This has been a busy year for auditors at the Internal Revenue Service, from probing the Tea Party targeting scandal to delving into lavish, multi-million-dollar agency conferences and conventions.
Now J. Russell George, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, reports that some IRS credit cards were used to buy pornography, copious amounts of wine and food, and personal items like smart phones, romance novels, baby clothes and diet pills. In one case, $2,500 worth of personal items was charged to an agency credit card.
Auditors stressed that the vast majority of IRS credit cards have been used appropriately, and that two cards that were used to purchase online pornography had been reported stolen. But the audit turned up numerous examples of misuse of IRS credit cards and the agency’s surprisingly loose control over credit cards it issues to employees.
The auditors also found employees had used agency credit cards to treat foreign guests to expensive meals—at $100 per head. At an international executive conference in Washington, an IRS credit card was used to purchase 28 bottles of wine…quite a bit of wine for the 41 guests in attendance.
The report also found that the IRS doesn’t have a policy in place to cancel credit cards when employees leave the agency. The inspector general found that 98 percent of the 387 cards that had been assigned to former employees were not canceled prior to the employees’ departure -- leaving the credit cards “vulnerable to misuse.” The auditors recommend that the IRS require that credit card accounts be closed before the cardholders leave the agency.
This isn’t the first time IRS employees have come under fire for misusing agency credit cards. In May, the Treasury IG reported that at least 1,000 IRS employees had “misused” their travel credit cards between 2010 and 2012. The report provided few details, but noted that IRS employees spent a total of $121 million on travel in 2011.
"As its mission includes requiring taxpayers to pay taxes owed on time and voluntarily, the IRS should take further steps to address employees who do not voluntarily pay their travel card bills on time," George, the inspector general, said. "Identified misuse should be met with appropriate disciplinary action."