POSTED: Saturday, March 23, 2013 - 6:00pm
UPDATED: Saturday, March 23, 2013 - 6:04pm
CNN — What genre best fits a six-minute "Star Trek" knock off where government agents confront an epidemic of alien identity theft and Solar Security Number fraud?
Perhaps somewhere between the "science fiction" and "bureaucracy" categories? Close.
The Internal Revenue Service says the video, which came to light after legislators on a House Ways and Means subcommittee requested it and another they say resembled the television hit "Gilligan's Island," was an employee training video produced for a 2010 training and leadership conference.
Rep. Charles Boustany, R-Louisiana and chairman of the oversight subcommittee, says the IRS told him the two videos cost $60,000 and were produced at an agency television studio just outside of Washington.
"The video was intended to set the stage for many of the topics being covered at the conference," the agency said in a statement. "There is no mistaking that this video did not reflect the best stewardship of resources. Since the video's production three years ago, the IRS has made numerous changes in this area. ... A video of this type would not be made today."
The expense of producing a training video, the agency suggests, is far less than in-person training for its 1,900 employees who assist taxpayers at 400 locations.
In addition, "By the end of this fiscal year, we will have reduced employee training costs by approximately 83% since Fiscal Year 2010 and training travel costs by approximately 87% during that period of time."
The Maryland studio which produced those videos also makes taxpayer education videos, such as those posted on the agency's website.
The "Gilligan's Island"-themed video alone saved the IRS about $1.5 million each year, the IRS said in the statement.
In the "Star Trek" film, the narrator says the video is set 100 years in the future and stars intergalactic regulators who have a "never-ending mission ... to seek out new test forms, to explore strange new regulations, to boldly go where no government employee has gone before."
Then, the planet "Notax" is in crisis. There's the identity theft, money laundering and, as one crew member reports, "they're even exchanging their lowest coin currency for paper bills."
"That's right, sir," he continues. "Pennies on the dollar."
The video is riddled with jokes like those a bureaucrat might get.
"Starlight coffee while you wait, sir?" asks one crew member of another. "It's better than McDonald's and only twice the price."
"No can do," he replies. "I've already spent my per diem for the day."