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Professor: Sabbatical with IRS frustrating
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.)

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