IRS, Heal Thyself

After last fall's revealing GAO audit, tax officials say they've made progress following the watchdog's internal-controls recommendations.
Kate PlourdJune 11, 2008

In response to last fall’s Government Accountability Office criticism of the weak internal controls it found at the Internal Revenue Service, the tax agency has admitted some faults and detailed plans to address them.

The GAO called on the IRS last November to fix a slew of problems related to the “serious internal control and financial management deficiencies” that it found at the government agency.

The problems ranged from various risks involved with maintaining taxpayer receipts, to lacking detailed listings to track unpaid tax assessments, to its inability to ensure that employee travel was authorized before employees could travel.

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This May IRS commissioner Douglas H. Shulman penned eight pages of comments on the recommendations that the GAO made in the 2007 report, titled “Improvements Needed in IRS’s Internal Controls,” and covering IRS financial statements for 2006 and 2007.

Although Shulman notes that the IRS has already taken steps to improve many of the recommendations he writes that the agency is “committed to implementing appropriate improvements to ensure that the IRS maintains sound financial management practices.”

Among the weaknesses that IRS confessed to was the improper maintenance of tax payer receipts and receipts for transactions, such as tax exempt and government entity fee collection. The IRS said in the latest report that it has already started to review the proper procedures for tracking such receipts with appropriate managers.

Other steps that IRS said it had already taken were measures to stop its employees from unauthorized travel. The agency changed its travel booking system to prohibit employees from making reservations in its online booking tool unless the travel has been authorized.

IRS also said that it plans to adhere to the GAO’s recommendations on hiring juveniles, conducting proper background checks, and documenting manager reviews at its off-site taxpayer assistance centers.

The GAO said that it will evaluate the effectiveness of the each of IRS’s corrective plans, and would publish the results of that evaluation in its next IRS audit.