TREASURY INSPECTOR GENERAL FOR TAX ADMINISTRATION

Office of Audit

Highlights

TELEWORK QUALIFICATION REQUIREMENTS ARE GENERALLY BEING MET, BUT PROGRAM IMPROVEMENTS ARE NEEDED

Final Report issued on July 19, 2016  

Highlights of Reference Number:  2016-10-039 to the Internal Revenue Service Human Capital Officer.

IMPACT ON TAXPAYERS

The Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 sets parameters for work flexibility arrangements (hereafter referred to as telework) under which employees of the Federal Government perform the duties and responsibilities of their positions from worksites other than a Government facility.  During the one-year period ending in June 2015, IRS records show that about 37,000 employees had teleworked.  Ensuring qualification requirements are met is essential to upholding the integrity of the program, maintaining public trust in tax administration, and safeguarding taxpayer information.

WHY TIGTA DID THE AUDIT

The overall objective of this review was to determine whether the IRS’s processes provide reasonable assurance that employees met select qualification requirements for teleworking.

WHAT TIGTA FOUND

The IRS implemented policies that are consistent with provisions of the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 and, in most instances, employees we sampled had completed required training and were not involved in misconduct that impacted their eligibility to telework.  However, some telework processes could be improved to ensure compliance with the law.

TIGTA reviewed a random sample of 165 employees charging time to telework during a one-year period and found that 130 (79 percent) had a valid telework agreement.  The 35 employees who did not have a valid telework agreement included 17 employees whose payroll data had shown time had been charged to telework even though an agreement had not been secured and 18 employees who had an agreement, but the agreement did not include a managerial signature.  The lack of valid agreements occurred because processes did not ensure that agreements were completed by employees and maintained by managers.  The lack of a valid telework agreement is a violation of the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010.

With respect to misconduct, only 103 of the approximately 37,000 teleworking employees had been disciplined for the serious misconduct issues TIGTA reviewed (unauthorized access to taxpayer information, willful tax noncompliance, and absence without leave).  TIGTA determined that only six (6 percent) of the 103 employees had discontinued teleworking after the misconduct had been substantiated.  IRS officials explained that policies do not specify what constitutes misconduct that would impact the integrity of the IRS Telework Program and instead rely on managers to assess whether the misconduct was sufficient to warrant suspending telework activities.

WHAT TIGTA RECOMMENDED

TIGTA recommended that the IRS Human Capital Officer:  1) finalize processes to reasonably ensure that teleworking employees have completed telework training and have a valid telework agreement on file prior to beginning telework, 2) clarify the rules associated with misconduct,  and 3) develop procedures for identifying employees whose conduct may impact the integrity of the Telework Program.

In their response, IRS management agreed with all three recommendations.  The IRS states it has taken action to verify training is complete and that a valid agreement is on file for teleworking employees.  The IRS also plans to provide detailed guidance for assessing misconduct that may warrant suspension or discontinuance from telework and develop procedures to identify employees disciplined for conduct that negatively impacts the Telework Program.

 

READ THE FULL REPORT

To view the report, including the scope, methodology, and full IRS response, go to:

https://www.treasury.gov/tigta/auditreports/2016reports/201610039fr.pdf.

 

Phone Number   /  202-622-6500

E-mail Address  /  TIGTACommunications@tigta.treas.gov

Website             /  https://www.treasury.gov/tigta