- 11.5.2 Congressional Affairs Program
- 188.8.131.52 History of Congressional Affairs Program
- 184.108.40.206 Congressional Affairs Program Mission and Objectives
- 220.127.116.11 Organizational Structure
- 18.104.22.168.1 Legislative Affairs
- 22.214.171.124.2 National Headquarters Governmental Liaison
- 126.96.36.199.3 Governmental Liaison Area Manager
- 188.8.131.52.4 Governmental Liaisons
- 184.108.40.206.5 Taxpayer Advocate Service
- 220.127.116.11 Congressional Affairs Program and Governmental Liaison Strategic Plans
- 18.104.22.168 Legal and Policy Considerations
- 22.214.171.124 Congressional Affairs Program Roles and Responsibilities
- 126.96.36.199.1 Legislative Affairs
- 188.8.131.52.2 National Headquarters Governmental Liaison
- 184.108.40.206.3 Governmental Liaison Area Manager
- 220.127.116.11.4 Governmental Liaisons
- 18.104.22.168.4.1 Governmental Liaison Subject Matter Expert Program
- 22.214.171.124.5 Local Taxpayer Advocates
- 126.96.36.199 Interaction with Local Congressional Offices
- 188.8.131.52.1 Legislative Affairs Communiques
- 184.108.40.206.2 Congressional Newsletter
- 220.127.116.11.3 Congressional Office Visits
- 18.104.22.168.4 Congressional Liaison Meetings
- 22.214.171.124.5 Correspondence
- 126.96.36.199.6 E-Mail/Fax Inquiries
- 188.8.131.52.7 Conference Calls
- 184.108.40.206.8 Guide for Congressional Offices
- 220.127.116.11.9 Dos and Don'ts in Dealing with Congress
- 18.104.22.168 Coordination with Taxpayer Advocate Service
- 22.214.171.124 Coordination with Other Operating Divisions/Functions
- 126.96.36.199.1 Stakeholder Relationship Management Local Council (SRMLC)
- 188.8.131.52.2 Operating Division/Functional Local Expertise
- 184.108.40.206.3 IRS Crisis and Disaster Response
- 220.127.116.11.4 Office Closures
- 18.104.22.168.5 Frivolous Filers
- 22.214.171.124 Congressional Affairs Program Contact Database
- 126.96.36.199 Coordination with Other External Stakeholders
Part 11. Communications and Liaison
Chapter 5. Legislative Affairs
Section 2. Congressional Affairs Program
August 13, 2014
(1) This transmits updated IRM 11.5.2, Legislative Affairs, Congressional Affairs Program.
(1) This IRM has been updated to reflect the current operations of the Congressional Affairs Program in the field.
Leonard Oursler, National Director for Legislative Affairs
The Congressional Affairs Program (CAP) is an official IRS program, approved by the Executive Committee on December 1, 1988, and first implemented in early 1989.
Prior to 2001, District and Service Center executives managed local Congressional relationships.
Currently, Legislative Affairs manages CAP in coordination with Governmental Liaison (GL) and Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS).
The Congressional Affairs Program (CAP) supports the mission of the Office of Legislative Affairs, which is to:
Manage and enhance IRS relationships with Members of Congress and their staffs by timely sharing publicly available information,
Serve as the central coordinating point for the IRS to achieve its legislative objectives, and
Assist in ensuring continued Congressional support for the IRS.
The CAP supports this mission by managing relationships with all local Congressional offices, addressing their inquiries, delivering clear and consistent corporate messages, and organizing regular outreach.
The objective of the CAP is to help the IRS maintain positive relationships with Congressional delegations. This entails:
Establishing relationships with Congressional offices at the local level, and
Providing a primary point of local contact between the IRS and local Congressional offices.
Implementation of the CAP in the field relies on coordinated effort between Legislative Affairs, Governmental Liaison, and the Taxpayer Advocate Service. The operating divisions support CAP by providing program information and technical expertise.
At National Headquarters (NHQ), the National Director for Legislative Affairs is the principal advisor to the Chief, Communications and Liaison, the Commissioner, the Deputy Commissioners, and the top executives of the IRS on all legislative and Congressional matters related to tax administration.
For the CAP, Legislative Affairs provides:
Coordination, oversight, and guidance.
Support with research on tax, policy, legislative and budgetary issues.
Analysis and reporting on issues raised by Congressional offices.
The Office of Governmental Liaison (GL) is a unit of Privacy, Government Liaison and Disclosure (PGLD). The Chief, Office of Government Liaison, works in coordination with Legislative Affairs to manage the CAP.
NHQ GL receives strategic direction from Legislative Affairs in delivering the CAP.
NHQ GL provides administrative support for the CAP.
Area Managers report to the Chief, Office of Governmental Liaison, at NHQ. Area Managers have responsibility for the day-to-day oversight and management of field Governmental Liaisons.
Governmental Liaisons are located throughout the country and serve as the Legislative Affairs field presence. They are the primary relationship managers for local Congressional offices. The Governmental Liaisons manage contacts with local Congressional staffs on non-account-related issues. Government Liaisons work closely with Local Taxpayer Advocates in the field to ensure Congressional messages are clear, consistent, and timely.
The Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) is headed by the National Taxpayer Advocate (NTA), who reports to the Commissioner. Each state and campus has at least one Local Taxpayer Advocate (LTA) who is independent of the local IRS office and reports directly to the NTA. TAS plays a key role in the CAP by handling Congressional inquiries on tax account related issues.
Overall guidance and strategies for CAP activities can be found in the Communications & Liaison Division Strategy and Program Plan.
The PGLD Program Letter is an annual plan that establishes the areas of emphasis for the Governmental Liaison programs for the fiscal year. Included in the program letter is specific guidance for the successful implementation of the CAP within the Office of Governmental Liaison.
The PGLD Program Letter is provided to Governmental Liaisons through their Area Managers.
Congress, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the Treasury Department, and the IRS have all placed restrictions on the various aspects of the substance, extent, and the manner of IRS communications with Congress. Governmental Liaisons must be mindful of these restrictions during their interactions with Members of Congress and their staffs. Questions about specific situations should be referred by memo to the National Director of Legislative Affairs via the Government Liaison Area Manager.
Congress has prohibited any lobbying by the executive branch of government using appropriated funds. Lobbying has been defined as trying in any way to influence a Member of Congress to vote a certain way on a certain bill. The Comptroller General (GAO) has ruled that this also applies to grassroots efforts by agencies to have other groups lobby Congress. (18 U.S.C. § 1913)
OMB rules require that all official agency comments on pending legislation be cleared through them. CAP coordinators in the field cannot provide legislative proposals or comments on pending legislation to a Member of Congress or a staffer without first clearing it with the Legislative Affairs Division at Headquarters. (OMB Circular A-19 and Treasury Directive 28-02)
Any discussions concerning the IRS budget must be handled very carefully. While CAP coordinators are generally allowed to discuss the use of existing resources locally, it is best to avoid discussions of the overall IRS budget and its policy/program implications. (OMB Circular A-11)
Comments on legislation may only be made with the approval of the Commissioner or designee, and must be limited to the administrative aspects of the legislation. For example, a Government Liaison, with prior approval, could discuss how a proposed bill might affect taxpayers and/or the IRS administratively. (IRS Policy Statement 11-87 (formerly P-1-24). See IRM 188.8.131.52
Legislative reports, records, and studies made by the IRS are, in most cases, pre-decisional documents, which may be protected from Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. Such documents may not be disclosed to the public unless the disclosure is made by, or authorized by, the Office of the Treasury Secretary or the IRS Commissioner. (IRS Policy Statement 11-88 (formerly P-1-25). IRM 184.108.40.206.)
When authorized by the Office of the Secretary or the Commissioner, the IRS can furnish technical and drafting assistance with tax legislation to Congressional committees, their staffs, the legislative counsels in the House and Senate, and other government agencies. In certain circumstances, and when authorized by the Commissioner, the IRS can furnish assistance on proposed legislation affecting the IRS or tax administration to individual Members of Congress and individuals outside the Treasury Department. (IRS Policy Statement 11-89 (formerly P-1-26). See IRM 220.127.116.11.)
Employees may not use government time, money, or property to influence Members of Congress to favor or oppose legislation. (IRS Rules of Conduct 217.3)
The Legislative Affairs Division's role is to:
Establish the strategies and direction of the CAP:
As part of the Filing Season Readiness Committee, identify filing season messages and share with Governmental Liaisons/Local Taxpayer Advocates.
Establish a work group that includes Taxpayer Advocate Service, the Office of Governmental Liaison, Government Liaison Area Managers, and field Governmental Liaisons on an ad hoc basis to address cross-functional aspects of the CAP.
Coordinate actions and resources with the Office of Governmental Liaison to maximize efficiency and reduce redundancy.
Provide trend analysis on issues raised by Governmental Liaisons.
Share corporate messages with Governmental Liaisons:
Coordinate with operating/functional divisions to identify key messages for CAP activity.
Meet regularly with operating/functional division contacts to identify key corporate messages and ensure consistency of messages.
Communicate updates on Congressional hearings, legislative issues or other information valuable to Governmental Liaisons.
Identify issues and trends by providing alerts and updates, talking points, guidance, and letter templates.
Provide support to Governmental Liaisons:
Provide relevant information on issues/hot topics that will assist the Governmental Liaisons in their local interactions.
Maintain the Legislative Affairs web site as a viable source for timely information sharing.
Issue a periodic newsletter for Governmental Liaisons to distribute to Congressional offices.
Provide legislative updates.
Provide timely and updated outreach materials.
The Office of Governmental Liaison is responsible for assisting the Legislative Affairs Division with the CAP by supporting its goals. The Office of Governmental Liaison’s role is to:
Coordinate Governmental Liaison communications and messages with similar CAP efforts.
Identify and coordinate resources in support of the CAP.
Assist in ongoing training and education for Governmental Liaisons.
Coordinate with Legislative Affairs on training and other conferences.
The Governmental Liaison Area Manager’s role is to:
Provide leadership, direction and coordination for area CAP activity by:
Ensuring all correspondence is handled in a timely and professional manner.
Ensuring Governmental Liaisons are maintaining appropriate level of visitations and routine communication with Congressional offices.
Sharing information within and between areas on trends and issues identified by Governmental Liaisons.
Elevating best effective strategies developed by Governmental Liaisons and sharing them for replication.
Assisting the Governmental Liaisons in resolving sensitive/high profile issues related to Congressional visits, correspondence, and contacts.
Provide guidance on time reporting and workload balances by:
Ensuring Governmental Liaisons are correctly using the automated Freedom of Information Act – Governmental Liaison and Data Services (aFOIA GLDS) system.
Balancing workload demands and providing additional resources/support to Governmental Liaisons as necessary to deliver CAP objectives.
Coordinate operating/functional division field executive activity by:
Ensuring field executive counterparts are apprised of significant CAP events.
Providing field executive counterparts with information on key issues of interest to the operating/functional divisions raised by Congressional delegations.
Obtaining feedback from field executive counterparts on CAP issues, quality of the program and interest level.
Ensure that significant CAP events, sensitive issues, etc. have been discussed with Legislative Affairs.
Provide support for ongoing and new CAP projects by:
Leveraging resources to properly balance workload among Governmental Liaisons within the area to ensure overall quality of the program.
Coordinating with other areas as appropriate.
Governmental Liaisons represent the agency and maintain ongoing relationships with all local Congressional offices. Government Liaisons and Local Taxpayer Advocates should work closely on Congressional correspondence, issues, visits, and liaison meetings, as they are co-coordinators in these program areas.
In their role as the primary field point of contact on corporate messages between the IRS and Congressional staff, the Governmental Liaisons should:
Contact each local Congressional office monthly, at a minimum.
Disseminate key agency information using the communication vehicle identified/preferred by the local Congressional staff.
Ensure critical, time-sensitive information is shared with Congressional offices.
Visit local Congressional offices.
Schedule or respond to requests for meetings.
Support Congressional requests for assistance (i.e., disaster outreach, town hall meetings, etc.) using the appropriate operating/functional divisions resources.
Establish and manage relationships between the IRS and Congress at the field level by:
Pro-actively developing and enhancing relationships with their local staffs and with Members of Congress.
Educating themselves about their Members of Congress. Web sites, newspapers, and other resources are useful for developing a file containing information relevant to each of their Members. Examples of such items include committee assignments, Congressional demographics, and major IRS issues or legislation of interest to Members.
The Governmental Liaisons coordinate all operating/functional division interactions with local Congressional offices by:
Marketing the concept of a single point of contact for non-account-related issues.
Coordinating with the operating/functional divisions to communicate and market their initiatives and key messages.
Sharing items of interest with appropriate local operating/functional division management.
Assisting the operating/functional divisions in addressing systemic issues/concerns, identifying areas where sensitivity exists, and facilitating enhanced working relationships between the operating/functional divisions and Governmental Liaisons.
Governmental Liaisons are responsible for educating local Congressional offices on key corporate messages and programs. This can be done by planning and hosting periodic Congressional staff liaison meetings which will also provide a coordinated forum for the operating/functional divisions to interact with the local Congressional staffs.
Ensure consistency of IRS messages to local Congressional offices. Helpful tools include the IRS web site and IRS news releases.
Generate understanding and support for IRS programs by communicating issues of interest to local Congressional offices. Localize key messages as appropriate.
A critical Governmental Liaison responsibility is to respond to Congressional inquiries (non-tax account related). This is accomplished by:
Timely managing correspondence inventory.
Coordinating Congressional inquiries with the Local Taxpayer Advocate.
Utilizing standard IRS correspondence bullets available via SERP, forms, publications, media releases, and CAP issue letters.
Using the aFOIA GLDS system to report inquiries.
Establishing key points of contact in the operating/functional divisions for technical assistance.
Legislative Affairs should be informed of local issues that may have nationwide impact. This can be accomplished by immediately elevating hot or sensitive issues to Legislative Affairs and the operating/functional division via the Area Manager.
The Local Taxpayer Advocates and the Governmental Liaisons are responsible for the CAP in the field. Each party brings specific skills to the program. Both work together closely with a spirit of cooperation to serve the best interests of local Congressional offices and their constituents, as well as the best interest of the IRS. The Local Taxpayer Advocate:
Has primary responsibility for all tax account related issues.
Develops advocacy issues and represents taxpayers.
Coordinates with Governmental Liaisons on Congressional contacts and visits (see IRM 13.1.8, Taxpayer Advocate Case Procedures, Congressional Affairs Program).
Conveys the messages contained in the National Taxpayer Advocate’s Annual Report to Congress, which should not be misconstrued as influencing Members of Congress under IRS Rules of Conduct. IRC 7803(c)(2)(B)(ii) requires the Office of the Taxpayer Advocate to make legislative recommendations to resolve problems encountered by taxpayers.
Communiques are issued periodically by Legislative Affairs to all Governmental Liaisons on pertinent IRS issues.
These communiques are classified as "Information Only" or "Action Required" and include:
An issue summary that contains:
Details about the issue.
The message to be communicated to the Congressional Offices.
The message to be communicated to the states, if appropriate.
Recommended Governmental Liaison actions.
Attachments may include a news release, fact sheet or other guidance for issuance to state agencies and/or Congressional offices.
Communiques are delivered via aFOIA GLDS and/or email. Communiques issued prior to aFOIA GLDS can be found on the IRS intranet under Legislative Affairs, Congressional Affairs Program, CAP Message Catalog, at https://organization.ds.irsnet.gov/sites/cl/la/coca/SitePages/FindingGuide_CAPcommunique.aspx. .
The IRS Congressional Update Newsletter is published monthly as a joint Governmental Liaison/Legislative Affairs effort.
A team comprised of Governmental Liaisons and a Taxpayer Advocate Service designee meets via conference calls throughout the year to discuss articles and deadlines for each edition.
Each team member is responsible for soliciting articles from an operating/functional division(s) at the national level. The operating/functional division contacts are responsible for providing articles in final, approved format for publication.
After formatting and team review, the Congressional Update is sent to Legislative Affairs for final approval.
The newsletter is issued via electronic format by Legislative Affairs to all Governmental Liaisons, Governmental Liaison Area Managers, NHQ Governmental Liaison staff, Legislative Affairs, and the Taxpayer Advocate Service.
Governmental Liaisons may distribute the newsletter to all Congressional offices for their state(s), including the Washington, D.C. Congressional offices, via the office's preferred method of delivery (e-mail, fax or hard copy). Governmental Liaisons should document all distributions of the Congressional Update on aFOIA GLDS.
It is important that the Governmental Liaison and Local Taxpayer Advocate coordinate regular local Congressional visits. The purposes of these visits are to:
Develop and maintain relationships and reinforce communications channels.
Discuss corporate messages and topics of mutual interest.
Planning the Visits
The Governmental Liaison and Local Taxpayer Advocate should identify trends and subjects for discussion. Review recent Congressional correspondence from Members to identify issues so the Governmental Liaison and Local Taxpayer Advocate can be prepared for possible discussion.
Check with the operating/functional divisions to identify current national and local issues or items of interest. Working with Stakeholder Relationship Management Local Councils is one way to identify operating/functional divisions issues (i.e., small business workshops, changes in procedures, Taxpayer Assistance Center hours and services, VITA, etc.).
Develop a specific agenda and/or outline, tailored to individual offices or Members, if necessary.
Prepare handouts and/or information packets (i.e., press releases, VITA site listings, contact numbers for constituents, small business or tax product CD-ROMs, announcements of special IRS events, etc.).
Make phone calls to schedule the visits at least one month in advance.
Suggest a date and time for the visit and ask for an appointment. Typically, 30-60 minutes should be sufficient. Also discuss a tentative agenda and ask if there are any concerns that they would like addressed. Be flexible with scheduling visits because the chosen dates and times may not work for the Congressional staffer.
To confirm the appointment, send each staffer an e-mail or letter with date, time and topics.
The Governmental Liaison and Local Taxpayer Advocate should conduct joint visits to provide a comprehensive view of the CAP. If not visiting jointly with the Local Taxpayer Advocate, the Government Liaison should provide updated TAS contact information.
Provide information and handouts and solicit feedback on IRS service and messages.
Evaluating the Visits
Take appropriate and immediate action on any Congressional suggestions, requests or comments, and follow-up with the Congressional office as necessary. This may require a follow up discussion with the operating/functional divisions and/or Legislative Affairs.
Governmental Liaisons should document all visits with each office on aFOIA GLDS
The following table summarizes the action items necessary for Governmental Liaisons to conduct Congressional office visits.
ACTION RESULT Meet with Local Taxpayer Advocate. Identifies preliminary agenda items and date for visit. Contact the Congressional staffer. Collaborates on date and time of visit and solicit agenda items. Check with Operating/Functional Divisions. Identifies current issues or items of interest. Develop outline of what you want to accomplish. Focuses on key messages. Prepare handouts and/or information packet. Gives staff valuable information and allows Governmental Liaison to focus messages. Sort aFOIA GLDS entries by Member’s name. Identifies trends & subjects to discuss. Identify key IRS Committee Members. Identifies Members who have interests related to IRS issues and helps to further develop strategic relationships. Visit local offices with Local Taxpayer Advocate, if possible. If not, discuss pending visits with Local Taxpayer Advocate before scheduled dates. Provides staffers with a full view of CAP. If not visiting with Local Taxpayer Advocate, be sure to provide updated TAS contact information. Provide staffer with current products such as fact sheets, CD-ROMs, office hours, key contact sheets. Adds value to your visit by providing important local information.
The Governmental Liaison/Local Taxpayer Advocate should arrange agency meetings with the local Congressional staff. These more formal interactions are an excellent opportunity for the IRS to present its strategic objectives and goals. Consideration should be made to include operating/functional divisions, Counsel, Appeals and other internal/external stakeholders.
Planning the Meeting
The Governmental Liaison/Local Taxpayer Advocate should conduct liaison meetings for their delegation at regular intervals (recommended at least once every two years).
Tailor the meetings to meet the needs of the delegation. For example: if there is high Congressional staff turnover, a basic overview of the Governmental Liaison/Local Taxpayer Advocate’s responsibilities and an overview of IRS organization and programs may be appropriate. Other meetings may focus on selected topics of local operations.
Survey the local Congressional delegation(s) and staffs on issues/programs they would like to have discussed.
Working with your local Stakeholder Relationship Management Local Council is one way to identify and include specific operating/functional division issues (i.e., IRS procedures, key messages, national initiatives, etc.).
Inform and/or invite the local Field Media Relations Specialist and local Disclosure Officer, as appropriate.
Develop an agenda based on national and local issues, and Congressional feedback.
Keep the agenda varied in terms of the topics covered (i.e., general procedures v. technical issues, enforcement v. service), the length of individual sessions, techniques used, and the style of presenters.
Include time for a question-and-answer session after each presentation or at the end of the meeting.
If there are employees in the local office(s) who deal with the Congressional staff frequently, include them in the meeting. For example, include time for Local Taxpayer Advocate caseworkers to meet the Congressional staffers face-to-face.
Assemble appropriate handouts for participants.
Scheduling the Meeting
Try to schedule the meeting with the local staffs when their Members are not in their Congressional district. At the same time, consider seasonal considerations such as summer vacations, winter weather, etc.
Although a full day may be the best (i.e., 9:00 to 3:00), the length of the meeting depends on the topics covered and the preferences of the Congressional participants.
Ensure that necessary audio-visual equipment, name tags, pens, paper, etc. are available.
Hold the meeting in space that is convenient and appropriate. Since many local Congressional offices have limited travel funds, select a location that is close and convenient for them.
Disclosure and privacy considerations make tours of IRS offices difficult. For additional information, see the February 2014 memo from the National Director of Legislative Affairs, https://organization.ds.irsnet.gov/sites/cl/la/coca/Congressional_Affairs_Program/CAP_Reference_Matterials/MemoVisitationToIRSfacilitiesByMembersOfCongress.pdf.
Consider how to best address refreshments and lunch arrangements, as appropriate.
Invite each Congressional office in writing. Follow-up as necessary to get RSVP. Include the agenda, directions/map and parking information with the letter. Make sure to advise the attendees what ID is needed and what the sign-in/escort policy is.
Conducting the Meeting
On the day of the meeting, provide signs/directions in the building to help staffers get to the right location.
Distribute the agenda and keep the meeting on schedule. Introduce speakers for each presentation.
Provide the pre-assembled handouts to the staffers. Mail or deliver the handouts to any staffer who was unable to attend the meeting.
Allow time for staffers to ask questions or raise issues. Ensure that a private area is available for staffers who have case-related issues or questions they wish to discuss with the Local Taxpayer Advocate.
Evaluating the Meeting
Survey the participants (informally or formally) for their views and suggestions for future meetings.
Take appropriate and immediate action on any Congressional suggestions, requests, or comments and follow-up with the Congressional office, as necessary. This may require discussion with operating/functional divisions and/or Legislative Affairs.
Governmental Liaisons should document the meeting and any feedback on aFOIA GLDS
Congressional correspondence will be assigned and worked on depending on the following criteria:
Tax account related Congressional inquiries will be assigned to the Local Taxpayer Advocate Office (for example, an inquiry from a constituent where the IRS denied an Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) claim).
Non-tax account related Congressional inquiries will be assigned to the Local Governmental Liaison (for example, an inquiry from a constituent wanting to know how to claim the EITC).
The following non-account related Congressional inquiries will be assigned to the National Headquarters Executive Secretariat Correspondence Office (ESCO). These cases are controlled through E-TRAK, a service-wide internal documents tracking system.
Congressional correspondence addressed to the Commissioner or the National Director of Legislative Affairs.
Complaints concerning IRS employees or from IRS employees. These issues will be assigned by ESCO to the Employee Conduct and Compliance Office (ECCO).
Technical or sensitive issues that would benefit from a formal, written response.
Refer to IRM 18.104.22.168(1), Taxpayer Advocate Service, Assignment, for more information.
Upon receipt by the Local Taxpayer Advocate, Congressional inquiries will be controlled on the Taxpayer Advocate Management Information System (TAMIS). (Exception: General phone or e-mail inquiries received from a Congressional office which can be answered while on the line or immediately on e-mail do not have to be controlled).
Timeframes for Congressional correspondence received by Governmental Liaisons are as follows:
The response must be received in the Congressional office within 20 days of receipt.
If the letter cannot be sent within 20 days, an interim contact must be made with the Congressional office by telephone or letter.
Governmental Liaisons will follow the guidelines established by ESCO in IRM 1.10.1 for Congressional correspondence and related disclosure issues. See also IRM 11.3.4, Disclosure of Official Information - Congressional Inquiries.
For all other routine correspondence, Governmental Liaisons will follow the guidelines established in the Internal Revenue Service Correspondence Manual IRS Document 11426.
Any Congressional correspondence received that could have nationwide implications should be brought to the attention of Legislative Affairs.
Governmental Liaisons should document all written responses to Congressional inquiries on aFOIA GLDS.
Governmental Liaisons should refer to the catalog of issue letters when responding to non-tax account related Congressional inquiries. These sample letters can be found on the Legislative Affairs web site at http://irweb.irs.gov/AboutIRS/bu/cl/la/lacap/default.aspx .
Issue letters address subjects that generate continuing interest from Members of Congress. These letters cover topics such as the complexity of tax forms, competitive sourcing, frivolous tax arguments, IRS structure, outsourcing return preparation, tax preparation software, referrals to Treasury, and others as they are developed and approved.
Use these sample letters as guides to preparing correspondence. Pay attention to the date the issue letter was created. If it is old, verify the technical advice before using the information.
Governmental Liaisons should document all responses using issue letters on aFOIA GLDS
Executive Control Management System
E-TRAK is used by the Executive Secretariat to control incoming correspondence. It includes inquiries that address non-tax related, broad policy, and procedures that are assigned to ESCO.
Timeframes for Congressional correspondence assigned by ESCO are as follows:
A response to Congressional correspondence must reach ESCO for review within 15 days of receipt and control into E-TRAK.
If the letter cannot be ready for review within 15 days, an interim contact must be made with the Congressional office by telephone or letter.
The response must be received by the Congressional office within 20 days of its assignment.
Governmental Liaisons should document all responses to E-TRAK inquiries on aFOIA GLDS.
Many Congressional offices prefer to receive information via e-mail or by fax. Examples of items that could be sent in this manner include attachments to the Congressional Communiques, the Congressional Update Newsletter, and responses to technical inquiries.
Correspondence that involves a specific tax case, taxpayer, or is account related CANNOT BE SENT TO A CONGRESSIONAL OFFICE VIA E-MAIL . This correspondence must be sent through the mail or by fax. This includes any responses to technical inquiries that may contain taxpayer information.
Governmental Liaisons should document all e-mail and fax communications on aFOIA GLDS.
Conference calls may be a useful and efficient method of communicating IRS messages to Congressional offices.
They can be used in lieu of face-to-face meetings as a money-saving measure for both the IRS and the Congressional offices.
They are also useful for answering questions from Congressional offices regarding general IRS programs, conveying filing season messages, etc.
All participants should be informed that no specific taxpayer, account or case can be discussed on a conference call. If a Congressional representative or staffer wants to discuss a specific situation, the Governmental Liaison will arrange this at another time with that Congressional staffer.
Governmental Liaisons should document all conference calls on aFOIA GLDS.
IRS Publication 4323, An Overview of the Internal Revenue Service for Congressional Staff. This publication is a tool that can be used by Governmental Liaisons and Local Taxpayer Advocates to acquaint Congressional staffers with the IRS organizational structure and how to access IRS information and publications. .
The following table provides guidance for interactions with Members of Congress and their staff.
Do... Don't... Have a positive attitude. Be shy or apologetic. Plan to explain and defend (if needed) your office’s programs, products, and services, as well as any national concerns. Think it is someone else’s job. Remember that you are providing quality customer service to an important external stakeholder. Be afraid to tell them what your office appropriately can do for them and their constituents. Remember that Legislative Affairs is a legitimate function of all federal agencies. The IRS Legislative Affairs Division has already provided Members of Congress and their staffs considerable information and material on the IRS and tax administration issues. Feel that speaking with, writing to, or visiting Members and/or staffs is somehow inappropriate.
Be surprised if the Member/staff are familiar with certain IRS items; use that to lead into your message about your office.
Call on Legislative Affairs for general or specific advice on all matters relating to Congress (schedules, map, reference books, bill status, committee memberships, current events, etc.) Hesitate to check (it could save some embarrassment). Concentrate on providing education and information. Avoid lobbying or the appearance of lobbying (trying to influence the Member on a specific issue or bill). Tell the Member or the staff your opinion on an issue or bill (you could be quoted). Stick to educating Members and staff on your office’s organization, programs, operations, products and services, and national programs of interest. Talk about other agencies or issues. Avoid discussions of specific tax or other legislation whenever possible.
Advise that IRS, Treasury and OMB require prior clearance on any comments, which will be limited to administrative concerns in any event.
Suggest that the Member write directly to the Assistant Secretary on Tax Policy or to the Commissioner.
Saying that a particular bill is good or bad, or that you favor or don’t favor it.
Feel bad about referring such questions where they belong.
Avoid discussion of IRS budget/appropriations whenever possible.
Stick to whatever resources you have in your office and how you are using them.
Suggest that any questions on overall IRS programs or budget be sent to the Commissioner.
Say that you need more resources (everyone has that problem--even Members of Congress).
Feel bad about referring such questions where they belong.
Remember that anything discussed by the IRS in prepared testimony has been cleared by Treasury and OMB can be discussed with Members and staff. Go beyond what is in the testimony. Follow-up to ensure that you have addressed all their concerns. Forget. Keep Legislative Affairs advised of any significant items or developments you learn about. Keep it to yourself.
The Local Taxpayer Advocate and the Governmental Liaison are co-coordinators of the local CAP. The Local Taxpayer Advocate is responsible for all tax account related issues, primarily constituent casework and advocacy. The Governmental Liaison has responsibility for communicating IRS policy and procedures. The Governmental Liaison also responds to any non tax-account related inquiries.
Both the Governmental Liaison and the Local Taxpayer Advocate will coordinate Congressional visits and outreach activities, and will host Congressional staff liaison meetings. Congressional visits may be made separately depending on the nature of the visit, but should be jointly coordinated.
TAMIS is used by the TAS to record, control, and process TAS taxpayer cases. It is also used to capture and analyze core tax issues, laws, policies and internal IRS functional processes that are the sources of significant taxpayer hardship and other critical problems.
All Congressional inquiries that are worked by TAS should be controlled on TAMIS through the Local Taxpayer Advocate’s Office.
TAMIS records and tracks TAS activity and performance in carrying out its statutory role of assisting taxpayers experiencing problems and hardships with the IRS. TAMIS is a critical data source for the National Taxpayer Advocate’s Annual Report to Congress, for internal feedback reporting to the operating divisions and other functional areas and for proposing remedies to correct and cure inequitable tax legislation and internal IRS systemic processes that negatively impact the taxpaying public.
For more information on TAMIS as it relates to the CAP, refer to IRM 13.1.8, Taxpayer Advocate Service.
Governmental Liaisons are the single point of contact with the Congressional staffs for the local operating divisions/functions (ODs/FDs), except on account-related issues. The most effective way to achieve a successful level of support for the CAP is for the Governmental Liaisons to establish linkages with the ODs/FDs.
Government Liaisons will coordinate with ODs/FDs to communicate and market their local initiatives with local Congressional offices (i.e. Tax Tour, VITA, etc.). Coordination is enhanced through timely and continuous contact with OD/FD representatives.
It is critical that Governmental Liaisons develop and maintain good relationships with all operating divisions, Counsel, Appeals, and the Local Taxpayer Advocate. Often, local expertise within these business segments will provide the answers for timely and accurate responses to Congressional inquiries. It may be useful to provide Document 12188, Office of Governmental Liaison, to the OD/FDs as a way to introduce the local Government Liaison and provide a description of Government Liaison roles and responsibilities.
Governmental Liaisons should share any items of interest with local OD/FDs. Doing so will assist OD/FDs in identifying and addressing sensitive issues and concerns, and will also enhance working relationships between OD/FDs and Governmental Liaisons.
Government Liaisons should implement the following actions relating to the OD/FDs:
Action Result Market the CAP to ODs/FDs with emphasis on single point of contact with Congressional offices. Establishes expertise and knowledge of Governmental Liaison within ODs/FDs. Identify local subject matter experts from within the Operating and Functional Divisions. Establishes assistance in issue development and Congressional correspondence responses. Provide feedback on regular basis to Operating and Functional Divisions on Congressional visits or contacts. Enhances relationships with ODs/FDs by providing timely information on issues related to their functions. Adds value to ODs/FDs and promotes the single point of contact by sharing information
The SRMLC focuses on operational issues and ensures that key IRS messages, quality products and events are consistently conveyed to a cross-functional/multi-state external stakeholder audience, including the Congressional delegation.
The SRLMC was established to create a forum for local representatives from designated operating divisions, the Local Taxpayer Advocate, Counsel, Appeals, and the Governmental Liaison to discuss current goals and objectives.
The SRMLC can also be used to respond to issues that require a multi-functional approach. Examples are: disaster assistance, compliance initiatives, EITC outreach, and filing season readiness.
Inviting staff to SRMLC meetings is one way to enhance outreach to the state’s Congressional delegation. This would be especially useful if the SRMLC has endorsed a coordinated initiative to address a local issue where, for example, a task group will travel to local communities. Inviting the staff member(s) whose district(s) will be affected by the coordinated initiative could be the best way to inform the staff member(s) of the purpose and objective of the initiative. The Congressional staffer might, in turn, help publicize or support the IRS initiative through their Congressional newsletter or web site.
(1) Frequently, Congressional issues can be resolved with nominal assistance from local OD/FD staff. Government Liaisons are encouraged to rely on their local OD/FD contacts in cases where:
Local expertise will result in a faster resolution.
A formal, written reply, signed by an executive, is neither expected nor warranted.
Information necessary for the resolution is publicly available; the Government Liaison just needs help finding it.
The Government Liaison will be responsible for conveying any response derived from local OD/FD staff. Local OD/FD staff should not be asked to respond directly to a Congressional office.
If the local OD/FD staff believes are referral to NHQ or E-TRAK is necessary, they should consult with the Government Liaison before taking any further action.
Certain situations require Governmental Liaisons to inform local Congressional offices of an IRS response to a crisis or disaster. Governmental Liaisons must work closely with operating and functional divisions to convey important messages through the Crisis Communication Plan and the Disaster Assistance and Relief Program.
Crisis Communication Plan
The Crisis Communication Plan is administered by the Communication & Liaison Division (C&L). Its purpose is to establish a coordinated process for communicating IRS efforts to address a specific crisis.
The plan requires the Governmental Liaison to communicate the IRS message to the local Congressional delegation through prepared communications from C&L Field Media Relations Specialists.
Because timing is critical, information will generally be distributed to appropriate Congressional offices via phone, fax, or e-mail.
Governmental Liaisons should become familiar with the Crisis Communication Plan to understand their role in achieving Service objectives. Contact the designated Field Media Relations Specialist for additional advice and assistance.
Disaster Assistance and Relief Program
This strategic plan for responding to local or regional disasters is administered by SB/SE. There are a wide range of relief options for use in responding to disasters and terrorist or military attacks. The severity of the disaster and proximity of tax deadlines are the primary factors in determining the level of relief that will be provided.
When disasters occur, it is essential for the IRS to provide timely, accurate information to Congress on the steps being taken to assist victims with their tax affairs.
Contacts with Congressional offices on Capitol Hill will typically be handled by National Headquarters Legislative Affairs, while contacts with local Congressional offices will typically be handled by Governmental Liaisons.
Specific steps to be taken by Governmental Liaisons to carry out their responsibilities under the plan can be found in IRM 22.214.171.124, Special Topics, Disaster Assistance and Emergency Relief, Communications and Liaison. It is recommended that the Government Liaison become familiar with the Disaster Assistance and Relief Programs and the state coordinators.
The strategic decision by the Service to close, relocate, or change hours of operation of a local IRS office must be shared as soon as possible with the appropriate Congressional delegation. The purpose of this action is to fully inform the delegation of the decision as well as to advise them of where and how citizens of the impacted community can find assistance. This often is a very sensitive issue and will likely result in Congressional interest. Because office closures, relocations, or changes in hours may attract Congressional attention, the Government Liaison must inform the Legislative Affairs office as well.
Congressional offices may forward constituent correspondence that contains frivolous statements or statements that challenge the constitutionality of the income tax. These types of correspondence do require a response from the Service. After reading the correspondence to ensure it does not contain a Freedom of Information Act request, it is not an account inquiry, or it is not related to an open case in a local office, the Government Liaison should prepare a reply.
To assist the Government Liaison in responding to these types of correspondence, issue letters can be found on the CAP website at http://irweb.irs.gov/AboutIRS/bu/cl/la/lacap/default.aspx.
If the issue letters do not fully address the frivolous or constitutional tax arguments, the Congressional correspondence can be forwarded to ESCO.
The CAP Contacts Database has been replaced by aFOIA GLDS. Governmental Liaisons should record Congressional contacts and times on GLDS. The GLDS system is maintained by PGLD Data Services. If questions specific to the use of GLDS for CAP arise, contact Legislative Affairs for instructions.
Interactions with state officials on issues involving technical or legislative assistance should be limited. Governmental Liaisons should do no more than facilitate contact with the appropriate IRS office to comment on the proposed legislation.
Involvement should be limited to legislation that affects the IRS or federal tax administration.
Requests for assistance should be cleared through:
Appropriate operating division,
Legislative Affairs and
Headquarters Governmental Liaison.
Employees appearing on behalf of the IRS before a state legislative body must obtain authorization from the Associate Director, Office of Governmental Liaison. For more information on testimony authorization, refer to IRM 11.3.35, Requests and Demands or Testimony and Production of Documents.
Governmental Liaisons may encounter situations where coordination with state and other federal agencies can enhance their interactions with Congressional offices. For instance, when planning liaison meetings with the local Congressional staff, consideration should be given to inviting state tax officials and other federal agencies such as the Social Security Administration, the Small Business Administration, or any other federal agency of interest to the Congressional office.
Congressional offices may contact Governmental Liaisons regarding constituent inquiries that involve other federal, state, or local agencies. Governmental Liaisons are encouraged to provide linkages to better assist the Congressional offices. For example, a staff member may contact a Governmental Liaison on an issue that is subsequently determined to be better resolved by the state tax authority. The Governmental Liaison could use their state contacts to provide assistance.