Tax Administration: IRS Efforts to Improve Forms and Publications

GGD-95-34 Published: Dec 07, 1994. Publicly Released: Dec 07, 1994.
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Highlights

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the accuracy and clarity of the Internal Revenue Service's (IRS) forms and publications, focusing on: (1) the adequacy of the process IRS uses to revise its tax forms; (2) IRS efforts to improve this process; and (3) IRS efforts to increase taxpayer involvement in the process.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Internal Revenue Service The Commissioner of Internal Revenue should direct agency staff to make additional efforts to identify the specific concerns of individual taxpayers. Identifying these concerns may be accomplished in a variety of ways, including gathering information concerning the nature of taxpayer questions received through its toll-free telephone system.
Closed – Implemented
IRS established a public forms suggestion hotline to analyze data on taxpayers' calls to its tax-topic-by-demand call-in system, held town meetings in several cities to obtain input from small businesses and tax practitioners, and identified different options for gathering information from its toll-free telephone system.
Internal Revenue Service The Commissioner of Internal Revenue should direct agency staff to make additional efforts to identify the specific concerns of individual taxpayers. Identifying these concerns may be accomplished in a variety of ways, including soliciting information from IRS field personnel including auditors, examiners, and customer-service representatives for the sole purpose of identifying common errors made by taxpayers that may be related to confusing passages in forms and publications.
Closed – Implemented
IRS front-line personnel attended town meetings held by IRS' Tax Forms and Publications Division in several cities and provided the division information on problem areas in forms and publications for taxpayers. The division met with IRS assistors who answer taxpayers' calls for assistance to obtain suggestions for improving the forms and publications, based on the assistors' dealings with taxpayers. (Forty-one percent of their recommendations were adopted; others are under consideration for 1996.) Additional feedback from small businesses and practitioners was obtained from their meeting with the Commissioner in April 1995. Changes have been made to the forms. Other changes will result from continuous monitoring.

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