Data Communications:

Thorough Testing and Workload Analyses Needed for IRS Processors

IMTEC-87-3BR: Published: Oct 14, 1986. Publicly Released: Nov 13, 1986.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO: (1) investigated the performance of the Internal Revenue Service's (IRS) existing communications processors; and (2) evaluated the soundness of the planned replacement of those processors.

GAO found that: (1) existing communications processors have experienced reliability and capacity problems, but their performance has had no significant adverse effect on the 1986 tax filing season; (2) a significant delay in the replacement processor installation schedule or an increase in work load will increase the chances that the existing processors will experience reliability and capacity problems; (3) replacement processors are both reliable and capable of handling the current IRS work load, but they may not be able to meet long-term IRS needs; (4) the replacement communications software is not fully developed and original IRS projections of the future work load are outdated; and (5) the IRS plan to install the new system at its larger service centers during the 1987 tax filing season increases the risk of serious disruption of processing tax returns and refunds to taxpayers if problems occur with the new equipment or software. GAO believes that all of the hardware and software should be thoroughly tested prior to nationwide service center installation.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: By the end of December 1988, the new processors had been installed in all 10 IRS service centers. Through the end of April 1989, no significant problems with the operation of the system had been noted.

    Recommendation: In view of the House Committee on Ways and Means, Subcommittee on Oversight's long-standing interest in this area, and the importance of IRS computers to its operations and the impact that its planned installation of communications processors could have on the 1987 tax filing season and related processing, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should report to the Subcommittee any significant deviations or delays in IRS installation testing plans that could alter the implementation of planned testing safeguards or reduce the chances of all processors being operational by December 1987. The report should also include actions that IRS plans to take to alleviate the situation.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: According to the Associate Commissioner for Computer Services, contingency plans had been prepared for all service centers, as of January 1987. This information was conveyed in a memo from the Associate Commissioner to the IRS Internal Audit Office.

    Recommendation: In view of the Subcommittee's long-standing interest in this area, and the importance of IRS computers to its operations and the impact that its planned installation of communications processors could have on the 1987 tax filing season and related processing, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should establish formal contingency plans at each IRS service center to provide reasonable continuity of data processing support should events occur that prohibit the timely installation of replacement processors or cause the existing processors to experience capacity or reliability problems.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: As a result of follow-up work associated with February IRS hearings before the House Committee on Ways and Means, GAO found that IRS has begun to conduct the recommended work-load analysis to be used to determine future system requirements. IRS also intends to conduct such analyses on an ongoing basis.

    Recommendation: In view of the Subcommittee's long-standing interest in this area, and the importance of IRS computers to its operations and the impact that its planned installation of communications processors could have on the 1987 tax filing season and related processing, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should update existing and future work load projections and monitor the performance of the communications processors and supporting mainframes to ensure that these computing resources can fulfill the IRS mission. Such updates and performance monitoring should be conducted regularly throughout the life of the systems.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service

 

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