Congresswoman Kristi Noem’s Weekly Column: Ensuring Integrity in the IRS Workforce

noem press header kristi noem headshot May 21 2014Ensuring Integrity in the IRS Workforce
By Rep. Kristi Noem

It is commonsense:  if someone at your workplace has been fired for falsifying documents or violating a client’s privacy, they probably won’t be rehired.  Unless they work at the IRS, that is.

According to a February 2015 report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, the IRS has rehired “hundreds of former employees” who had prior performance or conduct issues at the agency.   Some of these individuals had falsified official forms.  Others had a documented misuse of IRS property.  Still others inappropriately accessed sensitive taxpayer information.  One individual even had a note attached to their personnel file that stated “Do Not Rehire,” and still, they were rehired.

Not surprisingly, about 20 percent of those brought back onboard after misconduct continued to have performance issues after being rehired.

It is a completely irresponsible way to run an agency – let alone an organization that manages sensitive taxpayer data.  But if IRS leadership won’t instill commonsense hiring practices within the agency, I will work to write it into law.

Earlier this month, I introduced the Ensuring Integrity in the IRS Workforce Act.  This legislation strictly prohibits the IRS from rehiring an employee that has been fired for certain forms of misconduct.  It’s as straightforward as that.

Unfortunately, the IRS’s rehiring practices are just one example of poor leadership within the IRS.

This spring, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration revealed another set of findings:  many of the IRS employees who had violated tax law or engaged in misconduct at work were never even fired in the first place.  In fact, more than 60 percent of those who willfully violated tax law kept their jobs.

Moreover, many of these employees went on to receive awards and promotions within the year, including nearly $145,000 in performance bonuses, 900 hours of time-off awards, more than 30 promotions, and four permanent raises.  Taxpayers should never be responsible for giving a performance bonus to an IRS employee who has failed to pay their own taxes.  Period.

It doesn’t stop there, either.  In April of this year, the House Ways and Means Committee, of which I am a member, released a report showing the IRS deliberately diverted funding away from customer service, meaning 16 million fewer taxpayers received IRS assistance this tax filing season.  What’s more, the IRS continued to prioritize spending on employee bonuses and union activity during this time, using up resources that could have helped millions more taxpayers.

And all of this is occurring as the House investigates the agency’s blatant targeting of conservative groups.  It’s unacceptable and frankly, out of control.

Time and again, the IRS’s actions point to a fundamental disrespect of taxpayers and your hard-earned dollars.  The legislation I’ve introduced this month will not solve all the problems that riddle this agency, but it does take a step forward in providing the vigorous oversight the IRS clearly needs.