The IRS owes you an apology. So says the agency itself, following revelations that its employees spent $60,000 making two parody videos, one of them inspired by the TV show "Star Trek."
In a public rebuke of the agency, Congressman Charles Boustany, R. La., chairman of the Ways and Means Committee's subcommittee on Oversight, said in a statement Friday: "There is nothing more infuriating to a taxpayer than to find out the government is using their hard-earned dollars in a way that is frivolous. The IRS admitted as much when it disclosed that it no longer produces such videos."
The IRS, attempting to justify its having made this video and a second one parodying "Gilligan's Island," offered up the following humanah, humanah-like response:
"I think it is important to put the video in context," wrote acting Commissioner Steven T. Miller in a letter to Boustany March 22, "and [to] outline what has transpired with respect to training and videos since 2010." Both videos were made for what the IRS describes as training purposes. "Since the video's production three years ago," wrote Miller, "the IRS has made numerous changes in this area. A video of this type would not be made today."
The Star Trek video was shot at the IRS's in-house studio in Maryland on a set faithfully depicting the command bridge of the starship "Enterprise." IRS employees in the roles of Mr. Spock and the show's other familiar characters, declare themselves on route to the planet Notax, to combat identity theft.
Miller pointed out that these videos, frivolous though they might appear, are actually part of an effort to contain costs. As an example, he points to a 2011 training series that saved, he estimates, $1.5 million over what it would have cost to teach IRS employees in person.
Some IRS videos, he noted, have become monster hits-particularly the IRS YouTube video "When Will I Get My Refund?" That little gem has been viewed by taxpayers "nearly 950,000 times this filing season."
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- Charles Boustany