(Washington, DC) The IRS Oversight Board met on December 18, 2012, with employee issues high on its agenda. The Board was briefed by the IRS on the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) that measures employee engagement at Federal departments and agencies. The IRS placed 3rd out of 15 large agencies on an employee engagement index score developed from eleven questions from the FEVS. The FEVS showed an across-the-board decline in employee engagement among federal agencies, including a modest one at the IRS. However, the IRS did maintain its goal to retain its position in the first quartile when ranked against other large agencies.
IRS Oversight Board Chairman Paul Cherecwich observed, “The past few years have been very challenging for all federal employees, including those at the IRS. From both IRS briefings and our meetings with IRS employees at the annual Nationwide Tax Forums, the Board is well aware that employees faced increased workloads, pay and hiring freezes, and fewer resources. In spite of these challenges, the IRS workforce continues to rise to the challenge and deliver value to our nation’s taxpayers and tax system every day. They are to be commended for their spirit of public service.”
Acting IRS Commissioner Steven T. Miller and IRS Deputy Commissioner for Operations Support Beth Tucker briefed the Board on the IRS end-of-year performance results, which for the most part were on a par with last year’s, with some exceptions. In 2012, the e-file rate for individual taxpayers achieved the 80 percent goal originally set in the IRS Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998, up from 77 percent last year. Also, the toll-free telephone customer service representative level of service was 67.6 percent in FY2012, down from 70.1 percent the previous year, although higher than the IRS original target goal.
With the 2013 filing season only weeks away, the Board also received a briefing on filing season readiness from IRS Wage & Investment Operating Division Commissioner Peggy Bogadi and IRS Chief Technology Officer Terrence Milholland. To mitigate risk, the IRS is developing contingency plans in case an Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) patch is not enacted before the end of the year. The IRS is also making a variety of changes to improve taxpayers’ understanding of their refund status while their returns are being processed. Ms. Bogadi also updated the Board on what the IRS is doing to upgrade its processes and systems to detect and prevent fraudulent tax returns from entering the system.
In addition to improved screens and filters to better detect refund fraud, the Board is particularly interested in the role data analytics can play in improving compliance. To this end, it received an update on IRS efforts by Dean R. Silverman, head of the IRS’ Office of Compliance Analytics.
The Board also received a briefing from the IRS Associate Chief Information Officer for Cybersecurity David Stender who discussed his organization’s efforts to protect the integrity of taxpayer data and combat cyberattacks against the agency.
In addition, the Board received a status report on the Real Time exploratory effort. The concept is a new model of tax administration that would allow for upfront matching of return information at the time of filing, giving taxpayers the opportunity to correct mismatches before their return is processed. The IRS described stakeholder considerations and suggestions made during focus group discussions, which were held last summer. Efforts continue to frame the concept, analyze data, and test various implementation approaches.
The Board also began planning a public meeting tentatively scheduled for Spring 2013. Details will be provided in the coming months.
The Board will next meet on February 19, 2013 in Washington, DC.