The IRS has, as promised earlier this year, upgraded its website with a new look and with new features such as increased options to engage with the agency online, and being more responsive to mobile platforms.

Image: Bloomberg News

The new website is part of the agency’s Future State Initiative, an effort to dial back in-person and phone engagement with taxpayers in favor of more online interaction. IRS.gov is also designed to be more mobile friendly so users can have an easier time accessing the site from their smartphones and tablets.

On Sept. 1, many of the archived IRS web pages were inaccessible, including the page describing the Future State Initiative. This week, however, these pages seem to have been restored.

Michele Causey, director of user experience and design for the agency’s Office of Online Services, said in June that the new website would have the metadata structure to support artificial intelligence capabilities. AI technology is hoped to make the way the website interacts with taxpayer visitors more useful and tailored to individual users. The IRS previewed the website changes during its Nationwide Tax Forums this summer.

“We recognize that these disruptive technologies are going to be critical to our success, and while we’re not 100 percent there yet, we are working on it,” Causey said during a June 1 panel discussion at the IBM Government Analytics Forum in Washington. “We have done a first pass at doing a redesign from a look and feel perspective, and that is coupled with our branding and marketing strategy for the [IRS]. We’re looking at new iconography. We’re looking at a new organization of the site.”

Accounting Today has previously reported on portions of the population that do not have access to broadband internet, or run cash-only businesses, thus needing face-to-face interaction with the IRS. It is these issues that caused National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson to criticize the Future State Initiative for ignoring many taxpayer segments. However, others, such as labor and employment attorney Richard Furlong Jr., point out that the online push is aimed at freeing up time for those who need one-on-one assistance.

Reducing in-person engagement should help the agency at a time when resources are scarce. The IRS has faced a series of budget cuts in recent years.