2024 Management Excellence

Darnita S. Trower, Wanda J. Brown, Gerald D. Johnson and the Paperless Processing Initiative Team 

Developed a new system that will enable taxpayers to electronically submit all correspondence and non-tax forms to the IRS for the 2024 filing season, laying the groundwork for future advancements in paperless processing.

For decades, taxpayers have communicated with the IRS mostly through the mail, leading to slow service and frustrating delays.  

Now, with funding from the Inflation Reduction Act, the agency has launched the Paperless Processing Initiative, which will allow taxpayers to digitally submit all correspondence, non-tax forms and notice responses to the IRS for the 2024 filing season and offer additional digital enhancements for 2025 and 2026.  

Three public servants, Darnita Trower, Wanda Brown and Gerald Johnson, drove the implementation of this digital correspondence effort three months ahead of schedule, overseeing a sweeping expansion of the agency’s Document Upload Tool to accept the submission of roughly 3,600 different types of forms and letters that taxpayers use to submit information on tax returns, refunds and credits, document verification, identity theft and more.  

The IRS now estimates that more than 94% of individual taxpayers will no longer need to send mail to the agency and that a total of up to 125 million pieces of correspondence can be submitted digitally each year. 

“Taxpayers will not only be able to do things at their fingertips, but now there’s more security in their data and information. Processing efficiency will increase, and taxpayer issues will be resolved. This is an important building block toward a fully modern digital solution for the IRS,” said IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel.  

Building a modern system 

Trower, an IT expert who managed the overall implementation effort, said that making the new system work was a “huge undertaking.”  

The team initially tried to put a QR code on every paper notice sent to taxpayers but realized that the process would take far too long. A better solution was to expand the use of the agency’s Document Upload Tool, initially launched in 2021 partly as a way for employees to upload their proof of vaccination during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

That expansion required the team to reconfigure the tool to accept thousands of different types of forms, decide which required a direct response and which needed to redirect taxpayers to different services, and follow an automated workflow to ensure the right employees were reviewing the right material at the right time. 

Personnel who analyze crates of paper correspondence were provided access to laptops and trained to do digital processing. The process redesign effort was overseen by Brown, who said staff had to “fundamentally reimagine the way they work.” All of this needed to occur across a set of IRS Service Centers and Campus Support Sites in the span of less than six months.  

“The speed of delivery was remarkable. This was complex work, complex follow-up and complex reengineering that occurred way ahead of schedule,” said Jeff Tribiano, the IRS’ deputy commissioner for operations.  

An improvement for taxpayers 

IRS Chief Technology Officer Pandya Kaschit called the team’s work a “huge win for taxpayers,” while Ken Corbin, the agency’s chief taxpayer experience officer, credited the trio with enabling a “huge leap in service” that will make it easier for the IRS to resolve issues and, in some cases, process tax refunds.  

The Document Upload Tool accepted 265,000 submissions in the first six months of fiscal year 2024, with increasing numbers coming in each month. Johnson is the team’s technical guru who makes sure the technology continues to work smoothly. 

Werfel said the team has “set the foundation for a fully digital experience that is ready to meet the next generation of taxpayers.” 

The group is currently expanding the new digital system to small businesses, corporations and government entities while supporting the IRS’ 2025 and 2026 digitization goals. Those goals include digitizing up to 1 billion historical documents, leading to lower storage costs and easier access to tax data, and electronically processing all paper-filed tax returns, which will cut processing times in half and expedite taxpayer refunds by several weeks.  

Trower, Brown and Johnson are proud of the teamwork they employed to lay the foundation for these changes.  

“It’s what makes me get up every day and come to work to meet the challenges of the day,” Brown said.