The Internal Revenue Service is thrashing in the water and investigators in congress and the press are circling like sharks for the kill.

Most people we know are cheering for the sharks.

The most hated federal agency has been going after law abiding citizens for years, and now, the tables are turned. The tide of public opinion has grown stronger with each new scandal, starting from the initial charge that conservative groups were being targeted because of their name or party affiliation.

The IRS is now the butt of late night talk show jokes, and the investigations on mismanagement and abuse have just gotten started. A scathing audit earlier this month found the IRS spent nearly $50 million on questionable conferences between 2010 and 2012 and new revelations this week only added to the public's outrage.

A new audit by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration revealed that IRS workers abused agency credit cards by buying wine for an expensive luncheon, romance novels diet pills, steaks, a smartphone, baby-related items, including games and clothes,

According to TIGTA, IRS staff made more than 273,000 "micro-purchases" (up to $3,000) totaling nearly $108 million in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2011. About 98 percent of the 367 purchase cards of employees who left the IRS were not closed before they departure, keeping the door open for more abuse.

The luncheon highlighted in the new report involved a 2010 conference in Washington for tax officials from other countries. The agency spent more than $50,000 on meals, receptions and meetings at the five-day conference and bought 28 bottles of wine for 41 guests. Dinner cost the agency $140 a person, four times the allowable government rate at the time.

Two IRS employees are also being investigated for using the credit cards to buy pornography but the report didn't determine who bought the material or whether their cards were actually stolen. One of the employees is no longer at the agency and the IG is continuing its investigation of the other person.

Other "improper" purchases cited in the audit included $3,152 to rent a popcorn machine and to buy prizes for an employee event, including bandanas, stuffed animals, sunglasses and stovepipe hats; $418 for novelty decorations and swag at managers' meetings, including kazoos, bathtub toys and "Thomas the Tank Engine" wristbands; and $119 for Nerf footballs that were never used and were found stored in a filing cabinet.

The agency workers didn't spare expenses for their conference parties. Just a few weeks ago we watched that ridiculous Star Trek training video from a conference that could well have cost taxpayers upwards of $5 million.

Now we learn of another lavish 2008 event held in Atlanta for 1,550 employees that cost about $2.8 million. That extravaganza, which we all paid for, opened with a video of agency workers dressed as Olympic athletes with makeshift torches.

New commissioner Danny Werfel claims he is directing the IRS business units to "more closely review spending in advance for any similar events to ensure all spending is appropriate."

Thanks a lot, but many Americans are expecting much more ... like maybe abolishing, or at least restructuring, the agency.

By Jim Zbick

wilzbi45@ptd.net [1]