Critical Read

An IT audit for the IRS

IRS 1040

The Government Accountability Office found that five of 20 major IRS IT investments -- much like many American's tax returns -- were behind schedule.

What: GAO report on the reliability of IRS cost and schedule information for IT

Why: The Internal Revenue Service came off the high-risk list of the Government Accountability Office when the 2013 report was posted in January. The IRS is still required to report to Congress quarterly on the cost and schedule of its major IT investments, however, and this new GAO report is the first look at those numbers.

The report found the IRS was behind schedule in five of its 20 major IT investments, and significantly over cost in three. The GAO report was critical of the IRS methods for projecting cost and schedule, and issued a slate of four recommendations designed to improve the methodology of estimating the cost and schedule of projects in progress. The IRS indicated it would accept three of the suggestions, but disagreed with part of a fourth.

While the report was mildly critical, a chart near the opening of the report found that most of the major IT investments at IRS were either substantially or partially in line with GAO best practices on cost estimates. The cost estimates for the Modernized e-File system, more than the other top systems, showed the significant variance.

In 2012, the IRS spent $2.5 billion for the information technology systems that drive tax collection and refund distribution.

Verbatim: "To its credit, IRS has identified key investment risks and put mitigation strategies in place for all seven investments in our review. This should increase the likelihood that these investments will deliver promised functionality without significant cost and schedule variances."

Read the full report

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy, health IT and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mr. Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian started his career as an arts reporter and critic, and has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, Architect magazine, and other publications. He was an editorial assistant and staff writer at the now-defunct New York Press and arts editor at the online network in the 1990s, and was a weekly contributor of music and film reviews to the Washington Times from 2007 to 2014.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.

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