Taxpayers to rate IRS employees' performance

Internal Revenue Service employees would be evaluated on how well taxpayers feel the employees have treated them, under the agency's proposal for a new performance management system.

Under the system, the IRS would focus on three measures to judge the quality of its work: customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction and business results. IRS Director Charles Rossotti proposed the new system in Tuesday's Federal Register.

"In addition to all other criteria required to be used in the evaluation of employee performance, all employees of the IRS will be evaluated on whether they provided fair and equitable treatment to taxpayers," Rossotti's announcement said.

Managers would be evaluated on how well their units performed in customer satisfaction surveys. Managers would also be rated according to the results of surveys of employees about the quality of supervision and the adequacy of training and managerial support.

"What the IRS is going to be looking at are the actions managers take to solve the problems employees identify," National Treasury Employees Union President Bob Tobias told Tuesday. "The proposed system is going to move the IRS toward both customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction. For the very first time, the IRS is going to evaluate itself on employee, customer and business results, and evaluate individuals in the agency on these three factors."

Customer satisfaction would be measured via questionnaires and surveys. Surveys for particular work units would be "distributed to a statistically valid sample of the taxpayers served by that operating unit and will be used to measure whether those taxpayers believe that they received courteous, timely and professional treatment," the IRS announcement said.

While customer and employee satisfaction measures would rely heavily on surveys, business results would be divided into quality and quantity measures. Quality measures would be determined by review teams sent out to examine the work of IRS units and assign numerical scores. Quantity measures would gauge outputs, such as the number of cases closed, work items completed, and hours expended.

The IRS reform bill Congress passed last year instructed the agency to develop a new performance management system after the IRS was roundly criticized for using enforcement goals as the main criteria for evaluating some employees. Those goals led to abusive treatment of some taxpayers, the IRS and Congress concluded.

The IRS is accepting comments on the proposed system through March 8. A public hearing is scheduled for May 13.

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