IRS Management:

Challenges Facing the National Taxpayer Advocate

T-GGD-99-28: Published: Feb 10, 1999. Publicly Released: Feb 10, 1999.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed the challenges facing the Internal Revenue Service's (IRS) Office of the Taxpayer Advocate, focusing on IRS' need to: (1) address complex staffing and operational issues within the Advocate's Office; (2) strengthen efforts within the Advocate's Office to determine the causes of taxpayer problems; and (3) develop performance measures that the National Taxpayer Advocate needs to manage operations and measure effectiveness.

GAO noted that: (1) IRS and the National Taxpayer Advocate need to address staffing and operational issues while ensuring the independence of the Advocate's Office; (2) a key staffing and operational issue is developing an implementation plan for bringing all caseworkers into the Advocate's Office that includes operational mechanisms that will give the Problem Resolution Program (PRP) the potential benefits of both a reliance on the functions and a separate operation; (3) another staffing and operational issue is capturing information about resource usage that advocates need to manage PRP; (4) providing appropriate training is also an issue; (5) it is important that caseworkers and other staff receive adequate training; (6) caseworkers should be trained in both functional responsibilities and PRP operations; (7) it is important for the Advocate's Office to develop mechanisms to ensure that qualified caseworkers are selected so that the program goals are met; (8) as IRS restructures the Advocate's Office, it must consider how best to handle workload fluctuations; (9) IRS and the National Taxpayer Advocate need to strengthen advocacy efforts within the Advocate's Office; (10) the Advocate's Office has taken steps to promote advocacy, such as implementing regional advocacy councils and identifying strategies to increase awareness of advocacy within IRS; (11) the Advocate's Office has encouraged the functions to play a greater role in assisting taxpayers and improving procedures to reduce taxpayer compliance burden; (12) IRS and the National Taxpayer Advocate need to develop performance measures to be used in managing operations and assessing the effectiveness of the Taxpayer Advocate and PRP; (13) management must focus on the impact its programs have on its customers; (14) the National Taxpayer Advocate has the formidable task of developing measures that will provide useful data for improving program performance, increasing accountability, and supporting decisionmaking; and (15) to be comprehensive, these measures should cover the full range of Advocate Office operations, including taxpayer satisfaction with PRP services and the effectiveness of advocacy efforts in reducing taxpayer compliance burden.

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