The Scoop: A Reward for Misconduct (from Senator Charles Grassley)
Imagine getting in trouble at work for misusing your office credit card or cheating on your timesheet. Would you expect a financial bonus or extra time off? At most workplaces, no. You’d count yourself lucky to keep your job.
At the IRS, yes. You might receive an award despite misconduct and despite not paying your taxes, in violation of the federal law your agency exists to enforce.
The IRS’ independent watchdog found in a recent report that “between October 1, 2010, and December 31, 2012, more than 2,800 employees with recent substantiated conduct issues resulting in disciplinary action received more than $2.8 million in monetary awards and more than 27,000 hours in time-off awards. Among these, more than 1,100 IRS employees with substantiated Federal tax compliance problems received more than $1 million in cash awards and more than 10,000 hours in time-off awards.”
The agency inspector general recommends a new policy requiring IRS management to consider linking conduct that results in disciplinary actions to paying out performance and discretionary awards.
The IRS said it’s working on a policy to that effect. No doubt, a common sense policy change like that will be slow-going at the IRS, so Congress and the agency watchdog will need to keep a close eye on the progress.
Recognition for strong performance is motivation for employees to keep doing well. But handing out rewards without regard to serious conduct problems cheapens the reward for the employees with sterling records. And it diminishes the already low level of public trust in the IRS.