The IRS is wasting taxpayer dollars on employee travel, according to a new report from the Senate Finance Committee.

The majority staff report, issued by Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, reviewed all employees who traveled more than half of the year. It found that in Fiscal Year 2015, 27 IRS employees traveled 125 or more business days, at a cost of more than $1.4 million in taxpayer dollars. The average trip length was 207 days, and the average cost was $52,800.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, at a Senate hearing
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, at a Senate hearing

The committee selected 15 of those employees for further review and found several examples of excessive travel costs. These included specific instances in which employees failed to seek affordable housing accommodations and instead opted for high-end hotels for extended periods of time during official business travel. 

In a letter to the IRS following the release of the report, Hatch urged IRS Commissioner John Koskinen to better follow the agency’s internal travel guidelines and the Federal Travel Regulations.

“I write to urge the IRS to better utilize its own internal policies and procedures, without exception or administrative maneuvering,” Hatch wrote. “The committee found that while the IRS has a number of employees who travel more than half of the fiscal year, incurring $1.4 million in travel costs, the IRS has routinely failed to take allowable steps to reduce its travel expenditures. The lack of effort by IRS employees to exercise prudence and economy when utilizing taxpayer funds is concerning, and more importantly, a direct apparent violation of the FTR.”

The employees spent 52 percent of their time in the Washington, D.C., area. Despite having instituted internal guidance limiting executive travel and realigning executive posts of duty in FY 2013, the committee found evidence that some executives at the IRS are still not geographically located where their primary job duties are.

Roger Russell

Roger Russell is senior editor for tax with Accounting Today, and a tax attorney and a legal and accounting journalist.