IRS faces its chief nemesis: tape files

IRS faces its chief nemesis: tape files

The IRS is about to bite into the toughest piece of its modernization yet: replacing its decades-old Master File system.

The agency this month will begin writing code for a new relational database under the Customer Account Data Engine project. CADE will perform the functions currently handled by the individual Master File tape subsystems. The Master File is a storehouse of information about the nation's taxpayers.

'The big step is that we have moved from the design to the development stage,' said Eugene Barbato, information technology services executive lead for CADE. 'We are drilling down our requirements to build a detailed business systems design that will be used to develop the CADE database and interfaces.'

The CADE team, comprising 100 people from the IRS, Prime contractor Computer Sciences Corp. and subcontractor IBM Corp., got the nod in late June from the IRS' Core Business Systems Executive Steering Committee to begin development of the database.

'The development will be an iterative process where we will start writing pieces of code, do internal testing and develop other code simultaneously,' Barbato said.

CADE will use IBM CICS, an online transaction processing program, and MQSeries, its messaging product for connecting servers and clients.

Applications will be built to tap an IBM DB2 Universal Database, Barbato said, adding that the agency is upgrading its mainframe to an IBM 900 Parallel Sysplex running OS/390.

The current IRS mainframe application is written in assembly language and still requires the exchange of tapes among IRS processing centers.

The 1.5T Master File, which relies on batch processing for weekly records updates, consists of three flat-file subsystems.

The individual subsystem holds data about individual taxpayers, and the business subsystem handles business returns. A third flat file, called the Nonmaster File, holds cases that don't fit into the other two categories, such as innocent-spouse relief claims.

CADE will be updated daily, in contrast to the eight working days required to update the current Master File using the tapes, Barbato said.

Immediate gratification

CADE will allow daily postings, settlement, maintenance, refunds processing and issue detection for taxpayer account and return data, IRS spokeswoman Tamara Ward said.

IRS employees will be able to post transactions and update taxpayer account and return data from their desks, she said.

In addition, updates will be immediately available, Ward said, providing more timely and accurate taxpayer information.

The IRS will spend about $70 million on CADE by December of next year, Barbato said.

'CADE is truly the biggest piece in IRS modernization,' he said. 'The daily challenge is to somehow phase in the new system with the old one running.'

The guiding principle is that at any point, a taxpayer's account will be only on one system, whether new or old, he said.

CADE is being developed in five phases, with the final release scheduled for 2006.

The first release, scheduled for delivery in July, will be limited to 1040EZ single filers, Barbato said. The agency will conduct internal tests in December, have a pilot ready by April and have the first release running by July, he said.

The second release, scheduled for delivery in January 2003, will include all 1040 individual filers, along with accounts of some joint filers.

Release 3, scheduled for January 2004, will include more joint filers.

'The big difference in Release 3 will be adding accounts of taxpayers who have dues,' Barbato said.

CADE will identify taxpayers who owe money, and a compliance system will update those records separately.

By January 2005, Release 4 will include the accounts of self-employed taxpayers and small businesses.

Release 5 will ready by January 2006 and will include all filers who do not fit in other categories, including taxpayers who have special conditions such as bankruptcy, Barbato said.

IRS will start planning the moderization of its business file next year. The project likely will be completed before the final release of the individual system, Ward said.

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