The Internal Revenue Service pays over 200 full-time employees not to conduct audits or process tax returns but to work for a federal employees’ union, according to documents released by the agency in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by the advocacy group Americans for Limited Government. Forty-three of those employees are earning six-figure salaries, the documents show.
Oddly, the employees working for the National Treasury Employees Union have titles that suggest they perform work in behalf of the American taxpayer, among them “Tax Examining Technician,” “Internal Revenue Agent,” and “Tax Specialist.”
Known as “official time,” the practice is perfectly legal as a result of the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978. It continues even as the IRS faces financial woes — due to the sequester, the agency has been forced to close its doors on five days and has also requested more money for its operating budget from Congress.
This is not sitting right with two Republican senators, who sent a letter to the IRS’s acting administrator, Danny Werfel, requesting more information on the practice, including how employee performance is evaluated.
“While the IRS continues to request more funding to further close the more than 14.5 percent tax gap, especially under the current budget crunch and sequestration, it makes little sense to use taxpayer resources to pay for union work,” Tom Coburn and Phil Gingrey wrote Werfel, whom President Obama appointed to head the agency in mid May after disclosures that it had targeted tea-party groups. “This kind of practice takes place only in the government — in the private sector, union work and staff are paid for by union dues,” the senators said.
Gingrey is also trying to put an end to “official time” altogether by repealing the portion of the 1978 law that allows it, but his bill, introduced in January, remains in committee. The IRS had no immediate comment on Monday afternoon.