IRS Criticized for $60,000 Training Video

You would think that government agencies would learn the lesson that taxpayers don't like footing the bill for expensive training. About this time last year, the General Services Administration (GSA), which oversees purchasing and cost-cutting policies, was caught spending $822,000 at a conference in Las Vegas. Now, the IRS is being criticized for creating a $60,000 "Star Trek" parody video for leadership training.

Congressman Charles Boustany, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee's subcommittee on Oversight, echoed the criticism:

"There is nothing more infuriating to a taxpayer than to find out the government is using their hard-earned dollars in a way that is frivolous.  The IRS admitted as much when it disclosed that it no longer produces such videos."

Acting IRS commissioner Steven T. Miller responded to the criticism in a letter. He conceded that "A video of this type would not be made today" and wrote, 


"The IRS recognizes and takes seriously our obligation to be good stewards of government resources and taxpayer dollars. There is no mistaking that this video did not reflect the best stewardship of resources."

However, he also defended the Star Trek and other "training" videos: 


"The video series with an island theme provided filing season training for 1,900 employees in our Taxpayer Assistance Centers in 400 locations. This example of video training alone saved the IRS about $1.5 million each year compared to the costs of training the employees in person." 
When Miller refers to the "island theme," he means Gilligan's Island, of course.


Miller also touted a video, "When Will I Get My Refund?" which has been viewed almost a million times on YouTube.

Discussion Starters: 

  • What's your view of the IRS' video series: justifiable business expense, flagrant misuse of taxpayer dollars, or something else? 
  • What are alternatives for the IRS to get its points across? Could the agency use another approach for training on specific topics?