IRS pledges fast answers online

IRS pledges fast answers online

The IRS today launches its newly refreshed Web site—the first revamp since its debut in December 1995—with a promise that users can find the information they need in three clicks.

“We have talked to the customers and tried to find out what they like and what they don’t,” said Gregory Carson, director of Internet services. “Whether you are self-employed, individual or a business owner, just three clicks and you get all the information.”

The site, at www.irs.gov, is among the most frequently visited government Web sites and has won various awards. Still, it needed an overhaul, Carson said.

“Everything that you could want was there, but we still could not find the information,” Carson said.

In July, the IRS awarded Accenture LLP of Chicago and Qwest Communications International Inc. five-year contracts worth $33.6 million to upgrade the site. Accenture is the prime contractor, and Qwest is hosting the site.

The layout retains its newspaper-style home page. But the Digital Daily, a lively, tabloid-style page that offers updates on happenings at the IRS, no longer occupies the main part of the page. Instead, it is available through a link at the top right corner.

Table of contents

The new site provides what the IRS calls a splash page that fits on an average computer screen without requiring scroll down.
The content section lists what Carson called community-based areas designed for individuals, businesses, charities and nonprofits, government entities and tax professionals. Each section has its own home page.

The site sports two search engines: one that searches the entire site and one that limits the search to forms and publications. “We decided to go for two of them because we found out that 80 percent of the people conduct a search for a form or a publication,” Carson said.

The site comprises more than half a million pages, giving access to hundreds of forms. IRS parses documents via Standard Generalized Markup Language. The repository is based on AdeptEditor SGML authoring and editing software from ArborText Inc. of Ann Arbor, Mich.

The staff applies filters to convert documents from SGML to HTML. Homegrown applications are used with filtering software from OmniMark Technologies Inc. of Ottawa.

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