Between January 2015 and March 2016, the IRS rehired about 2,000 former employees. And more than 200 of those rehires were of employees who had previously been fired from the IRS for cause.
According to a new report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, the 200-plus employees in question had been
terminated from the IRS or separated while under investigation for a substantiated conduct or performance issue. More than 150 of these employees (approximately 75 percent) were seasonal. Four of the more than 200 employees had been terminated or resigned for willful failure to properly file their Federal tax returns; four separated while under investigation for unauthorized accesses to taxpayer information; and 86 separated while under investigation for absences and leave, workplace disruption, or failure to follow instructions. This includes positions with access to sensitive taxpayer information..."
Perhaps people who make mistakes in life deserve a second chance. But that doesn't mean they deserve a second chance handling taxpayers' sensitive personal data.
There's no shortage of honest people out there who could use a job right now. The idea that the IRS would recycle even one bad employee who was fired on suspicion of illegally accessing taxpayer data (perhaps checking up on the ex?) is completely unacceptable. And the idea that those actually fired for other substantiated allegations of misconduct should be rushed back into the system is at least deeply puzzling. Most businesses would not rehire anyone after going so far as to fire them for cause, whether the cause was just bad performance or malfeasance.
The worst part is that taxpayers have no choice but to put their data into these employees' hands. When a business proves unreliable in data security (as Target did in 2013, for example), consumers can at least choose to take their business elsewhere. Unfortunately, they don't have such a choice when it comes to the IRS. There's only one entity to which you can pay your taxes.
The IRS remains about as bad in this regard as it has been all along, despite the fact that this isn't the first time this same problem has been pointed out. A previous TIGTA report found that the agency rehired 824 employees with "substantiated conduct or performance issues" between January 2010 and September 2013, including four who had committed fraud, 17 who had committed "falsification of official forms," 11 who had obtained "unauthorized access to taxpayer information," and in 141 cases, willful failure to file a tax return themselves. One employee who was rehired had gone absent without leave for 39 work days. "We are concerned," the IG wrote then, "that the IRS may not be adequately considering prior performance issues when selecting former employees for hire."
During that earlier period, the report says, "IRS officials stated that prior conduct and performance issues did not play a significant role in deciding the candidates who were best qualified for hiring." At the time, the IRS actually offered the excuse that it might violate federal regulations to consider these rehired employees' prior conduct on the job as disqualifying.
Anyway, if you're a lousy employee, you now know where to apply for your next job.