September 01, 1997
Next Steps for the IRS after
the Senate Finance Committee Hearings
As these sessions close on September 25, the Internal Revenue Service does not
intend to simply lick its wounds and go home. Just as we want to set the record straight
and refute allegations that we deliberately violate taxpayers rights or mislead as a
matter of policy, it is clearly our responsibility to respond in a positive and
constructive way to the valid criticisms we hear. And we have heard valid criticisms.
We are looking very carefully at programs and procedures that may cause unintended
consequences for taxpayers. We will take immediate action in a number of areas.
Much has been said about our employees working to quotas. This is absolutely
prohibited. In fact, Congress and the GAO have encouraged IRS to use revenue targets so it
could measure its efficiency and effectiveness as the nations tax collector.
The Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) requires a number of accountability
measures on our performance as an agency. However, because we are so concerned that
employees not perceive they are graded on revenue collections:
- We will no longer comparatively rank our 33 district offices on their results.
- We will suspend the distribution of any goals relating to revenue production to our
field offices. While the goal will be established and tracked nationally to conform with
GPRA requirements, there will be no expectation of a local office having a
share of a national goal. We will continue to distribute local expectations
relating to national goals aimed at quality improvement and burden reduction for the
- We will no longer include penalty amounts in our statistical results on revenue
collected. This will discourage any perception that the IRS encourages assessments of
additional penalties as a revenue raising technique.
The IRS has a long-standing policy that enforcement results will not be used to
evaluate individual employees. Current practice to assure adherence to that policy is to
have each district director certify, on a quarterly basis, that statistical results have
not been used in this manner. We intend to ask the Government Accounting Office (GAO) to
conduct a review of the validity of our certification program.
In the area of customer feedback, we have heard criticism that we are insular and
dont listen. Over the past several years we have made Customer Service a much higher
priority, but we acknowledge that we do not have sufficient customer feedback data to
judge the best way to meet their needs. We are moving to a system that captures customer
satisfaction feedback for all our compliance contacts, as well as our customer assistance
areas. The process has already been introduced in our Appeals and Examination areas and
will be expanded into Collection during FY 1998. Data collected from taxpayers will be
used for both individual and organizational evaluations.
In a concerted effort to ensure that current problem cases are being handled properly,
each District and Service Center Director will be required to immediately review all
complaint contacts coming to their office during the last quarter. They will be required
to confirm, with their Taxpayer Advocate, that the cases have been resolved properly and
that the taxpayer has no outstanding issues. They will also identify issues which are the
subject of repeated problems.
To reemphasize responsiveness to taxpayers concerns, each District Director will
hold a monthly problem solving forum in locations throughout the district for
the exclusive purpose of inviting taxpayers to surface problem situations. All Directors
will increase local publicity about the availability of services in the Taxpayer
All IRS executives and every senior manager in our Compliance functions will convene in
Washington within the next thirty days to consider the results of Senate Finance Committee
hearings and to review IRS expectations concerning responsiveness to taxpayers and
protecting taxpayers rights. They will also help identify IRS practices that may
lead to unintended complications for a taxpayer.
We will ask the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) to partner with us in
designing a national meeting of representative front line employees who will help us
identify ways in which to respond to the serious concerns raised during the hearings.
We will continue to pursue improvements to the critical information systems which will
give IRS employees immediate access to the account information they need to help taxpayers
resolve problems quickly when they contact us.
The IRS will continue to stress improved training for our workforce, focusing not only
on continued improvements to technical training but on expansion of courses which
concentrate on interactive skills. We will look for the cooperation of the NTEU to help us
establish a more comprehensive set of technical competency guidelines and criteria which
address promotions and maintenance of critical skills.
The Internal Revenue Service is committed to continuing action that will reinforce the
proper balance between our duty to protect the Governments interest and ensuring the
rights of its taxpayers.
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