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MSP #15: Virtual Service Delivery

Despite a Congressional Directive, the IRS Has Not Maximized the Appropriate Use of Videoconferencing and Similar Technologies to Enhance Taxpayer Services

TAS Recommendations and IRS Responses

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1.

TAS RECOMMENDATION #15-1

Maximize the benefits of VSD in brick and mortar locations currently equipped for videoconferencing by offering VSD services from all such facilities on a day-to-day basis and by enhancing the scope of activities that taxpayers can undertake in conjunction with videoconferencing.

IRS RESPONSE TO RECOMMENDATION: The IRS has an established methodology to optimize the use of existing VSD videoconferencing devices including those located in TACs that are owned by other organizations (Appeals, TAS, and Compliance). The IRS also analyzes the use of VSD in external partner sites for optimization. The existing VSD technology is outdated therefore, enhancing the scope of activities that taxpayers can undertake in conjunction with videoconferencing requires additional Information Technology costs. Those costs must compete with other IRS priorities for funding. The IRS has decided to invest future available resources in virtual technology supported by the CONOPS. This vision includes taxpayers using their own devices to interact with the IRS online enabling the IRS to serve a greater number of taxpayers.   

CORRECTIVE ACTION: N/A

TAS RESPONSE: To the best of TAS’s knowledge, the experience of taxpayers using virtual service technology in brick-and-mortar locations has not improved since the National Taxpayer Advocate’s published recommendations in the 2014 Annual Report to Congress. Further, meaningful improvements are unlikely to occur in the absence of a funding commitment by the IRS, which has so far been lacking. Though the IRS is currently allocating funds to development of TDC and other online initiatives, it should not pursue this progress in a way that, even in the short run, fails to protect low-income or other populations who may lack either access to technology or expertise in its use. Even if the IRS makes a resource-based determination to forgo expanding the coverage and functionality of VSD in brick-and-mortar locations, at a minimum, the IRS should allocate existing technology to other functions or programs so as to maximize geographic coverage and day-to-day usage.

ADOPTED, PARTIALLY ADOPTED or NOT ADOPTED: Not Adopted

OPEN or CLOSED: Closed

DUE DATE FOR ACTION (if left open): N/A

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2.

TAS RECOMMENDATION #15-2

Establish development and implementation of TDC as one of its highest ongoing priorities.

IRS RESPONSE TO RECOMMENDATION: A cross-functional task force of executives created a 5-year vision for customer service with the mandate to:

  1. provide better service to taxpayers and
  2. deliver service more efficiently.

The Service Approach identified projects and prioritized implementation sequenced projects according to dependencies and laid the framework for portfolio management. This Roadmap was delivered to the IRS Commissioner in January 2015. We identified several fundamental programs that were essential in making the overall strategy successful and TDC has been named a priority program for the agency, and will deliver secure messaging, text chat, video chat, voice chat, and screen-share capabilities supporting customer service interactions between the IRS and taxpayers.  As a building block for future services delivery, we currently have four secure messaging pilots planned that will incorporate one-way and two-way digital communication with planned deployment tentatively scheduled for calendar year 2016.  As part of the post-pilot evaluation, we will evaluate the technology, collect taxpayer feedback, and determine internal business reengineering impact.  We are currently assessing the impact and effect of TDC to the Enterprise and anticipate the assessment to be concluded over the next few months. It is expected TDC will play a pivotal role in future customer services.  Another priority service digital initiative, Online Account, will enable taxpayers to use the internet for expanded self-service options as an effective alternative to telephone and face-to-face contacts. The first self-service options under consideration are focused on tax payments and digital transcripts. TDC and Online Account will expand the use of digital communication as an effective service channel for both taxpayers and the Service.

CORRECTIVE ACTION: N/A

TAS RESPONSE: N/A

ADOPTED, PARTIALLY ADOPTED or NOT ADOPTED: Adopted

OPEN or CLOSED: Closed

DUE DATE FOR ACTION (if left open): N/A

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3.

TAS RECOMMENDATION #15-3

Develop and publish a definitive plan for the continued rollout of both VSD in brick and mortar locations, including non-IRS facilities, and TDC, and articulate concrete dates for implementation at different stages.

IRS RESPONSE TO RECOMMENDATION: Process preparation and configuration planning for the TDC pilots outlined in 15-2 above will inform detailed planning for broader release of TDC capabilities. Post pilot expansion will consider additional supported processes, locations, TDC communications channels, and IRS business units. A more complete roadmap will be developed in early CY16.  Earlier roadmap development is not possible until specific vendor technologies and architecture are finalized during the remainder of CY15.   

CORRECTIVE ACTION: N/A

TAS RESPONSE: TAS applauds the IRS for the transparency it has provided regarding its TDC and related initiatives and for its planned publication of a “roadmap” as the technology matures sufficiently.  TAS strongly urges, however, the IRS reemphasize the development and expansion of videoconferencing in brick-and-mortar locations.

ADOPTED, PARTIALLY ADOPTED or NOT ADOPTED: Adopted

OPEN or CLOSED: Closed

DUE DATE FOR ACTION (if left open): N/A

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4.

TAS RECOMMENDATION #15-4

Allocate funding, or seek funding from Congress, sufficient to enable continued implementation of VSD initiatives in brick and mortar locations and over the Internet.

IRS RESPONSE TO RECOMMENDATION: VSD is very much a part of our future plans, and, as such, we will seek funding for its continued implementation.  The allocation of VSD initiatives to brick-and-mortar locations or over the internet  will be based on how taxpayer needs evolve and the ability to virtually interact with taxpayers.

CORRECTIVE ACTION: N/A

TAS RESPONSE: TAS’s understanding is the IRS’s TDC and related initiatives are funded, which is commendable, particularly given current limitations of financial resources.  The IRS has repeatedly delayed the TDC pilot as a result of procurement and security issues for the last two years.  The National Taxpayer Advocate is concerned about the IRS’s inability to achieve what so far have been only tentative and aspirational action items and target dates.

ADOPTED, PARTIALLY ADOPTED or NOT ADOPTED: Partially Adopted

OPEN or CLOSED: Closed

DUE DATE FOR ACTION (if left open): N/A

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