Taxpayer Advocate says IRS still struggles with public service

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  • National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson reports response times to incoming calls at the Internal Revenue Service remains the biggest challenge the agency has in dealing with the public. On Thursday, in her final report to Congress before retiring, Olson said the IRS is successfully processing most returns. But for those who need more help, Olson said the experience is challenging. For example, Olson said in the 2019 filing season, the IRS answered only 25% of calls from people looking for help. When they did answer, the average wait time was 13 minutes. Olson also found the IRS served fewer taxpayers who sought help at Taxpayer Assistance Centers, and continued its policy of answering only a limited scope of tax law questions on the phone and in person. (IRS)
  • The Interior Department said it will roll out a new telework policy next month. The department will require all employees previously-eligible for telework to report to their duty stations two full days each biweekly pay period. The new policy will also prohibit Interior supervisors from regularly using telework. Interior tells Federal News Network it was time to modernize its telework policy which first went in effect 2012. 21% of all federal employees telework, according to a 2018 report by the Office of Personnel Management. Of those who are eligible for telework, it said about 43% participate to some degree. (Federal News Network)
  • The Paperwork Reduction Act is the bane of many agencies’ existence when they want to collect data from companies or citizens. But the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs is trying to remove some of the complexity in compliance. It has released a new guide to make it easier to meet the requirements of the paperwork act , for example, estimating burden or explaining the different processes to get the data collection approved. The guide is at pra.digital.gov. (Digital Gov)
  • Multiple agencies are involved in dealing with a $19.4 billion backlog of deferred maintenance at the nation’s public lands and parks. The National Park Service estimated it’ll need $700 million a year to keep up with a growing number of road repairs and other infrastructure projects. Members on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee have expressed a bipartisan desire to address the maintenance backlog. For one, the Forest Service said it could use more resources and staff to help administer agreements with non-profits and other organizations who want to volunteer their services. (Senate)
  • Just when you thought federal labor relations could only get better, a new Senate bill would expedite terminations of federal employees. The bill sponsored by six Republican senators would repeal Section 4303 of Title Five, which underlies current employees’ rights in firings. The proposed Merit Act would extend the probationary period to two years, and cut the firing notice to 15 days. The bill would also limit employees rights to challenge furloughs or reductions in force. It would also strengthen protections against whistleblower retaliation. The bill was last introduced in 2018 in both the House and Senate but ultimately failed to advance. (Congress)
  • The Defense Department and Amazon have told a federal court there’s nothing wrong with DoD’s handling of the controversial JEDI Cloud contract. In separate court filings, the government and Amazon Web Services challenged Oracle’s claims that the multi-billion dollar cloud contract was tainted by conflicts of interest. Both deny that any former DoD employees who went to work for AWS did not improperly influence the acquisition process. They also argued federal law requires the department to issue the JEDI contract to only one vendor. The Court of Federal Claims is expected to issue a ruling in the case within the next month. (CRN)
  • The Navy said it has launched a new tool aimed at giving its best innovators a place to share their ideas. James Geurts. Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition, said the Naval-X platform aims to help the Navy adopt new tools more quickly. The Navy has also rolled out playbooks aimed at coaching its acquisition workforce on ways to connect with innovative small businesses that may be new to doing business with the federal government. 
  • The National Federation of Federal Employees says more than 1,100 Forest Service employees will keep their jobs. The Agriculture Department reversed its decision to close nine Job Corps Civilian Conversation Centers at the agency and move its remaining centers to the Labor Department. The plan to close the centers got bipartisan pushback from Congress, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. (Federal News Network))
  • After walking back plans to transfer its job corps centers, the USDA successfully picked up another facility from the Homeland Security Department. The two signed the agreement Thursday, transferring ownership and operational responsibility for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility to USDA. The facility will study diseases that threaten both agriculture and public health. (USDA)
  • The Government Accountability Office has denied the protest of the almost $3 billion contract NASA awarded to Leidos in February. GAO said Enterprise Services, which is also known as Perspecta, failed to make a strong enough case that NASA’s missteps were enough to prejudice its decision. GAO said they found no basis to conclude that Enterprise Services would have overcome Leidos’s significant evaluated advantage under the mission suitability factor or its lower price. Enterprise Services was the incumbent on the end-user services contract, winning the bid in 2010. Enterprise Services could still file a protest wtih the Court of Federal Claims, meaning the contract is still not out of the woods. (GAO)

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