WASHINGTON — Two high-ranking IRS employees were on the road so often in the past two years that they may have traveled more days than they worked, according to a report released Tuesday by Treasury inspectors.
And at least 15 executives traveled to another office — typically Washington — for more than half of their work days, raising questions about whether they should have been assigned to IRS headquarters in the first place, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration said.
The inspectors are looking into whether the tax agency may have evaded taxes by failing to disclose the benefit of the travel on withholding statements for those employees. Under IRS regulations, travel expenses are taxable if the employee works at a location for more than a year.
The review is the latest in a string of reports critical of management failures at the tax agency, including the processing of tax-exempt applications for political groups and excessive conference spending.
The inspector general said the agency’s overall travel does not appear to be excessive. The 373 most senior executives spent $4.7 million on travel in fiscal year 2012, down slightly from the previous year. Most spent less than $10,000 on travel during the year. There’s no evidence thus far that executives claimed reimbursements above the government rates or took improper perks, such as suite upgrades.
But a number of executives took repeated trips to the same cities. In many cases, the IRS recruited managers for jobs at the Washington headquarters but didn’t force the executives to move to the capital, Deputy Inspector General David Holmgren said.
“To us, that’s important,” Holmgren said. “There’s nothing improper about staying the weekends and holidays, but when it was to the same location over and over again, it appeared those individuals may not have the proper or appropriate place of duty.”
One executive — identified only as “Executive D” — spent 413 days on the road in 2011 and 2012, spending $283,491 on travel, according to the report. Almost all of that travel was to Washington.
The IRS contends that executive travel is necessary in an organization with 90,000 employees in 620 locations.
“The employees best prepared to handle these demanding and complex jobs may not always live where the position is located and may not be in a position to relocate, necessitating some additional travel,” IRS Chief Financial Officer Pamela LaRue said in a written response to inspectors.