IRS tallies up challenges

White House fiscal 2002 budget blueprint: Treasury/IRS funding

As tax-filing season draws to a close, the Internal Revenue Service commissioner told a House oversight committee Monday that the IRS has made great strides but that future improvements depend on the tax agency carrying out its modernization plan.

IRS Commissioner Charles Rossotti said, however, that the project is high-risk. "Replacing virtually the entire technology infrastructure in the next 10 years while also delivering short-term service improvements demanded by taxpayers, employees and the Congress remains an enormous challenge fraught with risk," Rossotti said. "We have no choice; we must move ahead for the good of America's taxpayers."

The IRS has been able to make incremental progress, but true change will require long-term modernization of the tax service, he said.

"The IRS core data systems that record taxpayers' tax accounts are fundamentally deficient. The IRS will never be able to perform its mission without replacing these systems.. The solution is to modernize the IRS to do things more efficiently and effectively," Rossotti said during testimony before the House Government Reform Committee's Government Efficiency, Financial Management and Intergovernmental Relations Subcommittee.

Unlike previous appearances before lawmakers, Rossotti said that the IRS now has a real plan that lays out how modernization will take place. That plan is embodied in a strategic plan approved by the IRS Oversight Board in January as well as in the IRS enterprise architecture.

Implementing that plan is going to take long-term commitment, Larry Levitan, chairman of the IRS Oversight Board, said at the hearing Monday. The board is asking Congress to put $1 billion into the IRS Information Technology Investment Account over two years — $450 million for fiscal 2002 and $550 million for fiscal 2003. But within a few years, the IRS will need as much as $700 million put into that account for several years. The overall modernization will take as long as a decade to complete, Levitan testified.

The Bush administration has said it will ask for about $400 million for IRS modernization.

Meanwhile, IRS officials said that they have taken steps to ensure that taxpayer data filed electronically is safe. Robert Dacey, the General Accounting Office's director for information security issues, said that the IRS corrected several previously reported weaknesses and is implementing a computer security management program that should help the IRS manage risk.

Dorobek is a freelance writer based in Arlington, Va.

About the Author

Christopher J. Dorobek is the co-anchor of Federal News Radio’s afternoon drive program, The Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, and the founder, publisher and editor of the DorobekInsider.com, a leading blog for the Federal IT community.

Dorobek joined Federal News Radio in 2008 with 16 years of experience covering government issues with an emphasis on government information technology. Prior to joining Federal News Radio, Dorobek was editor-in-chief of Federal Computer Week, the leading news magazine for government IT decision-makers and the flagship of the 1105 Government Information Group portfolio of publications. As editor-in-chief, Dorobek served as a member of the senior leadership team at 1105 Government Information Group, providing daily editorial direction and management for FCW magazine, FCW.com, Government Health IT and its other editorial products.

Dorobek joined FCW in 2001 as a senior reporter and assumed increasing responsibilities, becoming managing editor and executive editor before being named editor-in-chief in 2006. Prior to joining FCW, Dorobek was a technology reporter at PlanetGov.com, one of the first online community centers for current and former government employees. He also spent five years at Government Computer News, another leading industry publication, covering a variety of federal IT-related issues.

Dorobek is a frequent speaker on issues involving the government IT industry, and has appeared as a frequent contributor to NewsChannel 8’s Federal News Today program. He began his career as a reporter at the Foster’s Daily Democrat, a daily newspaper in Dover, N.H. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California. He lives in Washington, DC.


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