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Monday, March 25, 2013

IRS under fire over 'Star Trek' video spoof

The IRS is under fire for two videos, costing about $60,000, featuring an elaborate "Star Trek" parody for employee training. A congressional committee has declared the videos have very little training value at all. NBC's Kelly O'Donnell reports.

By Allison Linn

The Internal Revenue Service is taking a ribbing for going where many companies have gone before: into the world of bad video parodies.
The IRS conceded that it erred when it spent thousands of dollars in taxpayer money making a video riffing off the TV show “Star Trek” for a 2010 employee conference.
“The space parody video from 2010 is not reflective of overall IRS video efforts, which provide critical information to taxpayers and cost-effective employee training critical to running the nation’s tax system,” the IRS said in a statement released to TODAY.
But the IRS defended a separate video parody of “Gilligan’s Island,” which it said provided valuable training at a fraction of the cost of training people in person.
The two videos cost taxpayers about $60,000. The videos came to light after Congressman Charles Boustany, chairman of the House Ways and Means oversight subcommittee, demanded that the IRS provide more information about its video budget and productions.
“There is nothing more infuriating to a taxpayer than to find out the government is using their hard-earned dollars in a way that is frivolous,” Boustany said in a statement released to TODAY by the House Ways and Means Committee.
The IRS noted that it has made dozens of more straightforward videos offerings taxpayer tips about topics such as preventing identity theft or understanding the earned income tax credit. IRS YouTube videos have been viewed more than 5 million times.
The government agency also defended its efforts to save money, noting that it had saved nearly $1 billion between fiscal year 2009 and fiscal year 2013.
“The IRS recognizes and takes seriously our obligation to be good stewards of government resources,” the statement said.
The IRS had a budget of about $11.8 billion in fiscal year 2012, according to the Taxpayer Advocate Service, an independent agency charged with assisting taxpayers. The advocate has argued that the IRS is “significantly and chronically underfunded” to serve the needs of taxpayers.
It’s not the first time a government agency has invoked “Star Trek” to get its message across. Actress Patty Duke and “Star Trek” alum George Takei recorded a series of public service announcements for the Social Security Administration.

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