IRS to clamp down on Web surfing

The Internal Revenue Service says it's clamping down on employees who are surfing the Internet for sex shows, gambling and stock tips on the government's time.

The Senate Finance Committee focused a glaring light on the online habits of IRS employees at a hearing Tuesday. And now, the tax agency is eating crow about its employees' use of the Internet.

"Some IRS employees are clearly goofing off," said Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), the panel's chairman.

Two reports from the Treasury inspector general for tax administration found "extensive" personal use of the Internet: In one seven-day period, slightly more than half of IRS workers' time was spent on the Web for personal use. That included chat rooms and sites on stock trading, sports, sex and gambling.

Almost half of 87,000 incoming e-mails reviewed were for non-work-related purposes. That included daily jokes, a high school alumni group and e-mail devoted to a rock singer, according to the reports.

The IRS is not taking this lightly, according to Bob Wenzel, IRS deputy commissioner.

"Let me be clear on this point: I will not tolerate this kind of activity by an IRS employee, and I will take immediate action to address this type of wrongdoing," Wenzel said.

In addition, he said the IRS is considering using software to block objectionable Web sites and making random checks on what employees are looking at.

"We are developing a far-reaching communications effort to ensure that our workforce understands the policy and what is expected of them," Wenzel said.

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