• Flexible mechanisms for accepting and processing tax returns;

  • An on-line database of information capable of handling most taxpayer interactions over the telephone; and

  • Powerful tools for improving taxpayer compliance.

Unfortunately, the IRS’s current technical systems development process for achieving these goals appears to be inadequate. Such a situation is consistent with the facts that the IRS has never before undertaken an effort of this magnitude and that its technology base was woefully antiquated when it started the development process.

The key elements to achieving the stated goals successfully are the following:

  • A clear vision of how the mandated activities of the IRS could be carried out in the future with the recognition that what is mandated may change (requirements definition);

  • A plan, both technical and organizational, for getting from the current state to the desired future state (the development process);

  • Leadership, from the Commissioner on down, that understands (at appropriate levels of detail) how to develop the information systems that are required to support the goals (leadership);

  • Technical expertise (internal or contracted) necessary to build the future model (technical expertise); and

  • Sufficient funding (funding).

These issues are discussed briefly in turn. In the remainder of this chapter, associated technical issues related to pertinent findings and recommendations are addressed in more detail.

Requirements Definition

Substantial progress has been made in the past 5 years on articulating a vision of future operations that uses information technology capabilities. The IRS developed, during this committee’s tenure, a business vision that stated concisely the overall goals of the modernization effort and a set of operational requirements derived from the needs of end users. For example, the Service Center Organization Study (SCOS) and the District Office Study (DOS) were conducted using modern business processing re-engineering (BPR) techniques in order to determine the present, near-term, and future needs of the operational units of the IRS. Those studies, responding to early Computer Science and Telecommunications Board recommendations,1 were used not only to reorganize the operational elements of the IRS, but also to define future skill and corresponding automation require-


Computer Science and Telecommunications Board, National Research Council. 1991 “Letter Report to Commissioner Fred T.Goldberg,” Computer Science and Telecommunications Board, Washington, D.C., August 21, p. 4.

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement