In a stunning affront to the nation's taxpayers, the IRS gave performance bonuses of cash and paid time off to hundreds of its employees even though they failed to file or pay their taxes. That's outrageous.
More than 1,100 people working for the nation's tax collector who had "substantiated federal tax problems" received more than $1 million in cash awards and 10,000 hours in time-off awards. All this happened between Oct. 1, 2010, and Dec. 31, 2012, according to the U.S. Treasury inspector general for tax administration.
Rewarding tax scofflaws with tax dollars simply defies logic.
IRS workers who haven't complied with the rules shouldn't be eligible for bonuses. Rewarding them encourages others to cynically break the rules. The need for that redline prohibition is clear. Unfortunately, laying it down may not be easy.
The obstacle is the labor pact between the National Treasury Employees Union and the IRS. It doesn't allow IRS officials to consider whether an employee had a substantiated case of such things as late filing, nonpayment or willful understatement of federal taxes when deciding whether they get a bonus. IRS officials must insist in future contract negotiations that they be allowed to consider whether workers are paying their fair share like the rest of us before they get extra taxpayer dollars.
There's nothing wrong with merit pay. Rewarding exemplary work encourages excellence. And the IRS complied with all federal regulations in awarding bonuses that averaged $944 for unionized workers and $14,000 for senior executives. For budgetary reasons the IRS awarded no performance bonuses in 2013. But it handed out $91.6 million in 2011 and $86.3 million in 2012.
Only a fraction of that money went to tax delinquents. But one penny is a penny too much.