Flood floats telework to top priority at IRS

The more than 20 feet of water that flooded the basement of the Internal Revenue Service’s headquarters last year has helped float telecommuting to a top agency concern.

The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration wants the IRS’ chief human capital officer to build a business case to decide whether to expand telecommuting by giving more laptop computers to employees, according to a Feb. 7 report.

“Increasing the availability of laptop computers for telecommuting could further strengthen the IRS’ ability to continue working during emergencies,” the report states.

IRS officials said they plan to issue guidance on telecommuting this year, according to the report. Officials agreed with the IG about telecommuting and using laptop computers for business needs and in contingency planning.

However, the IRS said telecommuting decisions must be based on need and cost. In response to the report, officials wrote that they must consider the feasibility and cost of network accessibility, software and automated systems, and the security implications of working from remote locations. They also must determine if the job can be done efficiently.

On June 25, 2006, a storm soaked the Washington, D.C., area with record rainfall — more than 7 inches. The heavy rains overwhelmed storm water drainage systems and flooded the basement of the IRS’ National Headquarters building. The flood severely damaged electrical systems and computer equipment, according to the report.

Agency officials reassigned about 2,200 employees who worked in the building, including the top executives of the IRS’ four functional areas, to temporary workspace, or had them telecommute.

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