TREASURY INSPECTOR GENERAL
FOR TAX ADMINISTRATION
IMPROVEMENTS ARE NEEDED IN THE CHIEF COUNSEL'S MANAGEMENT INFORMATION SYSTEM TO BETTER PROTECT TAXPAYER PRIVACY AND RIGHTS
Reference No. 2000-40-071
There are several matters in which a taxpayer can file a civil complaint against the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). These include violations of the Privacy Act and a Freedom of Information Act appeal. In addition, certain sections of the Internal Revenue Code (I.R.C.) allow taxpayers to file civil complaints for damages against the United States Government for conduct or lack of conduct on the part of IRS personnel.
The IRS Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998 (RRA 98) placed emphasis on policies and procedures protecting taxpayer privacy and rights. Therefore, the IRS needs to be aware of how current policy and procedure affect taxpayer confidentiality.
The overall objective of this review was to determine the effectiveness of the IRSí controls over civil suits against the Government. We focused on civil suits which taxpayers can file involving the IRS. See Appendix IV for additional information regarding the types of civil complaints that can be filed involving the IRS.
The Office of the Chief Counsel uses a fully integrated, nationwide management information system to control and monitor its workload. Various data elements are captured within the management information system, allowing for case and issue tracking. Additionally, the system is regularly updated to reflect the status of and the amount of time that was charged to the case. There were approximately 46,000 civil cases closed in the Office of the Chief Counsel management information system during the period January 1, 1998, through September 30, 1999. We found the IRS Office of the Chief Counsel management information system adequate to control the inventory of civil cases. However, we believe that additional data elements need to be captured to allow systemic improvements that could prevent future violations of taxpayer privacy and rights.
The Chief Counselís Management Information System Needs to Capture Additional Data Elements
The Office of the Chief Counsel is not consistently capturing the necessary elements in its management information system to ensure the IRS takes appropriate action to protect future taxpayer privacy and rights. The results of the cases and damage amounts, if any, need to be captured to allow the IRS to assess policies and procedures which protect taxpayer confidentiality and ensure equitable treatment of taxpayers.
The Office of the Chief Counsel officials indicated that case disposition is not always captured in the management information system because there is no regulation or policy which requires this type of information, and they do not have a use for this data. Additionally, the Department of Justice (DOJ) represents the Government for the cases alleging violation of the I.R.C., and the Office of the Chief Counsel is not always informed of the outcome of these cases. When received in the Office of the Chief Counsel, I.R.C. ß7431 complaints are forwarded to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) for research on any open investigation on employees cited in the complaint. However, no further referrals are made to the TIGTA after the cases are closed for possible criminal investigation. The Office of the Chief Counsel also works with IRS management to obtain necessary information to develop a defense strategy. However, no formal process is in place for cases that are lost or settled, to ensure the IRS reviews and makes the appropriate changes to established policies and procedures. We believe the IRS needs to be aware of all outcomes for these cases and damage amounts, if any, need to be captured in the Office of the Chief Counselís management information system. The lost and settled cases need to be analyzed to determine if systemic improvements are needed to better protect future taxpayer privacy and rights.
Summary of Recommendations
The IRS Office of the Chief Counsel should obtain from the DOJ all results of civil cases involving IRS employees and capture results in the management information system. The lost and settled cases should be referred to the TIGTA for possible criminal investigation and/or IRS functional management for review of IRS policy and procedures to determine if any systemic changes are necessary to protect taxpayer privacy and rights.
Managementís Response: The Chief Counsel will modify the management information system to provide additional fields for entry of information regarding the ultimate outcome in all the various types of cases and adopt formal procedures requiring personnel to request information regarding case outcomes. Further, the Chief Counsel will adopt formal procedures requiring the appropriate IRS functional management to be notified of the outcome of every case.
In addition, Chief Counsel attorneys will notify IRS functional management of Treasury Department standards governing referrals to TIGTA and provide a recommendation, if appropriate.