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New IRS center dedicated

August 10, 1999

IRS PlazaBy BRYN MICKLE / Staff Writer, Martinsburg

photo: KEVIN G. GILBERT / staff photographer




MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The new IRS Martinsburg Computing Center may be state-of-the-art, but it won't help taxpayers get their tax refunds any faster - yet.

Although the $100 million building holds three new mainframe computers, the software being run on them dates back to John Glenn's first space flight. It will be replaced over the next several years.

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"In the age of the Internet we're still using software systems that were in place when (John F.) Kennedy was in office," IRS Commissioner Charles O. Rossotti said.

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In his speech Tuesday at the dedication of the new IRS center, Rossotti said the new building symbolizes the IRS's attempt to modernize its operations.

Sen. Robert Byrd"Right now a fast refund takes at least two weeks to process. With the new software it would be a matter of days," IRS Chief Information Officer Paul Cosgrave said.

The IRS is confident its computers will withstand Y2K problems and has begun efforts to modernize the software, Cosgrave said.

The software overhaul will be systemwide and will include tax filings, collections, returns and the examination process, Cosgrave said.

It will take between five and 10 years and "billions of dollars" for that overhaul to become a reality, Cosgrave said.

The Martinsburg Computing Center holds the master system files for all of the tax information filed every year in America, said Becky Hutchinson, IRS Chief of the Master File Scheduling Section.

Computer roomComputer tapes in the Martinsburg facility hold tax information for businesses, individuals, employee master plans, retirement plans, payrolls and tax returns, Hutchinson said.

The IRS had been running its Martinsburg operations out of two buildings on W.Va. 9 but in February opened a new 278,000-square-foot facility with 149,000 square feet of computer space.

The center includes administrative offices, warehouse space, data processing operations and an employee fitness center.

The center employs about 900 people and has an estimated $50 million economic impact on the Eastern Panhandle, according to the IRS.

On hand for Tuesday's dedication was U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., who has been credited with bringing the new facility to Martinsburg.

"Sen. Byrd has been the key to this project," Rossotti said.

Byrd secured $63.4 million for the project in 1995 and has battled attempts to reduce staffing levels at the Martinsburg center.

Following an introduction by U.S. Rep. Bob Wise, D-W.Va., Byrd said the new Martinsburg computing center would allow the IRS to provide better service with faster problem solving.

While the IRS is often maligned, Byrd said taxes have made many great events possible.

"The IRS is a much necessary but universally unloved entity," he said.

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