Studies conducted by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration over the past two tax filing seasons criticize the Internal Revenue Service's use of training programs.

The report came out of the Government Accountability Office on Aug. 11, having been requested by two Democrats -- Senate Finance Committee member Max Baucus, of Montana, and Sen. Byron Dorgan, of North Dakota. Both Baucus and Dorgan questioned whether the IRS knows if the new training programs are helping.

"The IRS cannot keep blindly throwing money at training without seeing the results," said Baucus, in a statement. He encouraged the IRS to develop a strategy to guarantee that the agency is using its resources to effectively improve service to taxpayers.

The report suggests that the IRS could be wasting millions of dollars on ineffective employee-training programs to assist taxpayers over the phone and at the agency's Taxpayer Assistance Centers. Although the IRS cannot separate the costs of training tax law assistors from other assistance staff, the thousands of staff devoted to providing tax law assistance receive training each year, and the report says that they could benefit from a more centralized system. The report also said that the IRS did not have data on what is likely the largest cost component -- the value of staff time devoted to tax law training.The full report is available at www.gao.gov/new.items/d05782.pdf.

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