Modernization begins to gain ground at IRS

IRS' ambitious systems overhaul may finally be gaining a foothold.

Lead contractor Computer Sciences Corp. is nearly finished reworking the code and retesting the first release of IRS' Integrated Financial System, and company officials expect to meet the scheduled October release date. And a report from the IRS Oversight Board is expected to be positive.

Even the crown jewel of the Business Systems Modernization project, the Customer Account Data Engine, has begun processing a limited number of simple tax returns.

CADE will process more than 2 million 1040 EZ tax returns during the 2005 season. The IRS expects to phase in the relational database system over several years, processing increasingly more complex tax returns in stages.

Hopeful news has been a long time in coming.

In February, IRS pushed back the release date from April to October for its new financial and accounting system. CSC found problems converting financial data from IRS files to the new software. This postponement followed repeated delays in the CADE rollout.

Workers on the project are developing a process to convert the old accounting data to the new system, said Jim Sheaffer, CSC's vice president and general manager of the Prime alliance of BSM vendors. 'We're looking at a scheduled go-live process that will begin with converting the Master File data at the IRS in September, and then we'll end in early November when they close their books and they are ready to go forward to do full transaction processing.'

Files flunked

Earlier this year, CSC found numerous files that did not meet the data standards of the new system.

CSC is in the final stages of testing the software for issues such as security. Sheaffer said he anticipates completing the tests in late August. 'We're right in the midst of the final practice or mock conversion, looking for any remaining problems we may want to clean up before we do it for real,' he said.

CSC will begin actual conversion in September, a process it expects to complete in October. 'This has been a complicated project and there's still a lot of hard work to do. But we have a schedule we believe we can meet,' Sheaffer said.

At the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, agencies close their books and balance them for examination by the Government Accountability Office. 'In addition to closing down the books, we're also converting the books,' he said.

Reference data and master tables have to be loaded into the new system. Once the books close, CSC will move the financial data under a detailed step-by-step schedule to complete it in October.

CSC also has detailed plans for training IRS employees who use the financial system. 'That has to be communicated and it has to work well on Day One,' he said.

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