Thursday, March 21, 2013

Congressman: IRS Parody Videos Should Boldly Go to Me

(Apologies all around for the awful pun.)

U.S. House Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Charles Boustany (R-La.) sent a letter (PDF) Wednesday to U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Acting Commissioner Steven Miller demanding copies of video parodies of Star Trek and Gilligan's Island the agency shot.

Boustany argued that the IRS's television studio in New Carrollton, Md., may have cost taxpayers more than $4 million in 2012. He requested the videos so that taxpayers can be assured that resources were used efficiently and in a manner keeping with the IRS's core mission and asked the agency for a complete accounting of production expenses at the studio.

“In your letter you state that the IRS’s goal of ‘mak[ing] voluntary compliance with the country’s tax laws as easy as possible,’ requires effective employee training,” Boustany wrote. “And further that the IRS’s production studio ‘allows the IRS to provide education and training to large audiences, both within the IRS and to the public, often while reducing travel and other costs associated with such programs.’ This explanation sounds both plausible and reasonable. However, your agency’s refusal to timely produce copies of the IRS parody videos to the committee is unacceptable.”

In his response (PDF), Miller acknowledged the videos' existence and said that the IRS spent $60,000 in taxpayer money in producing them. The IRS refused to comply with Boustany's request to turn over the videos, but offered to "make both videos available for viewing," which Boustany said was not responsive to his request.

Miller said that one of the videos in question "trained IRS employees on a wide variety of topics, including tax law updates, strategic issues, and employee management and safety issues," while the other "discussed, among other topics, IRS tools to deliver quality taxpayer service."

He also pointed out that the IRS uses its studio for many purposes, including a virtual town hall for IRS managers and YouTube videos that provide taxpayer information.

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