Many have heard about the crisis in the number of government employees who are near or past retirement age and that there are not sufficient new hires to replace those retiring. This situation includes the IRS. More than half of the IRS workforce is age 50 or older, and 12% are already eligible for retirement. To keep up with attrition, the IRS needs to hire at least 5,000 employees in each of the next five years. In addition, the IRS fiscal year 2009 budget included a $300 million increase allocated specifically to enforcement activities.
The number of retirements and the increase in enforcement activities have created the need for the IRS to devote a significant amount of resources and effort to hire thousands of new employees in this fiscal year as well as in each of the next few years. The largest category for hiring is revenue agents, but other occupations include revenue officers, economists, computer audit specialists, special agents, and tax compliance officers.
To prepare for the future, the IRS has established a Workforce of Tomorrow task force that it launched in September 2008, with six areas of focus:
- Valuing and retaining people: Ensuring meaningful employee recognition, development, and strategies to retain the best talent;
- Enhancing the role of managers: Developing strategies to assist managers in mentoring, leading, and developing colleagues while addressing administrative burdens;
- Growing future leaders: Improving leadership planning and succession processes and focusing on development opportunities;
- Streamlining the hiring process: Improving process, automation, and policies to reduce the time it takes to fill positions;
- Attracting the best: Developing improved recruiting and career progression strategies; and
- Planning a dynamic hiring strategy: Building a flexible workforce plan that considers business trends and objectives.
IRS executive Beth Tucker led the task force of approximately 60 IRS employees. These employees came from all areas of the IRS and spent six months analyzing the current state of the workforce. The task force spent a great deal of time researching best practices and developing recommendations for improvement in each of these six areas.
Initiatives of particular interest to the tax professional community include:
- Improved revenue agent training: The first phase of training improvements was scheduled to begin in September 2009, with more extensive changes to follow in 2010.
- Centralized recruiting organization and strategy: Effective March 2009, a new organization oversees and coordinates these recruiting efforts.
- Detailed planning tool: Models will help the IRS make better decisions about employees’ occupations and locations.
- New hires: Approximately 4,000 external hires were made into enforcement positions during 2009.
The Workforce of Tomorrow report has been finalized and is available at www.irs. gov/pub/newsroom/wot_pub_4783.pdf.
The increased number of employees in all areas of the IRS and other activities within the IRS (including the commissioner’s preparer review) will create new challenges for tax professionals.
John Miller is a faculty instructor at Metropolitan Community College in Omaha, NE. Michael Dolan is with KPMG LLP in Washington, DC. Joe Marchbein is with Jack P. Fitter, CPA, APC, in Chesterfield, MO. Vance Randall is with Grantham, Poole, Randall, Reitano, Arrington, & Cunningham PLLC in Jackson, MS. Gerard Schreiber Jr. is with Schreiber and Schreiber in Metairie, LA. Mr. Dolan is immediate past chair and Messrs. Marchbein, Randall, and Schreiber are members of the AICPA Tax Division’s IRS Practice and Procedures Committee. For further information about this column, contact Mr. Miller at email@example.com.