Moving IRS into the future

Bert Concklin likes to visit towns that are frozen in time. Places such

as Savannah, Ga., New Hope, Pa., and Old Town Alexandria in Virginia. And

he likes to collect antique toys and trains of a bygone era.

But as the business systems modernization executive at the Internal

Revenue Service, he knows that the tax agency cannot stand still and must

continue to march into the 21st century, where communications are wireless

and brand-new computers become obsolete in months.

Concklin is in the position to help the IRS reach its goals of delivering

products and services online and modernizing a legacy system that was designed

and installed back when John F. Kennedy was president.

"We're talking about a class of information technology proj-ects that

are grouped under business systems modernization," Concklin said in a recent

interview. "We want to put ourselves in the posture where it is Internet-based."

One of the projects Concklin is tackling is improving customer communications

so that people seeking information about refunds, the status of their files

or their records can swiftly get the information without smashing into the

brick wall of bureaucracy. For example, they can now use the telephone to

punch in access codes and obtain automated information, and they can file

taxes online.

"We're in a brand-new organizational alliance," Concklin said. "We're

just now starting to inject new temporary technology into the IRS."

Concklin is well-known in the IT community and gets high marks from

virtually everyone.

"Bert has really chosen to go to the IRS to perform some public service,

not only give something back but make a difference, shake some trees," said

Olga Grkavac, executive vice president with the Information Technology Association

of America's Enterprise Solutions Division.

"To bring the IRS into the 21st century is a huge challenge," she added.

This month, the IRS will unveil Blueprint 2000, the IT plan for the

next two or three years. Although it has evolved annually, the plan will

keep the IRS moving toward the Digital Age even as an overall modernization

program takes over.

That plan, expected to cost billions and take 10 to 15 years to complete,

is designed to turn one of the most ill- perceived agencies in government

into a friendly one by relying on technology to promptly respond to taxpayer

questions, speed up the processing of tax returns and enable taxpayers

to file returns and get refunds electronically.

"I certainly recognize that the IRS is viewed as not always responsive,"

Concklin said.

In his new job, Concklin knows he has a full challenge ahead of him.

During the next several years, business systems modernization will touch

every part of the IRS. That includes a new database giving IRS employees

access to current taxpayer information and the ability to process refund

checks in days rather than weeks. Almost every week, the IRS awards a new

contract to bring its offices and systems up to speed in the Digital Age.

But security and privacy, he said, "are at the top of our business."

They are a "major high-level architecture and design challenge for us."

And that is a pretty tall order for a guy who likes old houses, towns

and antique toys built in an era when computers were not even a twinkle

in anyone's eye.Bert Concklin likes to visit towns that are frozen in time. Places such

as Savannah, Ga., New Hope, Pa., and Old Town Alexandria in Virginia. And

he likes to collect antique toys and trains of a bygone era.

But as the business systems modernization executive at the Internal

Revenue Service, he knows that the tax agency cannot stand still and must

continue to march into the 21st century, where communications are wireless

and brand-new computers become obsolete in months.

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