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Sorting out the truth in politics

IRS spent $60,000 on two training videos, not one

The statement

The Internal Revenue Service spent $60,000 on a Star Trek training video.

U.S. Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga., in a Twitter post

The ruling

Video. The final frontier for some federal workers.

A group of Internal Revenue Service employees went where few had gone before by creating a video in which they dressed as Star Trek characters.

The video was intended for training purposes. But when word got out about the video, particularly that tens of thousands of dollars were spent on it, many said the IRS workers should not have gone there.

"Next time anyone (@barackobama) says they need to raise your taxes, send them this IRS star trek video — cost you $60k," Graves posted on Twitter.

Our search for the facts didn't take as much time as Capt. Kirk, Mr. Spock and their crew spent on the Starship Enterprise.

CBS News filed a federal Freedom of Information Act to get a copy of a six-minute video of IRS employees in "Star Trek" gear decrying various tax evasion schemes.

Here's how the video began:

"Space: the final frontier

These are the voyagers of the Starship Enterprise Y

Its never-ending mission is to seek out new tax forms

To explore strange new regulations

To boldly go where no government employee has gone before."

The video ends with the crew heading from space back to Earth to pick up a "tax gap vaccine." Many news organizations quickly picked up on the story. The video was made in 2010.

William Shatner, who starred as Capt. James T. Kirk in the TV series, was not pleased about it.

"So I watched that IRS video. I am appalled at the utter waste of US tax dollars," Shatner posted on Twitter.

This was not the only video. In 2011, some IRS workers dressed as characters from Gilligan's Island for another training video.

Combined, the IRS said two videos cost $60,000. Some news organizations, however, reported just the Star Trek video cost $60,000. Graves' tweet did not mention Gilligan's Island.

The IRS contends there was a cost benefit to the Gilligan's Island video.

The video "was used to train taxpayer assistance employees in approximately 400 locations across the United States, saving an estimated $1.5 million as compared to the potential costs to train these employees in person," acting IRS Commissioner Steven T. Miller wrote in a letter to U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, R-La., chairman of a House oversight subcommittee.

The IRS did not respond to our follow-up question concerning the cost of each video.

Graves posted on Twitter that the IRS spent $60,000 on a training video in which some of its employees were dressed as Star Trek characters. The IRS did spend a lot of taxpayer money on a Star Trek video. But Graves' claim omits some important context, primarily that the $60,000 is inflated since that price tag covered two videos. We rate this Half True.

Edited for print. Read the full version at PolitiFact.com.

IRS spent $60,000 on two training videos, not one 04/20/13 [Last modified: Friday, April 19, 2013 4:37pm]

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