- By John Monroe
- May 15, 2000
IRS Revving up Online Efforts
The Internal Revenue Service is stepping up its campaign to move nearly
every aspect of the tax return business online in the next several years.
Even as electronic filing of tax returns increases by 20 percent annually — including 35 million returns this year — the agency plans to spur more
business online by making it possible for Americans to file their returns
on the World Wide Web for free starting in 2003, according to Robert Albicker,
deputy chief information officer at the IRS.
To help make that goal, the IRS plans to expand a pilot program begun this
year in which e-filers can "sign" their tax returns by submitting electronic
returns with personal identification numbers, instead of mailing in a signed
document after they file electronically.
The IRS also is working to make it possible for people to file electronically
no matter what forms they are using.
In the meantime, the IRS plans to expand into other online services, he
said. For example, in the years ahead, people will be able to go online
to submit a change of address, make a payment or check the status of their
HHS Plans IT Restructuring
The Department of Health and Human Services has drawn up a master plan
for bringing order to information technology systems and services across
its 13 divisions.
Rolled out over three years, the Enterprise Infrastructure Management (EIM)
initiative would reshape how the department buys, manages and secures its
systems, said Brian Burns, deputy chief information officer at HHS.
Ultimately, the initiative will free up individual agencies to focus
on the services they provide, rather than the systems they run, Burns said.
EIM "is moving us from being a system- centric organization to a customer
service-centric organization," he said.
EIM is not a system but a combination of policies, procedures and technologies.
For example, HHS plans to establish a departmentwide approach to buying
software, giving individual agencies access to higher-volume pricing on
software licenses than would otherwise be possible.
HHS also plans to develop procedures for dealing with security problems.
Until now, the department, which is fairly decentralized, has not established
a system for spreading the word or collecting information about security
problems, such as the "ILOVEYOU" virus, Burns said.
HHS relied largely on fax machines and phone calls to get word out to its
divisions, along with a plethora of e-mail messages -that flew back and
forth among employees. As part of EIM, HHS plans to set up standard operating
procedures to avoid such confusion, he said.
And procedures for dealing with security problems will be reinforced
by management technology. For example, HHS would like the network management
systems at the various divisions to automatically forward reports of problems
to a system at headquarters.
To whatever extent possible, the department would like its agencies to use
a common set of management technologies, or, as with network management,
technologies that at least work together.
EPA Easing Flow of Data
The Environmental Protection Agency has launched an initiative to improve
the flow of information among federal and state agencies that collect environmental
data and the organizations that provide it.
The EPA has made its own environmental data more accessible to the public
through such projects as the Enviro-Facts Warehouse, a vast store of information
on air quality, water quality, drinking water safety and other data.
But states, as well as private-sector organizations, also manage a
wealth of data. The Information Integration Initiative (I3) is aimed at
providing secure venues through which that information might be shared.
I3 recognizes that "the states are just as much partners with us in this
effort" as they are beneficiaries, said Emma McNamara, director of the
Information Access Division in the EPA's Office of Information Analysis
The EPA intends to build a series of environmental databases that federal
and state agencies will help populate. The initiative should make it easier
for people across the country and at different levels of government to find
the information they need, according to the agency.
The EPA also expects that the improved flow of information will lead
to more accurate data. People searching environmental records online will
be able to send a message if they find a discrepancy and even track the
resolution of that problem, McNamara said.