2.25.101 IRS.gov Web Content Management Procedures

Manual Transmittal

July 10, 2020


(1) This transmits a complete revision to IRM 2.25.101, IRS.gov Web Content Management Procedures

Material Changes

(1) This transmits a complete revision for the management of web content on the IRS.gov Internet site based on interim guidance OLS-02-1218-0001 issued 12/3/2018.

Effect on Other Documents

This supersedes the August 10, 2006 revision. Interim Guidance on IRS.gov Web Content Management Procedures dated 12/3/2018, Control Number OLS-02-1218-0001 is incorporated into this revision.


All Operating Divisions and Functions

Effective Date


Acting Director, Andrew Chiu, Office of Online Services

Program Scope and Objectives

  1. Purpose: This guidance outlines the new IRS.gov content publishing model and provides business processes and standards for developing, publishing and maintaining content on IRS.gov.

  2. Audience: All Operating and Functional Divisions

  3. Scope: The scope of this guidance is to establish Servicewide standards and procedures for publishing information to IRS.gov and outline the new IRS.gov Content Publishing Model (ICPM). All guidance contained herein is limited in scope to publication of information on IRS.gov (excluding microsites).

  4. Program Owner: Director of Online Services


  1. With the inception of IRS.gov in 2002, IRS implemented a web content management tool that allowed employees to create and update web content for IRS.gov through an editor without manipulating Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) code.

  2. In 2014, the Office of Online Services (OLS) began an initiative, the Content Upgrade Project (CUP), to significantly improve the quality of key content pages on IRS.gov. Through the CUP framework, OLS and business units collaborated to eliminate duplicate content, rewrite content in plain language and enhance the visual presentation of specific content topics. Follow-up data analysis indicated the changes improved taxpayers’ ability to find, understand and apply the information they needed on IRS.gov.

  3. OLS, as business owner for the IRS.gov website, also conducted a comprehensive review of content publishing practices in 2015 and 2016. OLS interviewed a wide range of business stakeholders to better understand each business unit’s practices. Assessments identified both strengths and weaknesses in the business units’ processes for developing content for IRS.gov. Most importantly, OLS found that siloed practices limited cross-collaboration among business units to capitalize on best practices and shed light on weaknesses in an effort to make much needed improvements.

  4. Without documented standards and guidelines for maintaining content on IRS.gov, the business owners were not always able to retain improvements to the website. The assessment and CUP project experience clearly identified the need for Servicewide standards and processes for developing, posting and maintaining content on IRS.gov.


  1. This section represents the office of Online Services which operates under the authority of the Deputy Commissioner of Services and Enforcement (DCSE), with “traditional” online centers of excellence including product management, content/editoral, web analytics, mobile, and web usability - all consistent with industry best practices.

Roles and Responsibilities

  1. This section represents roles and responsibilities which oversees content management of IRS.gov, as well as new functionality development, and web site enhancement efforts. Below are the Office of Online Services responsibilities:

    • Defining IRS.gov business and technical requirements with input from impacted Operating Divisions and Functional Areas.

    • Managing the technology maintenance and enhancements for the enterprise user community.

    • Determining the overall look and feel of IRS.gov with input from National Communications and Liaison (C&L).

    • Providing enterprise-level guidance and direction to the content management community.

    • Providing support to the content management community for tools and functionality related to IRS.gov.

    • Coordinating with C&L to ensure IRS.gov messaging and style standards are communicated and met by the content management community.

    • Coordinating with the Office of Privacy to ensure privacy provisions have been incorporated into IRS.gov content management and operations.

  2. The Operating Division and Functional Area Executives (senior management and director level) are sponsors of IRS.gov. Executive managers provide the vision and direction for their content on the site. Responsible for overseeing their information on the public portal, these executives are accountable for identifying and managing their content requirements. Responsibilities include:

    • Championing IRS.gov strategic use throughout their organization.

    • Overseeing their content on IRS.gov to position it as a premier customer communication channel.

    • Certifying on a yearly basis that their content has been reviewed and validated as current and relevant.

    • Providing leadership and resolving any issues or needs pertaining to their organization’s content.

Program Controls

  1. The office of Online Services uses analytic tools and user testing to track the needs and behaviors of taxpayers and other external stakeholders related to IRS.gov.

Terms and Acronyms

  1. The chart listed below represents terms and acronyms for the Office of Online Services:

    Term Definition
    Accessibility (also “508”) All content, user experience and design elements must comply with the section 508 amendment to the United States Workforce Rehabilitation Act of 1973. All electronic content and functionality must be usable by people with disabilities.
    Alt Text Alternative text used to describe visual elements on a page to support accessibility for visually impaired users.
    Archive When a piece of content is removed from public view on IRS.gov. Archived content will remain available to IRS employees via the WCMS in accordance with the IRS.gov records schedule and can be re-posted to IRS.gov if necessary.
    Audience Population segment for which content is developed.
    Blocks Groupings or boxes of content applied to and displayed as a unit in select locations of IRS.gov and reusable on multiple pages. Locations include: home page, landing pages and the right rail (below the main content but above the footer on mobile).
    Breadcrumbs A hierarchical list of the main navigation used to get to the location of the current page.
    Business Rules Business rules describe the operations, definitions and constraints that apply to a business process. Business rules follow from a stated authority.
    Business Unit A logical element or segment of the IRS organization.
    Content A piece of information on IRS.gov. Includes both HTML content as well as static (PDF, other) files linked to an IRS.gov webpage.
    Content Life Cycle The progression of content for IRS.gov from concept to retirement from public view. Stages include: Initiate (concept, plan), Editorial (draft, review, edit, approve) and Production (produce, recertify, mark as historical, archive).
    Content Redundancy Information that is superfluous on IRS.gov and can be removed without loss of meaning. In general, redundant information should be eliminated or reduced on IRS.gov in order to reduce risk of discovery and to promote a better taxpayer experience. Related term: ROT.
    Content Management Request An individual request to create or modify a content item on IRS.gov submitted to OLS through the Content Management Request System.
    Content Management Request System (CMRS) The official Request System used by OLS to process all requests to publish or modify information on IRS.gov.
    Content Type Catalogue The current official list of supported content types on IRS.gov.
    Content Types IRS.gov content types describe different types of information and related structure. A simple example is a recipe that contains ingredients, instructions, and the recipe name. For the purpose of IRS.gov, each content type will typically be associated with a template that provides consistent visual presentation of information elements across various devices.
    Drupal The web content management system that is used to create and manage IRS.gov.
    Editorial Activities related to writing and editing content for publication on IRS.gov. This includes the application of plain language compliance standards, the use of the IRS Style Guide published by Communications and Liaison, as well as editorial practices specific to posting information on IRS.gov that are contained or referenced by this guidance.
    Expiration Date Also known as the Unpublish Date, it is the date on which a content item expires and must be recertified for technical accuracy. All content on IRS.gov that is not identified as historical must be re-certified at least annually.
    Footers Content displayed at the bottom of each page and common across all Drupal-generated pages on IRS.gov.
    Foresee An online tool that prompts users to share feedback as they browse a web site.
    Friendly URL In Drupal, this is known as an “alias.” This is a URL – a.k.a. web address – that is created as an alternative to the system URL. This is not to be confused with a vanity URL, which redirects users to an existing page.
    Global Navigation Links used to find content that are common across all Drupal-generated pages. These links display in the header and footer.
    Goal In the context of IRS.gov, a task that a taxpayer or other site visitor wishes to complete when visiting IRS.gov.
    Guidelines Recommendations and/or best practices that support our standards and serve as a reference for the end users of IRS.gov.
    Heading (H1) Tags These are tags that are used to create headings. They are pieces of HTML code that allow you to make certain words stand out on a page. The most important tag is the <h1> heading tag, and will usually be the title of a post. Heading tags have a top-down hierarchy from <h1> to <h6>.
    Historical A designation used when content no longer has an expiration date and no longer needs to be recertified.
    Information Architecture The structural design of a website and the information on it. The art and science of organizing and labeling websites, intranets, online communities, and software to support findability and usability.
    IRS.gov Content Publishing Model (ICPM) A model that defines organizational roles, processes and tools to standardize and improve IRS.gov content for end users.
    Meta Descriptions A description or short abstract of a webpage.
    Metadata Information about IRS.gov content. It is data that is used to label, sort, filter or manage IRS.gov content.
    Microsite Supplementary IRS websites with specialized content, independently managed by business partners.

    Example: https://www.stayexempt.irs.gov
    Narrative Text Narrative text is a phrase, sentence, or paragraph(s) on IRS.gov.
    Online Content Life Cycle The standard business process used to maintain content on IRS.gov from the moment it is conceived to the time the information is permanently removed from IRS.gov.
    Performance Tool A job aid. It presents information that may assist an individual with performing a task but is considered guidance rather than a standard, policy or business rule.
    Policy A course or principle of action related to IRS.gov. A business rule that must be followed when publishing information to IRS.gov.
    Primary Navigation A collection of links found in the header on IRS.gov in the form of a megamenu. They provide the main way of manually finding content by directing visitors to the largest or most commonly sought content categories. Part of the global navigation, it supports the site’s taxonomy.
    Production The process of building a piece of content on IRS.gov in terms of final data entry and technical presentation to the end user.
    Rail Referring to the left or right content area of a web page.
    Recertify Indicate that a content item is technically correct and should remain visible on IRS.gov. Recertifying a content item typically extends the expiration date by one year. Content must be recertified annually unless an item is marked as historical.
    Records Management The activity of managing the evidence of an organization's activities as well as the reduction or mitigation of risk associated with It. For the purpose of this guidance, it is the management of all records of business activity related to the publication of information on IRS.gov.
    Redundant, Outdated, Trivial (ROT) Information that is no longer needed on IRS.gov because it is addressed elsewhere, no longer current, or no longer needed by a specific audience segment related to IRS.gov.
    Roles A function performed by an individual. For the purpose of this guidance, roles may be formal or informal and performed in order to publish information to IRS.gov. Roles are a critical component of the IRS.gov Content Publishing Model (ICPM) and allow individuals involved in the content life cycle to coordinate activities.
    Root Knowledge Divided into two main areas:

    Legal Guidance (Authoritative) - Content that picks up where the tax code ends. Explains the practical implementation of complying with tax laws and the IRS administration of those laws. Examples include Revenue Rulings, Revenue Procedures, Treasury Decisions, and Notices. Legally binding.

    Tax Administration (Non-Authoritative) - Content the IRS is required to make public under FOIA and section 6110. Includes Written Determinations, Chief Counsel Advice, Reviewed Field Advice, and Program Manager Technical Assistance. Not legally binding, non-precedential.
    Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Activities to refine content on IRS.gov so the information is easily located by commercial search engines. SEO activities typically include adding data about information on the site (metadata) and employing editorial practices that help commercial search engines recognize the nature of the presented information.
    Secondary Navigation Located on the left rail on desktop displays or under the primary navigation on mobile, these link collections are specific to the larger content categories found in the primary navigation and help the visitor navigate to more granular content. Links are built according to the site’s taxonomy.
    Site Structure The overall organization of information on IRS.gov. Site structure is also referred to as the information architecture. It includes a number of different components such as navigation, standardization of certain types of information, and organizing and labelling information to promote search and filtering on IRS.gov.
    Standard A stated measure of quality assurance that must be achieved to publish information to IRS.gov.
    Standardized Text Text that is predetermined in some way such as a disclaimer that may be used across multiple content items.
    Static File May refer to PDF files, image files, or other proprietary formats such as Word that are in a non-HTML format.
    Tagging The process of applying specific metadata terms to content items for the purpose of surfacing information to the user in the WCMS system.
    Taxonomy A controlled vocabulary used to label content for the external audience.
    Template A method to format information for IRS.gov and present information to the end user. It may be used to format associated pages or to present specific content types on IRS.gov.
    URL Schema A standard method of formatting web addresses.
    User Experience and Design The process and outcome of enhancing the customer's satisfaction with their visit to IRS.gov or applications. This includes all aspects or elements perceived by the customer that make the content easier to find and understand.
    Utility Navigation Common links to content that reside in the header on IRS.gov, but are not found in the main navigation or in the footer. They provide direct access to content aimed at niche audiences, news, about us or help. Part of the global navigation.
    Vanity URL Redirects users to an existing webpage. Example: http://irs.gov/freefile redirects users to https://www.irs.gov/filing/free-file-do-your-federal-taxes-for-free.
    Web Analytics Statistical measurements used to identify behavior and traffic patterns for websites.
    Web Content Management System (WCMS) The web publishing platform used to maintain and deliver information to taxpayers for IRS.gov.
    Web Strategy The process of planning delivery of information to a target audience using the IRS.gov platform. Strategy involves planning the audience, audience goal to be addressed, topic, location on website, metadata for search and filtering.

Related Resources

  1. IRM 10.5.1, Privacy Policy

  2. Document 12990, Records Control Schedules, RCS 17 Information Technology, item 25 IRS.gov Website

  3. IRM 1.17, Publishing

  4. IRM, Roles and Responsibilities of Media & Publications, Publishing Division

  5. IRM 1.11, Internal Management Documents

IRS.gov Business Purpose and Rules

  1. Business purpose: IRS.gov is one of the IRS’s primary public-facing customer service channels. It provides taxpayers and stakeholders the information and tools they need to meet their tax responsibilities.

  2. Business Rules: The business rules establish criteria for publishing content on the site. IRM, Content Life Cycle, addresses the process. IRM, Web Standards, addresses the level of quality for publishing content.

IRS.gov Content Publishing Model

  1. The primary purpose of the IRS.gov Content Publishing Model (ICPM) is to:

    • Implement processes and standards to consistently produce, update and optimize a high-quality website for IRS.gov audiences.

    • Promote better coordination between OLS and IRS business units for IRS.gov content publication.

  2. To achieve these goals, the ICPM provides clear roles, responsibilities and step-by-step procedures and standards for developing, publishing and maintaining content on IRS.gov. It also establishes business rules and standards around the following aspects of the ICPM:

    • Content Life Cycle

    • Roles

    • Records Management

    • Content Redundancy

    • Accessibility

    • Editorial

    • Static Files

    • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

    • Site Structure

    • User Experience and Design

Initial ICPM

  1. The phased development of the future state ICPM process will require ongoing collaboration between OLS and key business unit stakeholder representatives. The initial iteration that goes into effect with issuance of this interim guidance is limited in scope and includes:

    • Web Content Management System (WCMS) and Content Management Request System (CMRS)

    • Coordination between OLS and business units

    • Intake and analysis of content changes

Future State ICPM

  1. The web is constantly evolving. Maintaining a high-quality site requires us to iteratively improve our organization and processes for content management. OLS will iteratively build out the future state ICPM in partnership with business unit stakeholders to make sure new standards and business processes meet organizational goals as well as customer needs. Working with business stakeholders, OLS will phase in refinements to the ICPM and content improvement process until it becomes a continuous improvement program. New guidance will be issued as the model is refined and validated in cooperation with business units.

  2. The foundation for the future state IRS.gov continuous improvement program will be the end-to-end ICPM. The end-to-end ICPM content life cycle process will begin when a business unit identifies the need for new content or updates to content on IRS.gov, and will continue to apply until the content is removed from the site.

  3. When completed, the ICPM will help business units create and maintain customer-focused content that allows the customer to easily complete the task they have in mind when going to the IRS.gov website.

IRS.gov Content Publishing Business Process

  1. The life cycle defines each step that digital content must go through from creation to sunset (or removal).

  2. OLS manages the IRS.gov content life cycle and site organization and structure. The business units own the content and are responsible for its accuracy and ensuring it’s current. Additionally, OLS will review taxpayer behavior and feedback through analytics and other research methodology to drive improvement to IRS.gov content, in collaboration with business units, in order to enhance customer experience.

  3. Content is defined as any information that appears on IRS.gov regardless of its format. Examples of content include:

    • HTML-generated webpages

    • Images

    • Static files, e.g., Portable Document Format (PDF) files (see IRM, Static Files)

    • Links

  4. The content life cycle consists of three phases:

    1. Initiate: The business identifies an information need and submits a request to OLS

    2. Editorial: OLS and the business collaborate to develop and review content

    3. Production: OLS uses the content management system to fulfill the business’ request

  5. Various roles play an integral part in each of these phases.


  1. The IRS.gov publishing process involves the following roles, working in a collaborative manner. Roles and responsibilities for each are described below:

    • Business Representative

    • Web Strategist

    • Producer

    IMPORTANT:Roles and responsibilities do not translate into position descriptions.

Business Representative
  1. Responsibilities

    • Serves as the business unit’s liaison with OLS.

    • Coordinates business unit stakeholders to support publishing needs.

    • Coordinates activities between the business and OLS.

    • Submits the web publishing request to OLS and ensures the request is complete and accurate.

    • Conducts regular reviews of business content.

Web Strategist
  1. Responsibilities

    • Serves as OLS’ liaison with the business representative.

    • Reviews incoming Content Management Requests for completeness and coordinates within OLS.

    • Works with the business to coordinate audience, business drivers, taxonomy, content type, template, expiration date and any translation needed.

    • Coordinates final business unit customer approval before publishing content.

    • Coordinates page treatment and visual design support.

    • Evaluates and coordinates requests for changes to site organization and structure.

    • Regularly monitors, audits and evaluates published content to identify content improvement opportunities.

  1. Responsibilities

    • WCMS system expert for content production needs.

    • Verifies 508 compliance for all content.

    • Applies metadata, template and formatting.

    • Updates and creates translated pages as needed.

    • Creates friendly URLs and IRS.gov URL redirects (pending approval from management).

    • Conducts content reviews to ensure optimized search capabilities, content presentation and organization.

Content Life Cycle

  1. This section provides information regarding the Content Life Cycle.

Initiate Phase
  1. All requests for content support must be submitted using the CMRS. After the request is submitted, OLS will work with the business representative. OLS will process requests in the order they are received. Normal requests will be completed within five business days for content modifications. New content may take longer depending on the extent of the request (e.g., a request to update dozens of webpages, creating a landing page). For exceptions see the section about Rush Requests.

  2. Multilingual Content: Whether creating new content or updating existing content, the business must provide the corresponding translation. The business is responsible for ensuring multilingual content is consistent with its associated English content. The web strategist will remind the business representative they can coordinate translation and publishing with Linguistic Services.

  3. IMPORTANT: When the business unit anticipates a large web project, the business representative must initiate a content request as soon as possible. This will allow OLS to provide the necessary level of support, allocate resources and advise the business unit on the best use of web technologies and strategies.

  4. Examples of such projects include:

    • A new tax law

    • A new initiative

    • A business unit plans to reorganize a substantial amount of content

  5. IMPORTANT: If the business unit wants to consolidate or significantly restructure existing content, OLS considers this a special project that will require identifying the appropriate stakeholders, a content strategy and a timeline of deliverables. The business representative should consult with their assigned OLS web strategist.

Select Content Request Type
  1. Modify Existing Content: If the public still needs the content, but it is no longer accurate or does not comply with all established standards, the business representative must provide updated content via the CMRS. There are two levels of content changes:

    • Update: Simple changes such as punctuation, grammar or a number. Changes of this nature do not need to pass through the full editorial phase. When the business representative submits a request, the web strategist will verify it and submit it to production.

    • Modify: A change to the message. This includes rewriting pages, reformatting pages or combining multiple pages. When a content modification is requested, the web strategist and the business representative will coordinate and validate the changes.

    • IMPORTANT: For all publishing requests, the set to unpublish date will be set to one year from the date it is published, unless the business requests earlier removal.

  2. Create New Content: If content has not appeared on IRS.gov before, it is new content. A paragraph added to an existing page is not considered new content. See IRM, Business Purpose and Rules, regarding creating and publishing content. Examples of new content:

    • Web page

    • Static file (PDF)

  3. Recertify Content: Content on IRS.gov must be reviewed annually, at a minimum, to remain active on the site. The business representative is responsible for working with their subject matter experts to determine whether the content is:

    • Accurate: The technical details must be correct.

    • Relevant: Content on IRS.gov must apply to and be written for a specific audience, so the business representative must ensure that it is still appropriate for the intended audience and still meets the intended goal (i.e., does it still help the audience complete its task?)

    • Redundant and/or outdated: Identify redundant content and/or content that is no longer valid.

  4. OLS will provide periodic reports listing all content due to expire. Business representatives will filter the report to identify their content and apply a disposition to each item. Once completed, they will attach the modified report to a Content Management System Request. Below are the four dispositions:

    • Certify with no changes: No updates needed, authorize to push out the unpublish date one year.

    • Certify with changes: Updates needed. IMPORTANT: If information regarding the Subject Matter Expert identified for the webpage has changed, even when the content is still accurate and relevant, the business representative must notify OLS via the CMRS to update the contact information for the Subject Matter Expert.

    • Archive: The business representative recommends that it be removed from public view (unpublish). Archived content will remain available to IRS employees via the WCMS in accordance with the IRS.gov records schedule and can be re-posted to IRS.gov if necessary.

    • Mark Historical: If the public still needs the content but it will never be updated, the item will be marked as “historical content” on IRS.gov. Such content may include:

      - Counsel rulings and tax law
      - Aging news items that still have some relevance to the audience

  5. Historical content will:

    • Remain viewable by the public on IRS.gov

    • No longer require annual recertification

    • Will contain language indicating it is historical and no longer updated

    • Possible reasons for identifying content as historical include:

      - The content establishes legal precedent, guidance or detail for tax law or IRS rulings and procedures.
      - There is a legal mandate for the content to remain accessible specifically through the IRS website.
      - There is a legal mandate for the content to remain accessible to the public, and not having the content on IRS.gov would create cost or burden to the taxpayer and the IRS.
      - External communications products such as press releases, to confirm that the IRS promoted a specific tax topic/event/etc.

  6. Rush Requests: OLS considers any request that must be executed the same day to be a rush request. Examples of rush requests would be government shutdowns, natural disasters, tragic events and time-sensitive press releases. Rush requests will be processed in order of the requested publish date. The following are required to support a rush request:

    • Requested publish date and time.

    • Written business justification, e.g., tax law changed, result of commissioner’s testimony to Congress, etc.

    • Email message from the manager or executive authorizing the rush (attached to the request as an .msg file).

    IMPORTANT: For requests that require immediate assistance please contact OLS leadership.

Define Scope and Plan
  1. The business representative, web strategist and producer will work together. Everyone agrees on the details of the request and the timeline. The business representative will identify the necessary people from the business to approve the content and ensure its technical accuracy. The web strategist will coordinate the technical expertise from OLS to optimize the content and publish it to the website.

  2. Some content requests are more sensitive or complex than others. The web strategist and the business representative will determine the scope and decide whether the request warrants a full project with a team and a plan. If the web strategist and the business representative agree that the request is a project, they will assemble a project team and plan the project. If it is not a project, then they will move to the editorial phase.

Editorial Phase
  1. This section provides information of the Editorial Phase.

Write Content
  1. The web strategist will work with the business representative to create or modify the content according to all standards for editorial, taxonomy, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), reuse and redundancy, and digital content standards. They will also ensure the content follows requirements of IRM 10.5.1, Privacy Policy.

  2. The content development process may require the assistance of additional OLS resources such as User Experience and Design (UXD), Taxonomy, SEO and Analytics. The web strategist will coordinate these resources.

Edit and Review Content
  1. Once the content has been created or modified, the business representative will seek approval from the stakeholders. The business representative will deliver the edited content to the web strategist.

  2. The web strategist will review the final draft to verify that it complies with all standards. They will either approve the request for production or recommend changes to the business representative.

Submit Content Management Request to Production
  1. The request is sent to the production team once the web strategist and business representative have approved the content.

Production Phase
  1. The production team is responsible for entering content into the WCMS and formatting it properly for display on IRS.gov. Producers will pull content requests from a queue. If required content fields are missing or the instructions are unclear, they will contact the web strategist for clarification.

  2. Producers will process requests in the following order:

    • Rush

    • Closest due date

    • Landing page

    • Earliest submission date

  3. Unless the request is a rush, producers will process requests within five business days.

  4. In instances where the request is to archive content, the producer will ensure that no other IRS.gov content references the archived item. If any references exist, they will update the CMRS with a list of the items.

  5. For all content items that reference an item to be archived, the web strategist will contact the business representative, alerting them that the links to the archived content will be removed.

  6. The business representative must respond with a confirmation or an objection within three business days. If a business objects, they should request an alternative. If they do not request an alternative, the web strategist will authorize the producer to remove the links from associated content.

Review and Approve for Publication
  1. If the business representative makes the request, the producer will provide a preview before publishing.

  2. The business representative will distribute the preview to the stakeholders who need to approve the content before it goes live to the public. The business representative is responsible for collecting any feedback or approvals from their stakeholders.

  3. If additional corrections are required, the business representative will provide them to the web strategist. Documentation must be provided detailing the corrections. The web strategist will review the updates to ensure that the request still complies with all standards, approve the edits and notify the producer.

  4. The producer will update the content in the WCMS and indicate when it’s is ready for review. This process continues until the business representative receives approval to publish from all concerned stakeholders.

  5. Once the stakeholders have approved the content for publication, the business representative will certify and notify the web strategist that the content is approved for publication.

Publish Content
  1. OLS will publish the content on IRS.gov and notify the business representative.

Report on Content
  1. WCMS Reports: The web strategist will provide a monthly report to the business representative that includes all content expected to expire in the next 90 days. The business representative will submit a Content Management Request for each item and follow the recertification process (see Recertify Content in IRM If the content is not recertified by the business by its expiration date, OLS will unpublish the content from the site until a recertification disposition is provided by the business. OLS will provide the business with a report of items that were unpublished due to a non-recertification from the business.

  2. Audit IRS.gov Content: OLS will monitor the content and overall health of IRS.gov and perform periodic spot-checks and audits. These reviews may include analytics-based usage, plain language usage or overall site structure analyses. The web strategist will deliver the results and any recommendations to the business representative for follow up and action as needed.

Web Standards

  1. The Web Standards sections are organized around specific topics. The business rules are organized under each topic area. The Editorial section provides a starting point for business rules.

  1. IRS.gov editorial standards establish guidelines for all written content on IRS.gov. Content creators and producers must package that information using both editorial and web best practices.

Editorial Authorities
  1. This section provides information of the Authorities process.

    • IRS Style Guide

    • Writing for IRS.gov

    • IRS Headings and Titles

    • Internet terms and IRS tools and services

    • Plain Language.gov

    IMPORTANT: See IRM for guidance regarding editorial standards regarding accessibility.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
  1. FAQs are a list of questions and answers relating to a particular subject.

  2. Before creating an FAQ, consider whether the content is truly a frequently asked question using call data, web metrics or other supporting information. If the content isn’t a true FAQ, you should present the information using another content format.

  3. FAQs that appear on IRS.gov but have not been published in the Internal Revenue Bulletin are not legal authority and should not be used to sustain a position unless the items explicitly indicate otherwise or the IRS indicates otherwise by press release or by notice or announcement published in the Internal Revenue Bulletin.

  4. If the FAQ doesn’t meet these criteria, add the disclaimer below to all new FAQ content that isn’t included in the Internal Revenue Bulletin unless the FAQs indicate that they may be used to sustain a legal position. The disclaimer guidance isn’t retroactive but may be applied to existing FAQ content during your annual content review.

    • Disclaimer: “This FAQ is not included in the Internal Revenue Bulletin, and therefore may not be relied upon as legal authority. This means that the information cannot be used to support a legal argument in a court case.”

Content Redundancy
  1. The reuse of content on IRS.gov has both positive and negative effects on the taxpayer experience. Our goal is to create content on IRS.gov that is unique and associated with a relevant topic. When reuse of content is required, use the guidelines listed below. Doing so will ensure content is current and accurate for the taxpayer versus duplicative, confusing and potentially in conflict.

Content Redundancy Authorities
  1. It’s the policy of OLS to reduce redundancy on IRS.gov to improve the taxpayer experience.

Content Redundancy Business Rules
  1. This section provides information regarding the Business Rules process.

  2. All new IRS.gov content must be unique and associated to a relevant topic. When updating existing content, ensure you do not duplicate information that may already exist elsewhere on IRS.gov. Content must be current and accurate as this reflects the public perceptions of the IRS and can have legal implications.

  1. You may request the use of approved images in designated regions of IRS.gov, but the repeated use of a single photo in a high profile location across multiple pages will detract from the user experience and OLS will reject such requests. Photos must also be relevant and add value to the content. OLS will ensure there is no copyright infringement for any images used on IRS.gov.

Reuse of Written Material
  1. There are three categories of text content:

    • Standardized text

    • Narrative text

    • Root knowledge

  2. Standardized text is predetermined in some way, such as a disclaimer and may potentially be used across multiple content items. You should link to centralized standardized text across IRS.gov pages, but you may reuse the actual text when required. If actual text is used, only one use of each type may occur within any single page. The authorized items are:

    • Privacy statement

    • Legal disclaimer

    • Outage message

  3. Narrative text is a phrase, sentence, or paragraph(s). You cannot reuse, repeat, paraphrase or duplicate narrative text located on IRS.gov. Link to text; do not appropriate it. The authoritative source for a specific area creates and manages the related content. All others must link to that content. This guideline does not apply to press releases created by Communications and Liaison (C&L).

    • IMPORTANT: OLS may approve waivers of this standard in exceptional cases.

  4. Root knowledge consists of legal guidance (e.g. Revenue Rulings) and tax administration (e.g. Written Determinations) information. You must link to root knowledge documents in all situations. You cannot reuse, repeat, paraphrase, or duplicate root knowledge that is located on IRS.gov.

  1. IRS.gov is not a repository for audio and video files. Certain existing exceptions apply (ex. National Communications & Liaison). The authoritative business unit source for a specific area creates and manages their own video and audio materials and maintains them outside of IRS.gov. OLS will then link or embed these hosted audio and video materials.

  1. Do not reuse, repeat, paraphrase or duplicate tables on IRS.gov. The authoritative business unit source for a specific area creates and manages the related content. All others must link to that content.

Records Management
  1. This guidance covers records management retention rules for IRS.gov content and the record of changes to IRS.gov published content. OLS works with the Records and Information Management (RIM) Office to schedule IRS.gov records and to make updates to that schedule. OLS works with Information Technology (IT) to ensure prior versions of IRS.gov content are maintained. OLS, IT and other agency stakeholders work together to maintain records of IRS.gov content change requests.

Records Retention
  1. A records control schedule (RCS, aka records schedule or disposition authority) is a document that provides mandatory retention and destruction instructions for what to do with records (and non-record materials) no longer needed for current Government business. The development of a records control schedule is not by choice, but by law. Federal law requires all agencies to have an effective and efficient records management program.

  2. The IRS.gov retention rules are found in Document 12990, Records Control Schedules, RCS 17 Information Technology, item 25 IRS.gov Website. The RCS outlines the relevant web-related artifacts to retain, and the appropriate time frame for retaining these artifacts.

IRS.gov Accessibility
  1. The purpose of this section of Interim Guidance is to provide business units with rules and guidelines for creating and maintaining accessible web content on IRS.gov, ensuring equivalent access to information for users with disabilities.

  2. IRS.gov content authors are expected to ensure that the guidelines specified under this Interim Guidance are adhered to and maintained in accordance with , Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

  3. IRS.gov accessibility consists of three areas:

    • Creating an accessible experience for all users of IRS.gov. Making the site accessible improves it for everyone and enables users who have limits on their ability to interact with web content.

    • Create content that is usable by the largest possible audience, whether disabled or not. It’s also a legal requirement for IRS.gov, a federal site, which is subject to Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

    • Create content that individuals can navigate and understand using assistive technologies such as Job Accessibility With Speech (JAWS), Dragon Naturally Speaking, and ZoomText. Accessible documents work in partnership with assistive technology to ensure individuals with disabilities have access to digital information.

IRS.gov Accessibility Authorities
  1. Section 508 compliance is required by law. (See IRM, Accessibility References)

  2. The IRS Information Resources Accessibility Program (IRAP) Office is responsible for setting IRS policy and standards for accessibility according to the rule of the law. OLS provides technical guidance and support for accessibility standards and initiatives related to web content on IRS.gov by:

    • Ensuring that IRS.gov web content complies with Section 508 requirements.

    • Creating an accessibility checkpoint in the content development life cycle process that can be integrated into day-to-day operations.

    • Using approved tools for maintaining accessibility compliance of web content.

    • Collaborating with IRAP to select compliance testing tools for use by web content authors.

    • Providing business units with technical guidance for website design and content formulation on IRS.gov.

IRS.gov Accessibility Compliance Process
  1. Web producers will perform an accessibility compliance check in the WCMS when creating or updating any content for IRS.gov. If the compliance check identifies 508 compliance issues, the producer will inform the web strategist, who will then contact the business representative for remediation before sending the content back to the producer for publishing.

IRS.gov Accessibility Compliance Resources
  1. This subsection defines the resources that are available for business units to author and test web content. The guidelines here provide instructions to create a technical structure that is understood by assistive technology.

  2. Performance Tools

  1. This section provides information regarding the References process.

Static Files
  1. Creating content in HTML through the WCMS is the standard method for publishing on IRS.gov. A “static file” is a type of content for IRS.gov that cannot be created or updated through the WCMS. Static files are created externally and uploaded into the WCMS to provide public access to the content.

Static Files Authorities (OLS, M&P)
  1. OLS is responsible for vetting static files submitted through the CMRS. The web strategist reviews content requests that include static files to ensure adherence to these interim guidance standards and IRM 1.17, Publishing. The Media and Publications (M&P) Publishing Division informs the decision, as it has the responsibility to communicate and distribute informational and instructional products to appropriate audiences and the authority to produce and procure all Servicewide print and electronic communications products for dissemination.

  2. See IRM, Roles and Responsibilities of Media & Publications, Publishing Division.

IRS.gov Allowed Types
  1. When it is not feasible to create content within the WCMS, Portable Document Format (PDF) (compliant with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973) is the second preference for publishing on IRS.gov.

  2. OLS will not publish files in proprietary formats (e.g., Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Excel, etc.) on IRS.gov. This is to allow site visitors to access information without the need for a proprietary application.

  3. Exception: OLS may approve files in other formats on an exception basis. Approval may be granted in cases where the business representative is reasonably certain their intended audience is able to access files in that format. For example, it may be reasonable to publish files in Microsoft Excel for e‐file software developers, but not for information targeted to the general public.

  4. Note: Creating a static file alternative to a webpage is not acceptable. This is considered redundant/duplicative content.

  5. If the business representative believes they need to publish a static file in a format other than PDF, they must request an exception when submitting a Content Management Request. OLS will evaluate the static file and its content. In order to streamline the process of exception static file publishing, they should coordinate the development of the content with their web strategist.

Static File Business Rules
  1. This section provides information regarding the Static File Business Rules process.

    • Static file(s) must conform to IRM 1.17, Publishing.

    • Static file(s) must be of an approved media type or have been approved for exception.

  2. Static File Content Types (Forms and Pubs, Counsel, Schema, FOIA, etc.): Do not attempt to use static files to create content that would otherwise be subject to oversight and control as a published product (form, instruction, publication, notice, etc.) by Media and Publications (M&P). For example, the web strategist will refer a static file that appears to provide employee guidance that may be an Internal Management Document (IMD) to the Office of Servicewide Policy, Directives and Electronic Research (SPDER) for review. If you believe your content may be interpreted as a published product or an IMD, you should coordinate with M&P and/or SPDER at the beginning of the content development process. This will allow your content to be published most quickly in the appropriate manner.

Static File References
  1. This section provides information regarding the Static File References process.

    • IRM 1.17, Publishing

    • IRM 1.11, Internal Management Documents

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  1. Search engine optimization is a set of best practices that improves where web content ranks in a search engine’s organic (unpaid) results. In general, top-ranked content on a search results page gets more visitors clicking through to that website from the search engine.

  2. Best Bets: OLS can create top search recommendations for users who search within IRS.gov. Business representatives can submit requests via the CMRS.

SEO Overview
  1. SEO standards provide guidance on creating IRS content that will rank well on search engines such as Google and Bing. The content that is targeted for search engine optimization should appear on the first page of searches.

  2. The scope of the standard applies to content development, technical standards, user experience, analysis and related processes that are required for optimization.

SEO Business Rules
  1. This section provides information regarding the SEO Business Rules process.

  1. Metadata is descriptive information about content.

  2. OLS will maintain certain metadata to improve search engine results for IRS.gov content. The items listed below are applicable to the WCMS. Web strategists will work with the business to determine the best use of the data to ensure the best possible results for search within IRS.gov as well as with external search engines.

    • Page Meta Descriptions: This is the text that often will appear in search results for this page. It must be no longer than 160 characters and include keywords as appropriate. Each page on IRS.gov should have a unique meta description.

    • Page Meta Title: This text displays in the title bar of a visitor's web browser when visiting this page. It is often identical to the H1 tag (typically the page’s headline).

    • Canonical URL: Preferred page location or URL to help eliminate duplicate content for search engines. This tells search engines that the page in question should be treated as though it were a copy of the URL listed, and that all of the link and content metrics the engines apply should technically flow back to the listed URL.

    • Noindex Meta Standard: To prevent most search engine web crawlers from indexing a page on IRS.gov, OLS can place a “no index” tag using the Metadata Module. This means that external search engines will not read the page and will not list it in their results.

  3. Use Meta Descriptions and Alt Text process.

    • The business representative should make sure that all content has an abstract, i.e., a brief description of the content. Limit it to one or two sentences. Don’t forget to use keywords.

    • Alt text describes an image and the function of the image on the page. Google places a relatively high value on alt text to determine what’s in or on an image. All images used must include alt text to improve SEO and comply with accessibility requirements.

Site Structure
  1. Site structure represents the Information Architecture for IRS.gov and includes standards for the internal organization of content and navigation, as well as labeling and categorization to improve content discoverability.

  2. Site structure will be maintained through the use of:

    • Regular content audits

    • Regular content inventories

    • Periodic updates to taxonomies

    • Periodic updates to navigation

    • Development of additional metadata

Site Structure Authorities
  1. OLS is responsible for defining and maintaining the site structure of IRS.gov.

  2. Content organization will be enforced through rigorous controls on what content is published and where that content is housed within the site’s navigation. OLS will conduct regular content inventories to ensure that content is still relevant and stored in the most logical location.

Site Structure Business Rules
  1. Information Architecture refers to the standards by which content is placed into navigational hierarchies within the site as well as standards for how navigational tools will be used to make content discoverable for site visitors.

Homepage Governance
  1. OLS is responsible for managing the IRS.gov homepage. The IRS.gov homepage will be used to make most content time relevant and discoverable for site visitors.

  2. Content organization will be enforced through rigorous controls on what content is published. OLS will conduct regular content analytics to ensure that content is still relevant and stored in the most logical location.

  3. Homepage Components:

    • Top tasks blocks

    • Forms and instructions blocks

    • Promotional card blocks

  4. Only C&L has permission to request changes to the promotional cards.

  5. OLS makes the decision on what content goes in the top tasks and forms and instructions blocks.

    • Requests can be taken from business units but the changes must be supportable by data, including but not limited to Google analytics, call center data, Forsee data, user feedback and a continuous monitoring of the homepage statistics.

    • OLS will provide courtesy updates to business units when a top task has been updated.

  6. Promotional Card Blocks

    • Changes to the promotional cards must be requested by C&L.

    • Changes must come through OLS in the form of a CMRS ticket.

    • If the request includes a new image, C&L must provide the high-resolution version with the ticket.

  7. Top Tasks (limited to 8 blocks)

    • OLS controls content changes that must be supported by site analytics.

  8. Forms & Instructions blocks (limited to 4 blocks)

    • OLS controls content changes that must be supported by site analytics.

  9. For all updates to the homepage there are the following safeguards in place prior to publishing:

    • Additional OLS user testing and quality assurance is required before changes can be published.

    • The cache must be cleared after quality assurance is completed before the public can see any updates.

  1. Navigation Components

    • Global navigation

    • Utility navigation

    • Primary navigation

    • Secondary navigation

    • Footer

    • Breadcrumbs

    • Metadata

    • URLs

  2. Navigation Governance (includes global, primary, secondary and footer): OLS is responsible for managing the website menu system. Changes to the menus must be requested through OLS and must meet the following criteria:

    • There must be agreement with OLS.

    • The change must be supportable by site analytics.

    • Additional user testing may be required before changes can be approved and implemented.

URL Schema
  1. The URL for each piece of content is generated automatically. You may request a manually configured URL. These are subject to approval on a case-by-case basis by the web strategist responsible for the content in question.

  1. Breadcrumbs are navigation elements that graphically show where a piece of content sits in the site structure and allow the visitor to navigate back to pages that are higher up the hierarchy. The breadcrumb navigation on a page should begin with a link to the IRS.gov home page followed by a link to the navigational menu item. The current page will be the last item in the breadcrumb and will be text (not a link). Breadcrumbs will be maintained by OLS as part of the site navigational scheme.

Content Types
  1. OLS will maintain a catalog of content types that are available for use in the WCMS. The following table represents some examples of supported content types; it is not a complete list. Revisions to the official catalog of content types will be determined cooperatively between OLS and the business units.

  2. Example Content Type Catalog

    Content Type Description
    Article Used for creating informative content
    Landing Page Used for creating new hub pages, such as /filing or /payments
    Static File Used for hosting static files for placement in lists and on other pages
Metadata Management Guidelines
  1. Good metadata is essential for automated systems to categorize content and surface relevant information to users. The following standards must be followed to ensure that IRS.gov content is discoverable to users on the site or seeking IRS content through search engines.

  2. All content must be tagged. Business representatives work with web strategists and producers to ensure robust and accurate content tagging.

  3. All page level content types on IRS.gov possess the following common attributes:

    • Title

    • Body

    • Description/abstract

    • Subject matter expert

    • Organization code

    • Audience (taxonomy)

    • Focus area (taxonomy)

    • Guidance type (taxonomy)

    • Topic (taxonomy)

    • OpenText URL (read-only)

    • OpenText ID (read-only)

    • Historical content (flag)

    • Historical date (read-only)

    • Language

    • Unique ID (read-only)

    • Author

    • Created (date)

    • Published (date)

  4. Content Taxonomies: Taxonomies will be managed using the WCMS taxonomy system. The site will have the following vocabularies:

    • Focus Area: Broadly categorizing content according to the need it is meant to address

    • Audience: Identifies the intended audience for a piece of content

    • Topic: Identifies what a piece of content is about

    • Guidance Type: Sorts IRS published guidance content by type (e.g. Written Determinations, Revenue Rulings, Chief Counsel Bulletins)

  5. Business units may recommend the term(s) that most closely applies to the content. For instance, if a piece of content is written for individual military service members, use the term “military” in the audience vocabulary instead of “Individual.” The web strategist will coordinate with the business representative to finalize the content tagging.

  6. Additional terms may be added to vocabularies in limited cases. If you identify a need, please contact an OLS web strategist.

User Experience and Design
  1. User experience and design standards greatly influence the quality of customer service provided through a website. On IRS.gov, user experience normally encompasses the visual presentation of information to the user and the related practices for testing and validating the presentation of information to the end user.

User Experience Authorities
  1. OLS is responsible for optimizing the user experience for IRS.gov website visitors. OLS determines the site design, both at the global level (look and feel) and within the detailed styles established for visual page elements. OLS also determines standards for the site structure (information architecture). See related guidance at IRM on Site Structure. These standards combine to provide a user-friendly, logical and consistent experience for IRS.gov visitors as they navigate throughout the site.

  2. OLS conducts regular analysis of user behavior on IRS.gov to continually monitor the effectiveness of the site design. OLS takes a data-driven approach to identify any problem areas to focus improvements.

User Experience Business Rules
  1. Business units are responsible for their content on IRS.gov and must ensure that content is technically accurate, up-to-date and relevant for the intended audience. OLS is responsible for the presentation of content items on IRS.gov and determines whether any manually placed visual features (e.g., alert boxes, call outs, etc.) are appropriate.

  2. The business representative submits the narrative text required for a webpage through the CMRS. If the request includes proposed visual treatments for the content presentation, the assigned web strategist will review and coordinate with the business representative. If necessary, the web strategist will also coordinate design support.