The embattled IRS furloughed nearly 90,000 employees on Friday after a week of tough congressional hearings into revelations the agency improperly targeted conservative political groups seeking tax-exempt status.
Of all the things the IRS has done lately, furloughing employees on a Friday before a major holiday finally makes sense. Many offices close early for the long Memorial Day weekend, and few Americans are apt to be looking for tax advice.
The IRS joined three other departments and agencies – the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Office of Management and Budget – in ordering employees to take a day of unpaid leave under the sequester. The agencies are planning four other furlough days to achieve the mandated savings.
Overall, about 115,000 government employees, or five percent of the federal workforce, haven’t been on the clock today. Eighty-five percent of those employees are based outside of Washington, D.C., according to Reuters. Many of the furloughed IRS employees work in taxpayer assistance centers or toll-free help lines scattered across the country.
By the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30, about 830,000 of the more than 2 million federal employees will be forced to take some unpaid leave. But a handful of agencies will slide through sequestration furlough-free.
On Wednesday, the Agriculture Department announced that none of its 94,000 employees will be furloughed after House appropriators approved the department’s request to use “interchange transfer authority” to shift funds within the Rural Development division.
The Departments of Justice and State have also found ways to shift money around to avoid furloughs. And earlier this month, the Federal Aviation Association suspended its furloughs of 16,000 air-traffic controllers after one week, following congressional intervention to avoid further flight delays at major airport hubs across the country.
The Department of Homeland Security has not said whether it will be furloughing employees. However, a budget request approved by Congress this week will allow DHS to hire 1,600 new border patrol and custom officers.
See the agency-by-agency list of furloughs here.