GAO Reports  
GGD-99-176 September 14, 1999

IRS' Year 2000 Efforts: Actions Are Underway to
Help Ensure That Contingency Plans Are
Complete & Consistent

GAO reviewed two Internal Revenue Service (IRS) year 2000 business continuity and contingency plans for their consistency and completeness on the basis of IRS' guidance for such plans.

GAO noted that: (1) two IRS business continuity and contingency plans--one for processing paper tax returns that result in a refund (refund plan) and the other for receiving paper submissions (paper submissions plan)--were inconsistent and incomplete in two key areas included in IRS' guidance: (a) performance goals; and (b) mitigating actions; (2) these weaknesses raise questions about whether these two plans provide sufficient assurance that IRS has taken all the necessary steps to reduce the impact of a potential year 2000 failure; (3) IRS' guidance requires that plans specify a desirable performance goal; (4) the performance goal for the refund plan was inconsistent with the plan's contingency actions; (5) this inconsistency raises questions about the goal that IRS is trying to achieve with the refund plan; (6) the paper submissions plan did not include a performance goal; (7) without appropriate performance goals, IRS has little assurance that the contingency actions specified in the plan are appropriate for reducing the impact of a potential year 2000 failure; (8) in addition, neither plan specified the completion dates for the mitigating actions, which IRS' guidance defines as the steps that are to be completed in advance of a potential year 2000-related failure, to help reduce its impact; (9) moreover, neither plan specified which individuals were to be responsible for completing the mitigating actions; (10) IRS' guidance requires that the plans include mitigating actions and completion dates, but does not require that responsible individuals be identified for completing mitigating actions; (11) however, without assigning actions to specific individuals and identifying completion dates, IRS has little assurance that these actions will be completed before a potential year 2000 failure; (12) in June 1999, GAO informed IRS officials of its concerns regarding these two plans; (13) GAO also told them that its concerns raise questions about the extent to which other plans may have similar weaknesses; (14) in response to GAO's concerns, IRS officials agreed to make changes to improve the completeness and consistency of these two plans; (15) they also said they have designated an individual that is to determine the extent to which other plans may have similar weaknesses and revise the plans as needed; and (16) in addition, IRS assigned one of its year 2000 contractors to set up a mechanism by which IRS could track the implementation of business continuity and contingency plan actions.

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