TIGTA: IRS needs more focus on digital communications programs | Wbactive

The Treasury Department’s inspector general for tax administration said that the Internal Revenue Service’s Digital Communications for Taxpayers program, although it’s been in place for two years, could do more to improve communications with taxpayers, as he believes current efforts are a bit unfocused.

The most recent report found that since the initiative first launched in 2020, the IRS has implemented 11 program units that have enhanced digital communications, most of which involve secure messaging for various IRS units. According to TIGTA, while secure messaging is an integral part of government efforts to improve communications and modernize digital communications, few taxpayers have benefited from it, as several of these installations were designed and initiated for a relatively small number of expected users. It found that five of the 11 units were approved despite expecting 1,000 or fewer expected users. Two installations did not estimate their expected user volume at all in the risk assessment documents.

According to TIGTA, this shows that the IRS has been more focused on completing installations than maximizing its ability to communicate with taxpayers. Rather than proactively identifying IRS functions or operations that would demonstrably benefit from an improvement in digital communications, the service simply allows any IRS program, function or business unit interested in exploring enhancements to digital communications to express interest. In this sense, the program was implemented without any specific standards or analysis, much to the detriment of the IRS.

“TIGTA has determined that there are no performance measurements for the TDC program office. Additionally, none of the offices or programs involved in the TDC installations were required to provide cost-benefit analyzes and more thorough attempts should have been made to identify and consider input from external and internal stakeholders to identify the areas for improvement identify for which the consensus was strongest,” the report said.

Consistently updating measurable goals and objectives, TIGTA says, can provide a method for the TDC program office and affected functions to assess their success and development. In response to this question, inspectors were most often told that certain metrics or measures were not applicable to certain situations, or that the program and components had no quantifiable results. For example, seven of the 11 units installed to date do not track, or have not actively tracked, the number of authenticated taxpayers. In several cases, this number was not tracked separately because it had the same landing page on IRS.gov and the IRS cannot distinguish the install. However, taxpayers can only use the secure messaging tool if they are authenticated, making successful authentication an important measure of whether the taxpayer was able to use the secure messaging capabilities.

Overall, TIGTA said the IRS needs more action and metrics, not despite but because of the service’s financial limitations.

“Measurements of performance provide a way of determining what has been accomplished and whether or not an organization is meeting its stated goals and objectives. Setting goals and standardizing the assessment of deployment usage could provide a means to direct IRS resources to taxpayer segments or IRS functions for which Secure Messaging may have a better adoption rate. Given the limited resources of the IRS, it is important that the TDC program develops performance measurements linked to established goals or targets to assess whether improvements should be made,” said TIGTA, who added the same applies to cost-benefit -analysis.

TIGTA said the IRS should:

  • Use the lessons learned to extend digital communications to all taxpayers;
  • reassessment of the level of security required for TDC installations;
  • Development and implementation of an evaluation plan to evaluate the TDC program and its management of TDC installations;
  • Develop a method for gathering information from all stakeholders to determine why users may not be interested in TDC installations, what are the barriers to adoption, and how IRS staff can support taxpayer adoption. and,
  • Establish an office that would be responsible for coordinating and managing the expansion and use of digital communications between stakeholders.

The IRS said it was already following the first recommendation, citing regular meetings and roundtables to identify strategic issues, as well as its prioritization process and use of a process flow based on a case evaluation rubric. It also said it already follows the third recommendation and says they regularly monitor the program and use project-by-project measures to identify individual program success; Additionally, it objected to the implication that it does not use cost-benefit analyses, although TIGTA said its concerns are that these are not a matter of course. The service also believes it has already implemented the fourth recommendation, explaining that it uses multiple data collection tools as well as survey tools to gain insights into taxpayer needs and preferences. Regarding the fifth recommendation, the IRS said that the TDC program itself fulfills that role and therefore did not have to set up an entirely new office.
However, it agreed with the second recommendation and said it would reassess the level of security required for TDC installations


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