Jan. 24--The new IRS commissioner toured the mammoth Memphis IRS Center Thursday, saying the 2,700-employee facility is only going to grow in importance to the agency.
"If anything, it will assume more responsibilities for agencies outside the IRS, particularly with the computer information technology security area," John Koskinen told reporters after spending day inspecting 11 interconnected buildings that total 900,000 square feet.
"Over time, all the Treasury Department (computer) servers will come here for oversight management and protection," he said.
The center sits on 132 acres in industrial Southeast Memphis at 5333 Getwell. It is the nation's only IRS center that houses three operations: a computing center, an accounts management call center, and a compliance services center.
The Memphis site also is home to the agency's Employee Resource Center, where all IRS employees can make contact to ask questions about benefits and other personnel issues.
The compound may rival Fort Knox for security. Reporters' vehicles were greeted at the gate by a bomb- or drug-sniffing German shepherd and security guards who checked under vehicles with bomb-detection mirrors.
Inside, an X-ray scanning and metal-detection station rivals any airport security.
The IRS may be a symbolic target to antigovernment extremists, but officials said the real valuables are all the personal and business information stored in the computers on millions of taxpayers and companies.
The IRS has just three computing centers: in Memphis, Detroit and Martinsburg, W.V.
The nation's electronic tax returns are processed only in Memphis and Martinsburg, and 80 percent are processed in Memphis.
"That will probably go up," Koskinen said of the proportion.
He spent time Wednesday touring the center's computer security and threat centers, functions that are consolidated in Memphis and Martinsburg.
"Obviously, everyone is concerned to make sure the data is secured," Koskinen said. "We've had no significant data breaches and I can see why after I go through the floors and all the systems that are in place.
"And that, if anything, is going to increase in importance ... Memphis is here to stay. They are not going to get smaller. They've done a wonderful job in discharging the responsibilities they have thus far. I'm delighted with what I've seen here today."
Koskinen, the 48th IRS commissioner, heads a tax system that collects about $2.4 trillion in tax revenue annually to help pay for government operations and services.
The Yale law school graduate oversees about 90,000 employees and an $11 billion budget. Koskinen was the non-executive chairman of Freddie Mac from 2008 to 2012.
Help for tax filing
The IRS online software Free File is available to about 2.1 million Tennessee filers who qualify.
Last year, 65,000 Tennesseans used the service. Free File is for those who made $58,000 or less last year. Others can use Free File Fillable Forms at no cost.
About 130 "help sites" will be established across Tennessee, staffed by IRS-certified volunteers. Filers whose households earn less than $52,000 or who are 60 or older can have their taxes prepared and electronically filed for free.
To find the nearest site, go to IRS.gov and look for "Volunteer Tax Help" or call 800-906-9887.
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