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Kerrey commission opens hearings, wants more satisfied taxpayers.

On September 10, the National Commission on Restructuring the Internal Revenue Service held its first public hearing in Washington, D.C. The commission, sponsored by Congressman Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Senator J. Robert Kerrey (D-Neb.), is charged with examining the IRS and coming up with solutions--such as using private contractors to perform agency functions--to create a more efficient tax collection system. Among the persons who testified before the commission were IRS Commissioner Margaret Milner Richardson, Lawrence B. Gibbs, IRS commissioner from 1986 to 1989, and Dr. Jack West of the American Society for Quality Control (ASQC).

Richardson said despite the waves of criticism, the IRS had made some progress in becoming more efficient and taxpayer friendly but the progress was "not enough." In "A Letter to the Profession," on page 42, Richardson speaks out about the affects of the budget cuts on the accounting profession.

One of the more vocal critics of recent IRS operations has been the General Accounting Office. In an earlier hearing, Lynda D. Willis, GAO's director of tax policy and administration issues, had told the restructuring committee the IRS faced formidable challenges, citing as its biggest problems its inefficient returns processing and collection methods, poor financial management, poor customer service and inadequate information technology.

Amid Criticism, IRS still needs funding

Former Commissioner Gibbs said it was not the first time the IRS had been under such heavy public scrutiny. Pointing out that tax administration was inherently complex and difficult because of the growth rate and complexity of the U.S. economy, he said, "We may be able to make tax administration easier and simpler, but it will never be easy or simple for the IRS or for taxpayers." He said to blame the IRS for the collective dissatisfaction for the difficult and constantly changing tax laws was irresponsible, and to fail to fund the IRS's efforts to deal effectively with those difficulties was imprudent.

Customer satisfaction

Dr. West told the commission the American customer satisfaction index, a quality index sponsored by the ASQC and the University of Michigan Business School, ranked the IRS lowest among any of the other 200 companies and government agencies measured by the index. He said the IRS's rating had dropped significantly from 1994 to 1996.

Senator Kerrey told attendees at the hearing that the commission would focus its efforts on modernizing the tax systems, improving internal management and accounting and increasing customer satisfaction.

Congressman Portman, agreeing, said, "The IRS affects the lives of all citizens, and we must ensure the service is doing a first-rate job in serving them." The commission's next meetings are scheduled for November 7 and 8, and its first report is expected next July.
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Title Annotation:Sen. Bob Kerrey, National Commission on Restructuring the Internal Revenue Service
Publication:Journal of Accountancy
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Nov 1, 1996
Previous Article:Small business act: S corporation relief and pension plan reform.
Next Article:IRS simplifies tax forms.

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