IRS sets its systems blueprint in motion

IRS sets its systems blueprint in motion

BY PREETI VASISHTHA | GCN STAFF

Systems modernization at the IRS is about to move beyond the blueprint stage and into construction.

Last month, agency officials outlined four initiatives scheduled for delivery next year for which Prime contractor Computer Sciences Corp. will announce subcontracts within two weeks.

Among the initiatives, the IRS will provide online registration for tax practitioners, an overhaul of its toll-free tax assistance service and initial development of the replacement for its antiquated Master File System.

All the projects comply with the requirements of the agency's Enterprise Architecture 1.0 blueprint released in January, said Robert Albicker, deputy associate commissioner for systems integration [GCN, Jan. 22, Page 16].

'At the 40,000-foot level, we think we've got it right in terms of the agency's focus,' said Bert Concklin, associate commissioner for business systems modernization.

Albicker said the 2002 initiatives would fall under several categories:

' Customer communication. The agency will install a data-directed routing system by January for taxpayers who call its toll-free service. With Touch-Tone or voice input, callers will convey the nature of the query and their Social Security number. The call will then be routed to customer service representatives, Albicker said. Currently, the calls are directed to human screeners, who often take too much time and misroute calls, he said.

In another communications initiative, Albicker said, the IRS will provide Internet access to refund and filing status. Taxpayers will be able to find out for the first time via the Web whether their returns have been received by the agency and check the status of their refunds.

' Taxpayer database. Also scheduled for delivery in 2002 is the first portion of the Customer Account Data Engine (CADE), the modern database management system the agency hopes will eventually replace its 30-year-old Master File and Integrated Data Retrieval System.

The mainframe system, which is written in assembly language and still requires the mailing of tapes among IRS processing centers, is the lifeblood of the agency. It is the storehouse of information about the nation's taxpayers, both individuals and businesses. Implemented during the Kennedy administration, the Master File relies on batch processing to make weekly updates to its records.

The initial portion of CADE, planned for release in January, will be populated with data from about 6 million taxpayers who file the 1040EZ form online, Albicker said. CADE will be updated daily, in contrast to the week to eight working days required to update the Master File tapes.

CADE, like the Master File data, will be poured into the Corporate Information Online system that agency examiners use in their daily work. With this, taxpayers will get information on refunds within three days, instead of six weeks.

' E-service. By summer of next year, tax practitioners will be able to register, submit powers of attorney for their clients and have limited data views online.

' Customer relationship management exam initiative. About 4,000 internal examiners at the agency will be able to make computations and changes to customer accounts on large and midsize computers, providing faster updates.

'We are close to embodiment of what Clinger-Cohen envisions us to be,' Concklin said. 'Superimposing the new suite into the legacy production environment remains our foremost challenge.'

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