IRS Should Be Doing More With Its Websites, GAO Says

By Joseph Marks

April 17, 2013

The Internal Revenue Service's Web tools lag behind other federal agencies and some state governments, especially its inability to give taxpayers secure online access to most of their records, a government auditor said Tuesday.

The tax agency has also been too slow to collect data on how people are using its current Web offerings and to plan upgrades accordingly,  the Government Accountability Office report said.

“IRS does not…have a long term strategy for enhancing its website that explains how its ongoing and new efforts fit together,” GAO said. “No overall cost estimate exists and there are not enough details on goals, deliverables, future online services, and timeframes to be able to assess progress.”

The auditor recommended IRS use analysis strategies developed by the General Services Administration to better match its Web development plans with taxpayers’ desires.

The vast majority of online information IRS provides is static, meaning it isn’t personalized for a specific taxpayer.

People can check the status of their refunds using IRS’ Where’s My Refund Web and mobile application and the agency facilitates online e-file and free file services. However, it does not yet give users online access to other personal tax information, saying it cannot securely authenticate taxpayers’ identities online.

IRS plans to offer those services by the end of 2013, GAO said.

Citizens can access significantly more personal information online regarding their social security and Medicare benefits, GAO said. California and New York also offer state taxpayers online access to personal tax information. 

(Image via Svanblar/

By Joseph Marks

April 17, 2013