Bonuses to IRS Attorneys Questioned

Whopping bonuses paid to the Internal Revenue Service’s top attorneys are raising eyebrows on Capitol Hill and among the agency’s non-Senior Executive Service employees, the Washington Post reported.

Between 2001 and 2003, the IRS regularly paid its attorneys bonuses averaging about $20,000 with the highest award being $47,000 for an attorney singled out by President Bush.

The bonuses have caused a stir between the IRS and the National Treasury Employees Union, which believes that performance bonuses are now institutionalized among top employees and are not based on actual performance. Regular IRS employees receive bonuses much less frequently, the union told the Post.

Nearly 95 percent of eligible managers in the IRS chief counsel's office and lawyers in the Senior Executive Service—or SES—received cash bonuses last year, union officials calculate, while 55 percent of non-management employees were similarly compensated, the Post reported.

Dennis Ferrara, the IRS's associate chief counsel for finance and management, provided the Post with different statistics. He said that 75 percent of chief counsel officials outside the union's bargaining unit received bonuses last year, compared with 64 percent in the bargaining unit. But the statistics may be comparable, since the non-bargaining unit group includes many employees who are not managers or supervisors, the Post reported.

"Nearly every lawyer at the IRS is getting a big bonus," Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-IA), told the Post. "This raises the question of what you have to do not to get a bonus... The IRS is always rattling its tin cup for more money, yet if the agency did a better job of using the money it has, that would go a long way toward meeting its needs."

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