TIGTA calls for improvements to IRS volunteer tax prep program database

BY ALISTAIR M. NEVIUS

The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) reported Monday on its study of the IRS’s monitoring of volunteer tax preparation services (TIGTA Report No. 2012-40-021 (2/23/12)).

The IRS has developed a database, the Stakeholder Partnerships, Education and Communication Total Relationship Management System (SPECTRM), to monitor the performance of organizations that provide free tax preparation to certain taxpayers. Volunteer programs, including Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE), prepared more than 3 million tax returns in 2011.

SPECTRM was deployed in 2010, and TIGTA said it has successfully integrated older systems the IRS used before and has improved data collection. However, because data must be manually entered into the new database, TIGTA found problems with timeliness and accuracy.

In its audit of 135 volunteer program sites, TIGTA found that data in SPECTRM from 67% of the sites audited did not match data on the programs’ forms. In addition, of the 135 files associated with the 135 sites, 134 files (99%) were incomplete, with missing or incomplete forms.

TIGTA also found that SPECTRM does not maintain historical data and is only a “snapshot of current operations.” It also does not record information on all the activities of the volunteer programs.

Overall, TIGTA said the implementation of the SPECTRM database was successful and it has improved access to volunteer program information. TIGTA recommended that the IRS modify SPECTRM to accept uploads of electronic forms and to require that information entered into the database be periodically reviewed. The IRS agreed with the recommendations.

Alistair M. Nevius ( anevius@aicpa.org ) is editor-in-chief, tax.

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