IRS video: Dancing workers. Wrong-footed agency.
IRS video, produced for the same 2010 conference as a heavily criticized IRS 'Star Trek' parody, shows IRS employees line dancing. Congressmen and the agency itself call the IRS video an inappropriate use of taxpayer money.
WASHINGTON — In the latest black eye for the Internal Revenue Service, the agency provided Congress on Friday with another video featuring its employees, this one showing about a dozen of them line dancing on a stage.
The video of the IRS workers practicing their dance moves, which lasts just under three minutes, comes weeks after it was revealed that agency workers produced two other videos parodying the "Star Trek" and "Gilligan's Island" TV shows.
The latest recording cost about $1,600 and was produced to be shown at the end of a 2010 training and leadership conference held in Anaheim, Calif., said IRS spokeswoman Michelle Eldridge. At a time when most government agencies are coping with across-the-board spending cuts by furloughing workers and finding other savings, that conference has become the target of a report a Treasury inspector general plans to release next week.
The report, called "Collected and Wasted: The IRS Spending Culture and Conference Abuses," will be the subject of a hearing Thursday by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, that panel said Friday.
The IRS is also under fire by lawmakers and the Obama administration for targeting conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status for tough scrutiny between 2010 and 2012. That screening, revealed May 10, has led President Barack Obama to replace the agency's acting chief, and two other top officials have also stepped aside.
All three videos were provided in response to a request by a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Charles Boustany, R-La.
"The outrage toward the IRS is only growing stronger," said Boustany, who chairs the Ways and Means oversight subcommittee. "Clearly this is an agency where abuse and waste is the norm and not the exception."
In a written statement, the IRS said the video was "unacceptable and an inappropriate use of government funds." It said the agency has new policies in place "to ensure that taxpayer funds are being used appropriately."
Eldridge said the dance video was recorded at IRS offices in New Carrollton, Md., outside Washington, D.C.
In the video, various workers comment as colleagues practice their dancing in the background to music that sounds like "Cupid Shuffle," a 2007 hit by the performer Cupid. In the version obtained by The Associated Press,IRS employees' names have been erased.
At one point, one woman says, "And I thought doing the 'Star Trek' video was humiliating."
That "Star Trek" video was produced for the same 2010 conference. The agency called the "Star Trek" video, which lasted six minutes and featured employees dressed as characters from the popular show, a mistake.
The "Star Trek" and "Gilligan's Island" videos cost about $60,000 combined to make, the IRS said in March.
The "Gilligan's Island" parody was used at the beginning of a 12-hour video the IRS used in 2011 to train its workers on various tax issues, Eldridge said. The entire video was used to train 1,900 workers who assist taxpayers over the phone and in offices around the country, she said.
In a separate statement, Danny Werfel, the IRS' new acting commissioner, called the 2010 conference "an unfortunate vestige from a prior era."
He added, "While there were legitimate reasons for holding the meeting, many of the expenses associated with it were inappropriate and should not have occurred."
Werfel said the IRS has since instituted spending restrictions that include scaling back travel and training expenses by more than 80 percent since 2010.
"Taxpayers should take comfort that a conference like this would not take place today," Werfel said.
In a statement, the Treasury Department — of which the IRS is part — said it puts "the highest priority on protecting taxpayer dollars." It said it would work with Werfel as he reviews his agency's operations and tries to "restore public confidence in the IRS."
The 2010 conference was attended by 2,600 IRS workers from 350 offices around the country that handle tax returns for small businesses and self-employed individuals, Eldridge said.