How much did IRS spend filming 'Star Trek' spoof?

An IRS conference in 2010, for which the agency produced a spoof 'Star Trek' video, has become the latest flashpoint in the debate over government waste. The video was only one questionable expense.

IRS/AP
This video image from an Internal Revenue Service video shows an IRS employee portraying Mr. Spock in a scene from a video parodying the TV show 'Star Trek' that was made for a 2010 IRS training and leadership conference.

IRS staff members produced a spoof “Star Trek” video for an agency conference in Southern California in 2010, according to a just-released Treasury Department audit.

The theme for the IRS Small Business/Self-Employed Division meeting in question was “Leading into the Future,” so agency officials thought it was apropos to write a 6-minute scripted presentation that featured division leaders acting in a “tax-themed parody,” the inspector general audit said. The video was filmed on a mock set of the Starship Enterprise constructed at the agency’s New Carrollton, Md., audio-vision studio.

“Employees purchased the costumes using personal funds,” the IG report concluded.

Look, we’re reporting this as straight as we can, all right? So don’t go making jokes about going boldly where no deduction has gone before, or setting tax tables to “stun.”

The actual video featured a voyage to the planet NoTax, where “chaos rules over order,” according to the script. There’s also exploration of off-planet tax shelters.

No, we’re not making that up.

The Small Business/Self-Employed Division did not break out the cost of making this epic, per se. But the IG figured that it took about 62 hours of staff time, at a total cost of $3,100. The set cost $2,400.

(By way of comparison, the latest installment in the actual movie series, “Star Trek: Into Darkness,” cost about $190 million. But it was longer.)

“No documentation was maintained to track any costs associated with the development of the other production costs, such as script development, makeup, lighting, and videotaping,” according to the IG report.

The division spent a total of about $50,000 on videos for the conference, which paid for the “Star Trek” effort and a 3 minute “SB/SE Shuffle” flick, which featured 15 executives and managers dancing on stage.

This was cheap at the price if you consider how much the IRS spent on speakers for the same meeting: $135,500.

Of this, $17,000 went to a keynote speaker who used painting to demonstrate “his message of unlearning the rules, breaking the boundaries, and freeing the thought process to find creative solutions to challenges,” according to the IRS contract for the appearance.

According to the IG, at his keynote sessions the speaker created six paintings: Albert Einstein (1); Michael Jordan (1); Abraham Lincoln (1); U2 singer Bono (1); and the Statue of Liberty (2).

No Spock? No Captain Kirk? Looks like somebody missed an opportunity for entertainment synergy.

In total the IRS spent $4.1 million on this single 2010 conference, which included luxury suites for some officials and gifts for many of the 2,600 attendees.

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