National Partnership for Reinventing Government
(formerly National Performance Review)


March 24, 1998, Vol. 4, No. 3

An Information Sheet for Federal Communicators, Managers, Workers, and Their Partners-Pass It On


* The IRS: Less Taxing?

* VA is Creating a Human Resource System That Will Work Better, Cost Less, and Deliver Results That Employees Care About (Not to Mention Taxpayers)

* NPR Experiments With New Work Environment

Reinventing Service at the IRS
The IRS: Less Taxing?

April 15 may be the date most Americans would like to forget, but now there's a date they may want to remember and even celebrate. On March 18, Vice President Gore and Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin released the eagerly-awaited recommendations of a 50-member Customer Service Task Force, most of whom were frontline employees. New Internal Revenue Commissioner Charles O. Rossotti said that the recommendations "will help us in creating an IRS that provides services that are consistently as good as those in the private sector."

Task Force member Marilynn Smith, a frontline worker from Kansas City, MO, said serving on the task force was the greatest honor of her life, but that co-workers said, "Yeah, yeah, another IRS task force, so what?"

"I told them this is different," she said. "This task force is headed by the Vice President of the United States...And there is a four-way partnership involved-the IRS, Treasury, the National Treasury Employees Union, and the NPR. And when NPR is involved, they make things happen. Even my Missouri co-workers can see a change in how we do business-and, believe me, that's saying something."

The Task Force's Recommendations
The report, "Reinventing Service at the IRS," is bound to inspire other government reinventors. It contains 200 specific steps to transform the IRS-all aimed at making sure every taxpayer is treated with respect and that customer service begins to meet the standards of the private sector. A number of the recommendations have already been implemented. They include Saturday hours during the tax season, extended telephone service hours, and increased telefile services. (The telefile program won the prestigious Innovations in American Government Award in 1997.)

Customers say they want to hear from IRS only when necessary. IRS identified 50 categories of notices (letters) that can be eliminated, and 33 have already been axed. In total numbers, IRS will eliminate 45 million out of the 140 million notices it sends each year. Customers told the task force that IRS letters and tax forms are too hard to understand. The agency will simplify and rewrite the remaining letters and tax forms using plain language.

IRS will no longer measure "success" with enforcement measures such as dollar goals, but will rate performance on customer service, employee satisfaction, and business results. "We want to get IRS off people's backs," Vice President Gore said.

IRS will also support customer service with modern technology, and will give employees the tools, training, and support they need to do their jobs-especially the employees who deal with the public.

How to Get Copies
The report is on the IRS web site under "What's Hot"at NPR links to the report from its site at You may purchase copies from the Government Printing Office for $9.50 each. The stock number is 048-000-00513-6. For more information about the task force, contact Bob Wenzel at (202) 622-7815.

VA is Creating a Human Resource System That Will Work Better, Cost Less, and Deliver Results That Employees Care About (Not to Mention Taxpayers)
Moved? Married or divorced? Changing insurance beneficiaries or coverage? Some 12,000 employees at 12 Department of Veterans Affairs locations are beginning to perform their own personnel actions simply by touching a computer screen or picking up a phone and using a personal identification number. By the end of the year 2000, VA expects that all employees will be using HR LINK$ to electronically access and change their records.

Recently tested by selected employees, including union representatives, at the 12 prototype sites, HR LINK$ is now available to all employees at those sites. Seven days a week, almost 24 hours a day, they can use a kiosk or a touchtone phone-through an interactive voice response system-to change personal information or pay records that range from Thrift Saving Plan allotments to tax withholding deductions. There are more than 20 transactions in all and customer service representatives will help employees learn and carry out the self-service functions.

Later this year, managers in the same location will initiate recruitment and classification actions on their desktop computers with expert systems. The mostly manual staffing and classification processes of the past can take months to create and fill a job. The new expert system will speed things up. Managers will select from a library of position descriptions to classify jobs. Employees will submit automated applications, which will be rated and ranked automatically at the new Shared Service Center in Topeka, KS. The SSC is the operational "link" in HR LINK$.

SSC Director Bruce Carruthers said, "I am reluctant to use the word 'empower' because it has become a stock term, but that's what this system does for employees and will eventually do for managers. It will enable them to perform their own transactions and to deal with workforce issues in a timely, cost-effective way." Taxpayers will see savings of $90 million in staff salaries over 10 years (that began with the project in 1995), against an initial investment of $70 million required to build the software and the SSC. And HR LINK$ eventually will be a "franchised" revenue producer that other agencies may want to use.

The volume of business-especially from employees seeking the help of CSRs-will determine the eventual staffing needs of HR LINK$. Currently the SSC is recruiting people with personnel management backgrounds. VA employees receive preference for SSC jobs and relocations expenses. For more information about HR LINK$, contact Bruce Carruthers at (785) 350-3700.

NPR Experiments With New Work Environment
NPR staff became guinea pigs in the General Service Administration's experiment with new work environments when we moved back into our recently-renovated offices last week. The new state-of-the-art office will allow staff to experiment with new ways to work together as a laboratory for federal office best practices. Featuring a substantial increase in "team" space and opposed to "personal" space, the office demonstrates mobile furniture and components plus new computer and phone systems. NPR is now well equipped to support innovative work practices such as telecommuting, interagency collaboration, and family-friendly and energy-saving work at home. The new configuration, tools, and virtual office approach will allow us to accommodate more agency representatives in the same amount of space.

All NPR phone numbers have changed except the main number, (202) 632-0150, and the fax, (202) 632-0390. Old phone numbers provide a voice referral to the new number. All e-mail addresses changed from "" to "" Start using the new e-mail addresses immediately. For more information on the work environment project, contact Jim Williams at GSA, (202) 205-0317, or e-mail:

National Partnership for Reinventing Government (formerly National Performance Review), 750-17th St., NW, Suite 200, Washington, DC 20006, Phone: (202) 632-0150. To subscribe by e-mail, write to . Put this message in the message block: EXPRESS-L FIRSTNAME LASTNAME (no period). For fax subscription, contact Pat Wood at or fax: (202) 632-0390. Also send reinvention stories to Pat.

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