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US Tax Agency Spent Heavily on Employee Conferences

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The U.S. tax collection agency is facing new controversy with a report saying that it spent lavishly on expensive conferences for its employees.

The Internal Revenue Service [IRS], whose policies affect all tax-paying Americans, spent about $50 million between 2010 and 2012 on the conferences. Some of it went to pay for a 2010 video showing IRS employees learning the "Cupid Shuffle" line dance before a meeting in California, and more covered costly hotel suites at the conferences.

The new acting IRS commissioner, Danny Werfel, called the conference spending "an unfortunate vestige from a prior era." The agency says its spending on conferences has been sharply cut since then.

Werfel is set to appear Monday before one of several congressional committees investigating the agency's operations, including its targeting of conservative groups for extra scrutiny as they sought tax-exempt status before the 2012 presidential election. The conservative groups oppose many of President Barack Obama's tax and spending policies.

The tax agency has apologized for targeting the conservative groups. Congressional investigators are trying to determine whether the focus on the right-wing groups was confined to a regional office in (the midwestern city of) Cincinnati, Ohio or directed by officials in Washington who had a political interest in Obama's re-election.  

The targeting of the conservative groups has drawn the ire of both Republican and Democratic lawmakers, as well as Mr. Obama, a Democrat in the first months of his second term. One of his former advisers, David Plouffe, told ABC's "This Week" TV news interview show on Sunday that Americans had a right to be concerned about the tax agency's operations.

"I think people should be concerned about the IRS. It touches everybody in America. And I think that as we move forward here, the key thing the American people want to know is, what is going to happen in terms of accountability? What changes are going to be put in place? And all of these things deserve thorough investigation,'' said Plouffe.

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