by clicking on the page. A slider will appear, allowing you to adjust your zoom level. Return to the original size by clicking on the page again.
the page around when zoomed in by dragging it.
the zoom using the slider on the top right.
by clicking on the zoomed-in page.
by entering text in the search field and click on "In This Issue" or "All Issues" to search the current issue or the archive of back issues respectively.
by clicking on thumbnails to select pages, and then press the print button.
this publication and page.
displays a table of sections with thumbnails and descriptions.
displays thumbnails of every page in the issue. Click on a page to jump.
allows you to browse through every available issue.
FCW : March 30, 2016
Calling the IRS “arguably the most impor- tant federal bureaucracy in American life,” author David Foster Wallace spun a fictional tale of technological modern- ization, tedium and existential terror in “The Pale King.” The unfinished novel was edited and published after Wallace committed suicide in 2008. And the IRS’ own story of modernization remains a sometimes painful work in progress. The agency spends $2.5 billion annually on IT across more than 20 major systems, yet it still relies on a central data processing setup that went online in the 1960s to keep its revenue-collecting cogs turning. The problems are manifold: not enough money, politi- cal pressure, technical constraints, a lack of skilled tech professionals and the tax code itself. “We’ve got more IT challenges than you can shake a stick at,” IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said. He has asked for more money, and he’s hopeful he can push legislation to save the IT employees he’ll soon otherwise lose. But the code itself continues to knot up his plans. What taxpayers see — and what they don’t The IRS faces technology challenges on two fairly obvi- ous fronts: external and internal. THE TAXMAN’S TECH TROUBLES The IRS does a decent job of managing its tech investments, and Congress keeps a careful eye on it. So why isn’t the agency a model of fully modernized, high-tech government services? BY ZACH NOBLE The agency’s public-facing technology operates fairly well, with the exception of telephone support. About 80 percent of taxpayers file returns electronically, and although occasional hardware failures might throw a wrench into the system, they haven’t seriously hindered the processing of more than 150 million personal tax returns each year. “We’ve already made great strides,” Koskinen said. “Fifteen years ago, if you’d said 85 percent of people were going to file electronically, people would say, ‘Well, that’ll never happen. They don’t even have the systems to do that.’” Ancillary tools such as “Get Transcript” and “Where’s My Refund?” have been among the government’s most popular web offerings. “Get Transcript” was popular with cyber thieves, too. Hackers easily breached the system’s knowledge-based security screen in 2015 and compromised more than 700,000 taxpayer accounts. The IRS had to shut down the service but plans to revive it with new security features at some point. The systems that keep the IRS humming internally seem to be the bigger issue. The agency still relies on the Individual Master File, which started operating in the early 1960s, for its central data processing needs. The Customer Account Data Engine was supposed to swap current database technology for IMF’s magnetic tape, but the push to replace IMF has slowed to a crawl. “WE’VE GOT MORE IT CHALLENGES THAN YOU CAN SHAKE A STICK AT” 0330fcw_020-024.indd 20 3/9/16 9:31 AM
March 15, 2016
April 15, 2016