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Government Executive Editor in Chief Tom Shoop, along with other editors and staff correspondents, look at the federal bureaucracy from the outside in.

IRS Snail Mails at a Snail's Pace


The Internal Revenue Service too often fails to produce timely and instructive letters to individual taxpayers, according to a new report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

Not that every taxpayer is eager to open such missives, but efficient correspondence is a reasonable performance measure for such a key agency that received 20 million letters and forms in 2010.

In a statistical sample of 73 correspondence cases from the service's Accounts Management function, TIGTA auditors found that only 14 (19 percent) of taxpayers received timely and accurate responses within the required 30 days. IRS fared better in its Automated Underreporter program, where 100 percent of letters were accurate, but only 56 percent were timely. In correspondence from the IRS's Field Assistance Office, only 8 percent taxpayers received timely and accurate responses.

The IRS accepted the report's recommendations on the need to clarify its instructions to correspondence employees. But it rejected TIGTA's five-year projections and error rates, saying the audits were based on unrepresentative samples.


Charles S. Clark joined Government Executive in the fall of 2009. He has been on staff at The Washington Post, Congressional Quarterly, National Journal, Time-Life Books, Tax Analysts, the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, and the National Center on Education and the Economy. He has written or edited online news, daily news stories, long features, wire copy, magazines, books, and organizational media strategies.

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