The IRS may insist that you pay you taxes on time or they’ll come after you, but the agency isn’t quite so harsh when it comes to their own. The Treasury Inspector General (IG) for Tax Administration has revealed that in fiscal years 2010 and 2011, not only were there more than 1,000 employees who misused their government charge cards; there were 325 bad checks written by employees to cover their debts, and guess what? In 30 cases examined by the IG as a sample of the group, more than half were given “overly lenient treatment.” The IG’s report stated:
While the CCS Branch correctly referred misuse cases to Labor Relations, disciplinary actions against employees were typically less severe than those recommended by the IRS’s penalty guidelines in approximately half of the 30 cases reviewed. In addition, the IRS lacked standard policies for referring employees who misused their travel cards to security personnel to determine if background checks, security clearances, and suitability for employment determinations required reevaluation. As a result, employees who wrote NSF checks or had suspended or charged-off accounts received little or no disciplinary action in response to their misuse and did not have their background clearances reevaluated for suitability for employment. However, we determined that an overly lenient approach was taken in approximately half of the 30 cases we reviewed,” said the IG. “The lack of aggressive steps taken to address travel card misuse and the lack of a subsequent reevaluation of employee background checks and clearances reduces the overall effectiveness of controls over the travel card program and provides a reduced deterrent factor for travel card misuse. Of particular concern is the fact that the IRS ask taxpayers to voluntarily pay taxes owed in a timely manner and yet was more tolerant when its employees became delinquent and defaulted on outstanding payments, violated the terms of the Citibank contract, abused a Government-provided resource (travel funding), and compromised the integrity of the IRS.
The government-issued travel charge cards are issued by Citibank, and are intended to be used for official government travel and travel-related expenses. Among the IRS employees who abused the privilege were an executive-level official, a criminal investigator, and other employees with security clearances.
The IG report continued:
We found that 15 cardholders with either secret or top-secret clearances had their travel accounts suspended due to their failure to pay outstanding balances, Two other cardholders with secret and top-secret clearances presented NSF [non-sufficient funds] checks to Citibank for payment of their travel card balance. In addition, 94 cardholders serving public trust positions requiring moderate and high-level background checks wrote one or more NSF checks, and 36 had their accounts charged off [written off as a loss by Citibank] due to their failure to pay outstanding balances. For example, a tax compliance officer wrote seven NSF checks in FY 2011 while occupying a position that required a moderate-risk background investigation.
Other misuses of the travel card included an unauthorized person using it, someone using it for a purpose other than travel, buying a product from an unauthorized merchant, and delinquent payment.