Watchdog says IRS unable to readily locate key files

The Internal Revenue Service could not find more than 10 percent of case files requested in recent audits, the Government Accountability Office said Thursday in a report that drew a congressional rebuke.

"The GAO's findings should be an embarrassment to the agency," Senate Finance ranking member Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, who requested the study, said in a statement.

IRS generates millions of paper or electronic files each year on tax returns, audits, investigations and other actions, often sending them to storage sites when closed. The Federal Records Act and other mandates require keeping the records ready for review.

But in a Sept. 28 report, GAO said an inability to find files often creates problems for the agency and taxpayers. The report says IRS' Wages and Income Division, in a recent review, could not provide 46 percent of 900 requested cases within 25 days to meet scheduled tax court dates. GAO cites several instances where the IRS filed liens for tax debts but lost the revenue when it could not locate original files for a hearing.

IRS' Centralized Case Processing Unit, which has 21 days to review closed cases, in a study last year found it received less than half the files it requested on time. GAO said the unit usually requests twice the number of files it needs to allow for those that are not located.

In two recent audits, IRS could not find 10 percent to 14 percent of requested files, while the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, in a similar study, did not receive 19 percent of files it requested. GAO noted that IRS at times takes on added costs to recreate lost files and in some cases burdens taxpayers by requesting additional information during that process.

The report did not examine in detail why the agency struggles to locate files, but said IRS lacks a process for ensuring cases are found quickly. GAO recommended IRS ensure program managers are responsible for files and create a tracking system, suggesting as an example a bar code process used by the Veterans Affairs Department.

In a written response, IRS Acting Commissioner Linda Stiff announced the creation of an internal working group to review records management procedures. Stiff said the group would "take into account" the GAO report.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.