Sunday, April 22, 2018
News Roundup

IRS faces new scrutiny for $49M meetings tab

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service spent an estimated $49 million on at least 220 conferences for employees over a three-year span beginning in fiscal 2010, according to a forthcoming report that will prompt fresh scrutiny of the already embattled agency.

The findings come as the Obama administration is overhauling the agency after officials admitted that dozens of groups were inappropriately scrutinized as they sought tax-exempt status. The admission forced the resignation of the agency's acting commissioner and has sparked criminal and congressional investigations.

Seeking to get ahead of the fresh controversy, IRS acting Commissioner Daniel Werfel acknowledged the report in a statement late Friday, but he didn't share any of the findings. He called the spending "an unfortunate vestige from a prior era" and said that the agency has significantly curtailed conference spending in recent years.

The audit is set for release Tuesday and was prepared by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, the same entity that confirmed allegations against the agency's tax-exempt unit. Details of the report were shared by several congressional aides, who were briefed on the report Friday.

The report is reminiscent of findings released last year after a similar investigation into lavish spending on conferences hosted by the General Services Administration, revelations that prompted other inspectors general to launch inquiries as the Obama administration ordered cutbacks in such meetings.

In its report, the Treasury's inspector general provides detailed estimates on hundreds of IRS conferences, but investigators couldn't verify the total costs because the agency failed to keep records of all expenses, according to the aides.

The report focuses especially on an August 2010 conference held in Anaheim, Calif., for roughly 2,600 agency employees in the IRS's small business and self-employed division, a unit that assists small business owners with tax preparation and is based in Lanham, Md.

The conference cost roughly $4.1 million and was paid for in part with about $3.2 million in unused funds from the IRS's enforcement budget, a decision that didn't violate IRS guidelines, according to aides briefed on the audit.

During the conference, employees watched two training videos starring division employees that cost at least $60,000 to produce, according to the audit's estimates.

The first video is a parody of the Star Trek television and movie franchise and stars division employees discussing how they might identify and address allegations of tax fraud. Aides briefed on the audit said employees paid for Star Trek uniforms they wear in the video, but the agency paid for the construction of an elaborate mock-up of the bridge of the starship Enterprise, the vessel used to transport the show's characters.

The second video stars some of the same employees learning how to dance the "Cupid Shuffle" from a 2007 song by the performer Cupid.

A spokeswoman for the inspector general's office declined to comment until the report is publicly released.

Werfel will make his first public comments since becoming acting IRS commissioner on Monday at a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing on the IRS targeting scandal. He is a former White House budget official, who took over the IRS after President Barack Obama forced out the former acting commissioner last month.

Comments
Baseball: Bulls edge Knights to even series

Baseball: Bulls edge Knights to even series

After a two-hour weather delay Saturday evening at USF, the remote local threat of lightning finally dissipated.The postseason intensity never did.For the second consecutive night, the UCF-USF baseball series delivered, this time with the Bulls (25-1...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Perspective: The Heartland to Headwaters Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition finds frustration and fear seeking a safe a path for wildlife across Interstate 4

Perspective: The Heartland to Headwaters Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition finds frustration and fear seeking a safe a path for wildlife across Interstate 4

The original Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition in 2012 was inspired by the how the Florida black bear roamed ó and the space it needed to do so successfully. In 2010, expedition team member Joe Guthrie conducted research through the University of ...
Published: 04/22/18
Athleticsí Sean Manaea no-hits Red Sox

Athleticsí Sean Manaea no-hits Red Sox

OAKLAND, Calif. – Sean Manaea watched as Marcus Semien fired a ball from short to second baseman Jed Lowrie, turned around, and jumped into the arms of catcher Jonathan Lucroy. History was made at the Coliseum.Manaea no-hit the Red Sox on ...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Maple Leafs force Game 6 with Bruins

Maple Leafs force Game 6 with Bruins

BOSTON — Tyler Bozak and James van Riemsdyk scored 1:19 apart in the second period, and then the Maple Leafs killed off a 5-on-3 and three more power plays in a row to beat the Bruins 4-3 in Game 5 on Saturday night and avoid playoff eliminatio...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Marc Topkinís takeaways from Raysí 10-1 Saturday win over Twins

Marc Topkinís takeaways from Raysí 10-1 Saturday win over Twins

* Is it time to take the leap and believe this is the real Blake Snell? He talked a good game this spring and pitched well in his debut, but that rough second outing raised old doubts. But a good outing in Chicago and two dominant ones on the homesta...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Rays Tales: How low can this team go compared to those Devil Rays days?

Rays Tales: How low can this team go compared to those Devil Rays days?

When the Rays, in the opening weekend of their 20th anniversary celebration season, brought back and honored the inaugural 1998 Devil Rays squad, it got us thinking unexpected thoughts, such as which was a better team:The first one, or the current on...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Rays Journal: Team effort pays off in 10-1 win over Twins

Rays Journal: Team effort pays off in 10-1 win over Twins

ST. PETERSBURG – Let's be clear here, the Rays still have a long way to go, and a lot of ground to make up.But seeing them play like they did Saturday in beating the Twins 10-1, putting on a solid all-around show in cobbling their first three-g...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Lightning-Devils: How the NHLís top offense went on the defensive

Lightning-Devils: How the NHLís top offense went on the defensive

TAMPA — It was a couple of days after the Lightning beat the Bruins at home late in the regular season when associate coach Rick Bowness talked about how the defensive effort used in that shutout victory was the one the Lightning would need in ...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Rays will go forth with four starters

Rays will go forth with four starters

ST. PETERSBURG — Three weeks was enough for the Rays to officially ditch their three-man rotation plan.Starting Sunday, they will go forth with Yonny Chirinos as their fourth starter.Which is a five-star idea.The flaws in the three-man plan ...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Rookie? Lightning D Mikhail Sergachevís playing like a seasoned pro

Rookie? Lightning D Mikhail Sergachevís playing like a seasoned pro

TAMPA — Pardon Mikhail Sergachev if he isn't so good at one of hockey's greatest traditions. After all, growing a Stanley Cup playoff beard isn't easy when you're still just a teenager.As he stood in the Lightning locker room Saturday evening w...
Updated: 9 hours ago