IRS bullish about modernization

IRS' Richard Spires believes its massive IT overhaul will result in much better customer service.

When most people think about the Internal Revenue Service, the terms  user-friendly and accessible are not the first ones that spring to mind. However, Richard Spires, IRS' deputy commissioner of operations support, hopes that will change after the service completes its massive information technology modernization effort to integrate older systems and make its filings electronic.“When you think of your bank, that’s the way we want the IRS to operate,” he said May 6 at the AFCEA Bethesda Chapter’s Mission IT Day.Spires is leading an effort to take the tax agency online through a series of modernization efforts that are projected to have all IRS forms on the agency’s e-platform by 2014. The IRS has more than 400 operational systems that deal with numerous tax situations, liens and bankruptcies. They were built separately as the needs of the agency and technologies evolved over decades. The IRS is scanning print documents so they can be managed as digital images and implementing e-services for tax practitioners and ways to ask questions online about tax and economic stimulus refunds. Spires said having tax practitioners and large corporations file online will go a long way to putting the majority of filings online. Spires said taking the agency’s work digital will benefit citizens, who will experience faster turnaround times, in addition to IRS operations. “It cuts out a lot of the problems we face, particularly on the customer service side,” he said.This summer, the agency will implement the first version of My IRS Account on the agency’s Web site. This is a self-service Internet application that allows taxpayers immediate access to their past filings, he said. Officials plan to make the application more robust over time. Spires said the agency is also working to improve its cybersecurity efforts, which include encrypting all its laptops and revamping how data is shared and hard paper copies of documents are shipped.
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