS employment. After all, working for the tax-dodgers is much more lucrative.

Employee conferences for a public agency with 106,000 employees (2010) cost $49 million over a three-year period (2010-12). That’s $16.3 million per year. That’s $154 per employee per year. Wow, that oughta buy a lot of plush. Big news, right?

Iris E. Lee, Northfield, Minn.
I've been wondering how many employees the IRS has, and Iris answered that for me, while also putting the entire spending amount into context. $154 per year per employee for training, especially for employees whose job details change a lot every year. Even if they spent the 2010 amount every year, that would be $354 per year per employee. Doesn't sound like too much to me.

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