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Porn and romance novels on taxpayer's dime? Inspector general urges IRS to boost oversight of credit card spending

Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration

The IRS disagreed that its spending of less than $4,000 on morale-boosting merchandise over two years was improper.

By M. Alex Johnson, staff writer, NBC News

The IRS could do a better job of policing employees’ spending with government credit cards, a Treasury Department watchdog said Tuesday in a report that found that lax oversight allowed a few bad apples to buy romance novels, diet pills and even porn on the taxpayer’s dime.

The Treasury’s inspector general for tax administration — the same agency that brought the hammer down on the IRS for singling out conservative groups for special scrutiny — found that IRS workers on the whole stick to the rules when they use government credit cards.

It identified improprieties in only about two-tenths of 1 percent of transactions in fiscal years 2010 and 2011, when IRS workers made 273,000 credit card purchases worth about $108 million.

“The majority of IRS cardholders appear to use their purchase cards properly,” the report said, adding that “we did not find a significant amount of improper purchases in our limited testing.”

But some of the improper purchases it did find were doozies.

Related: Read the full inspector general’s report (.pdf)

One woman made 38 transactions totaling $2,655 for what appeared to be personal purchases covered up with fake receipts. Taxpayers paid for her purchases of diet pills, romance novels, steaks and a smartphone, which the report said were falsely categorized as “reference books and office supplies.”

And the government credit cards of two other employees, one of them still with the IRS, bought pornography online, the inspector general said.

Both of them reported that their cards had been stolen or compromised, which the report said it hadn’t been able to verify or discredit — although it noted that one of the cardholders had reported at least five cards as having been lost, stolen or counterfeited, something the report said the IRS might want to consider a red flag in the future.

In a separate case, the inspector general questioned the IRS’ spending on a five-day international tax conference in Washington in 2010. It didn’t allege that the IRS went over budget — in fact, it noted, the agency spent less on the conference than it was authorized to.

But “we did not find any Department of the Treasury or IRS criteria to assess the reasonableness” of what was spent, it said, leading it to consider “the cost of the expenses related to this conference to be high.”

Among the questionable expenditures it highlighted were the purchase of 28 bottles of wine for just 41 guests and meal costs that were several times the federal per-diem rate of $18 for lunch and $36 for dinner in Washington.

It also questioned the IRS’ spending of slightly less than $4,000 over the two years on team-building and morale-boosting merchandise like bandannas, Thomas the Tank Engine rubber wristbands, Nerf footballs and something described as …read more

Source: NBC NEWS US News

  

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