5.1.31 Workload Management

Manual Transmittal

October 27, 2014


(1) This transmits an update to IRM 5.1.31, Workload Management.

Material Changes

(1) IRM, Overview, text added to clarify purpose of this IRM section.

(2) IRM, Overview, caution added to emphasize that this IRM does not add, remove, replace or otherwise change any existing IRM procedures.

(3) Editorial changes made throughout.

(4) IRM references and hyperlinks updated throughout.

Effect on Other Documents

This IRM supersedes IRM 5.1.31 dated July 15, 2011.


Field Revenue Officers and Group Managers

Effective Date


Rocco A. Steco
Acting Director, Collection Policy
Small Business/Self-Employed


  1. This IRM section provides specific suggestions for how revenue officers (ROs) can establish, improve and sustain good workload management techniques and time utilization skills.


    This section does not add, remove, replace or otherwise change any existing IRM policies or procedural requirements.

  2. Effective workload management can be achieved through the use of a basic planning system to calendar, plan, schedule, and complete work assignments in a timely and efficient manner. Managing a Collection inventory entails the following:

    • resolving cases in a timely fashion

    • effectively addressing changing priorities

    • informing the group manager when circumstances may cause delays

    • addressing interruptions in a manner that minimizes negative impact.

Effective Time Management

  1. Managing time effectively requires first awareness of how much time is needed and available to work both business priority and routine cases while meeting standards for timely initial contact and follow-up actions. See IRM and IRM for applicable requirements and guidelines.

  2. This requires the use of some kind of calendar system to manage workload. Every case should be scheduled on a calendar for initial contact, follow-up actions and established taxpayer deadlines. These dates should be documented in the Integrated Collection System (ICS) case history.

  3. Once activities are scheduled and calendared, stick to the plan in the priority order you have established and maintain your focus throughout on case resolution.

Time Use Analysis

  1. If you discover that you are not meeting scheduled deadlines and completing routine tasks timely, analyze how you use your time. Each day for a least one work week, keep a log of each activity and the amount of time used regardless of how much time.

    1. Record and label scheduled and non-scheduled work activities. (See Exhibit 5.1.31-1 for an example of a Time Use Analysis Log.) Scheduled activities consist of those with a definite time, time period, and date. For example, "Scheduled: Case Consultation appointment with GM. , 11:00-11:40 AM, 40 minutes. Unscheduled: TCR from T/P, 2:12-2:23, 10 minutes."

    2. Record personal use of time, such as telephone calls, internet activities, breaks, lunch, and interactions with co-workers. (Be honest and objective in recording this information. It need not be shared with anyone else.)

    3. Assess whether the activity was necessary, and whether it needed to take place when it did and take as much time as it did. For example, did you need to EOD first thing in the morning? Did you need to take two hours to complete a Form 3870? Could you perform these tasks more quickly and efficiently? Do you need additional training or guidance to do so?

    4. Identify time wasters and time savers.

    5. Determine the impact on effective case resolution of conducting the activity when you did and for the amount of time used.

    6. Determine whether time could have been better managed by scheduling interruptions for a mutually agreeable time rather than stopping to address the interruption immediately.

  2. Examine the log entries for each day and analyze how the time was spent to determine where time could have been used more productively.

  3. The following are suggestions for how to manage time more effectively:

    1. Address interruptions and unscheduled activities in a way that will have little or no impact on timely case actions.

    2. Allow for unforeseen events by building a cushion of time into the daily schedule.

    3. Take as many actions as possible on a case to move it forward before setting it aside to work on another. For example, complete all requests for postal tracers and credit bureau checks; complete all summons and levy documents; and update the history before moving to the next case. This keeps you focused and saves time lost when continually restarting work on numerous cases. In some instances identical complex actions required to resolve similar cases may be grouped together to gain efficiency. For instance, actions related to several TFRP investigations or assessments might be taken at the same time or all on the same day. See Exhibit 5.1.30-2 in IRM 5.1.30, Resolution-directed Case Work, for a Time Line of Possible Simultaneous Case Actions for each stage of the collection process.

    4. If the manager has no objection, post a Do Not Disturb sign on your cubicle.

    5. Only answer expected phone calls or those that do not interfere with your schedule.

    6. Schedule return calls after assessing the likely extent of the conversation. A request to confirm receipt of a payment or document would only take a couple of minutes. But an initial phone call might require considerably more time. Schedule and allocate time to check voice messages to ensure taxpayers receive a timely response. Avoid checking messages too frequently.

    7. When out of the office for extended periods of time, leave a message on the telephone and email to direct the caller to an alternate person for assistance. This will save you and the taxpayer time in the long run.

    8. When leaving a calling card or phone message for a taxpayer to return a call, provide a specific date and time for the call to be returned.

    9. Always document a plan in the ICS case history for your next actions in support of your case resolution plan. The plan should incorporate dates for specific actions.

    10. Determine how much time is needed to complete planned actions and update the calendar accordingly.

    11. Always document action dates on your calendar system.

    12. Unscheduled visits by co-workers can be disruptive. Let them know they need to limit social visits or schedule work related meetings for another time if not convenient at the moment.

    13. If a co-worker requests assistance, determine the amount of time involved and whether the co-worker needs assistance immediately. When lengthy assistance is needed, schedule a meeting during an open time on your calendar. When appropriate, direct the co-worker to the applicable technical reference.

    14. If uncertain about how to proceed on a case and you have spent a reasonable amount of time researching the issue without success, consult with your manager, an OJI, a senior revenue officer and/or Advisory. You may also post questions to the Ask Collection Policy web site at http://mysbse.web.irs.gov/Collection/askcollectionpolicy/default.aspx once you have consulted with your manager and advisory.

    15. Do not put a case away simply because you do not know how to proceed. This will only delay resolution further.

Calendar System

  1. A calendar system should be used to control the use of time and effectively manage a case inventory.

  2. An effective calendar system promotes the proper scheduling and planning of time. The initiation of a follow-up action within 15 calendar days of the expiration of a deadline is required per IRM Adhering to this requirement is a core workload management technique.

  3. Available calendaring tools include the ICS calendar, the Microsoft Outlook calendar, a paper calendar, the ICS Outlook Calendar or a combination.

  4. Document the calendar with all activities in advance and allow for the addition of subsequent activities as they arise. The following key activities should be included into a calendar system:

    • Field calls

    • Case actions (levy, summons, NFTL, etc.)

    • Follow-ups

    • Taxpayer deadlines

    • Scheduled taxpayer interviews

    • Group Meetings

    • Scheduled leave

    • Alternate Work Schedule (AWS) days off

    • Consultations with management

    • Holidays

    • Reviews

    • Training

    • Time sheet submission

    • Travel authorizations and vouchers

  5. Choose the calendaring method -- electronic, paper or a combination -- best suited to your personal style that achieves the best results.

ICS Notifications

  1. The ICS calendar and notification system can help you maintain control of time and manage your inventory. Detailed instructions on how to use the ICS calendar system are available on the ICS home page. The CALENDAR function can be accessed from anywhere within ICS by pressing the <F4> function key or by clicking the calendar icon or Calendar in My ICS. A follow-up notification can be created by pressing the <F7> function key.

  2. The ICS Outlook Calendar is essentially a copy of the existing ICS Calendar, but with all the view and print options that Microsoft Outlook provides. It is encrypted and resides in your computer workstation.

  3. All case related activities and follow-ups should be entered on the calendar. When a follow-up is added through the calendar function, it will be listed under current follow-ups (Option H on the Entity Detail menu) in that case. In addition, when that follow-up becomes due, a notification will be generated.

  4. The Add Appointment option allows for adding non-case related activities (e.g., workshops, group meetings, classes). Using this function to enter appointments on the calendar will not generate a notification.

Microsoft Outlook Reminders

  1. The Microsoft Outlook Calendar is an automated calendar and scheduling component of Outlook. It is fully integrated with email, contacts, appointments, and other similar features, permitting a view of a day, week, or month at a glance.

  2. To schedule appointments and reminders on the Microsoft Outlook Calendar, select a date and time in the calendar and begin typing. A sound or message can act as a reminder of appointments, meetings, and events, and the appointment can be color coded for easy identification.

  3. Answers to questions about the Microsoft Outlook Calendar can be found by clicking the Help button in the Microsoft Outlook task bar and then clicking Microsoft Outlook Help.


    Microsoft Outlook is NOT a secure program. Taxpayer information must not be entered on this calendar system. Name controls are not considered taxpayer identification and may be used in Outlook.

Paper Calendars

  1. A variety of paper calendar systems are available. Use the system that best meets your needs. The calendar you choose should be handy at all times and available for revision when planning a schedule, including the ability to add personal and work commitments. It should have sufficient space to make notes. Strive to keep the calendar organized and free of loose papers.

  2. The benefits of the paper system include the ability to do the following:

    • Review a monthly calendar at a glance.

    • Take notes at interviews, meetings, or training sessions.

    • Combine personal schedule with the work schedule. (Note: Care should be taken to eliminate any disclosure problems if the calender is used out of the office.)


  1. For efficiency, similar work activities, such as preparing several postal tracers or actions related to several TFRP investigations, should be grouped together and performed at the same time when possible.

  2. Certain tasks might be performed more efficiently in one location (office, field, or flexiplace location) than in another. When possible, schedule a full day of work in the office, the field, or your flexiplace location.

Office and Flexiplace Days

  1. Only a few activities must take place in the office, including the following:

    • meetings with managers, advisors, and co-workers

    • receiving mail, processing payments, returns, and other documents.

  2. Generally, you have more control over your environment in your flexiplace location than in the office. Tasks requiring extraordinary focus and the absence of distractions might best be conducted on flexiplace, such as the following:

    • Extended telephone conversations

    • Assembling large or complex files

    • Conducting extensive IRM or on-line locator research

    • Writing lengthy reports or other documents

    • Performing a series of complex calculations.

Field Days

  1. Field activity is any work that requires the RO to be away from the office, such as the following:

    • Making initial contacts as required at the taxpayer’s business or residence (See IRM

    • Conducting subsequent meetings with the taxpayer or representative

    • Performing case related research (courthouse searches, third party contacts, etc.)

    • Taking enforcement actions

    • dDocumenting case histories immediately after the field visit while the information is fresh

    • Viewing assets.

  2. Plan and execute case-related travel in a manner which is efficient, timely, and cost effective. When planning field calls, do the following:

    • Group cases by geographical areas (county, location, or ZIP code).

    • Develop a listing of cases in order of contact locations, usually the furthest field call first and closest last.

    • Carry extra work in case some taxpayers are not reachable at home or at their business.

    • Consolidate the number of cases in each area.

    • Review maps of the areas to avoid wasting time locating addresses.

    • overnight travel may be an efficient way to handle multiple calls at distant locations.


  1. Deadlines should be given when appropriate for items and tasks to be completed by the taxpayer, including the following:

    • filing returns

    • making payments

    • providing financial statements and/or supporting documentation

    • submitting verification of attempts to get loans to make full or partial payment

    • providing proof of FTD compliance and estimated tax payments

    • appearing for scheduled appointments.

  2. Deadlines should be reasonable with respect to the tasks the taxpayer has been given to complete. Provide adequate time for both completion of the task and for delivery of the requested item when setting deadlines.

  3. Follow-up dates for the deadlines should be scheduled on the calendar to meet the requirements of IRM for timely follow-up action.

  4. Extensions of deadlines should be rare and only occur when the need for additional time is verified. Consideration should be given to the past performance of the taxpayer or representative.

  5. Incremental deadlines that require ongoing performance by the taxpayer may also be considered.

  6. Stagger deadlines in consideration of other case activities or enforcement actions that may be necessary if the taxpayer fails to comply in order to complete follow-up actions timely.

  7. When taxpayers or representatives miss a deadline, take the next appropriate action required to resolve the case. Except in rare instances, avoid re-contacting the taxpayer to discuss why the deadline was not met.

  8. Form 9297, Summary of Taxpayer Contact, must be used during face to face contact where there is no fraud potential to list the information/documents required and the date for receipt. (See IRM .

Follow-up Activities

  1. Follow-up activities should be scheduled on the calendar based on taxpayer or third party deadlines. Initiation of a follow-up action within 15 calendar days of the expiration of a deadline is required. Take follow-up actions simultaneously whenever possible. See IRM and Exhibit 5.1.30-2 in IRM 5.1.30

Methods for Filing Physical Inventory

  1. Maintain case files in secure cabinets.

  2. Label case folders with the taxpayer’s name for quick visual identification and access in the event the taxpayer calls unexpectedly.

  3. Develop a filing system that is simple, easily maintained, and effective in preventing case delays. It should also allow easy location of a file by the manager and/or duty officer if the responsible officer is absent. The Alpha, Modified Alpha, and Numeric systems described below provide proven methods for maintaining physical inventory files.

  4. As soon as practicable, remove from your files and dispose of dated and/or extraneous material that is not needed to support or reflect actions taken in the course of the case, including ICS histories, old IDRS prints, maps, blank pages, duplicate documents, etc.

Alpha System

  1. One practical method for filing physical inventory is a simple Alphabetical file.

  2. The Alpha System makes it easy to find a case when a taxpayer calls or correspondence is received.

Modified Alpha System

  1. In the Modified Alpha system, physical inventory is filed in alphabetical order within three separate categories:

    • Field Call Files (Cases Needing a Field Call) - These files consist of those cases requiring field action, whether new receipts or cases in progress. Review this inventory for the last action dates when planning the field itinerary to prevent the aging of inventory.

    • Office Files (Cases Needing Office Actions) - Office Files consist of those cases which need some office time to complete case processing. These cases should be scheduled on the calendar and checked periodically to prevent lapses in activity.

    • Suspense Files (Cases Awaiting Deadline Expirations/Information) - Suspense Files are those cases in process which have had contact and which are now awaiting the expiration of a deadline or for which internal research is pending. These cases should be reviewed every 30 - 45 days to ensure that actions are current and to prevent aging of cases.

  2. The Modified Alpha System provides a quick visual reference as to how many field calls are necessary and how many cases are pending. Conduct additional research if necessary if a taxpayer calls or comes into the office unexpectedly.

Numeric System

  1. The Numeric System is based on the calendar date for scheduled follow-up activities.

  2. Physical inventory is filed in order from 1 to 31 corresponding to the date of the month when the follow-up is scheduled.

  3. The case file should be clearly marked with the name of the taxpayer for quick access in the event the taxpayer calls unexpectedly or access is required in the absence of the revenue officer.

Maintaining the Inventory Management System

  1. Inventory management systems require discipline and maintenance to ensure timely case actions/follow-ups. Cases should be worked on the date that they have been placed on the calendar.

  2. If the follow-up action is not completed by the 15th day after the deadline, it should be rescheduled on the calendar as soon as possible. (See IRM ). The reason(s) for the delay should be clearly documented. However, sound workload management requires that every effort be made to meet the initial follow-up date.

  3. Depending on the nature of the correspondence, cases should not be worked solely because mail has been received. Payments and returns should be processed on the day received or as soon as possible on the next business day ( IRM 5.1.2 ). Some types of correspondence require prompt processing, including Collection Due Process (CDP) (IRM and Collection Appeal Program (CAP) requests (IRM, notice of bankruptcy petitions (IRM, requests for assistance by TAS (IRM and offers in compromises (OICs) (IRM Other mail received should be date stamped and placed into the case file and worked when the case is calendared. The ICS history should also be updated to reflect receipt of the document(s).

  4. Complete all appropriate actions on each case when scheduled, including documenting the case history with the case resolution plan and next actions, as well as deadlines and follow-up dates.

  5. Case inventories should be reviewed once every thirty days to ensure all cases are on the calendar. Regularly match physical case files to the ICS inventory list and resolve discrepancies as appropriate.

  6. Document changes to a schedule due to unexpected leave, priority assignments, details, as well as other reasons, and re-schedule case actions and/or follow-ups accordingly.

Methods for Managing Electronic Files

  1. Microsoft Outlook provides the ability to organize folders, files and documents in a variety of ways. The objective of any such organization system is to be able to locate what you want the moment you need it.

  2. Electronic files have greatly reduced the need for paper documents. To take full advantage of this capability, to the greatest extent possible, limit printing to documents that must be in paper form.

Organizing Email

  1. Email messages can be organized by date, topic and author or a combination of all three.

  2. It is a good practice to file an email message in an appropriate folder the moment you read it and to strive to keep the size of your in-box to a minimum.

  3. As a general rule, don't save any email message providing newsletters or other documents maintained on separate web sites. Read the relevant material, delete the email, and if you need to refer back to the article, go to the web site. Consider making the web site a favorite or creating a shortcut to it if you refer to it often. Alternatively, you can copy relevant material to a Word file and save it in a document folder.

  4. Create a new email folder when you have received or anticipate receiving several email messages on the same topic. For example, you might create a folder for TFRP information if you have received several email messages and technical advisories on this process. Likewise bankruptcy, installment agreements, CI, innocent spouse issues, and other common topics might warrant their own folders. You can also create sub-folders within these folders, for example, within an IA folder, you might have email messages specifically addressing PPIAs to the extent that they warrant their own sub-folder. However, avoid creating unnecessary sub-folders or sub-sub folders. Create a miscellaneous folder for email messages that do not fit into any particular category.

  5. One method many find effective is to create email folders according to years and months for general email messages that don't fall into specific categories. See the Microsoft at Work, http://www.microsoft.com/atwork/productivity/emailtools.aspx, web site for other ideas on how to manage email effectively.

Organizing Electronic Files

  1. Strategies similar to those used to manage email messages can also be employed with electronic documents, such as Word and Excel files.

  2. Create folders and sub-folders for common topics and subtopics and a miscellaneous folder for items that do not yet merit their own folders or sub-folders. See theE-Mail Basics: Managing E-Mail Get Started http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/confirmation.aspx?id=2757 web site for other ideas for organizing and managing electronic files.

Time Use Analysis Log

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