By Jason Bramwell
A video the IRS released to the House Ways and Means Committee on September 6 that parodied Donald Trump and his show The Apprentice was made using taxpayer dollars at a total cost of approximately $10,000.
The video, entitled "The SBSE Apprentice", was produced for the 2011 Small Business/Self-Employed (SB/SE) Division Conference, which was eventually cancelled, according to the IRS. The video shows several IRS employees, whose names were redacted, sitting around a large boardroom table discussing ways to have effective CPE for SB/SE leaders without spending a lot of travel money.
Leading the discussion was a toupee-clad man who took the role of Donald Trump, even using Trump's famous Apprentice catchphrase of "You're fired!" at the end of the four-minute video.
The IRS has been under fire by congressional leaders for producing other parody videos at the expense of taxpayers. Three videos – including parodies ofStar Trek and Gilligan's Island and another of IRS workers line dancing – were handed over to Congress on May 31. The three previous videos collectively cost more than $60,000 to produce.
Also, according to a report released this past June from the Treasury Inspector General for Taxpayer Administration (TIGTA), the IRS spent about $50 million on at least 220 training conferences for staffers between 2010 and 2012.
State Representative Charles Boustany Jr. (R-LA), who is chairman of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Oversight, said September 6 the Apprentice parody video is another example of the "abuse and waste at the IRS."
"Months ago, I demanded the IRS come clean about the time and money it spent to produce these frivolous videos", he said in a written statement. "While we may have no answers, we do have an endless supply of what appears to be the IRS' idea of entertainment. Whether it is wasteful conferences and videos or the inexcusable targeting of taxpayers based on their personal beliefs, there is nothing amusing about the American people footing the bill for this rogue and out of control agency."
Besides engaging in excessive spending at training conferences, the IRS has also been criticized for its role in improperly scrutinizing the federal tax-exempt status of conservative groups like the Tea Party.
The IRS said in a written statement that the videos made in 2010 and 2011 are from a "prior era" and do not reflect the stringent policies the agency now has in place to ensure that all training videos are made at the lowest possible cost and with appropriate content.
"Simply put, these video would not be made at the IRS today", the agency said. "It's important to note that video costs by IRS business units are down by 90 percent this year compared to a year ago. In addition, the use of videos provides critical taxpayer information and employee training, which helps the IRS save millions of dollars each year."