IRS tries to process 82 million tax returns by hand.greenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread
IRS tries to process 82 million tax returns by hand. This story speaks for itself. "The agency has 84 mainframes from four vendors, 1,500 midsize computers from 23 vendors and 100,000 individual computers. There are 11 different e-mail systems." href="http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/f/AP-The-Tax-Pipeline.html ">NY Times Story May 10, 1999
Paper Tax Returns Challenge for IRS
By The Associated Press
COVINGTON, Ky. (AP) -- At row upon row of desks and tables spread over seven clamorous acres in a warehouse-like brick building, hundreds of IRS employees are working ``The Pipeline.''
Teams of workers tear open thousands of tax returns, sort the paper and checks into slots at worn wooden tables, stamp a number on each by hand and then manually enter the sensitive financial information into computers.
These 2,500 people will process an estimated 10 million returns here this year the old-fashioned way.
In a quieter room at this IRS Service Center just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, in space the size of three side-by-side refrigerators, softly whirring computers do the same job with about 6 million electronic returns.
There's no chance of a lost check, a mistaken keystroke or a return placed in the wrong wooden slot. Nobody has to try to read a taxpayer's handwriting in crayon.
``Whenever you can have less paper, there's much less chance of error,'' said John Cosgrave, chief information officer at the Internal Revenue Service. ``It's a very big plus not only for us but also for the taxpayer who will see better service.''
The contrast between the Industrial Age paper processing that still dominates the IRS and the fledgling electronic method underscores the monumental technology challenges facing the nation's tax collector as it struggles to improve service.
On the eve of the 21st Century, the IRS still stores the ``Master Files'' for individuals and businesses on tape that can only be updated once a week, causing delays and other obstacles in retrieving information. Its mainframe computer hardware is state of the art, but it also uses a language dating to the early 1960s that is no longer taught at universities.
Like a house with various additions but no connecting hallways, the IRS has tried to overcome these shortcomings with new computers that don't always talk to the older ones. The agency has 84 mainframes from four vendors, 1,500 midsize computers from 23 vendors and 100,000 individual computers. There are 11 different e-mail systems.
Such deficiencies have a profound impact on taxpayers. For instance, someone seeking information by telephone about their tax account might be frustrated when an IRS employee can't find updated information, such as a payment mailed a week before. Or perhaps the employee can't answer a tax law question right away because the computers aren't linked to each other.
At the Cincinnati center, for example, IRS employee Sharon Darrell had to painstakingly negotiate through nine different computer systems -- each with its own password -- to answer questions for a professional tax preparer.
``We can only be into one system at a time,'' Darrell said. ``When we get a new system, it will take the work less time.''
Another limitation showed up earlier this year when the IRS tried to implement the new ``innocent spouse'' law, which ensures that husbands or wives won't be held liable for tax bills their partner is solely responsible for. The archaic tape ``Master Files'' at the Martinsburg, W. Va., computer center could not accommodate the law because it required that joint tax returns be split and tracked separately.
A separate file had to be created, meaning more cost and greater chance for error and delay.
IRS Commissioner Charles Rossotti calls the current situation ``fundamentally deficient'' and is embarking on a costly, long-term effort to replace the entire system and phase out the practice of keeping main taxpayer files on tape.
After years of false starts and billions of dollars wasted, the IRS last year awarded a contract to a consortium led by Computer Sciences Corp. to design a new system. Congress has put up $506 million initially for the job, but it is expected to cost tens of billions of dollars more.
Still, all the new computers in the world can't change the limitations of paper tax returns. Of the 111.5 million individual returns received through April 23 nationwide, 82.5 million of them are the old-fashioned paper kind.
At the Cincinnati center and the other nine like it, employees often hired for tax season at modest wages must wade through stacks of returns. It's difficult to ``scan'' returns into computers because people fill them out on manual typewriters, with ballpoint pens, even in crayon. Returns are bound by hand into large envelopes and left sitting in dozens of carts as they await processing.
That is why IRS is pushing hard for electronic filing of returns, with the ambitious goal of 80 percent of all individual returns by 2007. This year, that figure will reach 20 percent.
The agency hopes the combination of modernized mainframe computers and master files, better communication between the machines and employees who deal directly with taxpayers, and a majority of people filing electronically will gradually bring IRS into the Information Age.
``We want to do right by taxpayers,'' said R. Wayne Hicks, acting district director in Cincinnati. ``Sometimes the technology doesn't allow our employees to do all they want. Any system that allows us to do that will be welcomed.''
-- Alexi (Alexi@not-in-the-dark.com), May 10, 1999
Let me try the link again.
NY Times Story
-- Alexi (Alexi@not-in-the-dark.com), May 10, 1999.
What a bunch of fucking communists.
-- c. c. m. (email@example.com), May 10, 1999.
For newbies -- you don't owe income tax.
Two reasons why you may want to consider stopping withholding, quarterly payments, filing...
1) The IRS is likely to melt down. 2) YOU DON'T OWE THEM A FRICKIN' PENNY!
If you don't believe item 2), then refer to the site in line 2, or any of several other sites regarding "income tax".
-- A (A@AisA.com), May 10, 1999.
Here's an even better link to look at for the legality of income taxation. Contrary to most ploys about tax illegality, this angle has been exercised and shown to be effective each time. The big plus is you never get to court on it, because the IRS gets hog-tied and CAN'T GO TO COURT. Dig it.
-- (firstname.lastname@example.org), May 11, 1999.
Got myself so worked up, forgot to post the URL. Whew!
-- Globular (email@example.com), May 11, 1999.
Glob and All: Yes, http://www.taxgate.com is a very extensive site. The only problem is that there is so much information regarding the illegality of the income tax and how to deal with the gestapo, and the employers that stick their butts up in the air for them, that it can be a little intimidating.
Otto's site, http://goodbiz.com/tbks/ isn't as big, but ordering his book is well worth it, and lays everything out nicely.
-- A (A@AisA.com), May 11, 1999.