Gore: Reform IRS From Inside

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Vice President Al Gore yesterday announced a plan to overhaul customer service and management at the IRS by relying on employees and managers to reform the agency.

"We don't need to, and should not, turn the IRS over to a board of outsiders," Gore said. "We need to fix it."

Gore announced the creation of a task force on customer service, to be led by IRS employees, including representatives from the National Treasury Employees Union, the National Performance Review, and top officials from the Treasury Department. Thirty IRS employees will be chosen for the panel from around the country. The task force will review customer complaints against the IRS and propose solutions within 90 days.

Gore said American taxpayers deserve "an IRS that is modern, flexible and responsive to the needs of its customers."

In addition, Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, at a press conference with Gore, proposed a new IRS Management Board to analyze and revamp the way the agency is run. Officials from IRS, the Office of Management and Budget, the Office of Personnel Management and NPR would be included on the board.

To help the IRS incorporate sound business practices into its management plans, Rubin also proposed an advisory board made up of private-sector leaders.

Rubin said his own department should be held accountable for IRS operations. He recommended that the Treasury secretary and deputy secretary appear twice a year before Congress to prove they are fulfilling their oversight obligations. In addition, he suggested that the IRS commissioner be appointed to a five-year term "for greater continuity of leadership and an improved focus on ongoing management."

While the IRS will rely on a private contractor to oversee its systems modernization, under the Gore proposal the agency will depend on its own employees and management to improve agency operations.

"This approach to looking to front-line employees for innovative solutions has worked well for us in reinventing government," Gore said.

National Treasury Employees Union President Robert Tobias applauded Gore for his faith in federal employees, but chided the IRS for saying it may continue with a plan to lay off up to 1,600 IRS employees despite the union's objections.

"Clearly, Vice President Gore, President Clinton and Treasury Secretary Rubin recognize the value of labor and management working in partnership to create agencies capable of delivering the highest quality of services to the American people," Tobias said. "Unfortunately, it appears IRS management for now has abandoned partnership."

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