Grassley: IRS paid $42,000 in bonuses to Lois Lerner

(Updated 11:45 on June 25, 2013)

The IRS awarded tens of thousands of dollars apiece to officials under fire for the agency’s inappropriate actions against tax-exemption applicants, according to a key Republican lawmaker.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), a member of the Joint Committee on Taxation, said in a statement last week that Lois Lerner, one of the IRS officials who oversaw the agency’s tax-exemption operations, received $42,000 in bonuses since 2009.

Lois Lerner, director of the IRS's exempt organizations office, listens during a congressional hearing on May 22. (Pete Marovich/Bloomberg)
Lois Lerner, director of the IRS’s exempt organizations office, listens during a congressional hearing May 22. (Pete Marovich/Bloomberg)

Lerner refused to testify during a congressional hearing on the IRS controversy, invoking her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. The agency has placed her on administrative leave.

Grassley said the IRS also awarded $100,000 since 2009 to former IRS acting commissioner Steven Miller, who stepped down under pressure after the agency apologized for its inappropriate behavior, as well as $84,000 to Joseph Grant, the former head of the IRS’s tax-exemption division.

Those figures, including the one for Lerner’s awards, came from a Washington Examiner report, according to Grassley’s office.

The senator has raised questions about the IRS’s negotiations over $70 million dollars in additional bonuses apparently scheduled for this year despite government-wide spending cuts known as the sequester, which took effect in March.

Grassley has pointed out that the White House budget office issued guidance telling agencies not to provide discretionary monetary awards under the sequester, “unless issuance of such awards is legally required.”

The National Treasury Employees Union has said the IRS is contractually obligated to pay bonuses this year, but Grassley contends that the collective bargaining agreement “allows for re-appropriation of such award funding in the event of a budgetary shortfall.”

The IRS has decided to place its employees on unpaid leave for five days this fiscal year to meet its target savings under the sequester.

NTEU President Colleen M. Kelley said Monday that the union and the IRS are still discussing the bonuses, suggesting that the two sides have not reached an agreement.

The IRS said in a statement on Monday: “In accordance with OMB guidance, the IRS is actively engaged with NTEU on these matters in recognition of our current budgetary constraints.”

To connect with Josh Hicks, follow his Twitter feed, friend his Facebook page or e-mail josh.hicks@washpost.comFor more federal news, visit The Federal Eye, The Fed Page and Post Politics. E-mail federalworker@washpost.com with news tips and other suggestions.

Josh Hicks covers the federal government and anchors the Federal Eye blog. He reported for newspapers in the Detroit and Seattle suburbs before joining the Post as a contributor to Glenn Kessler’s Fact Checker blog in 2011.
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