IRS has aging workforce, service at risk: report

WASHINGTON Tue Sep 8, 2009 11:03am EDT

A man walks out of an Internal Revenue Services office after filing his taxes on Tax Day in New York, April 15, 2009. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

A man walks out of an Internal Revenue Services office after filing his taxes on Tax Day in New York, April 15, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Lucas Jackson

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Internal Revenue Service is struggling with an aging workforce where more than a third of its executives are eligible for retirement, a scenario putting its mission at risk, a government report said on Monday.

The U.S. tax collection agency "faces a loss of leadership and technical employees that could threaten its ability to provide American taxpayers the service they have come to expect," the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration said in its report.

The IRS employs about 106,000 workers, including 9,100 managers. Half of all employees are over age 50, and 39 percent of IRS executives are already eligible for retirement. The agency has said it would have to hire a manager a day for the next decade to keep up with attrition.

The assessment comes at the time when cash-strapped governments, including the United States, are stepping up enforcement of tax laws amid the global recession.

IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman has said tax avoidance and evasion by corporations and high-income taxpayers will be a major focus.

"The pending loss of institutional knowledge and expertise at all levels and the challenge of retaining a highly skilled workforce increase the risk that the IRS may not be able to achieve its mission," the report said.

The IRS has taken recent actions to stem the outflow, including new workforce goals set in an April 2009 strategic plan. Still, such efforts are not always strategic or coordinated across the agency, the report said.

The IRS, which collected $2 trillion for the federal government in 2004, agreed with the facts and conclusions of the inspector general, the report said.

(Editing by Maureen Bavdek)

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