Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

IRS Slashes Spending on Videos by 90 Percent

Agency notes cuts after House Republicans blast a 2011 parody of 'The Apprentice.'

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The Internal Revenue Service on Friday said it has cut spending on video productions by 90 percent over last fiscal year, in response to more criticism from House Republicans.

The agency’s release of video spending figures comes after the House Ways and Means Committee pushed out another parody IRS managers made to liven things up at a conference. The take-off on the Donald Trump TV show “The Apprentice” -- with the names of featured IRS executives redacted -- involves play-acting to promote assertiveness training and innovation.

Said to cost $10,000, according to Ways and Means, it was prepared for a conference of the IRS’ Small Business/Self-Employed Division. The video stages a “You’re Fired”-type panel of judges chaired by Faris Fink, the Small Business and Self-Employed Division Commissioner who also appeared in IRS’ “Star Trek” parody released earlier.

Rep. Charles Boustany Jr., R-La., chairman of the Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee, said in a statement, “Another day, another example of abuse and waste at the IRS. Months ago, I demanded the IRS come clean about the time and money it spent to produce these frivolous videos. While we may have no answers, we do have an endless supply of what appears to be the IRS’ idea of entertainment. Whether it is wasteful conferences and videos or the inexcusable targeting of taxpayers based on their personal beliefs, there is nothing amusing about the American people footing the bill for this rogue and out-of-control agency.”

Asked for a response, the IRS said in a statement that the video “made in 2011 is from a prior era and [does] not reflect the stringent policies IRS now has in place to ensure that all training videos are made at the lowest possible cost and with appropriate content. Simply put, this video would not be made at the IRS today.” General video costs at IRS have come down from $ 2.2 million in fiscal 2012 to an estimated $139,000 for fiscal 2013, the statement continued, adding that “the use of videos provides critical taxpayer information and employee training, which helps the IRS save millions of dollars each year.” The agency regards those savings as crucial during a time of tight budgets.

Some 2,300 IRS videos on topics ranging from tax refund information to identity theft since 2010 have been viewed by employees more than 6 million times, the agency said. Since February, new controls on video production have required that the productions clearly focus on substantive issues and receive final approval by a deputy commissioner.