Vice President Al Gore Speaking On IRS Changes
March 18, 1998
GORE: Thank you very much.
Thank you very much.
Thank you, thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen.
And Marilyn, thank you. That was such a...
... a great (audio gap)
GORE: You know, Mr. Rissotti (ph) of Maryland is the typical
member of this...
... task force. I want to get to know this whole task force.
And in fact, I already do. I've had a chance to work with
you -- especially at the beginning of your labors here, and I
want to compliment all of you.
We'll get to that in just a moment.
I want to thank Marilyn for the enthusiasm that she embodies
as a representative of those of you who've been on this task
force. And I also want to thank her as a representative of all
the employees at the IRS.
Your dedication and your constant desire to fix the problems
that have been around for a long time, after all, and that the
-- a lot of people don't understand that the employees want to
fix these problems more than anybody else.
A taxpayer encounters these problems at tax time. The
employees are on the other side of those encounters constantly.
And so they really -- they really want to see the improvements
And I am so grateful to Secretary Bob Rubin for his
leadership at the Treasury Department in putting together a team
and a structure that, after so long, finally is generating the
movement in the right direction to really solve these problems.
Without Secretary Rubin's leadership, none of this would have
happened. And I want to thank his deputy, Secretary Larry
This is -- in my opinion -- this is the best team that the
United States of America has ever had at the Treasury
Department. And of course, they do a lot of things in addition
to trying to get IRS fixed.
They also are managing this incredibly complicated
international financial situation. And all over the world, the
finance ministries and leaders of other countries and markets in
other countries, they all say thank goodness we have the kind of
leadership at the Treasury Department in the U.S. that we have
from Secretary Rubin and Deputy Secretary Summers. So thank you
both for what you're doing. We appreciate it very much.
And Commissioner Rossotti, Charles Rossotti, came on board as
a reinventor, somebody with practical real-world experience, and
thank you for agreeing to take on the challenge. You're making
a tremendous difference, and none of this would have happened
without you also. So I really do appreciate it.
And Assistant Secretary Nancy Killefer in the management
side, and Bob Tobias. I'll say more about Bob in just a moment.
And Bob Winsell (ph), who is the co-chair of the commission
and head of the Taxpayer Treatment and Service Improvement
Program, thank you very, very much.
This group has helped the IRS rediscover its last name:
"Service." And as a group that's made up more of front-line
employees than anyone else, it can draw on practical experience.
In fact, we made sure that more than half of the members of
this task force were front-line IRS employees, because that's
where the ideas are. And also, if the front-line employees
don't support the changes, then you would see them go the way of
a lot of task force recommendations.
They would be ignored or sabotaged, or just, you know, not
ever really make a huge difference.
It is much likelier they will support changes that are
constructive and good and positive if they've had a chance to
help craft them in a way that meets the common sense test.
And let me thank Bob Tobias for his role in this as president
of the Treasury Employees Union. He urged all of the union
members to support this effort. He helped us find some of the
best IRS reinventors to name to this task force. And then, he
spent countless hours helping the task force review
recommendations from literally thousands and thousands of
We need more of this kind of labor-management cooperation.
And I would say it is the single greatest reason for our success
Now, as we all know, this is the very height of the
tax-preparing and tax-filing season.
And when Americans sit down at their kitchen tables to fill
out those tax forms, they have a right to know that their
government is working for them and not against them.
With the president's taxpayers bill of rights and with
Secretary Rubin's hard work over the past two years, we have
made an important start.
Today, we take the next critical step, because today I'm
pleased to present the final report of our IRS Customer Service
Task Force, which is called "Reinventing Service at the IRS."
We're really proud of the work that this task force has done.
It's practical; it's effective; it's going to make a big
It includes 200 recommendations that will reinvent the way
the IRS serves our taxpayers.
We believe that it will make the tax season easier and faster
-- and in some cases, cheaper -- for average American families.
Many of these recommendations are already under way and they're
This year, we have seen an increase of almost 25 percent in
the returns filed by computer. We've seen an increase of more
than 25 percent in the number of returns filed by push-button
IRS Worldwide Web site hits have nearly tripled to 167
million this year.
And people are downloading material from the IRS Web site at
five times the rate of last year.
This is a revolution in progress and it's picking up speed.
Clearly the public appreciates the alternative approaches
that have been created for dealing with the IRS.
So today, I want to highlight from our report -- out of the
200 recommendations, I just want to highlight five specific
steps that we are taking to make a dramatic difference in the
quality of customer service at the IRS.
Of course, I commend for you the other 195 recommendations
These folks have worked very hard on all of them.
But just to take five of them. Number one, starting two
weekends ago, more than 150 IRS public offices are opening their
doors on Saturdays, and the IRS will continue to offer this
Saturday service throughout the tax season.
Nancy Ike (ph), an IRS front-line employee who is here today
from the Montana office, suggested that particular improvement.
And Nancy, I'd like you to stand, and we'd like to thank you.
Thank you very much.
Number two, the IRS will make it possible for more than three
million small businesses to file their quarterly Form 941
payroll returns over the telephone beginning in this first
quarter of 1998.
This new service is free. It's paperless, and it
automatically calculates the tax and any balanced owed.
Number three, the IRS has established a prototype
small-business laboratory in Seattle. This lab will be used to
test new approaches designed to limit the burdens of tax filing
on small businesses. And this innovation was the idea of Clyde
Thurston (ph), an IRS employee who is here today from the IRS
office in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Clyde, thank you for making this suggestion. Stand up, and
we'd like to recognize you, also.
Thank you very much.
Number four, the IRS will intensify its efforts to make
deserving Americans aware of the earned income tax credit.
President Clinton and I have worked very hard to expand these
important tax cuts for working families, and we want everyone
who qualifies to get the full benefits. It can make -- it makes
a huge difference for those families that are qualified, and
they're the families that need the most.
And actually, the suggestion on how to make this work came
from Martha Curry (ph), an IRS employee who is here today from
Martha, stand and let's thank you for this recommendation.
Thank you very much.
Number five, a brand new advisory committee will help the IRS
improve paperless filing to make it the most convenient and
eventually -- sooner than a lot of people think -- the most
common method of filing tax returns.
You know, we're in the midst of an information age, an
information revolution. And the same techniques that private
businesses are using to greatly improve their productivity while
cutting their costs, and handling information much more
efficiently and swiftly, those same techniques are now being
used in the IRS. And we've got a lot of work ahead of us, but
we've now got this team in place that is helping us make
And one of the first principles of reinvention -- and Morely
Winnegrad (ph), the head of our reinventing government group
here, will echo this -- one of the first principles is "go to
where the ideas are." And the ideas are in the minds of
front-line employees who live with these situations every single
And if they're given a chance to participate in solving the
problems, they're going to come up with great ideas, like these
five, like these 200. So again, I want to thank all of them.
And I'd like to summarize this way. The steps that I'm
announcing today will help save time, paper and postage for
millions of Americans. They will help us ensure that we have an
IRS that is not just taken off people's backs but put on their
Most importantly, today's report, packed with more than 200
recommendations, will help us create a brand new culture of
customer service at the IRS and make a tremendous difference to
average American taxpayers.
Now finally, of course, we must do more to help the American
And for this, we need the help of Congress.
For months now, President Clinton and I have been
urging passage of an IRS reform bill. Last October, we
succeeded in getting it passed in the House of Representatives
by an overwhelming bipartisan margin. The Senate has been
studying it for the last five months. It's time for the Senate
to pass it so the president can sign it, and make it the law of
the land, and help give the American people an IRS that is more
fair, more efficient and more responsive for this tax season and
for all seasons.
Thanks to the members of this task force, we're now moving in
the right direction.
I want to thank everybody who's been a part of this report.
And I'd just like to close by urging the United States Senate
to pass President Clinton's IRS reform bill now.
Thank you very much for coming.