Nagging

IRS: Get Off Our Backs About Following Up with Taxpayers That Suck at Math

The IRS’s naggy watchdog, the Treasury Insepector General of Tax Administration, has released a new audit that found the Service doesn’t follow up on math errors quickly enough and that they should start picking up their game, especially in the case of taxpayers who are trying to utilize the Earned Income Tax Credit. The IRS, who is normally looking to do things better, did not appreciate the sentiment:

[T]he IRS was cool to the report’s recommendations, asserting that it has limited resources and noting that it usually sends interim letters to taxpayers if their cases will not be handled within 30 days. The agency’s Richard Byrd also noted that the IRS receives some 20 million paper letters each year. “While important, replies to math errors represent a small fraction of our overall inventory,” Byrd wrote.

Seriously. They’ve got an over-eager AICPA to deal with.

[via OTM/The Hill]

Vast Improvement in Volunteer-prepared Tax Returns Proves That the TIGTA’s Nagging Pays Off

Last year the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration came down pretty hard on volunteer tax preparers, noting that 41% of the returns contained errors. As is the IG’s wont, they scolded the IRS to improve this shameless display by volunteers and made some suggestions to help them suck less.

And it worked! Ninety percent of the tax returns prepared by volunteers were accurate thus earning praise from the IG:

Ninety percent of the 39 tax returns volunteers prepared for TIGTA auditors were prepared correctly, a sharp increase from the 59 percent accuracy rate reported by TIGTA in its 2009 review. TIGTA attributed the improvement to an increase in volunteers’ use of the IRS’s Intake/Interview and Quality Review Sheet (Form 13614-C), improved training, and enhanced oversight. Only 5 percent of the 39 tax returns were prepared without use of the Form 13164-C, versus 33 percent in TIGTA’s 2008 Filing Season review, and 22 percent in its 2009 Filing Season review.

“This report is a positive indication of the good work that the IRS is doing for America’s taxpayers,” stated J. Russell George, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. “I commend the IRS on the progress it has made in helping volunteers accurately fulfill the very important task they assumed.”

This isn’t the first time that the TIGTA has managed to give the IRS credit for doing a decent job. Last month J. Russell George managed to give tepid kudos to the Service for providing satisfactory service at assistance centers but also reminded everyone that a mind-numbingly complex government bureaucracy can always get better. They’re blowing off the deaf and mute, after all.

TIGTA Concerned That IRS Is Blowing Off Deaf, Mutes (and Presumably Deaf-Mutes)

The IRS sucks at a lot of things. Given.

Thankfully we have Treasury Inspector General of Tax Administration to inform us about said failures opportunities for improvement.

But today’s news that the IRS isn’t doing enough to help our hearing and speech-impaired friends is especially disheartening to the TIGTA overlords. They can (somewhat) understand providing crappy service to regular Americans (try reading the instructions people) but if you’re unfortunate enough to be without speech or hearing, the IG felt obligated to point out the IRS’s shortcomings:

TIGTA performed an audit to evaluate both the IRS’s customer service toll-free telephone access during the 2010 Filing Season and the access and service it provided to hearing and speech-impaired taxpayers. TIGTA found that the IRS exceeded its overall performance measurement goals by 2.3 percent. However, the Level of Service for the TTY/TDD toll-free telephone line for the 2010 Filing Season was just 8.8 percent, meaning that only 8.8 percent of calls placed using the TTY/TTD successfully reached an IRS assistor. The total dialed attempts for the TTY/TDD product line during the 2010 Filing Season were more than 350,000; however, IRS assistors answered only 339 of those calls.

“Our report found that far too few hearing and speech-impaired taxpayers successfully reached an IRS assistor,” said J. Russell George, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. “The IRS must do a better job of ensuring that all Americans have equal access to its services,” he said.

Actually, that is pretty shitty service. Even by IRS standards.

The IRS Could Improve Toll-Free Telephone Assistance For Hearing and Speech-Impaired Taxpayers [TIGTA]

On Top of Everything Else, the IRS Isn’t Green Enough

The IRS’ nagging mother-in-law, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (“TIGTA”) has once again managed to come down on the Service for something else it doesn’t do well – conserve energy.

According to TIGTA’s report, the IRS is implementing environmental management systems at 11 facilities, which will increase operating efficiency, improve environmental performance and reduce environmental impacts.

TIGTA also identified several steps the IRS should take to improve energy efficiency in its data centers, including eliminating gaps between computer room floor tiles that allow hot and cold air to mix, spacing servers in rows to maximize the efficiency of air conditioning, and using occupancy sensors to control lights in computer rooms.

The IRS does not have policies and procedures for improving energy efficiency in its data centers or for implementing data-center energy-efficiency best practices, TIGTA found. This affects the IRS’s ability to minimize energy consumption and costs, resulting in the inefficient use of resources and taxpayer funds.

“It is imperative that the IRS become more energy efficient to save taxpayer dollars and reduce the nation’s consumption of oil, coal, and other natural resources,” said J. Russell George, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

The details of the improvements that are quite impressive – gaps in the floor tiles; spacing of servers, etc. Impressive in the sense that if your performance coach/manager was giving you those kinds of suggestions for performance improvement, you’d give them an eyeroll that would cause you to fall backwards in your chair.

Despite the endless stream of criticism, Chief Nag, J. Russell George managed to stop short of asking the IRS to help BP get all that oil out of the Gulf of Mexico.

TIGTA: IRS Can Improve Energy Efficiency at Data Centers [TIGTA PR]
Full Report [TIGTA]

The TIGTA’s Nagging of the IRS Delves into Phone Etiquette

In case you’re not up to speed on the federal bureaucracy org chart, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration’s expressed purpose is to tell the IRS what it is they suck at doing and what they can do to quit sucking at it.

The latest bad report card for the IRS is that of protecting the identity of taxpayers who call the Service for help. The epic fail is due to customer reps not being inquisitive enough when identifying callers and not their inability to use their inside voices. The TIGTA presents its displeasure with the phone “assistors” in its latest report:

From our statistical sample of 180 contact recordings, we determined that assistors did not properly follow procedures when authenticating 29 (16 percent) callers, increasing the risk of unauthorized disclosures. Based on these results, the projected number of callers with increased risk of unauthorized disclosures is 44,067 for 1 week.

So, you figure 2.2 million unauthorized disclosures a year. Maybe that’s a legitimate concern but in the grand scheme of things, is it really that bad? If you consider the fact that 22.4 million people aren’t even getting help, that seems like a pretty good number. Regardless of our realistic standards, the TIGTA has more harping to do:

During our review of 48 (27 percent) of the 180 sampled calls, we were able to overhear other assistors discussing other callers’ Personally Identifiable Information. For 10 calls (6 percent), we were able to clearly hear parts of conversations with other callers. For 38 calls (21 percent), other assistors’ interactions with callers were overheard, but we could not clearly understand the conversations. This happened because assistors did not put callers on hold when they were researching the taxpayers’ accounts. Also, the physical layout of employee workstations at call centers allows other conversations to be easily overheard.

So in this particular case it sounds like the IRS has two choices 1) force everybody to become low talkers or 2) spring for a larger cube farm so people aren’t up in each other’s shit.

The real question her is, can we realistically expect an error rate of zero from the IRS? When did “good enough for government work” no longer apply?

Telephone Authentication Practices Need Improvements to Better Prevent Unauthorized Disclosures [TIGTA via TaxProf]