A Special Address by Commissioner of Internal Revenue Margaret Richardson
Commissioner of Internal Revenue Margaret Milner Richardson addressed NSPA's annual convention delegates on Friday, August 20, 1993, in St. Louis, Missouri. Richardson touched on some of the reorganization and modernization programs currently underway at the Internal Revenue Service before speaking at length on improving compliance and implementing the new tax laws.
I am delighted to be here today for my first address to the National Society of Public Accountants. I wanted to take this opportunity today to tell you about some of the things at the Internal Revenue Service that I am most enthusiastic about; the areas of tax administration that we at the Internal Revenue Service are most concerned about; and the areas of tax administration and compliance that present the greatest joint challenges to both my organization and yours.
First, what I am most enthusiastic about as Commissioner:
Information Systems Modernization
Modernizing our 1960's vintage computer and information systems, through the almost $98 billion Tax Systems Modernization ("TSM") investment, is essential to our goals of improving both taxpayer compliance levels and the quality of the service that we at the IRS can provide to taxpayers. New technology resulting from our modernization efforts is already beginning to let us use electronic connections with businesses and individuals to move information faster and more easily for taxpayers and for us. Using an improved telecommunications network available as a result of TSM, front-line Internal Revenue Service employees will be able to provide faster and improved assistance to taxpayers and practitioners.
We are already using some of our new capabilities to assist the public. For example, within the past few weeks during the terrible flood here in the Midwest, we have been able to give business and individual taxpayers immediate access to information from their prior year returns to file refund claims and apply for disaster loans and other assistance, whereas in past years, all we could do was help taxpayers fill out the forms to get a copy of their paper return and tell them they had to wait at least six to eight weeks.
TSM can help us find better, faster and more economical ways to provide service to the public while letting us reduce taxpayer burden and increase compliance. Currently, it takes almost two years of processing before we can initiate contact with a taxpayer for a routine examination. Comparing information documents with returns taxpayers file also is a slow process. During this time we are taking and must take to get ready to contact taxpayers, penalties and interest could be accruing on potential deficiencies.
We look to TSM to enable us to complete the entire examination process for all but the most complex examinations within the first year after the return is filed.
Quality and Taxpayer Services
As I think you can tell from my discussion of our information systems modernization efforts, I am pleased with the overall focus of the Internal Revenue Service on quality and our efforts to improve services to taxpayers. While our systems modernization efforts will contribute greatly to our ability to improve the quality and the level of our taxpayer services, such improvements could not be possible without the dedication of our more than 110,000 employees to the goals of a Total Quality Organization.
Our emphasis on quality has resulted in many measurable successes, from our Ogden, Utah, Service Center's receipt of the only Presidential Award for Quality ever presented to a civilian Federal government agency to improvements in our accuracy rates in our responses to taxpayer telephone assistance requests.
Internal Revenue Service's Commitment to Partnerships to Improve Compliance
While I will talk later about our goal of improving compliance levels, I do want to mention now that one of the things I am most enthusiastic about is the strong sense of commitment within the Internal Revenue Service to working in partnership with both practitioners and state governmental agencies to improve compliance levels. …