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Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration

Press Release

May 9, 2012
TIGTA - 2012-18
Contact: David Barnes
(202) 622-3062

IRS's Tuition Assistance Program Could Benefit From Additional Controls

WASHINGTON - A tuition assistance program offered to Internal Revenue Service (IRS) employees could benefit from additional controls, according to a new study publicly released today by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).

In fiscal years 2008 - 2011, the IRS, like many Federal agencies, offered its Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) to employees as a long-term recruitment and retention tool and as a means to improve employee and organizational performance. In Fiscal Year 2011, 5,313 IRS employees participated in the program, which paid out $7.02 million in tuition costs.

TIGTA's review of the TAP found that it works: TAP participants showed lower attrition, more promotions, higher performance ratings, and higher employee engagement scores.

At the same time, TIGTA found that the IRS had insufficient controls over the program. TIGTA determined that IRS officials did not always: 1) reject requests for non-qualifying courses, 2) ensure vendors met a minimum standard of quality, 3) ensure that courses were successfully completed, and 4) enforce continuing service agreements to ensure that employees who leave Government service shortly after receiving training pay back the training funds.

"Such employee programs must have sufficient oversight," said J. Russell George, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. "The improvements TIGTA recommends would assure the IRS and the public that money being used to invest in employee development is a good use of taxpayer funds," Inspector General George noted.

The IRS decided to eliminate TAP funding for Fiscal Year 2012 due to budgetary reductions in November 2011, but it left open the possibility of bringing it back in the future. The elimination of TAP funding provides the IRS with an opportunity to consider strengthening accountability in the event it decides to resume operations of this or a similar program in the future.

In the event that the IRS decides to reinstate the TAP, TIGTA recommended that the IRS:

The IRS agreed with the recommendation and plans to document process improvements.

Read the report.


Note: The difference between the date TIGTA issues an audit report to the Internal Revenue Service and the date TIGTA publicly releases the report is due to TIGTA's internal review process to ensure that public release is in compliance with Federal confidentiality laws.

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