Committee grants modernization minimum

Modernization efforts at the Internal Revenue Service would be fully funded in fiscal 2006 at the agency’s requested level, if the House Appropriations Committee gets its way.

The committee voted June 21 to appropriate $199 million for IRS Business Systems Modernization, the amount tax agency officials have said is the absolute minimum they need to keep the program on its current track. The Treasury, Transportation and independent agencies fiscal 2006 bill now faces a full House vote. The Senate appropriations subcommittee that deals with those agencies has yet to hold a markup hearing for its bill.

House committee members also voted to increase money for IRS legacy information systems by $29 million, in large part to beef up cybersecurity measures. A recent report from the Government Accountability Office detailed problems with the agency’s computer security.

An attempt by the IRS to cut money for the IRS Oversight Board was blocked when the committee voted to restore $750,000 to the board’s fiscal 2006 budget. That keeps the board’s funding level at its fiscal 2005 amount of $1.5 million. The restoration of that money came with a warning that the committee “expects this action will not be necessary in future fiscal years.”

IRS overseers at the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration would get $5.2 million more when compared to this year. House appropriators decided to fully fund the TIGTA $133 million budget request.

The 68 of the 400 tax assistance centers slated for closure by the IRS would also remain open, at least for a while, under the committee’s bill. The committee “does not question the notion that some tax assistance centers should be closed or realigned,” the report language states. Instead, appropriators said they question the methodology IRS officials used to choose which centers to close, and instruct the agency to keep the centers open until TIGTA reviews what customer service impact the closures would have.

The agency’s attempt to raise its overall budget to almost $10.7 billion was not allowed by the committee, however, which lopped off $130 million.

About the Author

David Perera is a special contributor to Defense Systems.

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