Inspectors at the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) — a watchdog agency that keeps tabs on the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) — are wondering whether the IRS is really ready for the wave of consumer health insurance confusion that’s about to wash over it.
TIGTA officials report that the IRS applications development team finished promised programming changes for the 2014 return processing year so late that it couldn’t get other IRS divisions to continue to help it with final testing.
The test situation could get worse in the coming year — processing year 2015, TIGTA officials say.
“Greater demands will be placed on [final integration test] program resources to address significant system changes as a result of implementing provisions of the [Affordable Care Act] and other applications planned to deploy during [processing year] 2015,” officials say.
When it comes to “Obamacare” headaches — problems related to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) public exchange program — the IRS got off easy this year.
The IRS, an arm of the U.S. Treasury Department, set up a PPACA exchange data hub for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), but HHS has been responsible for most exchange plan-related interactions with consumers and employers in 2014.
The IRS took automated queries about exchange users, spat taxpayer information out to the exchanges, and tried to keep hackers from hacking the data. HHS call centers had to handle the calls from the public.
Now, IRS taxpayer helpers are gearing up to take calls from consumers, tax preparers, and tax policy experts about premium tax credit reporting forms, coverage reporting forms and coverage mandate exemption forms complicated enough to put visions of glory in the minds of top executives at the big tax firms.
So, what kinds of problems did TIGTA inspectors find at IRS? Read on.