Senators move to keep IRS from rehiring fired employees

Four Republican senators have introduced a bill aimed at keeping former Internal Revenue Service workers with a disciplinary record from rejoining the agency.

Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Dean Heller (R-Nev.) and Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) brought legislation to the floor on Jan. 12 that would prevent the IRS from rehiring fired employees.

Burr, the bill’s sponsor, said screening at the IRS has gotten so bad that the agency at one point hired a former employee whose personnel file was stamped “do not rehire.”

“IRS employees who were fired for serious offenses and gross misconduct like fraud, falsification of documents, and unauthorized access to taxpayer information shouldn’t be allowed back in the agency at all,” said Burr, chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

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“With so many scandals calling into question the integrity of the IRS, the agency already has a tough enough time convincing taxpayers it should be taken seriously,” Heller said. “This is why the IRS should have a greater ability to fire employees who commit misconduct. More importantly, it is incomprehensible that those same employees, who commit serious offenses, are allowed to be re-hired by the IRS, especially if the IRS has concerns over budgetary constraints.”

A 2014 Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration report found that between January 2010 and September 2013, IRS rehired more than 7,000 former employees — although 78 percent of them previously held temporary or seasonal positions.

“Most rehired employees do not have performance or conduct issues associated with prior IRS employment. However, TIGTA found that the IRS did hire hundreds of former employees with these types of issues,” the report said.

The TIGTA report flagged 141 rehired employees who had tax issues, including five who failed to file their federal tax returns. Other workers had previously been disciplined for unauthorized access to taxpayer information and abuse of administrative leave.

“The lack of accountability at federal agencies is destroying Americans’ trust in their government,” said Isakson, a member of the Senate Finance Committee.

Enzi and Burr both sponsored a bipartisan bill in October 2015 that would prevent tax delinquent IRS employees from receiving bonuses.

“Common sense would suggest that an employee who was fired for misconduct or poor performance shouldn’t be hired back, but the IRS’ outrageous and bewildering behavior continues to defy logic,” said Enzi, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee. “This legislation is another important piece of the puzzle to help bring needed accountability to an agency that refuses to operate within reason.”

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, reintroduced a bill in March 2015 that would hold federal employees and contractors more accountable for not paying their federal taxes.

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