The Treasury Department’s tax service office sees an opportunity to modernize the way it does business, having spent much of the COVID-19 pandemic making stimulus payments to the public.
In an annual letter to the agency’s chief financial officers, Commissioner Tim Gribben said the office plans to remit almost all of its payments electronically by 2030, while taking steps to prevent inappropriate payments and migrate its data out of old formats.
Gribben said in an interview that the office has made substantial progress in providing more payments electronically over the past decade.
The majority of stimulus payments sent after the 2008 recession arrived in the form of paper checks, but the office issued a majority of economic impact payments electronically throughout the pandemic. These lessons learned continue as the office supports the IRS in providing child tax credits to households.
To continue this modernization effort, Gribben said the office is looking for ways to include digital payments, including Venmo, as one of several options for quickly and securely delivering government-issued payments to the public. .
“Right now, we are located where we have to negotiate with each of the FinTech payment platforms. We are currently working on a solution that allows us to have a single payment system and then be able to link multiple payment methods, even in some that don’t even exist yet, ”said Gribben.
Public opinion, however, determines how quickly the office can fully effect this transition to electronic payments. That’s why the office brings together the largest check-producing agencies in a “Checkless Coalition,” focused on educating the public on the benefits of receiving payments electronically.
“There are people who still believe that getting that paper check is safer when in reality it is not. Our data shows that electronic transactions are much more secure and less prone to fraud than paper checks, ”said Gribben.
In addition to weaning the federal financial system off paper, the office has identified six trends agency CFOs need to consider over the next decade:
- Customer and employee experience
- New entrants to the financial market and the rise of FinTech
- Real-time payments
- Predictive analytics
- “People, not jobs” – improving employee skills
- Workplace of the future, including telecommuting.
Gribben said the federal financial community also has a role to play in the Biden administration’s goal of using data and evidence to guide policy decisions in agencies.
“CFOs need to be much more focused in the future on the possibility of linking performance results and financial results to the money Congress gives us to invest in our programs and services,” said Gribben.
As for short-term goals, the office plans to migrate 70 datasets from existing formats to FiscalData.Treasury.gov by fiscal 2024.
The website serves as a one-stop-shop for government spending data. The office is already halfway to its goal, having migrated 35 datasets to the site.
“We have machine-readable data. It contains comprehensive metadata and data dictionaries, so you can understand the reliability of the data if there are known quality issues with the data. We can make this data more publicly available through APIs, ”said Gribben.
The office is also looking to access more interagency datasets to reduce the risk of inappropriate payments.
Gribben said the office had received approval from the Office of Management and Budget in recent months to add 12 new datasets to the list of records to which its centers of excellence in non-payment and d payment integrity have access.
The office is also on track to have full access to the Social Security Administration’s master death file by 2023, but Gribben said the office is working with SSA and OMB to get this data plus quickly.
The ability to validate whether someone has passed away before is a critical way to avoid improper payments. Gribben said the office, for example, worked closely with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to verify requests for funeral assistance in the early stages of the pandemic.
“They got us to the start of the process, to be able to validate the accounts, to be able to validate the debts and use some of that inter-agency data access that we have to determine if someone was eligible or not to receive the even before. to have made the payment, ”said Gribben.
Through this collaboration, he said the office was able to avoid issuing around $ 70 million in potential improper payments.
The office also conducts a workforce assessment to better understand how employees are prepared to adapt to new technologies and processes.
To become a leader in areas such as cybersecurity and data analytics, Gribben said the office is reporting skills gaps and developing training and mentoring to develop the workforce it already has. .
“Maybe they don’t fit into certified work for a job like cybersecurity or data analytics, but we can offer that opportunity to employees,” Gribben said.
Gribben said the workforce assessment also gives the office a sense of where to hire new talent. To recruit potential candidates, the office thinks beyond its seven offices and offers remote work as an incentive.
Gribben said the office has also launched an employee inclusion action committee that is examining how to retain more employees.
“This group is helping us break down these geographic boundaries,” he said. “We might have a job where most of the employees are here in DC or in Parkersburg, West Virginia, but now in the future, we can hire them in our other locations or in potentially remote locations. “