ATLANTA (AP) — A government report blasting the Internal Revenue Service for its spending on seminars, speakers and training videos lists 22 Georgia conferences at high-end hotels in downtown Atlanta and on St. Simons Island off the Georgia coast.
Among them is a conference for managers at Atlanta’s Marriott Marquis Hotel that cost $1.18 million for 800 attendees, or an average of $1,477 per person.
The review by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration lists other conferences at Ritz Carlton, Renaissance, Hilton, Hyatt, Sheraton, Westin and W hotels in Atlanta and a Hyatt Regency in Savannah.
IRS training at the Sea Palms Golf and Tennis Resort on St. Simons Island cost $110,586 for 77 attendees in fiscal year 2010. The resort features three golf courses, three swimming pools and a pool-side tiki bar, according to its website.
Another St. Simons conference at the King and Prince Beach & Golf Resort cost $99,586 for 70 people in fiscal year 2012. It features ocean-front conference space, five pools and the Royal Treatment Cottage specializing in massage therapies and treatments.
Most of the report on IRS events during a three-year period focused on the most expensive one — a $4.1 million training conference in Anaheim, where senior officials got luxury hotel rooms, free drinks and free food.
One top official stayed five nights in a room that regularly goes for $3,500 a night. Another official, Faris Fink, stayed four nights in a room that regularly goes for $1,499.
Fink is among the witnesses scheduled to testify Thursday at a congressional hearing about the inspector general’s report.
The report comes as conservative groups say they’ve endured abuse from IRS agents as they spent years trying to qualify for tax-exempt status. The conservatives have testified before Congress about IRS demands for details about their political activities, backgrounds and comments they’ve posted on websites.
“I’m a born-free American woman,” Becky Gerritson, president of the Wetumpka Tea Party of Alabama, tearfully told members of Congress at hearings this week. “I’m telling my government, ‘You’ve forgotten your place.'”
Expensive employee conferences were approved with few restraints or safeguards until new rules were imposed in 2011, according to the report. In all, the IRS held 225 employee conferences from 2010 through 2012, at a total cost of $49 million, the report said.
The Atlanta conference at the Marriott Marquis is among events that would violate new rules imposed by the White House budget office in 2012 that cap expenses for a single conference at $500,000.
Acting IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel called the conferences “an unfortunate vestige from a prior era.” Werfel took over the agency about two weeks ago, after President Barack Obama forced the previous acting commissioner to resign.
“Taxpayers should take comfort that a conference like this would not take place today,” Werfel said in a statement.
Though most of the events were at high-end hotels in large cities and in Las Vegas venues such as Caesar’s Palace and Mandalay Bay, some were in unique venues in the South.
At the Tusculum Church of Christ in Nashville, 200 attendees took part in a training day that cost $2,720 in fiscal year 2010, the report states.
The IRS events also included a counterterrorism seminar at Shades of Green of Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The resort is an Armed Forces Recreation Center operated by the U.S. Army for military members and their families and certain other eligible people, according to its website.
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