For some, the changes the IRS has made so far aren't nearly pervasive enough. Senate Finance Committee Chairman William V. Roth Jr. (R-DE) responded to these latest initiatives by saying, "Legislation needs to go beyond `Reinventing Service at the IRS.' I intend to reinvent the IRS as a whole."
Last year, the House made strides toward that goal by passing a bill that would revamp the IRS and expand taxpayer rights. (For details on the House bill, see "Tax Talk," January.) In May, the Senate passed an IRS reform measure that is more costly and extensive than the one the House passed.
Skepticism may abound, but some observers still believe the IRS is taking important steps toward improvement. Says Michelman, "I am very impressed with the efforts. The IRS recognizes that, now more than ever, helping the taxpayer is the best way to go."
While the IRS has made a number of important changes, a good deal remains to be done. "Just as the problems of the IRS took a long time to develop, it's going to take a great deal of time and effort by all of us to build the kind of IRS the taxpayers deserve," says Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin. "There are no quick fixes or easy solutions, but dramatic change is an absolute necessity."
Joan Szabo is a writer in McLean, Virginia, who has reported on tax issues for more than 12 years.