IRS budgets $291M on technology for tax reform
The Internal Revenue Service plans to spend close to $300 million to implement the new tax law, including approximately $20 million for an estimated 450 new forms, instructions and publications.
According to a spending plan posted by The Wall Street Journal, the IRS intends to update 140 of its computer systems to handle the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The agency is estimating it will require 542 additional hours of employee effort to modify its existing tax-processing systems to incorporate the many changes to tax credits, deductions and brackets, as well as establish new system functionality and workflows, manage programs and integrate services, and facilitate tax reform human capital planning, acquisitions, and financial planning.
Congress set aside $320 million of the IRS's budget of $11.4 billion this year in order to handle the new tax law. The IRS is estimating that its customer service assistors will need to answer 4 million additional phone calls to maintain their current level of service, representing a 17 percent increase over fiscal year 2017.
Training and familiarizing employees to answer questions about the tax overhaul will be key. For taxpayer-facing employees who answer the phones and handle walk-in appointments at Taxpayer Assistance Centers, the IRS expects to conduct approximately 40,000 hours of training on the various provisions and changes at a cost of about $1.8 million. The estimate also includes costs for the IRS Chief Counsel to review the training materials and provide interpretative advice, the IRS noted.
The IRS also plans to conduct extensive outreach to help prepare small businesses and tax preparers, in addition to training its employees about the new tax rules. The IRS typically holds more than 1,000 outreach events a year to educate thousands of taxpayers and tax professionals. “We expect the number of events and participants to significantly increase as a result of tax reform,” said the IRS.
The IRS intends to do outreach through both traditional media and social media. The agency anticipates increased interest and participation at its main events this year. It noted that early registration at this summer’s IRS Nationwide Tax Forums is already running 10 to 15 percent ahead of last year. “We anticipate requests for face-to-face events will increase 25 to 30 percent, particularly after more published legal guidance comes out in the weeks and months ahead,” said the IRS.
In the meantime, the IRS is continuing to consolidate its processing centers in response to continued increases in electronic filing. According to a new report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration that was released Monday, IRS management announced plans in 2016 to further consolidate Tax Processing Centers from five to two by the end of fiscal year 2024 as a result of the continued decreases in paper-filed tax returns. The IRS anticipates using the projected five-year cost savings of about $266 million to focus on taxpayer service, tax enforcement and information technology.