In My Opinion

Carl Hiaasen: Memo on IRS scandal

 

chiaasen@MiamiHerald.com

(Emergency revisions to conference-planning guidelines for the Internal Revenue Service).

To all state and regional IRS managers:

As a result of the critical government report about our agency’s 2010 convention in Anaheim, Calif., the following changes are being implemented immediately.

1. Funds are hereby terminated for all future training videos, including but not limited to “Cupid Shuffle” line-dancing and “Star Trek” parodies.

This rule is retroactive, which means that, sadly, we are cancelling the “Game of Thrones” parody that is now in production at our Cincinnati office.

(I screened the rough cut of the video and it was impressive. The costuming was authentic, and I thought Herm from our 401(c) Task Force totally nailed it as Tyrion Lannister — especially that British accent! Unfortunately, building a medieval castle on the set cost way more than all those puny Tea Party returns could ever bring in.)

Another casualty of the new spending rules is the multimedia dance video that was to be featured during our upcoming convention this August. The entire Birmingham office has been working out some smooth moves every afternoon (between audits) for nearly a year.

I’m told the choreography and exotic stagecraft put the Cupid Shufflers to shame. Unfortunately, because of the recent controversy, we won’t get to see “Big Ira and the Itemizers” show off their Gangnam Style groove.

2. Funds are hereby terminated for the hiring of event planners for IRS conferences.

As the inspector general noted, the agency spent more than $133,000 on three outside planners to secure our hotels and catering arrangements in Anaheim. The inspector general’s view is that taxpayer money could be more prudently spent, and I agree.

From now on, all convention planning will be done in-house by IRS personnel utilizing Web sites such as “Google” and “Bing,” which I am told will actually provide current information about hotel pricing in almost any city.

Apparently even the phone numbers of hotels are available online, thereby eliminating the need for our agency to pay an outside contractor to find the numbers and dial them. Who knew?

3. Funds are hereby eliminated for so-called “scouting trips” to IRS conference sites in advance of the event.

Back in 2010, we dispatched 25 employees in the months before the big annual convention, at a cost of about $36,000. The harsh criticism now being heaped upon our agency overlooks the steep logistical challenges in a city as cosmopolitan and confusing as Anaheim.

To simulate the tourist experience, a squad of our designated convention scouts went to Disneyland to navigate the intimidating labyrinths of Mickey’s Toontown and Splash Mountain.

Others ventured to an Angels baseball game, where it’s not uncommon for zestful visitors to become disoriented and require police escorts from the ballpark.

All scouting exercises were conducted in order to steer convention attendees away from local pitfalls. From now on, however, agency guidance will be limited to providing detailed street maps and portable Breathalyzers.

4. Funds are hereby eliminated for hiring outside speakers to address IRS conferences.

In Anaheim the agency paid more than $135,000 in fees to 15 different speakers. The well-meaning effort, meant to motivate and inspire our managers, has become part of the nasty media controversy.

One speaker who received $27,000 got up and told us that “seemingly random combinations of ideas can drive radical innovations.”

Maybe it wasn’t the most penetrating or original idea, but many of our attendees remained totally alert during his presentation.

Another paid guest speed-painted portraits of six famous persons to dramatize the value of creative thinking. For the record, not one of the Kardashians was featured as a portrait subject, yet still the backlash has been intense.

The total cost of the Anaheim shindig was $4.1 million, part of $37.5 million spent by the IRS in 2010 on conferences, meetings and conventions. Those days are over, as you are all aware, because the Obama administration cracked down the following year.

In 2012 the agency spent only $4.8 million on conventions, and we’re committed to reducing our partying budget even more. This year all our speakers will be unpaid.

Linda in our east Portland office has volunteered to present the keynote (“Re-Thinking Form 8949 — Whither Short-Term Capital Assets?”). Afterwards she’ll be doing pencil sketches of your favorite family pet, so don’t forget to bring snapshots!

Yours in service,

Acting IRS Commissioner (for now) Danny Werfel

Read more Carl Hiaasen stories from the Miami Herald

  • In My Opinion

    First, do no harm — to your bank account

    After being sued by the Wall Street Journal, the government finally released its Medicare reimbursement data last week. It included the less-than-stunning revelation that 28 of the 100 doctors who received the largest payments in 2012 were from Florida.

  • In My Opinion

    Carl Hiaasen: The profound urgency of DCF reform

    With much chest-thumping, Gov. Rick Scott last week signed a law clipping auto-tag fees by about $25 per vehicle in Florida. He used the opportunity to blast former Gov. Charlie Crist for raising those fees five years ago.

  • In My Opinion

    How many babies must be buried?

    Most of the dead are babies and toddlers, and they perish in horrible ways — starved, punched, shaken, burned, thrown from cars or simply forgotten. There’s nothing left to protect them except the state of Florida, which fails over and over.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category