4.7.1 Overview

Manual Transmittal

October 09, 2019

Purpose

(1) This transmits a revision of IRM 4.7.1, Examination Returns Control System (ERCS), Overview.

Material Changes

(1) Internal controls were added to this IRM per IRM 1.11.2, "Internal Revenue Manual (IRM) Process."

(2) Significant changes to this IRM are reflected in the table below:

Original Reference New Reference Description of Change
4.7.1.1 4.7.1.1 Title changed from "Introduction" to "Program Scope" to reflect the internal controls contained in this subsection.
All content from the previous version was incorporated into this subsection.
N/A 4.7.1.1.6 "Acronyms" table added, including definitions.
4.7.1.5 4.7.1.1.7 "Resources" moved and renamed "Related Resources" .
Added ERCS user handbook Limited Access.
4.7.1.1.1 4.7.1.2 "ERCS Access and Setup" renumbered
4.7.1.1.2 4.7.1.2.1 "Enhancements and Suggested Changes" renumbered
4.7.1.2 4.7.1.3 "ERCS Interfaces" renumbered.
In the ERCS Interface Systems table, removed Acronym column, added the acronym after the system name and added Tableau as a new system.
4.7.1.2.1 4.7.1.3.1 "AIMS" renumbered.
4.7.1.2.2 4.7.1..3.2 "SETTS" renumbered.
4.7.1.2.3 4.7.1.3.3 "SSIVL" renumbered.
Removed link to SSIVL website, added link to SSIVL SharePoint.
4.7.1.3 4.7.1.4 "ERCS Users" renumbered.
Added "Limited Access" to the "User Type" table.
Expanded description of users in the table.
4.7.1.4 4.7.1.5 "ERCS Support" renumbered.
4.7.1.4.1 4.7.1.5.1 "Server Support" renumbered.
4.7.1.4.2 4.7.1.5.2 "Software Support" renumbered.
4.7.1.4.3 4.7.1.5.3 "AIMS/ERCS Staff" renumbered.
4.7.1.4.4 4.7.1.5.4 "Headquarters Analysts" renumbered.
Removed references to Discoverer and added Tableau.
N/A 4.7.1-1 "Acronyms and Definitions" exhibit added.

(3) Minor editorial changes have been made throughout this IRM. Some items were reworded for clarity. Also, website addresses and IRM references were reviewed and updated, as necessary.

Effect on Other Documents

IRM 4.7.1, dated 4/25/2016 is superseded.

Audience

Small Business/Self Employed (SB/SE), Large Business and International (LB&I), Tax Exempt & Government Entities (TE/GE), and Headquarters (HQ) employees in Return Preparer Office (RPO), Whistleblower Office (WO), and National Research Program (NRP) who use ERCS.

Effective Date

(10-09-2019)

Robin L. Kidwell
Director, Technology Solutions
Small Business/Self Employed

Program Scope

  1. This IRM contains a basic overview of the Examination Returns Control System (ERCS) including its users, interfaces, and resources.

  2. Purpose: ERCS is an inventory and time management system for returns under examination.

  3. Audience: ERCS is used by employees in Small Business/Self Employed (SB/SE), Large Business and International (LB&I), Tax Exempt & Government Entities (TE/GE), and Headquarters (HQ) employees in the Return Preparer Office (RPO), Whistleblower Office and National Research Program (NRP) who monitor inventory, enter examination time, add new records or update existing records on ERCS. Employees include analysts, managers, technical employees, administrative support and shared administrative support personnel.

  4. Program Owner: SB/SE Director, Technology Solutions.

  5. Primary Stakeholders: LB&I.

Background

  1. ERCS provides programs and tools that aid users in performing their official duties and responsibilities, to ensure the correct type and amount of inventory is under examination and timely moving through the examination processes in order to meet the Examination Plan.

Authority

  1. IRM 4.1.1, Planning and Special Programs, Planning, Monitoring, and Coordination.

  2. IRM 4.10.1, Examination of Returns, Overview of Examiner Responsibilities.

Responsibilities

  1. The ERCS database contains personally identifiable information (PII) in the form of names, taxpayer identification numbers and addresses. It is the responsibility of all ERCS users to safeguard the taxpayer’s personal information.

  2. The responsibility of each user is defined by position code, user type and permission level.

  3. User responsibilities include but are not limited to:

    • Add and update employee records and generate employee reports.

    • Add, assign, and update returns on ERCS.

    • Control inventory for returns not on the Audit Information Management System (AIMS) (i.e. penalty records).

    • Maintain statute control for returns and when required, generate Form 895, Notice of Statute Expiration.

    • Apply time for technical employees to returns and activities performed each day.

    • Generate various types of reports.

    • Transfer or close inventory to another group, function, or area.

    • Generate and acknowledge Form 3210, Document Transmittal.

    • Approve return requisitions and subsequent updates that require managerial approval.

  4. There are special programs in ERCS available to the AIMS/ERCS staff to assist the users they support. Some of these programs give the AIMS/ERCS staff the ability to:

    • Upload ERCS requisitions and changes made by users to AIMS.

    • Generate error reports of returns with invalid or obsolete codes and discrepancies between AIMS and ERCS.

    • Update local files. (The contents of the local files are unique to each area. They are used to define local action, project, and freeze codes. Using local files, an area can restrict the use of statuses and disposal codes allowed for closing returns to match local procedures.)

    • Move inventory, employee records, and permission records from one employee to another, one group to another, or one area to another for a re-organization.

    • Add or update addresses used for Form 3210, Document Transmittal.

    • Add new employee group codes.

    • Add or update user permissions.

    • Research audit trails.

Program Management and Review

  1. Reports are available that allow management to monitor inventory, statutes, closures, time input, and employee records. See IRM 4.7.6, Reports, for more information.

Program Controls

  1. ERCS creates audit trails for selected changes to returns, employee records, and permission records. A special audit trail is also created when users enter a taxpayer identification number (TIN) or a taxpayer name on ERCS. See IRM 4.7.2, Security, for more information. IRM 4.7.2.3.4, Audit Trails, has a list of the changes in ERCS that produce an audit trail.

  2. There are security checks within ERCS to ensure unauthorized users do not access programs and authorized users are kept within the boundaries of their permissions. These checks are performed automatically and silently each time a user attempts to access ERCS. The user has no ability to prevent the checks. For more information about permissions in ERCS, see IRM 4.7.2.3.2, Permissions.

Acronyms

  1. See Exhibit 4.7.1-1, Acronyms and Definitions for acronyms used in this IRM.

Related Resources

  1. The ERCS IRMs provide information, instructions, and user responsibilities for ERCS users. There are nine ERCS IRMs, including this IRM.

    • IRM 4.7.2, Security

    • IRM 4.7.3, Statute of Limitations

    • IRM 4.7.4, Planning and Special Programs (PSP)

    • IRM 4.7.5, Group and Territory

    • IRM 4.7.6, Reports

    • IRM 4.7.7, Technical Services

    • IRM 4.7.8, Centralized Case Processing

    • IRM 4.7.10, AIMS/ERCS Staff

  2. The ERCS Technical Reference Manual provides information for the ERCS support personnel. It explains how the end-user programs work and also contains information for features only available to the AIMS/ERCS staff. It is designed to aid the AIMS/ERCS staff in researching user questions and in resolving program and data issues.

  3. There are seven ERCS user handbooks; one for each type of ERCS user. The ERCS Territory Handbook also includes information for the DFO, SB/SE Area and LB&I Practice Area users. Each of the user handbooks explain how to navigate between the ERCS menu options and screens that are available for the specific user type. See IRM 4.7.1.4, ERCS Users, for an explanation of ERCS user types.

  4. The ERCS user handbooks include:

    • ERCS Group Handbook

    • ERCS Territory Handbook

    • ERCS PSP Handbook

    • ERCS Review Handbook

    • ERCS Sample Review Handbook

    • ERCS CCP Handbook

    • ERCS Limited Access Handbook

  5. The AIMS/ERCS website is open to all IRS employees with Intranet capabilities. It contains a wealth of information such as contact lists, procedures, code lists, alerts and information for current issues.

  6. The AIMS IRM 4.4, AIMS Procedures and Processing Instructions, and IRM 2.8 , Audit Information Management System (AIMS), should be used as a companion to the ERCS IRMs since many of the processes on AIMS and ERCS are interdependent.

ERCS Access and Setup

  1. Access to ERCS is granted through the Online 5081 (OL5081) system. Refer to IRM 4.7.2.2, ERCS Access, for information on the following topics:

    • Meeting the Prerequisites

    • Choosing the OL5081

    • Completing the OL5081

  2. Once the user’s OL5081 has been processed and the user has a login and password to the ERCS system, the next step is to set up an ERCS icon. Refer to the "Creating Shortcuts" (icons on desktop) section in the ERCS Session File article for instructions. The article also has information about testing connectivity and changing the screen colors. For information about ERCS login names and passwords, see IRM 4.7.2.2.4, ERCS Login Names and Passwords. For information on what to do when an ERCS password is locked or how to set a strong ERCS password, see the Password Reference Guide for ERCS.

  3. Users having difficulties in the initial setup should contact their local AIMS/ERCS staff. The AIMS/ERCS staff should be able to resolve the issue or determine the next steps which may include inputting an OS GetServices ticket. Refer to the AIMS/ERCS Staff web page for contact information.

Enhancements and Suggested Changes

  1. Users often have ideas for program changes that would prevent data input errors, clarify error messages, make input easier, or reports more helpful. Ideas for ERCS changes can be sent to the AIMS/ERCS staff or input though the Employee Suggestion Program. Employee suggestions are evaluated based on a number of things including the cost (programmer resources involved), the availability of programmer resources, and the benefit of the change to all ERCS users.

ERCS Interfaces

  1. ERCS data is in high demand because it contains trustworthy information for tax returns under examination as well as data that is not available on other systems such as penalty records, employee information and individual time charges to returns. ERCS exchanges information with the following systems.

    System Description
    Appeals Centralized Database System (ACDS) Appeals returns and related returns are extracted from ERCS six nights a week.
    Audit Information Management System (AIMS) AIMS sends data files containing return information to ERCS each week. See also IRM 4.7.1.3.1, AIMS.
    Corporate Authoritative Directory Service (CADS) Employee information, including the standard employee identifiers (SEID)s, for employees in operating divisions using ERCS are downloaded into ERCS five days a week. This information is used to validate an employee’s SEID when employees are added to ERCS.
    Embedded Quality Review System (EQRS) ERCS sends return information for SB/SE and Specialty returns to EQRS each week.
    Employer Shared Responsibility Payment (ESRP) ERCS extracts and transfers ESRP data for PBC 212 via EFTU each week after the AMS7109 processing.
    Enforcement Revenue Information System (ERIS) ERCS sends return and employee information to ERIS the first day of each month.
    Excise Files Information Retrieval System (ExFIRS) ERCS sends return information for Excise returns and returns worked in PBC 214 to ExFIRS monthly.
    Generalized IDRS (Integrated Data Retrieval System) Interface (GII) ERCS sends updates to AIMS daily via GII.
    Issue Management System (IMS) ERCS sends return information for returns worked in Specialty and LB&I to IMS. The extraction also includes associated employee information for the returns. The program runs Sunday through Thursday.

    IMS sends time information for employees in Specialty and LB&I to ERCS every Thursday.
    National Quality Review System (NQRS) ERCS sends return information for cases selected for sample review to NQRS each week.
    Security Audit and Analysis System (SAAS) ERCS sends audit trails to SAAS daily.
    Summary Examination Time Transmission System (SETTS) ERCS sends employee information and summary time information to the SETTS server each reporting cycle. See also IRM 4.7.1.3.2, SETTS.
    Statistical Sampling Inventory Validation Listing (SSIVL) AIMS data, along with limited ERCS information, is transferred to SSIVL servers each week. See also IRM 4.7.1.3.3, SSIVL.
    Tableau Tableau is visualization software which allows certain Area PSP users, Area analysts and Headquarters (HQ) analysts to create queries and reports from the ERCS data.
    Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) ERCS sends return and employee information to TIGTA the first day of each month.

AIMS

  1. AIMS provides inventory and activity controls for returns in SB/SE, LB&I, TE/GE, Wage & Investment (W&I), and Appeals under examination. AIMS is used to control returns, input assessments and adjustments to Master File and provide management reports. It uses linkage to IDRS to input status changes, adjustments, and case closing actions.

  2. AIMS data is sent to ERCS from each of the ten campuses each week. All ten files are used for SSIVL. The following five, containing SB/SE and LB&I returns, are used in AIMS to ERCS processing:

    • Brookhaven Campus

    • Cincinnati Campus

    • Memphis Campus

    • Ogden Campus

    • Philadelphia Campus

  3. During the weekly AIMS to ERCS processing, AIMS and ERCS records are compared. The differences are resolved either by updating AIMS or updating ERCS. Differences that cannot be resolved are reported in a collection of reports called the AIMS Error Reports. New AIMS records are added to ERCS during this processing. For more information about these reports, refer to IRM 4.7.6.11, AIMS Error Reports.

  4. Requisitions, updates, transfers, and non-examined closures made by ERCS users are extracted by the AIMS/ERCS staff and sent to AIMS via GII one or more times each day. This keeps the AIMS and ERCS systems in sync.

SETTS

  1. SETTS is a subsystem of ERCS. ERCS users are responsible for maintaining employee information and inputting time to returns and activities performed by technical employees. Time charges are also added to ERCS through an interface with IMS. At the end of each reporting cycle (typically every four or five weeks), a member of the AIMS/ERCS staff in each area runs the SETTS programs to extract employee and time information from ERCS. The data is validated and then electronically transmitted to the Enterprise Computing Center at Martinsburg (ECC-MTB).

  2. At ECC-MTB the data is extracted for inclusion on Table 37, Examination Program Monitoring. The data is also sent to the AIMS Computer Information System (A-CIS). There the data is used in planning and creation of the Examination Plan and for monitoring each area/practice area to ensure the plan will be met. See IRM 4.9.1, Outline of the System, for more information.

SSIVL

  1. The SSIVL program extracts AIMS data from the ERCS server and sends the extracts to a server at the Detroit Computing Center every week. Specialized users in SB/SE, LB&I, TE/GE, and W&I access the data on the local servers and load the data into a Microsoft Access database for further analysis. This enables a field office or a campus operation to generate reports of potential errors and to generate Inventory Validation Listings (IVLs) of AIMS data.

  2. For more information refer to the SSIVL and SSIVL PC chapters of the ERCS Technical Reference Manual (TRM). SSIVL users should refer to the SSIVL section on the ERCS User Information SharePoint site for instructions on installing the SSIVL Access database tables.

ERCS Users

  1. ERCS is an inventory control system for returns under examination in area or practice area offices. It is used to control and monitor returns from the time they are selected for examination until the examinations are closed. Users in different functions have varying responsibilities as returns move through the system. ERCS is designed to meet the needs of these users.

  2. Users see different ERCS menus based on their job requirements. They also may only have access to returns at certain stages of an examination. ERCS handles the division of duties by user types and permissions. For information about permissions, refer to IRM 4.7.2, Security.

  3. All users, except limited, can research returns and run reports for returns in their group or function.

  4. The following user types are used to determine the menu options the user sees:

    User Type Description
    Admin AIMS/ERCS managers, analysts and assistants. See also IRM 4.7.1.5.3, AIMS/ERCS Staff.
    Area SB/SE Area Directors, LB&I Practice Area Directors, and administrative support staff.
    CCP Centralized Case Processing (CCP) managers, analysts, technical employees, and administrative support staff. See also IRM 4.7.8, Centralized Case Processing.
    DFO Directors of Field Operations and administrative support staff.
    Group SB/SE, LB&I, and RPO field group and tax compliance group managers, team managers, and administrative support staff. See also IRM 4.7.5, Group and Territory.
    Limited Technical employees within an examination group, PSP, review or sample review who only have permission to input time and print out their own inventory and time reports.
    PSP Planning and Special Programs (PSP) section chiefs, analysts, program coordinators, technical employees, and administrative support staff. See also IRM 4.7.4, Planning and Special Programs.
    Review Technical Services and Joint Committee Review managers, analysts, technical employees, and administrative support staff. See also IRM 4.7.7, Technical Services.
    Sample Review National Quality Review Staff (NQRS), Quality Measures and Analysis (QMA), LB&I Quality Measurement System (LQMS) managers , and administrative support staff. See also IRM 4.7.7, Technical Services.
    Territory Territory managers and administrative support staff. See also IRM 4.7.5, Group and Territory.

ERCS Support

  1. The success of ERCS depends on every user and the individuals who support the users, the hardware, and the software that make up the system.

Server Support

  1. The ERCS application runs on a Sun computer located in the Enterprise Computing Center in Memphis, Tennessee (ECC-MEM). The application runs on a Solaris operating system with an Oracle database.

  2. ERCS is supported by system administrators (SA)s and database administrators (DBA)s. The SAs must have knowledge of Solaris and the UNIX operating system. The DBAs must have knowledge of Oracle databases. For ERCS responsibilities of the SAs and DBAs, see IRM 4.7.2.1.3 (4), System Administrator Responsibilities and IRM 4.7.2.1.3 (5) , Database Administrator Responsibilities.

Software Support

  1. The ERCS programs are supported by the ERCS developers who are under Information Technology. Changes to the programs require either an OS GetServices ticket for bug fixes or a Unified Work Request (UWR) for updates and enhancements to the program. The ERCS developers are responsible for working the tickets and coordinating changes to the software. OS GetServices tickets for ERCS program problems reported by users are input by the AIMS/ERCS staff. See section IRM 4.7.1.2 (3) for more information concerning OS GetServices tickets.

  2. The ERCS developers also maintain the ERCS TRM and the seven user handbooks, located on the AIMS/ERCS website. The ERCS TRM is used mainly by the AIMS/ERCS staff as a resource to explain how the programs work. The user handbooks explain how to run the ERCS programs, what features are available, and how the screens and reports look.

AIMS/ERCS Staff

  1. Users should seek assistance from their local AIMS/ERCS staff for ERCS issues such as initial ERCS setup problems, permission problems, correcting ERCS data, updating employee records, updating work schedule profiles, and reporting program issues. IRM 4.7.10, AIMS/ERCS Staff, contains responsibilities and instructions for the AIMS/ERCS staff.

  2. The AIMS/ERCS staff works with HQ ERCS analysts and the ERCS developers to resolve ERCS related issues. Refer to the AIMS/ERCS Staff web page for contact information.

Headquarters Analysts

  1. SB/SE Headquarters (HQ) is staffed with analysts assigned to the following program areas: AIMS, ERCS, SETTS, SSIVL, and Tableau. Normally when a user experiences an AIMS or ERCS related issue, the first contact is the local AIMS/ERCS staff. If assistance is needed to resolve an issue, the local AIMS/ERCS staff may contact a HQ Analyst. The HQ ERCS analysts serve as the subject matter experts for ERCS.

  2. SSIVL users should first seek assistance from other users in their work group or their counterparts in other areas. Issues with SSIVL that cannot be resolved may be reported to a HQ SSIVL analyst.

  3. Tableau users should first seek assistance from other users in their work group or their counterparts in other areas. Issues with Tableau that cannot be resolved may be reported to a HQ Tableau analyst.

  4. For contact information for the HQ ERCS, HQ AIMS, HQ SSIVL, HQ SETTS, and HQ Tableau analysts, see AIMS, ERCS, SETTS, SSIVL, and Tableau Personnel Listing for Headquarters.

Acronyms and Definitions

Acronym Definition
ACDS Appeals Centralized Database System
A-CIS AIMS Computer Information System
AIMS Audit Information Management System
CADS Corporate Authoritative Directory Service
CCP Centralized Case Processing
DBA Database Administrator
ECC-MEM Enterprise Computing Center at Memphis
ECC-MTB Enterprise Computing Center at Martinsburg
EQRS Embedded Quality Review System
ERCS Examination Returns Control System
ERIS Enforcement Revenue Information System
ESRP Employer Shared Responsibility Payment
ExFIRS Excise Files Information Retrieval System
GII Generalized IDRS Interface
HQ Headquarters
IDRS Integrated Data Retrieval System
IMS Issue Management System
IVL Inventory Validation Listing
LB&I Large Business and International
LQMS LB&I Quality Measurement System
NQRS National Quality Review System
NRP National Research Program
OL5081 Online 5081
PII Personally Identifiable Information
PSP Planning and Special Programs
QMA Quality Measures and Analysis
RPO Return Preparer Office
SA System Administrator
SAAS Security Audit and Analysis System
SB/SE Small Business/Self Employed
SETTS Summary Examination Time Transmission System
SSIVL Statistical Sampling Inventory Validation Listing
TE/GE Tax Exempt & Government Entities
TIGTA Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration
TIN Taxpayer Identification Number
TRM Technical Reference Manual
UWR Unified Work Request
W&I Wage and Investment
WO Whistleblower Office