Tax Administration:

IRS' 1990 Filing Season Performance Continued Recent Positive Trends

GGD-91-23: Published: Dec 27, 1990. Publicly Released: Dec 27, 1990.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO assessed the Internal Revenue Service's (IRS) performance during the 1990 tax return filing season, focusing on the: (1) accuracy and accessibility of its toll-free telephone assistance program; (2) availability of tax materials at its distribution centers and walk-in offices; and (3) processing of returns and related refunds.

GAO found that: (1) walk-in sites usually had tax materials on hand; (2) distribution centers generally did a good job filling mail and phone orders; (3) delivery of mail-ordered items took longer than IRS told people to expect; (4) more taxpayers received busy signals in 1990 when they tried to order materials or ask tax law questions by phone than in 1989; (5) the IRS test to evaluate distribution center performance was not valid; (6) IRS Integrated Test Call Survey System results showed that the accuracy of IRS responses to taxpayer questions improved from 63 percent in 1989 to 77 percent in 1990; (7) IRS attributed improved accuracy to increased managerial emphasis, a more stable and experienced work force, and development of guides to help assistors probe for all the facts needed about a taxpayer's situation; (8) IRS processed returns faster, paid less interest on delayed funds, and needed to correct fewer errors in 1990; (9) service center inventory levels were generally lower than in past years; and (10) IRS assigned the 10 most persistent problem areas to individual offices for additional analysis.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: IRS has revised its survey. In a report on the 1991 tax return filing season, GAO reported that it had assessed the new testing procedures and had concluded that the revised methodology provided an accurate assessment of the tax material distribution program's performance. (See GAO/GGD-91-98, June 28, 1991).

    Recommendation: IRS should develop and implement a statistically valid survey of its ability to fill phone and mail orders. The survey should: (1) correct the problems that GAO identified with the 1990 test; (2) include measures that are consistent from year to year, thus allowing measurement of performance over time; and (3) provide the basis for establishing annual goals.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service


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