IRS board: Get modernization on track

IRS Oversight Board

The Internal Revenue Service is at a critical point in its push to revamp tax filing and must get its information systems modernization back on track, according to the annual report from the IRS Oversight Board.

Tax returns and inquiries submitted to the IRS are putting greater demands on time and resources, but the agency has fewer employees and less money to work with. This situation has created a "huge gap between what taxpayers need and what the IRS can deliver to them," according to the board's report.

The board expressed concerned about the lack of progress on the Business Systems Modernization program, noting that lead contractor Computer Sciences Corp. and the IRS need to do a better job of managing such a large and complex program in order to avoid further delays.

The board remains committed to the program because until "its processes and supporting information systems are modernized, the IRS cannot become a modern financial services institution."

Management is not the only barrier to the modernization program, the board said. The IRS also will have to make sure that the necessary money is in place to operate new and legacy systems as the transition occurs, the report notes.

The board also called for the IRS, the White House and Congress to work on several other issues, including:

* Increase the level of customer service. Although more people than ever are downloading forms from the IRS Web site and filing electronically, the number of phone calls and online requests also are growing.

* Develop a comprehensive, agency-wide strategic human resources initiative to mirror the changes made in recent years to the business process and information technology arenas.

* Set and measure long-term performance goals, building on short-term measurements developed in recent years.

Congress created the IRS Oversight Board to provide long-term guidance as the agency follows the mandates of the IRS Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998.

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