Tech initiatives that keep the IRS and its data secure while improving processes and interactions for the taxpayer are key as the agency drives toward even more modernization.
Deputy Chief Information Officer for Operations Kaschit Pandya told the Government Technology & Services Coalition’s IRS Days 2022 that the goal is “keeping ourselves not just current but forward-facing.”
“We know we need to make the change happen and we need to make it fast,” he said, not only looking at what technology is delivered and applicable but “how do we get those technologies implemented and providing the services based on those technologies.”
The COVID-19 pandemic brought challenges “but we also learned from it” as remote work and the additional IRS duty of processing economic impact payments “underscored the role of modernization.”
Through synchronous engagement and a more robust conversation with industry, the IRS and its partners can work on achieving the same goal, he said. “We do rely on our vendors and need to make sure our vendors know where we are headed.”
Pandya said the IRS has built applications using programming languages introduced several decades ago but those applications reside on the latest hardware. “We have kept ourselves current,” he added. “We have taken steps to modernize when and where funding is accessible,” and “we are always going to continue building on that going forward.”
No matter the tech solution, cybersecurity “is in everything we do – for us, security is baked in, not bolted on,” he stressed.
Initiatives being actively pursued include consideration of how cloud technology fits in with various services, microservices containers, enterprise case management, and AI and machine learning – “we know and see the value” of AI/ML playing a role in the IRS’ tech future. “We need to focus on digitalization,” the deputy CIO said. “Digital transformation has certainly been a priority; now there’s an urgency associated with that priority.”
Pandya recommended that industry partners looking to help fill the IRS’ IT needs think of not simply replacing one product but “think of how your product may be complementary or fills a gap we currently have.”
“When you do engage with us, we are very focused on footprint reduction, reducing hardware applications,” he said. “Help us understand how your product will help us take out other products.”
The Taxpayer First Act focused on improving the overall taxpayer experience through modernization, transparency, and better communication between the IRS and taxpayers. “From a technology perspective, how do we provide the services for all of those is key,” Pandya said.
“Taxpayer experience is really the cornerstone of the IRS mission,” Assistant to the Chief Taxpayer Experience Officer Annette Jones said.
The Taxpayer Experience Office works toward improving how interactions with the IRS can be self-service or digital and how seamless of an experience these interactions are for taxpayers and tax preparers, and on proactive outreach and education including reaching underserved communities and addressing barriers that some face in getting access to tax information and services.
Through analytics, an agency-wide understanding of the taxpayer experience and digital trends can be identified to ultimately “create the best overall experience for the greatest number of taxpayers,” Jones said, with interactions that are personalized, efficient, convenient, and secure.
For example, callback technology means less time waiting on the phone, while multilingual advances could allow taxpayers to receive communication from the IRS in their preferred language.
Jones said a priority for the office is achieving capabilities for easy and secure ways to access tax information in personal accounts and offering a 360-degree view of a taxpayer account so that an IRS employee can see it from all angles – reducing the burden on taxpayers and hopefully speeding up resolution of taxpayer cases.
Goals include providing online services for large, small, and international businesses; delivering digital notifications personalized in an online account with secure document exchange to upload and access documents through those accounts; helping more taxpayers file more online and increasing paperless processes by making all tax forms available digitally; employing advanced data analytics to understand taxpayer needs and encourage compliance; and expanding payment options to make it easier for people to pay their taxes – perhaps even in bitcoin.
Pandya said policy on accepting cryptocurrency is “going to depend on legislation – what we are asked to do” and what is mandated.