It’s another public-relations black eye for the Internal Revenue Service, and this one cost taxpayers at least $11.6 billion in fiscal year 2012.

The federal agency that spent nearly $50 million of taxpayer money on conferences and targeted conservative organizations made nearly $62 billion in Earned Income Tax Credit payments in fiscal year 2012, according to an audit released Tuesday by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

The IRS estimated that 21 to 25 percent of the EITC payments were made in error. A TIGTA official tells the amount likely is higher.

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