Frank Wolpe


Like America, our Internal Revenue Service is a work in progress. Yet, for best results, it’s better to avoid thinking too much about what it is or is not! Instead, let’s think more about what the IRS ought to be! This Article thusly offers a realistic path forward with new choices for a local presence, which once again makes it taxpayer/customer-centric. For more effective tax administration, it also offers a return to something that inexcusably went missing in 1998: senior-executive “on-site oversight” of field operations.

If today’s Internal Revenue Service can be fairly described as an exploding volcano of public mistrust and suspicion, which it undoubtedly is, how can we cap and fix it? That may not be an easy question; but there are reasonable answers and options.

To begin with, this Article encourages a bipartisan recognition that the local presence of grassroots IRS operations is more important to the taxpaying public than what thousands of Service bureaucrats do at their desks in Washington, D.C. With the harnessed vigor of our great nation, let’s therefore finally move forward to stop the continuing perception of the IRS as a not-so-helpful, dysfunctional and robotic agency. That means no longer surrendering to the tirelessly negative forces that work against good government. For too long we have settled for an IRS-bashing new normal, sadly accepted by very many good folks across our country’s multitude of cities and towns.

So, let’s finally stand up straight and begin to pay attention to the goodly case against the IRS failure to bring back more taxpayer-friendly and decentralized, senior-executive local presence, once again with pre-1998 style “on-site oversight,” to better balance and manage distant field-operations.

Mindful of that call, the curtain now rises on this Article’s central message, which in part tells the back story of what went so very wrong inside the IRS of 1998 and the years that followed. In that regard, the opening scene, which takes place circa 1998, is illuminated here more openly than elsewhere before.

Today, a seemingly fast eighteen years later in 2016, we discover that the agency from 1998 onward has still not fittingly accepted the challenge of restoring lost trust by, among other moves, reinventing lost, bottom-up, senior-executive grassroots local presence and field-accountability. Missing also from the story-line are: (1) the IRS’s not-yet-full recognition of a public right to more accessible, face-to-face, taxpayer/customer-centric opportunities; (2) reinvented, geographically cohesive and decentralized field operations; and (3) the IRS’s need for a willingness to be more flexible with its seemingly rigid fixation upon robotically administered, all-digital and impersonal, taxpayer-service information technology (IT.) Let’s, therefore, start playing the always good game of Lost and Found! Lost—the people’s IRS: Found—We shall see!

Nevertheless, none of this Rebuild IRS Initiative is intended to discount the value of numerous recent and praiseworthy IRS changes. Even so, without fresh nationally visible public outreach announcing gradual and non-disruptive structural change (as proposed herein), there are still too many uninspiring miles and years to go!

No longer, generally speaking, silent, we speak out now because none of us IRS followers should have ever innocently overlooked, consciously dissed or accepted silently an IRS 1998, critically flawed, structural reorganization. In its fundamental design, with the programmed end of local IRS presence, it moved the Service further away from “We the People.” Compounding that setback, nowadays, we are also faced with the new prospect of the Service moving even further away with an overpoweringly robotic, IT-driven, all-digital IRS. Though a digital IRS, as a helpful option, may be even a great advance, all-digital is just another step backward; and we can do better! Besides, such a future state of affairs is even more worrisome since “all-digital” is apparently central to the IRS’s current, long-range planning (according to reports about what is commonly referred to as the IRS “Future State”).

Included in

Tax Law Commons