Part of the problem with the IRS’ terrible reputation is that their scandals and mishaps get publicized in every way imaginable, and often for a few days longer than necessary. But the good things the IRS is doing tend to go unnoticed. I guess it’s just not as much fun to read about.
I found an example of this today. The IRS is expanding a pilot program that it began in select locations in 2006 that allowed small businesses to opt for alternative dispute resolution rather than the standard formal appeals process (and then potential litigation) when disputing an audit. The program is called Fast Track Settlement (FTS). It is a smart and attractive option, since the IRS claims that disputes can be resolved in 60 days when they go through FTS, and taxpayers maintain their appeals rights through the process. The only problem I see is that the mediator in a FTS proceeding is an IRS appeals officer rather than a neutral third party. Yes, appeals is a separate arm of the IRS, but it’s still the IRS as far as I’m concerned.
I’m not sure why it took seven years for the IRS to make FTS available nationwide, but besides that, it seems like another opportunity lost for those in charge of the IRS’ public perception. The IRS is at least partly to blame for this phenomenon. In times like these, the IRS needs to be doing everything it can to leverage their good PR, and that means making sure the public knows about every single time-saving and money-saving measure, otherwise we will only remember the Star Trek parody video and similar headlines.