|Professor: Sabbatical with IRS frustrating|
Barriers: She tells of mistrust by her peers and a code of secrecy
by Mary Rae Bragg, TH staff writer.
Many of Teresa Mack's recollections of her year on sabbatical
drew moans and groans of disbelief, along with some sympathetic laughter
at some ironic situations.
She was after all, telling about "My Year With the IRS."
Speaking Thursday night to a crowd of more than 100 friends,
Loras College colleagues and students, Mack began by telling about the
two years it took her to get approval from the Internal Revenue Service
to spend a sabbatical working in their Milwaukee office.
As a professor of accounting and business at Loras with a
specialty in federal income tax, it seemed to her that a year spent with
the IRS would be a logical and worthwhile project. However, that was
before she arrived at the Milwaukee office Sept. 9, 1996.
Her introduction into the strange and not-so-wonderful world of
federal bureaucracy was one filled with alphabet soup labels for people,
processes and places.
First there was the RIF (Reduction in Force) that closed IRS
offices and left paranoid employees in its wake. Then there were stops
in the PSP (Planning and Special Projects), QMS (Quality Management
Service) and DORA (District Office of Research Analysis).
She said the major barrier to accomplishing anything was the
chief disclosure officer, who apparently felt his authority had been
bypassed in Mack's case and refused to let her see anything connected to
taxpayer data. It took months before the bureaucracy would allow her to
assist taxpayers with their tax questions, something she does regularly
as a teaching professional.
Although she was constantly reminded by supervisors that she was
a "pioneer," the first person to volunteer to work at the IRS,
it also made her suspect to management and co-workers.
When she was finally able to get agents to open up to her about their
jobs. Mack said she was struck by the way they would all tell the number
of years they had worked for the IRS, followed immediately by the number
of years until their retirement.
Many employees said they did not let people know where they
worked, even close neighbors. And while the newer employees said they
felt underpaid for the stress they felt in their jobs, longtime
employees often admitted they felt overpaid.
No one she encountered at the Milwaukee office ever worked beyond
a 40-hour week, she noted. She said she was surprised to find that IRS
employees had unions and found later on in her sabbatical that many of
the problems and grilling she encountered had their beginning with union
complaints about her presence.
"It was interesting," Mack told her audience in
summary, and yes, she would probably do it again, providing the IRS
understands that she is there to learn, not languish.
(Telegraph Herald, Dubuque, February 6, 1998.)