IRS headquarters closed until 2007

The IRS has announced that its headquarters will be closed until the first of next year due to flood damage from heavy rains last month.

The tax agency said its IT systems were not affected by the severe weather, since they are located chiefly at IRS’ suburban headquarters in New Carrollton, Md., said John Dalrymple, IRS deputy commissioner for operations support.

“The average taxpayer should not feel this at all since we are a decentralized organization, [and] the processing of returns has been unaffected,” he added.

Monetary damages could reach in the “tens of millions of dollars” said Bart Bush, assistant regional administrator for the General Services Administration's Public Bbuildings Service for the National Capital region.

Coincidentally, just the week before the heavy rains swamped the area, agencies participated in the Forward Challenge ’06 biennial continuity-of-operations exercise.

“All of those activities helped with the preparation here. It also helped with what we went through with flooding in New Orleans last year, where we have a large facility,” Dalrymple said.

Bush said the COOP exercise helped them immediately get on with action items.

The rains resulted in 20 feet of flooding in IRS’ sub-basement and 5 feet of water in its basement. The sub-basement holds all of the building’s electrical and maintenance equipment, such as electrical transformers and electrical switchgears.

The IRS building has moats that flooded, breaking windows in the lower level and sending water into the basements, while water was also rising from below as the ground could not absorb any more, Dalrymple said.

The timeline for restoration of the headquarters building at 1111 Constitution Ave. in Northwest Washington is dependent upon whether items such as air compressors and circuit breakers, which are custom-manufactured, have to be replaced or can be repaired on site, Bush said.

IRS’ 2,400 employees have been working from home, at federal telework centers and other buildings that IRS occupies in the Washington area. IRS also has leased office space for the interim from GSA until headquarters reopens.

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