By Ken Berry
Once again, the IRS is being forced to do some fancy footwork, now that a video of staffers performing a line dance has raised the ire of Congress. The latest flap involving the nation's tax collection agency follows close on the heels of a scandal involving scrutiny of "Tea Party" and other conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status as well as two other video parodies produced at taxpayers' expense.
The latest video, which lasts less than three minutes, depicts IRS workers line dancing to music sounding like "Cupid Shuffle", a 2007 recording by R&B singer Cupid. All three of the videos – the one of IRS workers practicing their dance moves and the two parodies – were handed over to Congress on May 31 in response to a request by Congressman Charles Boustany (R-LA), a high-ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee.
"Whether it is the tens of thousands of hard-earned taxpayer dollars spent to produce frivolous entertainment for agency bureaucrats, or the IRS's own admission that it targeted the American people based on their personal beliefs, the outrage toward the IRS is only growing stronger", Boustany said in a prepared statement. He added",It is clear that this is a broken agency that is empowered by a broken tax code. We need to fix this and make not only the agency, but the tax code, more effective and efficient."
The two other videos that angered Boustany and other lawmakers lampooned the Star Trek and Gilligan's Island TV shows. Both videos were shot at a special studio in New Carrollton, Maryland, on the outskirts of Washington, DC, where the IRS produces YouTube videos for taxpayer education. During the line dance video, one of the participants is heard to say",And I thought doing the Star Trek video was humiliating."
The IRS presented the Star Trek parody at a training and leadership conference held in Anaheim, California, in 2010, while the Gilligan's Island clip was used to train employees online. The price tag for the two videos totaled around $60,000.
The line dance video, which cost only $1,600, was produced for the same training and leadership conference as the Star Trek video. A new report by the Treasury Inspector General expected to be released this week will reportedly claim that the IRS spent about $50 million to hold at least 220 conferences for its employees between 2010 and 2012.
In response to the growing criticism against the nation's tax collection agency, the IRS admitted in a written statement that the line dance video was "unacceptable and an inappropriate use of government funds." It said it has instituted new policies to ensure that taxpayers' money is used properly.