- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 27, 2017

The IRS rehired hundreds of employees who had previously left the agency under clouds of suspicion — including four who were being investigated for cheating on their own taxes — according to a new audit Thursday that found the agency still struggling to correct the longstanding problem.

The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration found that about 10 percent of the 2,000 IRS employees hired between January 2015 and March 2016 had previously left the agency while under investigation.

Four of the employees were even under investigation for “willful failure” to file their tax returns, while another four were being investigated for peering into taxpayers’ accounts without authorization, the audit said — a major breach of tax privacy.

Thirteen of the rehired employees had been probed for falsifying documents, six faced misconduct investigations — including threats — and another 86 had left while being investigated for unexcused absences from work, disruptions in the workplace or being unable to follow instructions.

Sometimes hiring officials didn’t even know the employees’ own history at the IRS, Deputy Inspector General Michael E. McKenney said.

“In spite of denials to Congress, the IRS continues a wholly unacceptable practice of rehiring known bad actors,” said Sen. Richard Burr, the North Carolina Republican who requested the report and who called the findings a “mind-boggling abuse of taxpayer money.”

The new audit had a number of redactions that deleted details of the suspected wrongdoing of the rehired employees, but the cases described included one person who had prior convictions for petty theft, drug possession and reckless driving. The IRS apparently mistook the employee for someone else with a similar name, and hired the person.

Only after the employee was sworn in and had completed some tasks did managers figure out their error. The person was paid for one day’s work.

Three rehired employees had “excessive” absence problems, with one taking off more than 270 hours without getting permission.

Another rehired employee was cited for unprofessional conduct after a “verbal altercation” with an IRS security guard. That previous run-in wasn’t considered when the person was brought back.

In the case of tax violations, the employees were rehired because their suspected offenses happened more than eight years prior, the audit said.

Mr. Burr reintroduced legislation Thursday to bar the IRS from rehiring anyone who separated from the IRS due to conduct or performance issues.

The North Carolina senator blamed IRS Commissioner John Koskinen for failing to get a handle on the problems, which were first exposed in previous treasury inspector reports but have continued nonetheless.

“Koskinen couldn’t even have his facts right when I asked him for a direct answer in person. Koskinen cannot leave fast enough for me,” Mr. Burr said.

Some members of Congress have sought to impeach Mr. Koskinen, while others have asked Mr. Trump to fire him.

The IRS chief’s term expires at the end of this year.

In its official response to the report, the IRS agreed “in principle” with the complaints and said it will “update current practices and policies” to make sure hiring officials know of previous complaints of bad behavior.

“To the extent permissible by law, IRS will take all steps allowable to prevent the rehiring of former employees with conduct and performance issues,” wrote E. Faith Bell, acting human capital officer at the IRS.

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