Oh! The IRS What The People Want To Know

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"The quality of the IRS's inventory currently poses a high risk to the Y2K effort," IRS commissioner Charles Rossotti declared in a letter to House Ways and Means Committee chairman Bill Archer.

The letter was obtained by INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY.

IBD's John Berlau reports in an exclusive set for Friday editions that the agency has not conducted a complete Y2K inventory in many of its centers and offices.

And there are growing concerns over possible mistakes made at the IRS during its initial Y2K check.

Experts have "expressed concern that hardware and software missed on the IRS's inventory may cause failures that would hit taxpayers," writes Berlau.

Although the letter to Archer is dated Oct. 15, Rossotti "didn't mention the inventory problem in a major speech he gave this week to the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. He said then, 'In the area which is clearly critical to our whole economy, the tax system will continue to function, notwithstanding Y2K.'"

In the letter Rossotti admitted the IRS hasnt done a wall-to-wall-inventory of all IRS computers.

He wrote that the IRS plans to complete the inventories of major offices prior to Dec. 31 and is making progress in its contingency plans.

An IRS spokesman had no comment on the letter.


-- Susan E. Barrett (sue59@bellsouth.net), October 31, 1999


Um... how can their system be remediated, tested, debugged and compliant if they don't even know how many computers they have?

-- lou (theknowzone@worldnet.att.net), October 31, 1999.


Obviously, they can't ALL be remediated and tested. But there seems to be an unspoken assumption here that all IRS systems are of equal importance, from the largest mainframe to the old Apple II in the closet somewhere.

How likely is it, do you suppose, that some absolutely critical IRS function is being performed by some PC they haven't even found yet? I'm not saying it's impossible, I'm asking how likely it is? No, it's not the greatest situation to know that someone somewhere may be doing something with a computer you haven't inventoried. But this doesn't mean that your critical systems are necessarily hosed. In fact, it's probably irrelevant.

I know Gary North is hollering that because there are some IRS computers they haven't inventoried, that *therefore* the IRS cannot function at all. But this is like saying that if you haven't inventoried every dish in your kitchen, you can't eat. It's silly.

-- Flint (flintc@mindspring.com), October 31, 1999.

Dishes have the nice advantage of being completely independent of one another. If you don't have a bowl for your spinach, you can always use a plate. If you don't have a big enough plate, you can simply take smaller portions.

It's different with computers, Flint....

61 days.


-- Jack (jsprat@eld.~net), October 31, 1999.

I've not flamed yet, but today I shall.

Flint, you're a dork and a moron.

That has to be a record for the most assinine post you've put up yet. You've made a leap and an assumption that the IRS' $40,000 per year programmers have fixed over 50 Million lines of code in less than 18 months. Even for you, that is a reach. But then again, it's people like you who I will laugh at and slam my door on come next year.


-- John Galt (jgaltfla@hotmail.com), October 31, 1999.

Flint there is some logic to what you say. But for me, I have no confidence in the IRS. Didn't they blow $4 billion on a new system that they could never get working?

-- (rcarver@inacom.com), October 31, 1999.


We have read repeatedly that the major problem faced by the IRS is that they have so many diffeent "stovepipe" systems. This are explicitly systems that are NOT tied together in any way. They are independent of one another. This isn't a y2k problem per se, this is the problem rcarver referred to that the $4 billion effort was supposed to fix. The IRS's right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing. Your argument is not only wrong, but your error has been documented in great detail for over a decade.

John Galt:

All I can do is ask that you read my post. You know, the actual words in it? I wrote specifically of the likely effect of the uninventoried computers. I suggested that these computers may be irrelevant to the main thrust of the IRS's remediation task. I didn't say, nor even imply, that the IRS has successfully remediated their critical systems. I would be astounded if they have come even close. I don't think it's possible for them to be even close. I only said it's unlikely that the uninventoried computers have anything to do with this one way or another.

Your determination to insult me for what I did NOT say has slammed the door on your own ability both to read and to think. Like Jack, you should try again. At least Jack's error may have been caused by lack of background knowledge. Your error is sheer blindness.


I don't have any confidence in the IRS either. As I understand it, that $4 billion, 11-year effort was a matter of chasing a moving target, losing territorial battles at every turn. Wasn't it IBM who quit that project, saying "Every time we asked a question, we got a different answer"?

Personally, I feel a bit safer that the IRS is so decentralized and disorganized. If that centralized system had worked as intended (or as at least one person originally envisioned, considering that the intent kept getting redefined), it would have made the IRS just a bit too powerful for my comfort.

But there's a big difference between people not agreeing on what a system is supposed to do (and changing goals day to day), and getting current systems to do what they do now with a manageable incidence of date bugs. Not that I think they can do that either, mind you, but I doubt the two problems are very comparable.

-- Flint (flintc@mindspring.com), November 01, 1999.

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