IRS Management: IRS Faces Challenges as it Restructures the Office of the Taxpayer Advocate

GGD-99-124 Published: Jul 15, 1999. Publicly Released: Jul 15, 1999.
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the operations of the Internal Revenue Service's (IRS) Office of the National Taxpayer Advocate and the Problem Resolution Program (PRP) that it administers, focusing on: (1) challenges the Taxpayer Advocate faces in managing program resources; (2) the potential effects of workload fluctuations on program operations; (3) information available to help the Advocate determine the causes of taxpayer problems and prevent their recurrence; and (4) the adequacy of performance measures the IRS uses to gauge program effectiveness.

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Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Internal Revenue Service To better ensure that the Advocate's Office effectively uses the resources available for advocacy and thus enhances its ability to prevent the recurrence of taxpayer problems and ultimately reduce the number of taxpayers who need help from PRP, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should direct appropriate officials to define the requirements for and to develop a system that captures the kind of information needed to identify and prioritize potential advocacy projects and provide feedback to staff on ongoing and completed projects.
Closed – Implemented
As part of IRS' overall modernization, the Office of the Taxpayer Advocate redesigned its organization and processes. The redesign clearly separates responsibility for advocacy work from responsibility for casework and minimizes the likelihood that advocacy resources will be redirected to do casework. IRS says that it has developed a complexity/priority indicator to help in prioritizing and assigning advocacy projects and has established and filled the position of Senior Tracking System Analyst. The analyst is responsible for modifying and maintaining the Advocacy Project Tracking System. According to IRS, requirements for that system have been developed, including the content for several new Web-based reports and an on-line advocacy issue submission and tracking process.
Internal Revenue Service To better manage PRP resources and improve operations, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should direct appropriate officials to design management information systems that can support outcome-oriented performance measures.
Closed – Implemented
As part of IRS' modernization, the Office of the Taxpayer Advocate, like the rest of IRS, developed performance measures related to customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction, and business results. Baseline data for each of those measures is to be gathered during fiscal year 2001. IRS provided us with information on the specific measures adopted and the management information systems to which they are/will be linked.

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