Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1084

IRS Logo 2Forbes:  Should IRS Pay Employee Bonuses? Recall Lois Lerner's $129,300 On Top Of Salary, by Robert W. Wood:

Should IRS employees receive bonuses, and based on what? The topic is controversial–again–although perhaps not as vitriolic as it was during the Lois Lerner targeting episode. Recall that the face of IRS targeting, Lois Lerner–who took the Fifth and refused to testify about it–received big cash bonuses. So did the fired Acting IRS Commissioner Miller who was also caught up in the targeting scandal. (Yes, it is tempting to ask, ‘bonuses for what?’)

These bonuses were not small pats on the back. In fact, Lois Lerner received $129,300 in bonuses between 2010 and 2013. As head of the IRS tax-exempt division at the  heart of the targeting scandal, she received a 25% bonus each year—averaging $43,000 a year—on top of her regular salary. As you read about bonuses, you might recall other reports saying that 61% of IRS employees caught willfully violating the tax law aren’t fired, but may get promoted. Many of the bonuses can be traced to IRS Commissioner Koskinen, who took the helm of the IRS in December 2013.

His tenure hasn’t been smooth. Most of the IRS bonuses were paid in February and March 2014, with 238 awards totaling $976,387. No further awards were recorded until November and January 2015, with 218 awards totaling $1,000,108. In all, the IRS paid 1,269 bonuses, totaling $5.97 million from January 1, 2010 to February 2, 2015. The average was $4,483, but totals ranged from $250 to $285,688. There is considerable detail on the bonuses here.

And with this kind of track record in the face of scandal, perhaps it is no wonder that there is a House Bill, H.R. 4890, called the IRS Bonuses Tied to Measurable Metrics Act. Sponsored by Rep. Pat Meehan, R-Pa., it would prohibit the IRS from paying bonuses to employees until the Treasury Secretary develops and implements a comprehensive customer service strategy that puts taxpayers first. The House Ways and Means Committee passed four IRS bills recently, and the House voted to approve several. Yet Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., the ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, objected to tying IRS employee bonuses to the development of a customer service strategy. ...

There are plenty of hard-working and honest employees at the IRS. They do a terribly important job under tough circumstances, and it is usually a thankless job. Maybe they do deserve bonuses. Perhaps there might be agreement on this, especially if they could hang up a big ’Under New Management’ sign.

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Mr. BY: You have a rather simplistic view of government. It is not the "business" of government to make money. Making money, as a goal, is the objective of private business. Making money is vastly simpler than governing (i.e. “establish[ing] Justice, insur[ing] domestic Tranquility, provid[ing] for the common defence, promot[ing] the general Welfare, and secur[ing] the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity).

Mr. VOI: Apparently you have already forgotten the Bush 43 Administration’s politicization of the DOJ. Remember when only lawyers who were members of the Federalist Society were granted interviews and hired? Does Monica Goodling ring a bell for you?

Posted by: Publius Novus | Apr 28, 2016 6:33:59 AM

There should not be bonuses for Federal Employees. Job security and benefits are their bonuses. When a business is not making money, bonuses have to go. Private employers understand this. Why doesn't government?

Posted by: Bailey Yankee | Apr 27, 2016 11:31:33 AM

Were this a Republican administration that pulled off this repression of voters on the Democratic side in '12...they'd already be in jail. The double standard of the media and their leftwing pals is simply jaw-dropping.

Posted by: VoteOutIncumbents | Apr 27, 2016 8:19:29 AM

Bonuses at the IRS are determined and paid in the same way as most of the other federal agencies. Under the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978, the former top three General Schedule grades–GS-16 thru GS-18–were abolished and replaced by six pay bands in a Senior Executive Service pay scale. LLerner was in the SES. There are lots of problems with the SES concept, ranging from how members are selected and trained, to differences between treatment of “political” SESers and career SESers, to how they are terminated. One of the features of the SES was a rack-n-stack performance evaluation feature. All of a component’s SES members are rated from top to bottom each year and then a “bonus” $ pool is distributed to the top ranked members, with the largest bonuses going to the top ranks and diminishing amounts to lower ranked performers. Folks at the bottom get nada. Almost all (maybe all) SES personnel at the IRS are in the career service. LLerner was a career SESer and apparently was a part of the “in” crowd with management. As a result, she received relatively large bonuses vis-a-vis her colleagues.

The bottom line is that the SES management problem is not restricted to the IRS; it exists in almost all agencies subject to the 1978 Act. Nor is the problem restricted to the SES, since the federal civil service classification and pay system is and for 30+ years has been seriously out of whack. Too many positions are over- or under-classified or mis-classified and probably more positions are under- or over-paid than are correctly paid. In short, it is a mess. And the chances that the current or next congress will fix it is less than none.

Posted by: Publius Novus | Apr 27, 2016 7:10:36 AM