U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) today introduced legislation to strengthen Internal Revenue Service (IRS) accountability for the billions of taxpayer dollars it spends each year to develop and maintain information technology (IT) systems.

“The IRS exists to serve taxpayers, and they need modern technology and a strong IT infrastructure to do that effectively,” Congresswoman Walorski said. “However, after repeated mistakes, failures, and excuses, the American people have lost confidence that the IRS can get it right. This bill will help close the trust gap by restoring accountability, reforming the acquisition process, and improving long-term strategic planning so taxpayers once again have an IRS that works for them.”

The IRS Information Technology Accountability Act (H.R. 5362) would improve accountability by codifying the role of the IRS’s chief information officer (CIO) and establishing clear responsibilities, including:

  • Developing and implementing a multiyear strategic plan for the IRS’s IT needs, to be updated annually and aligned with the overall strategic plan of the IRS.
  • Developing, implementing, and maintaining IT systems, and ensuring they are secure and integrated.
  • Coordinating with the IRS’s chief procurement officer to ensure all IT acquired by the IRS is consistent with these goals.
  • Maintaining operational control of all IT for the IRS.
  • Serving as the principal advocate for the IRS’s IT needs.

Further, the bill would clarify the definition of “information technology” and require the chief procurement officer to provide advance written notice of all significant IT acquisitions to the CIO. It would also require IRS to have an independent third party verify and validate plans for the completion of the Customer Account Data Engine 2 (CADE 2) and Enterprise Case Management (ECM) systems.

The IRS relies on several legacy IT systems, some dating back to the 1960s, but has struggled to complete major IT modernization projects despite spending approximately $2.4 billion annually on IT.

  • Nearly 10 years after the IRS began developing CADE 2, a new system for individual tax account data, it has spent more than $1 billion on the project, which is still years away from completion.
  • The IRS began developing a streamlined, centralized ECM system in 2015, to be implemented in December 2018, but last year the project was suspended in part because the IRS determined the software product procured for ECM could not support an enterprise-wide deployment.
  • Five years after embarking on the Return Review Program (RRP), a new fraud detection program, the IRS put the project into “strategic pause” in 2014, in part to answer basic questions about its purpose, direction, and role in the broader IRS vision. RRP is now operational, but it came in years behind schedule and hundreds of millions of dollars over budget.

Walorski highlighted these and other IRS IT modernization failures at a January hearing of the Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee. She also questioned IRS officials at a hearing in October about the no-bid contract awarded to Equifax following its massive data breach.