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Mar 25, 2013 11:30 PM by Erin Steuber

Back Trekking

The IRS owes you an apology, so says the agency itself, after it was revealed they spent $60,000 of taxpayer dollars on a video parody.

Congressman Charles Boustany demanded more information regarding two such videos, one based on the TV show 'Star Trek' which he characterizes as a "complete waste." And the IRS says they won't be making this mistake again.

"Space: The final frontier. These are the voyagers of the Starship Enterprise Y, it's never-ending mission is to seek out new tax forms. To explore strange new regulations. To boldly go where no government employee has gone before."

And so begins the nearly six minute 'Star Trek Parody' starring IRS employees, paid for with your taxpayer dollars. Congressman Charles Boustany chairs the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Oversight.

"Nothings more infuriating to the taxpayer to see this kind of waste," said Boustany. "To see this kind of waste when the IRS continues to come back to me saying they need more resources to hire more people, you know, for $60,000 you could hire one, or two, employees."

In a statement released to KATC, the IRS says :

"The space parody video from 2010 is not reflective of overall IRS video efforts, which provide critical information to taxpayers and cost-effective employee training critical to running the nation's tax system. In addition, the IRS has instituted tough new standards for videos to prevent situations similar to the 2010 video. The video was a well-intentioned, light-hearted introduction to an important conference during a difficult period for the IRS."

But according to Congressman Boustany, the video was produced in the IRS's own television studio, which itself is funded by taxpayers, to the tune of $4 million last year alone.

"When they have repeatedly, for the last two years, come to me and said we need more resources, we're underfunded, and they're doing this type of thing, well I'm going to continue to root out ever bit of waste, fraud and abuse that I can find in the IRS," said Boustany.

The IRS created a second parody training video, this one based on the TV show 'Gilligan's Island.' According to the IRS, the videos have provided training for nearly 2,000 employees at 400 locations. They estimate the videos saved $1.5 million in training costs.

In a statement released to KATC, the IRS says :

"Using video for training purposes helps us save money, and it has been a key component of our cost-saving efforts. By the end of this fiscal year, we will have reduced employee training costs by approximately 83% since Fiscal Year 2010 and training travel costs by approximately 87% during that period of time.

The IRS created the in-house studio in order to develop educational videos in a cost-efficient way to train employees around the country and to inform taxpayers and partner groups of key tax administration messages. Created 15 years ago, the studio is used to create employee training videos, provide on-going training for IRS employees and videos focused on taxpayer education and partner outreach.

IRS video efforts provide clear value to taxpayers. In addition to substantial savings for employee training, IRS videos have helped millions of people get important tax information. IRS YouTube channels have had more than 5 million views on the English, multilingual and American Sign Language channels.

The IRS wants to ensure all of our videos provide clear value - both to taxpayers and tax administration. In the current budget environment, the use of video training and video outreach has become increasingly important to the IRS for both internal and external audiences.

To provide further safeguards and ensure consistency, the IRS has instituted a stronger, tighter review process for all video projects requiring approval of senior leadership inside the sponsoring IRS business units as well as a centralized executive editorial review board. This new oversight process will ensure that all IRS videos are handled in a judicious manner that makes wise use of taxpayer funds while ensuring a tone and theme appropriate for the nation's tax system.

These efforts will help strengthen overall IRS video efforts and ensure all IRS video operations remain fully focused on taxpayer service and employee education and training. In addition, this effort will make sure all videos reflect a tone and content appropriate for administering the nation's tax system."

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