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Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration

Press Release

October 14, 2009
Contact: Li-Yun Chien
(202) 622-6500

TIGTA's Review of IRS Premium-Class Travel Reveals Some Was Unauthorized

The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) today publicly released its review of the unauthorized use of premium-class airline and train travel by Internal Revenue Service (IRS) employees.

The Federal Government defines premium-class travel as first or business class air travel or first class train travel. TIGTA found that, while the IRS's existing procedures are generally effective in limiting unauthorized premium-class travel, it is still possible for IRS employees to purchase premium-class travel tickets without proper authorization.

The IRS issued new guidelines in August 2008 limiting the purchase of premium-class airline tickets by its employees, which resulted in a significant decrease in the use of business class travel. First class tickets must be authorized by the IRS Commissioner. Business class (often used for overseas travel) must be authorized by the Commissioner of the Large and Mid-Size Business Division, whose employees tend to travel overseas more frequently than those in other divisions.

TIGTA identified 11 unauthorized instances of first-class air travel by IRS employees between October 1, 2007 and March 31, 2009, with a total cost of $50,892. Of these, three were domestic first-class tickets and eight were international business class tickets. However, only three of the 11 were not justified based on the travel guidelines in effect at that time.

"Premium-class flights are of special concern to taxpayers, because they often cost thousands of dollars more than the coach-class alternatives," commented J. Russell George, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

TIGTA recommended that the IRS clarify for its employees the conditions under which premium-class travel is appropriate and remind managers that purchasing first-class train tickets requires authorization from the IRS Commissioner. In their response to the report, the IRS agreed with the recommendations and is issuing guidance.

To view the report, including scope, methodology, and full IRS response, go to: https://www.treasury.gov/tigta/auditreports/2009reports/200910117fr.pdf.


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