Letters to the editor

Clearing Up Tax Prep Confusion; Enforce E-Records Policy; Reapplying Means Chaos

Clearing Up Tax Prep Confusion

There has been a good deal of mischaracterization and misunderstanding of the recently announced agreement between the Internal Revenue Service and tax preparation software companies, and I would like to clear up some of the confusion.

First, I would admonish the editors of Federal Computer Week for using a partial quote from me to imply a different meaning than intended. In the editorial of Aug. 12, I am quoted as saying the agreement was "a huge victory," implying that industry had triumphed over the IRS in this process. The full statement asserted the opposite, that the "agreement is a huge victory for government, for industry, but, most importantly, for the American taxpayer," which is undoubtedly the case.

Second, I strongly disagree with the views expressed by Ace Cenek in his letter to the editor Aug. 19. Cenek argues that the IRS' failure to subsidize his electronic tax filing is a disservice to him and other American taxpayers.

As a federal bureaucrat, Cenek may not realize that the hundreds of millions of dollars that would be required to develop, test, deploy, maintain, service and update a federal online tax preparation service would — like his salary — actually have to be paid for by revenues collected from American taxpayers. The absence of a transaction cost would not make such a service "free." And because he is a federal employee, Cenek might have greater faith than I in the federal government's ability to protect the privacy and security of tax returns.

I do not believe that most Americans would trust the government to protect their vital financial information or to deliver the lowest possible tax determination.

Ed Black President and chief executive officer Computer and Communications Industry Association

Enforce E-Records Policy

Regarding the editorial about e-records management in the Aug. 26 issue of FCW, you are correct about everyone destroying their e-records. However, the National Archives and Records Administration does not need to establish a new policy. It needs to enforce the existing policy.

The current guidelines pertaining to the retention of federal records are still valid. Just because we are now able to store those records electronically instead of on paper does not change the requirement to retain them.

I have 2.98G worth of electronic files on my hard drive. I rarely use my file cabinet. At a minimum, I back up my hard drive weekly. The problem is, everyone is using personal folders (like the ones you can create in Microsoft Corp. Outlook). Those folders do not follow the retention requirements set by NARA.

Most personnel believe they can retain all e-mail messages together as e-mail. This is not true. You must retain e-mail messages the same way you would retain paper documents — by the subject of the information. If you created a document concerning awards, you would file the paper document under "awards." You should do the same with an electronic document concerning "awards," rather than retain it under "e-mail."

Until NARA sets and enforces penalties for not properly retaining federal records, agencies will continue to destroy vast numbers of them. If someone destroyed a military vehicle, that person would be disciplined. However, if that same individual destroyed permanent military records, nothing would be said. Until this changes, federal employees will continue to destroy vital records.

Federal agencies need to actively support their records managers. Currently, they receive very little support — sometimes none at all — from their commanders. This is evident in the problems the FBI is having with its records management program.

David Crutcher Directorate of Information Management Fort Sill, Okla.

The following is a response to an FCW.com poll question that asked: "Should managers joining the proposed Homeland Security Department have to reapply for their jobs?"

Reapplying Means Chaos

In most cases, supervisors moving to the new department would be performing the same duties and have similar responsibilities. It seems to me that it would throw the system into utter chaos to make someone who already knows how to perform a job reapply for the same position.

You must also factor in the interim period while all the jobs are being rated, ranked, reviewed, interviewed for and filled. What happens to performance and efficiency levels during this period?

Larry Strother Treasury Department

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