Steering a course to a less taxing government

Early in the morning, Midori Morgan-Gaide is not thinking about computer

systems. Her mind is on Harry Potter, the hero who wants to be a wizard

in a series of best-selling children's books.

Later, she'll work her own wizardry with the Simplified Tax and Wage

Reporting System (STAWRS), the digital plan that promises to make life easier

for businesses by allowing them to file wage and tax reports electronically.

But during her 90-minute drive to Washington, D.C., from rural Culpeper

County, Va., she is more interested in talking to her 11-year-old son about

the world of Harry Potter. Commuting together, her family can share breakfast

and conversation before she drops her son off at school and her husband

at the Treasury Department.

Morgan-Gaide has been a government worker for nearly 30 years, mostly

for the Internal Revenue Service. And for the past four years, she has been

in charge of a cutting-edge program that promises to revolutionize the

way businesses deal with the government and save them billions of dollars

each year.

"I think that STAWRS is one of those things that just makes sense,"

she said. "It's a win-win situation. How can you not do it?"

STAWRS is a partnership among federal agencies and has been on the drawing

board for the past four years. Last month, the IRS selected states and commercial

partners to develop software — a major step for turning an idea into reality.

"One of the big reasons I accepted the project was because I always

wanted to do something that really stirs you inside," she said. "When this

project first started, it wasn't going very well. It needed some identification

of products and what we were going to deliver."

Morgan-Gaide has been on the road selling STAWRS to states and businesses.

Her mandate is to make the program work by drawing together Treasury, the

IRS, the Labor Department, the Social Security Administration and the Small

Business Administration to simplify relations between the government and

the private sector.

"Midori has brought real passion and persistence to the STAWRS program,"

said Bob Barr, IRS' assistant commissioner of electronic tax administration.

"She is a real champion for employers and the burdens they bear in comlying

with the complexities of paying taxes at the federal, state and local levels."

Never one to sit still, Morgan-Gaide can open up and fix her own computer

and even install the boards.

"I don't know if I'd call myself a geek, but I'm a person who likes

to tear things apart and put them together," she said.

And that is exactly what she is doing in her ground-floor office not

far from Union Station.

The government has become service-oriented, stream-lined and interested

in keeping its customers happy, she said. "A lot of taxpayers aren't comfortable

interacting with government because of privacy issues," she said. "Automation

isn't the answer to everything. It has to be something taxpayers are going

to be comfortable with."

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