IRS Says It Spent $7.9 Million on Congressional Probes

Wednesday, 26 Feb 2014 12:59 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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The Internal Revenue Service claims it has cost nearly $8 million to answer congressional investigations into the extra scrutiny it gave conservative political groups before the 2012 election.

A letter from IRS Commissioner John Koskinen to House Democrats Elijah Cummings of Maryland and Sandy Levin of Michigan says 255 employees have spent 97,542 hours responding to the investigations, USA Today reports.

Koskinen claimed the accounting was a "conservative approach" that did not include figures for some support staff, the press office, or congressional liaisons.

The expenditures include $259,849 for travel, and staff time billed at more than $79 an hour for workers.

Levin and other House Democrats say the cost of the investigations shows Republicans are "fixated" on punishing the IRS, and Republicans are "wasting millions of dollars in an attempt to reignite their partisan inquiry before the November elections."

But Republicans say they want to disclose the whole story of how the IRS targeted certain organizations as the race to re-elect President Barack Obama neared.

"This committee is working to restore accountability and trust into this broken agency," said Sarah Swinehart, spokeswoman for House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich.

The Republican-controlled House is conducting two investigations, as is the Democratic-controlled Senate. In addition, a Treasury Department inspector general and the Department of Justice are investigating the IRS.

But the nearly $7.9 million in costs cited by Koskinen are just the beginning of the expenses the agency has absorbed since the 2012 scandal.

The agency has also spent $6 million to $8 million in technology upgrades it says it needs to protect private taxpayer information — but only a few Congressional committees are able to get the data as a result.

In addition, nearly a half-million documents have been turned over to Congress, but most have not been publicly disclosed under Freedom of Information Act requests, and Republicans complain they are still not able to get key documents, including emails of former IRS Exempt Organizations Director Lois Lerner.

"The IRS is wasting millions of taxpayer dollars on obstructing an investigation, while it refuses to produce low-cost and highly relevant documents such as the official emails from IRS targeting figure Lois Lerner, which the committee has identified as a priority," said Frederick Hill, spokesman for House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif.

Hill also noted the IRS cost of $14 million to $16 million represented a total that was twice the budget of Issa's entire committee.

Meanwhile, USA Today reports, the House Oversight Committee said it is recalling Lerner to testify next week.

The former IRS official has retired and appeared before the committee last May, where she invoked her Fifth Amendment right to refuse to answer questions that may incriminate her.

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