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Some IRS executives' travel costs 'excessive': U.S. tax watchdog

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A handful of Internal Revenue Service officials spent most of their time traveling for work in 2011 and 2012 and amassed thousands of dollars in seemingly excessive costs for transportation, hotels and meals, the tax-collecting agency's watchdog said in a report on Tuesday.

Although the report found no misconduct and said most executives' travel costs were appropriate, 12 IRS officials claimed more than $60,000 a year in travel expenses for fiscal year 2011 and nine executives surpassed that figure in 2012, mostly in travel to Washington, said the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), the IRS watchdog.

Some executives traveled for more than 80 percent of their working days in the past two years, the report said. The report mentioned no executives by name or job title.

Expenses for some of the agency's top travelers "appear to be excessive when compared to the average travel expenses for IRS executives," TIGTA said.

The IRS spent almost $5 million in executive travel in both 2011 and 2012. For efficient budgeting, it would make more sense if the agency's top executive travelers lived at the destinations they were traveling to the most, the report recommended.

The report comes amid a series of scandals facing the troubled tax-collecting agency. The U.S. Justice Department and congressional committees are investigating the IRS targeting of Tea Party and other conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.

In June, the IRS suspended two employees for improperly accepting gifts at an agency conference.

IRS acting commissioner Danny Werfel, who was installed in May by President Barack Obama after the agency's previous chief was fired, has said previously that the agency would reduce executive travel expenses.

"Cutting costs is a top priority and the IRS has put in place a number of steps to reduce expenses involving executive travel," the agency said in a statement on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Patrick Temple-West; Editing by Howard Goller and Bill Trott)

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