A Federal Bill aimed at Updating the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)’s Decades-old IT systems sets out the Duties and Responsibilities of a New IRS Chief Information Officer, among other Modernization efforts. The Tax Agency’s IT systems are currently led by a Chief Technology Officer, who serves in a similar role as a CIO and reports to the Deputy IRS Commissioner for Operations Support. It also has Two Deputy CIOs, overseeing IT Operations and Strategy.
The Bill, H.R.5445, 21st Century IRS Act, introduced earlier this month by Rep. Mike Bishop (R, MI-8th District) and Approved last week by House Lawmakers by a margin of 414 to Three, comes in the wake of a day-long Hardware Failure at the Agency that Prevented Taxpayers from Filing Online Returns by last Tuesday’s Deadline. It is currently before the Senate. Among other Initiatives, the Bill codifies the Roles and Responsibilities of a New IRS CIO, to be Appointed by the Agency’s Administrator.
Under the Bill, the Agency’s New CIO will lead the “Development, Implementation and Maintenance” of all IT systems, while ensuring IT is “Secure and Integrated,” according to the House Version of the Legislation. The Position includes the Development and Implementation of a Multi-Year Strategic Plan that provides specific IT Performance Measurements, as well as an Annual Progress Report.
David A. Powner, Director of Information Technology Management issues at the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO), told CIO Journal last week that Federal Government IT Modernization efforts are often thwarted by the Short Tenures of Agency CIOs, who serve for just Two years on average. Like many Federal Agencies, he added, the IRS is struggling with Aging Backend IT systems, Tight Budgets, and pressure to offer better Front-End Services.
The House Bill also sets out Requirements for the Agency to Improve Cybersecurity and Taxpayer Identity Protection. “It’s been two decades since Congress has considered legislation to overhaul the IRS and we all understand the rapid changes our technology has experienced during this timeframe,” Rep. Bishop said in a Statement following the Bill’s Approval in the House. By Enhancing the Role of the CIO, among other efforts, he said the Bill was “an important step” in Overhauling the Agency’s IT Infrastructure.
Rep. Suzan DelBene (D, WA-1st District) said as a former Tech Industry Chief Executive she was “astounded to learn that the IRS is still using fax equipment to conduct regular business and has IT systems still running from the 1960s.” Rep. DelBene held a number of Roles at Microsoft Corp., including Corporate Vice President of its Mobile Business.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, the Tax Agency spent an average of $290 Million a year over the past Five years on IT Modernization. It said Provisions of the Bill aimed at Updating the Agency’s IT systems, Developing a System to provide Taxpayer Income Information to Authorized Users, and Expanding the Use of Electronic Information Systems “would have a significant cost” over the next Four years, though it has not yet completed an Estimate of those Costs.
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