The Internal Revenue Service fiscal 2021 budget request outlined tens of millions of dollars in modernization investments the agency wants to make to improve customer experience and efficiency.

The tax collection agency asked Congress for several boosts in funding for its business systems modernization plan, which asked for an overall increase over $113.8 million.

One of the largest requested increases came in the taxpayer experience category, where the IRS is asking for $15 million for “live assistance” to support taxpayers. While the IRS asked for $10 million for live assistance last year, it projects that it will only spend $200,000 on the capability this year. Live assistance will include “callback, live chat, automated chat, natural language processing" and other capabilities, budget documents said.

“The IRS will also deploy machine learning and natural language processing to quickly answer common taxpayer inquiries and improve call routing to deliver expert service to customers and empower taxpayers with real-time responses,” budget documents said.

The IRS wants to increase its investment in robotic process automation five-fold; it projects to spend $1 million on RPA in FY20 but asked for $5 million for the next fiscal year.

According to budget documents, the RPA investment is part of a multiyear IRS plan that includes starting RPA pilot projects in FY21. In fiscal 2022, the IRS wants to deploy those projects across the entire enterprise.

“These new tools will record the actions an employee takes to complete a computer-based task and then rapidly replicate those actions as many times as necessary with increased accuracy — allowing employees to focus on high value work,” IRS officials wrote.

Implementing RPA is a top priority for the Trump administration’s senior IT officials. Right now, the Office of Management and Budget is considering an RPA reskilling academy, similar to the data and cyber reskilling academy completed last year.

The IRS is also asking for $15 million for next-generation infrastructure, up from the $300,000 it received for FY20. The investment would allow the IRS to continue funding the modernization of its hardware, software, network resources, budget documents showed. It would also advance agile software development and delivery, along with replacing legacy code.

It would also like to double its “cloud execution” as part of modernizing business operations, asking for a jump from the $2.5 million in FY20 to $5 million in FY21. That request would improve “‘time to market’ agility, increased operational efficiency and resilience, increased innovation, and enhanced or maintained security posture by migrating workload to cloud platforms and services.”

The tax collectors would also like to expand use of application program interfaces with a $5 million investment that it expects would decrease complexity and increase innovation.

“Using modern approaches for exchanging data, the IRS will provide expanded integration and data access to taxpayers and authorized third parties, such as business and government entities using APIs,” budget documents said.

Andrew Eversden covered all things defense technology for C4ISRNET. Beforehand, he reported on federal IT and cybersecurity for Federal Times and Fifth Domain, and worked as a congressional reporting fellow for the Texas Tribune. He was also a Washington intern for the Durango Herald. Andrew is a graduate of American University.

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