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Working for You@IRS

January 11, 2016

NTEU Work On Capitol Hill Achieves Hike 

Mass Transit Benefit Increases to $255 in March
IRS employees will soon benefit from increased mass transit subsidies, thanks to NTEU’s work on Capitol Hill. Beginning March 1, IRS employees can take advantage of up to $255 per month to cover mass transit costs or qualified parking expenses.

Employees whose transit costs are higher than the existing rate of $130 per month should immediately file a new form with the IRS to obtain reimbursement for their actual transit costs, up to the $255 monthly limit.

This dramatic increase is possible because of NTEU’s persistent support in Congress for permanent parity with the parking benefit. Lawmakers approved transit benefit language as part of the final spending bill for fiscal year 2016. Congressional approval is an important first step in authorizing the new benefit but does not require the IRS to provide it. The NTEU contract with the IRS requires the benefit because the union negotiated it at the bargaining table.

The IRS has notified NTEU that eligible employees will receive the higher benefit on their TRANServe card on Feb. 10 for their March benefits.

Employees who need to update their commuting expenses to take advantage of the full benefit must do so by Jan. 17 to receive the March benefit. Check and update your commuting costs on the Public Transportation Subsidy Program form on OS GetServices.

Visit your local NTEU chapter for additional information.

Underfunded Awards Pools Prompt Grievance 

NTEU believes the IRS has not properly funded certain awards pools for fiscal year (FY) 2015 awards. After analyzing the awards data, the union filed a national grievance alleging a number of serious discrepancies.

Funding for awards pools was outlined in a settlement agreement. That agreement requires the IRS to fund awards at 1.0 percent of the total bargaining unit salaries from the prior fiscal year. However, certain awards pools (for FY 2015) are significantly lower compared to the FY 2014 awards funding, even though the numbers of bargaining unit employees did not decrease at nearly the same level. Those award pools thus appear to NTEU to be underfunded.

Further, there appears to be a disproportionate decrease in the share values for certain award pools as compared to those awards pools in FY 2014, resulting in decreased performance awards for individual bargaining unit employees.

The union believes an effective performance awards program is an essential part of recognizing employees for their hard work. Stay tuned for developments regarding this grievance.

Agreement Reached on TAC Appointment Service Initiative 

NTEU and the IRS have agreed on an initiative requiring taxpayers to make appointments to meet with employees in Taxpayer Assistance Centers (TAC). The program was piloted at a number of TAC sites for several months after an earlier agreement was reached in February. The initiative will be rolled out nationwide over the next three years. 
The mandatory appointment requirement is intended to alleviate taxpayer frustration at TACs and help to manage the workload for TAC employees. Long lines are common at TACs during tax season, frustrating employees and taxpayers. Taxpayers will be provided a toll-free number to call to schedule a TAC appointment in order to receive service.

Employees will receive training on the initiative, and there will be no change to the employee evaluation process as established in the contract. Employees can see the implementation dates for IRS siteshere.

Telework Violations Prompt Grievance

NTEU is aware of several alleged violations the agency is making in implementing the telework article in the 2016 contract. The union, which continues to gather information, has filed a grievance challenging several actions:

  • Certain business divisions are requiring extra language in recurring telework agreements and weekly supervisor approval of the agreements. The 2016 contract does not require additional consents once a recurring telework agreement is approved.
  • Lastly, NTEU learned that some employees at certain IRS locations are being denied recurring telework as a matter of course. Employees who meet eligibility criteria may request and be approved for recurring telework.

NTEU has also heard of cases where managers have told employees that they must convert an ad hoc telework agreement to a “recurring” telework agreement because they work on the same type of matters every time they telework. NTEU maintains that telework is voluntary, and managers have no authority to force an employee to change the type of requested telework that has been approved.

Telework is an important benefit for many IRS employees. NTEU is committed to ensuring that the program is properly implemented and will continue to monitor it carefully. Updates on the grievance will be shared with employees.

IRS Receives First Budget Increase In Six Years 

The omnibus funding package provides a total of $11.23 billion for the IRS in FY 2016, an increase of $290 million over the 2015 level. 

The final bill was a major improvement over the House-passed measure which cut the IRS’s budget by almost $838 million below the current level. Cuts in excess of $1.2 billion since fiscal year (FY) 2010 have decimated staffing and undermined the IRS’s ability to deliver quality taxpayer service and enforce the nation’s tax laws.

The additional $290 million over current levels for fiscal years 2016 and 2017 can only be used to improve customer service, combat identity theft and address cybersecurity issues. The IRS commissioner must provide Congress with specific plans on these issues before the additional money will be released.               [Source: National NTEU]

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