The IRS is successfully using a new authority from Congress to streamline and expedite the hiring process for bonus-eligible IT hires, according to a report from the Treasury Inspector General to Tax Administration (TIGTA).

TIGTA’s report analyzes whether the IRS’s implementation of its recently granted streamlined critical pay (SCP) authority conforms to established laws, policies, and regulations. The authority was granted in 2019 when Congress enacted the Taxpayer First Act, which amended the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to modernize the IRS. Section 2103 of the legislation, titled Streamlined Critical Pay Authority for Information Technology Positions, reinstated SCP authority to the IRS. Congress had initially granted the IRS the SCP authority in 1998, but it expired in 2013.

Congress included the authority as a means for the IRS to strengthen its cybersecurity to better protect taxpayers from identity theft and refund fraud. TIGTA cited the Taxpayer First Act Report from the House Ways and Means Committee, which said, “the IRS must be able to recruit and retain experts from the private sector in highly specialized areas of information technology. The Committee believes that the IRS’s ability to recruit such experts was aided by the now-expired streamlined critical pay authority, and believes that reauthorization is appropriate.”

Under the reinstated authority, the IRS can make up to 40 new hires at any one time and onboard the new employees within six to eight weeks. The legislation also mandated that employees hired under the SCP authority can work for the IRS for a maximum of four years, and that IRS can expedite the firing of employees hired under the new authority for poor performance. The authority expires in 2025 unless reauthorized by Congress. Congress also placed a salary cap for SCP hires of $253,300 for 2020 and said that employees hired under the new authority cannot have worked for the IRS previously.

TIGTA found that the IRS SCP authority activities were compliant with the requirements of Taxpayer First Act Section 2103, related policies, and regulations. Thus far, the IRS has used the SCP authority for seven new hires, including a senior data architect, associate CIO for enterprise operations, and directors for infrastructure services and online services. The report said that all seven candidate packages were approved by the IRS Commissioner, four-year appointment terms were clearly stipulated in their Final Offer letters, and compensation limits were followed. In addition, none of the SCP appointees were previously employed at the IRS.

The agency also updated nine existing job descriptions and created a new job description for the senior data architect position. TIGTA said that the 10 SCP position descriptions created “generally reflected the need for more advanced technical skills and experience.”

Based on the IRS’ successful implementation of the SCP authority, TIGTA did not offer any recommendations as part of the report but did note that the IRS agreed with TIGTA’s facts and conclusions.

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk's Assistant Copy & Production Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.