$50K for Parody Videos? IRS Spending Report: The Greatest Hits

by Ian Tuttle

The newly released report on IRS spending from the Treasury inspector general for tax administration is receiving a great deal of attention — and for good reason. The nation’s tax authority spent $49 million on 225 conferences across the country between 2010 and 2012 — and that is only the beginning of its fiscal abuses. Here are a few highlights from the report, which focuses on the year’s most expensive conference, in Anaheim, Calif.:

  • $4.1 million on a 2010 conference in Anaheim, Calif., for 2,609 employees (a price of $1,584 per person), including:
    • $135,350 for outside speakers;
    • $50,187 for parody videos (of the television series Star Trek, for example) featuring IRS employees. Another video shows employees learning how to dance the “Cupid Shuffle” — at a cost of $1,591 in staff time, the report estimates;
    • $17,000 for a keynoter who created paintings onstage to “reinforce his message unlearning the rules, breaking the boundaries, and freeing the thought process to find creative solutions to challenges.” Subjects of the paintings included Abraham Lincoln, Michael Jordan, and U2 frontman Bono.
    • $27,500 for a second keynoter billed as an “innovation expert”;
    • $11,430 for a “happiness expert”;
    • $64,000 for “gifts/trinkets” for attendees
  • $2.9 million on a 2010 conference in Philadelphia for 2,113 employees (a price of $1,388 per person)
  • $1.2 million on a 2010 conference in San Diego for 721 employees (a price of $1,662 per person)

Among workshop titles for the Anaheim conference? This gem: “Political Savvy: How Not to Shoot Yourself in the Foot.” Apparently no one paid much attention.


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