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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

To all state and regional IRS managers:

As a result of the critical government report about our agency’s 2010 convention in Anaheim, Calif., the following changes are being implemented immediately.

1. Funds are hereby terminated for all future training videos, including but not limited to “Cupid Shuffle” line-dancing and “Star Trek” parodies.

This rule is retroactive, which means that, sadly, we are cancelling the Game of Thrones parody that is now in production at our Cincinnati office.

(I screened the rough cut of the video and it was impressive. The costuming was authentic, and I thought Herm from our 401(c) Task Force totally nailed it as Tyrion Lannister — especially that British accent! Unfortunately, building a medieval castle on the set cost way more than all those puny Tea Party returns could ever bring in.)

Another casualty of the new spending rules is the multimedia dance video that was to be featured during our coming convention this August. The entire Birmingham office has been working out some smooth moves every afternoon (between audits) for nearly a year.

I’m told the choreography and exotic stagecraft put the Cupid Shufflers to shame. Unfortunately, because of the recent controversy, we won’t get to see “Big Ira and the Itemizers” show off their Gangnam Style groove.

2. Funds are hereby terminated for the hiring of event planners for IRS conferences.

As the inspector general noted, the agency spent more than $133,000 on three outside planners to secure our hotels and catering arrangements in Anaheim. The inspector general’s view is that taxpayer money could be more prudently spent, and I agree.

From now on, all convention planning will be done in-house by IRS personnel utilizing Web sites such as “Google” and “Bing,” which I am told will actually provide current information about hotel pricing in almost any city.

Apparently even the phone numbers of hotels are available online, thereby eliminating the need for our agency to pay an outside contractor to find the numbers and dial them. Who knew?

3. Funds are hereby eliminated for so-called “scouting trips” to IRS conference sites in advance of the event.

Back in 2010, we dispatched 25 employees in the months before the big annual convention, at a cost of about $36,000. The harsh criticism now being heaped upon our agency overlooks the steep logistical challenges in a city as cosmopolitan and confusing as Anaheim.

To simulate the tourist experience, a squad of our designated convention scouts went to Disneyland to navigate the intimidating labyrinths of Mickey’s Toontown and Splash Mountain.

Others ventured to an Angels baseball game, where it’s not uncommon for zestful visitors to become disoriented and require police escorts from the ballpark.

All scouting exercises were conducted in order to steer convention attendees away from local pitfalls. From now on, however, agency guidance will be limited to providing detailed street maps and portable Breathalyzers.

4. Funds are hereby eliminated for hiring outside speakers to address IRS conferences.

In Anaheim the agency paid more than $135,000 in fees to 15 different speakers. The well-meaning effort, meant to motivate and inspire our managers, has become part of the nasty media controversy.

One speaker who received $27,000 got up and told us that “seemingly random combinations of ideas can drive radical innovations.”

Maybe it wasn’t the most penetrating or original idea, but many of our attendees remained totally alert during his presentation.

Another paid guest speed-painted portraits of six famous persons to dramatize the value of creative thinking. For the record, not one of the Kardashians was featured as a portrait subject, yet still the backlash has been intense.

The total cost of the Anaheim shindig was $4.1 million, part of $37.5 million spent by the IRS in 2010 on conferences, meetings and conventions. Those days are over, as you are all aware, because the Obama administration cracked down the following year.

In 2012 the agency spent only $4.8 million on conventions, and we’re committed to reducing our partying budget even more. This year all our speakers will be unpaid.

Linda in our east Portland office has volunteered to present the keynote (“Re-Thinking Form 8949 — Whither Short-Term Capital Assets?”). Afterward she’ll be doing pencil sketches of your favorite family pet, so don’t forget to bring snapshots!

Yours in service,

Acting IRS Commissioner (for now) Danny Werfel



(Carl Hiaasen is a columnist for the Miami Herald. Readers may write to him at: 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla., 33132.)

  • JDavidS

    “Memo to the IRS…”? Does anyone really think these jack-booted bastards care? If you do, I’ve got this bridge I can sell you…cheap. Just don’t report the transaction.

  • John

    What was funny about what the IRS did?

  • juli1

    You know, I’m scared to ask this, but the above wasn’t really a joke, was it? I mean “Big Ira and the Itemizers” is for real?

    Salaam, Shalom, Juli

    “All the problems we face in the United
    States today can be traced to an unenlightened immigration policy on the part of
    the American Indian.”

    ~Pat Paulsen

    • idamag

      Yeah, they should have asked Columbus for his green card.

      • juli1

        Heehee ! That would make a *great* SNL skit ; )

  • Allan Richardson

    They can’t win in the eyes of the taxpayers and politicians. If they don’t audit enough people, they get criticized for not being cost-effective. If they audit too many people — ESPECIALLY THE “WRONG” ONES (wink wink nudge nudge), they get criticized for being jack booted thugs; and we KNOW that taxpayers are all honest and would never KNOWINGLY try to defraud Uncle Sam (But Fluffy IS a member of the family, and so are all her kittens! I really DID give $10,000 to panhandlers, a quarter at a time, but none of them could write a receipt!), would they?

    Maybe their employees NEEDED these events to blow off frustrations and restore their self esteem, so they won’t bring guns to work and shoot it out (memo to Dallas office manager: test metal detector!) like postal employees. After all, as many a psychiatrist has said to patients who work for the IRS, it’s not true that everyone in the world hates you, only everybody in the USA! Wait! These conventions and movies are protecting their mental health, so they are part of the HEALTH PLAN!

    Seriously, though, there are actions that waste money in all government offices, and (SURPRISE, RAND PAUL!) in all PRIVATE sector offices, from time to time. All that a competent and well meaning manager can do is keep them down to reasonably low levels. But when one party in Congress wants to abolish an agency for ideological reasons, or wants to make a scandal to hurt the opposing party in the White House, even 0.0001% of the budget is too much! Even if the same or higher levels of waste happened during THEIR party’s last administration (and it probably did), for THIS President to have this happen on his watch is APPALLING and TREASONOUS!

    I wonder when they passed the point of spending MORE on the investigations and hearings than the total amount of the waste they are investigating?

  • Jerry Fisher

    Danny Werfel looks to me to be a prime example of the IRS culture–condescending and obnoxious. he fits in with the O’s