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IRS Makes Progress With Hiring, Training to Implement New Tax Law

Agency had to update 202 tax products and change 128 information technology systems.

With the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act now fully in force, the Internal Revenue Service has made solid progress in remaking forms, hiring and training, according to a final review issued last week by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

The watchdog’s examination of 26 key provisions of the law found that the agency had to create 48 new tax products, revise 494 existing products, and perform computer programming changes affecting 128 information technology systems housing its tools for combating tax fraud.

In updating 202 tax products last year, the IRS created three new forms and related instructions, TIGTA found. As of Nov. 26, the agency had updated and released drafts of 158 of 169 such products, though it still had adjustments to make on the common form 1040 in areas such as divorce, the report said. The main form, despite some missed deadline milestones, was released in December, weeks ahead of the start of filing season.

“The IRS has developed an overarching communication outreach strategy to inform stakeholders of tax law changes resulting from the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,” TIGTA noted. An August 2018 update of the approach was built around six tax communities—individuals, small businesses, mid-size businesses, large and international businesses, tax-exempt organizations and taxpayers involved in opportunity zones.

In hiring, the IG reviewed an IRS plan set last year to bring on 3,021 seasonal employees to answer phone and resolve account questions. Managers worked with a Treasury Department budget of $75 million to hire 1,000 full-time equivalents. As of Dec. 1, 2018, IRS had onboarded 2,669 (88 percent) of the planned hires. “However, IRS management noted that if the additional funding is not received, they will release their seasonal employees earlier,” the report said.

The training curriculum delivered in mid-February consisted of up to 10 weeks of training based on the job duties of the tax examiners and up to 16 weeks of training for customer service representatives. It was a combination of instructor-led training, guided in-classroom self-study and on-the-job instruction, TIGTA said, adding that 5,227 current employees will also receive new training.

Also, the IRS plans to hire 122 employees to assist taxpayers at 82 of the 359 Taxpayer Assistance Centers, though a specific schedule had not been set.

TIGTA recommended that the IRS redesign the 1040 form to address divorce and separation reporting, and agency managers agreed.