IRS training videos spoof ‘Star Trek,’ ‘Gilligan’s Island’ and ‘Cupid Shuffle’

June 1, 2013

The Internal Revenue Service is acknowledging that the agency spent tens of millions of dollars in recent years on conferences for thousands of its employees.

Details of the conferences are expected to appear in a report set for release Tuesday by the Treasury Department watchdog that also confirmed allegations that agency officials had improperly targeted certain political groups seeking tax-exempt status.

The forthcoming report focuses especially on an August 2010 conference held in Anaheim, Calif., for roughly 2,600 agency employees in the IRS’s small business and self-employed division, a unit that assists small business owners with tax preparation and is based in Lanham.

During the conference, employees watched two training videos starring division employees that cost at least $60,000 to produce, according to the audit’s estimates.

The first video is a parody of the “Star Trek” television and movie franchise and stars division employees discussing how they might identify and address allegations of tax fraud. Aides briefed on the audit said employees paid for Star Trek uniforms they wear in the video, but the agency paid for the construction of an elaborate mock-up of the bridge of the starship Enterprise, the vessel used to transport the show’s characters.

Watch the video here or below:

Another video aired at the conference stars some of the same employees learning how to dance the “Cupid Shuffle” from a 2007 song by the performer Cupid.

Watch the video here or below:

In recent years, the Obama administration has ordered significant cuts in administrative expenses for travel, conferences and the distribution of free “swag,” or promotional materials.

As part of the cutbacks, the IRS began producing training videos to show employees instead of flying them to training sessions in other cities. In one of the training videos produced 2011, employees star in a spoof of “Gilligan’s Island.” Watch the video here or below:

In a statement, IRS Acting Commissioner Danny Werfel said there were “legitimate reasons for holding the meeting” in Anaheim, but added that many of its expenses “were inappropriate and should not have occurred.”

Follow Ed O'Keefe on Twitter: @edatpost

Ed O’Keefe is a congressional reporter with The Washington Post and covered the 2008 and 2012 presidential and congressional elections.
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