Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) slammed the Internal Revenue Service on Tuesday for its recent decision to award approximately $62.5 million in bonuses, a move he characterized as "a very bad thing to do at this particular time."
IRS Commissioner John Koskinen announced earlier this week that government officials had agreed to reward the agency’s “high-performing employees" for their “great work.” The decision is an about-face from the agency’s earlier attempts to save money in the face of supposedly “devastating” budget cuts.
“I am pleased to be able to announce that, following long discussions and negotiations with [the National Treasury Employees Union], we have reached an agreement that will allow the IRS to pay Fiscal Year 2013 performance awards to Bargaining Unit employees,” Koskinen said in an email to employees.
“In light of our continuing dire budget situation, the award payouts will be about 1 percent of the BU salary base. While this is less than the 1.75 percent provided in previous years, I am happy we have been able to reach agreement with NTEU so that we can recognize our high-performing employees who have not seen pay raises for several years,” the email adds.
Hatch criticized the bonuses.
“It’s hard to think of a group of people less deserving of bonuses than IRS employees. Frankly, this is outrageous,” said after the announcement on Monday.
The IRS revealed in 2013 that it had improperly targeted conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
The targeting scandal began when Lois Lerner, the former chief of the IRS unit charged with reviewing tax-exempt groups, issued a public apology during an address in Washington, D.C. She has since resigned from the agency, after taking several weeks of paid leave, and has avoided testifying by invoking her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation, which was charged with the task of investigating the scandal, likely won’t bring any criminal charges against the IRS, the Wall Street Journal reported recently.
Hatch said he doesn’t believe every IRS employee was involved in the alleged targeting, but he said the bonuses send the “wrong signal.”
The NTEU stands by the decision.
“The awards are a relatively small amount of money, but they go a long way toward acknowledging the hard work of employees who exceed their performance expectations for the year,” said NTEU President Colleen M. Kelley.
The IRS will pay out approximately $43.4 million to employees represented by labor unions and $19.1 million to other employees, bringing the total amount for 2013 to $62.5 million.
Here’s a copy of Koskine's letter:
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