Lawmakers are cool to IRS board's funding request

Lawmakers are cool to IRS board's funding request


The Bush administration's IRS budget for fiscal 2002 fails to provide enough funding for modernization and will slow the program, the IRS Oversight Board told lawmakers this month.

'The real increase in the president's budget is 3.4 percent and not 6.6 percent,' said Larry Levitan, the board chairman, at a hearing before the Joint Committee on Taxation.

Though the administration's claim that the budget provides a 6.6 percent increase over 2001 is technically correct, it is misleading because the IRS has an additional $256 million in Information Technology Investment Account carryover from previous years, he said.

The administration should provide the account with $450 million to continue the agency's modernization program instead of the $397 million provision in the budget, Levitan said. The board also recommended adding $54 million for replacing notebook and desktop PCs that cannot support new security software.

Rep. William Thomas says the IRS should evaluate its goals periodically to determine which are achievable.
'The budget has no funding for this, and it makes no sense for the board to spend millions of dollars on new software and then not provide the necessary equipment,' Levitan said.

James White, director of tax issues at the General Accounting Office, said it's unclear whether the IRS needs the additional funds.

Even if the agency gets the funds, it should submit an expenditure plan to ensure the money is well spent, White said.

Rep. William M. Thomas (R-Calif.) said there have been too many hearings in the past on how the IRS has not received enough money for its modernization.

'There will never be enough money,' he said. 'But the IRS should have very clear goals, know what is achievable and what is not and evaluate the goals periodically.'

IRS commissioner Charles Rossotti says the agency must replace its entire IT infrastructure while also delivering short-term improvements.
Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) said hundreds of IRS employees spend hours surfing the Web and sending personal e-mail, but the level of the agency's service remains lackluster and productivity is lagging.

Hard sell

'It's tough for me to believe that the agency wants more money when its employees are wasting money,' Grassley said.

IRS commissioner Charles O. Rossotti said the agency would take steps to ensure that employees use the Internet for business purposes only. The IRS has set goals that are achievable, though it may take time for the agency to reach them, he added.

'All businesses have problems, but not of our level,' he said. The agency faces the unique problem of replacing the entire technology infrastructure while simultaneously delivering short-term improvements demanded by taxpayers, employees and Congress, he said.


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