IRS Rehires Problem Employees, Gets Burned Again

Many former workers who had performance or conduct issues are back — and messing up again.
Katie Kuehner-HebertFebruary 6, 2015
IRS Rehires Problem Employees, Gets Burned Again

The Internal Revenue Service rehired hundreds of problem employees, according to an IRS audit report released Thursday, called “Additional Consideration of Prior Conduct and Performance Issues Is Needed When Hiring Former Employees.”

The Office of the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, established under the IRS Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998 to provide independent oversight of IRS activities, said it had reviewed a random sample from more than 300 employees with significant prior performance or conduct issues who were rehired between January 2010 and July 2013. It found that nearly 20% of them had new conduct or performance issues, such as failing to pay their taxes on time or unauthorized access to other taxpayers’ account information.

“Based on the types of prior performance and conduct issues we identified, rehiring certain employees presents increased risk to the IRS and taxpayers,” Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George said in a press release Thursday.

The IRS emblem

The IRS emblem

During the audit, IRS officials stated that prior conduct and performance issues do not play a significant role in deciding the candidates who are best qualified for hiring and that they believe they are applying the government’s Office of Personnel Management (OPM) suitability standards appropriately, according to the report. In addition, IRS officials stated that the OPM and IRS General Legal Services should be consulted to determine if full consideration of prior conduct and performance issues violates federal regulations.

The auditor recommended that the IRS’s “human capital officer” work with General Legal Services and the OPM to determine whether and during what part of the hiring process the IRS can fully consider prior conduct and performance issues, the report said.

IRS management agreed with the recommendation and stated that they had already requested written opinions from General Legal Services and the OPM. But, the IRS said, it believes the current process “is adequate to mitigate any risks to American taxpayers,” according to the report. But the auditor “remains concerned.”

“Selecting the best candidates for employment is essential to providing the best service to America’s taxpayers, maintaining public trust in tax administration, and safeguarding taxpayer’s rights and privacy,” the report said.

A CNN Money article Thursday reported that IRS Commissioner John Koskinen earlier this week told the Senate Finance Committee that virtually all — more than 99% — of IRS staff are compliant with their taxes. That’s the highest compliance rate of any U.S. government agency.