Tax Administration:

IRS Needs to Improve Distribution of Tax Materials to the Public

GGD-90-34: Published: Jan 10, 1990. Publicly Released: Jan 10, 1990.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO assessed the availability of tax materials at Internal Revenue Service (IRS) distribution centers and walk-in offices during the 1989 tax filing season.

GAO found that: (1) 18 of 24 walk-in sites monitored early in the filing season were missing an average of 15 percent of 79 IRS-required forms and publications and an average of 22 percent of a sample of option items; (2) only 4 of 36 sites monitored later in the filing season were missing at least 10 percent of the forms and publications; (3) sites most frequently lacked materials regarding the supplemental Medicare premium, and tax rules for children and dependents, pension and annuity income, and individual retirement arrangements; (4) distribution centers' failure to make timely, complete initial shipments of materials to sites, printer delays, and sites' inadequate inventory management were primarily responsible for the unavailability of materials; and (5) less than 50 percent of site inventory control personnel received IRS inventory management training, and trained personnel did not always follow the procedures. GAO also found that the three IRS distribution centers: (1) sent it 80 percent of the 2,206 forms and publications it requested through 223 mail and telephone orders; (2) generally did not provide the required explanation for unfilled orders; (3) supplied inaccurate explanations for unfilled orders; and (4) attributed order processing problems to processing errors, lost orders, and the order composition.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: IRS determined that a 48-hour turnaround was economically infeasible. It decided instead to make weekly shipments, a decision that GAO does not agree with. GAO assessment of the IRS distribution program during the 1990 filing season indicated that IRS abided by its new 1-week policy and it improved the availability of tax materials.

    Recommendation: IRS should make initial shipments of tax materials to walk-in sites within 48 hours of their receipt at the distribution centers.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: IRS did exactly as GAO recommended.

    Recommendation: IRS should automatically include all required tax items in the initial shipments to each walk-in site.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: IRS updated its training material and emphasized the need for all responsible staff to be trained. GAO inquiries on the extent of training in 1990 indicated that the situation was much improved over the prior year.

    Recommendation: IRS should: (1) train all walk-in site personnel responsible for tax material inventories in reordering procedures and inventory management techniques; and (2) monitor walk-in site operations to make sure the procedures and techniques are implemented.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: IRS did specific quality reviews of error-prone orders, as GAO recommended.

    Recommendation: IRS should supplement the distribution centers' quality reviews to specifically assess performance on orders in which errors are most likely to occur.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service

 

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