IRS gets funds; board seeks more for new and old projects

IRS gets funds; board seeks more for new and old projects

BY PREETI VASISHTHA | GCN STAFF

Congress this month released $128 million for new initiatives and ongoing efforts of the IRS' Business Systems Modernization program, but the agency remains concerned with future funding for its systems overhaul.


How IRS will spend the $128 million in fiscal 2001 funding

' Customer Account Management. To be rolled out in five phases, the project will provide agencywide workload routing, management and case assignment. The system will give IRS employees access to complete and accurate information when working with taxpayers.

' Filing and Payment Compliance. This will reduce the time IRS takes to resolve cases with citizens who have not filed tax returns or paid the balance of their taxes.

' Reporting Compliance. The project will include an automated system that will make the IRS examination process more efficient.

' Taxpayer Education. The IRS will collaborate with partners to identify, develop and deliver customer-focused information.

' Workload Planning and Control. This agencywide system will track key information and assign work to support management processes.

'The release of the funds will leave the Information Technology Investment Account with zero dollars,' said Larry Levitan, chairman of the IRS Oversight Board. 'This is a major concern for us.'

Though the additional funding meets the program's needs for the rest of this fiscal year, Congress needs to approve money for fiscal 2002, he said. The board wants $450 million for the account next year, but the president's budget proposal earmarks $397 million for the account.

A key factor in the future success of the IRS systems modernization is maintaining the account on a consistent basis, Levitan said. 'Lack of enough funds in ITIA will make management of the modernization less efficient,' he said.

Rather than make direct appropriations for the effort, Congress in 1998 set up the account and releases funds for spending based on plans submitted by the IRS. Each plan is reviewed by the General Accounting Office and approved by the Treasury Department, the Office of Management and Budget and Congress.

The board will continue to hold talks with Congress on the budget requirements for next year, Levitan said, adding, 'It will be hard to get additional money.'

James White, GAO's director of tax issues, downplayed the funding issue. 'Our view is that the IRS has slowed down the projects, and the agency getting additional funds for fiscal 2002 is only a matter of time,' he said.

The oversight board has already begun work on a fiscal 2003 budget proposal. As part of the process, Congress has asked the IRS to add details, such as its plans for security, to its modernization blueprint.

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