Three weeks into the clean-up effort following the massive flooding at its Washington headquarters, the Internal Revenue Service said that the office -- which houses some 2,700 workers -- won't reopen until early 2007.

"It's become very apparent that we're not going to be able to reoccupy the building until the first of the year," IRS deputy commissioner of operations support John Dalrymple said during a conference call with reporters.

A deluge in the Washington metro area over the weekend of June 24 and 25 left the subbasement and basements of IRS headquarters at 1111 Constitution Ave. submerged in more than 25 feet of water. An assistant regional administrator for the General Services Administration's Public Buildings Service, Bart Bush, said that more than 190 facilities in the area had been affected and that the Federal Triangle area was particularly hard hit.

Bart said that an estimated 3 million gallons of water were pumped out of the building over four days in late June, and that the first complete cleaning, decontamination and stabilization of the building was completed in early July. All of the damaged equipment, office furniture and supplies stored in the building's basement, as well as the drywall, has been completely removed, but it will take approximately a month before the infrastructure completely dries and rebuilding work can begin.

Dalrymple said that the flooding was caused by the building's moats becoming filled to capacity during the torrential downpour, and the corresponding water pressure caused several of the office's lower-level windows to break. That, coupled with the facilities' pumps struggling to keep up with the water that had already entered the subbasement and run-off water from parking garage entrances, led to the disaster.

The IRS is still waiting for final engineering reports right now, and both men said that estimates for the damage remain in the "tens of millions of dollars" now, until the scope of the damage, and what can be repaired and replaced, is determined. Dalrymple said that the chief cause of the lengthy delay to get back into the building is because of the lead time required to order specialized equipment such as air compressors, circuit breakers, and primary and secondary lines, directly from manufacturers. The hope is for some employees to be returned in stages to the building earlier.

The headquarters' some 2,500 tax attorneys, law enforcement agents and administrative staff have been shifted to another dozen offices the agency has in the metro area, more than 800 are working in temporary space at the Crystal Plaza, and many more are working from home for the time being. Dalrymple said that critical employees experienced very little disruption to their work schedules, and that the few workers not already back to work status are on their way

"The average taxpayer shouldn't feel this at all," Dalrymple said. "We're a very decentralized office [in many respects]. Return processing, audits, rulings -- all of those functions will continue as normal."

Previously on WebCPA:

Inside Views: Karma, Meet Taxman (July, 5, 2006)

IRS Offices Closed for at Least a Month (June 30, 2006)Flooding Shutters IRS Headquarters (June 29, 2006)

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