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Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration

Press Release

July 24, 2017
Contact: Karen Kraushaar, Director of Communications
(202) 622-6500

The Internal Revenue Service Has Not Used Critical Position Pay Authority to Hire Employees

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has not used the general Federal Governmentwide Critical Position Pay Authority (CPPA) to fill critical technical, professional, or administrative positions, according to an evaluation report issued today by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).

For an employee to receive critical position pay, he or she must be considered well-qualified for that position. In addition, critical pay positions require an extremely high level of expertise in a scientific, technical, professional, or administrative field and must be critical to the successful accomplishment of the agency’s mission.

IRS officials have not pursued use of the CPPA because they believed that the Streamlined Critical Pay (SCP) authority, which expired in September 2013, would be restored. Compared to the SCP, the CPPA process requires additional layers of approval and offers substantially less pay flexibility.

Salaries under the SCP authority in 2017 cannot exceed $240,100, but under the CPPA, they cannot exceed $207,800. For the IRS to obtain permission to use the CPPA would require the involvement of the Department of the Treasury and approval by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Although the IRS has several employees still under the SCP, all are required to be off the IRS rolls by September 30, 2017.

“We encourage the IRS to fully explore using the Critical Position Pay Authority to recruit highly qualified experts to lead IRS cybersecurity and other information technology and specialized functions,” said J. Russell George, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

In addition, TIGTA found that the CPPA is not widely used among other Federal Government agencies. Although within the Federal Government a maximum of 800 employees can receive critical pay at any one time, in calendar year 2015 only four individuals were hired as CPPA employees governmentwide, according to the latest annual report from the OPM. TIGTA’s research showed that some of the reasons the CPPA was not widely used include the availability of other agency-specific pay authorities, the lengthy approval process, and cultural issues such as paying individuals more than their manager.

TIGTA recommended that the IRS pilot the use of CPPA by completing and forwarding an initial CPPA request to the Secretary of the Treasury for approval. Also, the IRS should track in detail the time and effort to get the request cleared internally, approved by the Department of the Treasury, and then in turn by the OPM and the OMB.

IRS management agreed with the recommendation and plans to issue the initial CPPA request for approval in November 2017 and to thoroughly document the process and timeframe needed to receive approval.

Read the report.


Note: The difference between the date TIGTA issues an evaluation 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.