The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration yesterday released Review of the Internal Revenue Service’s Public Transportation Subsidy Program (2018-10-033):
The IRS’s Public Transportation Subsidy Program (PTSP) was created to encourage employees to use public transportation when commuting to and from work in order to improve air quality, reduce traffic congestion, and conserve energy by reducing the number of single occupancy vehicles on the road. In Calendar Year 2016, more than 18,000 IRS employees received more than $17.5 million in public transportation benefits. Controls in place over the program are important to ensure proper stewardship of taxpayer dollars.
WHY TIGTA DID THE AUDIT
The overall objective of this audit was to determine whether the IRS has effective controls in place to prevent, detect, and deter employee misuse of the PTSP.
WHAT TIGTA FOUND
Controls over the application process provided assurance that applications were complete and limited PTSP usage to only those who were approved for the program. In addition, controls over PTSP benefits effectively limited participants to receiving benefits that were less than or equal to the statutory maximum of $255 per month. Lastly, vendor blocks established by the Department of Transportation effectively prevented purchases from being made at non-transportation-related vendors.
However, the PTSP remained vulnerable to misuse by participants. Based on the results of a statistical sample of program participants, TIGTA estimates that 6,449 participants used almost $1.6 million more in transportation benefits than necessary for commuting to work or used benefits while in a nonpay status, on leave, or while teleworking. The IRS does not have effective controls in place to prevent employees from receiving PTSP benefits that are greater than the participant’s actual commuting cost.
In addition, more than $16,000 in PTSP benefits were provided to participants after they separated or transferred from the IRS. For example, participants continued to use benefits for up to four months after separation from the IRS. Further, participants who the IRS identified through its internal audits as misusing the program were not disciplined for the misuse, and employees who were disciplined by the IRS for misusing PTSP benefits were not removed from the program and did not repay the benefits they misused.