House moves to ban executive performance awards at IRS

July 17

Senior executives at the IRS would be ineligible for performance awards in 2015 under a measure the House passed Wednesday.

The House approved on a 282-138 vote an amendment by Rep. Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.) to an appropriations bill covering the agency. The provision affects the Senior Executive Service, a cadre of mainly career officials a level below presidential appointees. The Senate is considering a similar bill.

(Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)
(Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

The IRS last year put a hold on all employee awards due to budget restrictions but earlier this year reinstated them, announcing a $63 million payout for the year.  It did not specify how much of that was for senior executives.

During a brief debate on the amendment Tuesday, Gosar said that the executives “should not be given performance awards in the wake of one of the largest scandals in recent history. Giving out bonuses is ludicrous and amounts to a slap in the face to the American public.

“Overall, my hope is that this amendment will incentivize one of these senior executives at the IRS to come forth with copies of Lois Lerner’s magically vanishing e-mails. Should that day come and should the Congress and the American people receive closure to this scandal, I will cease my efforts to prohibit these awards, and the IRS may begin the process of rebuilding the trust it has so blatantly violated,” he said.

Rep. Jose E. Serrano (D-N.Y.) called the amendment “misguided” and said that to “paint with a broad brush the whole IRS and say that everyone there at the senior level is not worthy of a bonus or not worthy of our respect is really to do a disservice to public service employees.”

“By punishing, you bring down morale, and you bring down the support of those who could help us do a better job at the IRS like we all would like,” he said.

The bill also requires that before payment of awards to any IRS employees, the person’s conduct and personal compliance with tax law must be taken into account.

In earlier voting on a separate spending bill affecting the also scandal-plagued Veterans Affairs Department, the House similarly moved to bar payment of performance awards to SES members there.

Also during floor voting Wednesday, the House further reduced the IRS budget by about $1 billion below the roughly $11 billion the measure originally would have provided—which itself was about $340 million below the 2014 level and some $1.5 billion below the White House’s request. The White House has threatened to veto the bill over various funding and policy provisions.

Meanwhile, the measure is silent regarding a federal employee pay raise for January 2015. That could clear the way for the White House’s proposed 1 percent to take effect by default, should Congress take no position on a raise by the end of the year. The counterpart Senate bill also is silent on the raise and would provide $11.5 billion for the IRS.

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