IRS credit cards used for wine, porn and popcorn

As if the Internal Revenue Service didn’t have enough attention, internal investigators released a report on Tuesday which raised questions about “inappropriate” spending by IRS workers, who used official credit cards to buy items that didn’t seem to be needed for government work.

In one example, investigators found IRS employees paid for a lunch with international visitors in Washington, D.C., running up a tab of $100 per person, five times the allowable per diem rate for federal workers.

“Further, the alcohol purchases at this luncheon, although allowed when entertaining foreign Government officials, included more than 28 bottles of wine for 41 guests,” said the report, which noted the IRS spent more than $50,000 on nothing but meals for a conference associated with that lunch.

Along with wine, investigators found two IRS workers who used government credit cards used to purchase online porn – both of them evidently told investigators their credit card had been stolen.

Investigators also zeroed in on the use of government credit cards by IRS managers, who often used them to buy small give-away prizes for employees, often for team-building exercises.

Among the purchases:

+ Popcorn machine rental, game rentals, and give-away prizes such as sports balls, bandanas, plush animals, sunglasses, and Stove Top Hats – $3,152

+ Novelty decorations and give-away items, such as kazoos, bathtub toy boats, and Thomas the Tank Engine rubber wristbands, for managers’ meetings – $418

+ Toys purchased for team-building exercise and distributed to participants – $161

+ Nerf footballs purchased for a team-building exercise but never used and currently stored in a filing cabinet – $119

+ Jigsaw puzzle and world’s largest crossword puzzle purchased for team building – $89

When the Inspector General’s office told IRS higher-ups about the above examples, the IG reported that the IRS defended the expenditures, saying that “federal law supports purchases” for training and decorative items.

But the report states investigators found the above items “were improper.”

The IG review was limited in scope and did not attempt to give a ballpark estimate on how much waste, fraud and abuse is related to inappropriate use of credit cards by IRS workers; but safe to say, this isn’t the first review to raise such questions inside the federal government.

Recently, another IRS report raised issues about government-issued travel cards for IRS employees, and financial misuse of those cards.

You don’t have to go far back in any search to find purchase card issues at the Pentagon and in other federal agencies as well.

Investigators say in 2010 and 2011, IRS employees made 273,000 purchases totaling $108 million with government credit cards and convenience checks; this latest report again suggests that tighter internal controls on those purchases are needed.

You can read the IRS report at http://www.treasury.gov/tigta/auditreports/2013reports/201310056fr.pdf