Meet Susan Boehmer, New IRS Statistics of Income Director
M. Susan Boehmer joined SOI in July 2010. Prior to that, she served as director of the IRS Wage and Investment Division’s Planning, Research, and Analysis. Boehmer also served as the first chief of Wage and Investment’s Business Systems Security Office, which included the IRS Identity Theft Program Office; director of strategic operations for the Earned Income Tax Credit program; and deputy assistant regional inspector (internal audit) in Atlanta, Georgia. Boehmer is a graduate of Northern Kentucky University and a certified internal auditor.
What about this position appealed to you?
The organization’s vital mission; rich history; and its professional, dedicated staff made my decision to join the Statistics of Income (SOI) Division an easy one. SOI is a principal federal statistical agency whose mission is to collect, analyze, and disseminate information about federal taxation for the Treasury Department’s Office of Tax Analysis, congressional committees, the Internal Revenue Service in its administration of the tax laws, other organizations engaged in economic and financial analysis, and the general public.
SOI has been in the business of producing and disseminating tax data for a long time. The Revenue Act of 1916 mandated the annual publication of statistics related to the “operations of the internal revenue laws,” and SOI was created to meet that requirement. Ultimately, our nation’s leaders use SOI data to shape economic and tax policy, and, in that way, SOI plays an important role in achieving good government.
Describe the top 2–3 priorities you have for the IRS Statistics of Income (SOI) Division.
My goal is for SOI to maintain its status as a premier federal statistical agency. To accomplish this, I plan to focus on three key priorities. First, SOI’s statistical products and services must continue to evolve with customers’ needs and exceed expectations. Historically, SOI has met this challenge. For example, as customers’ use of the web grew, we responded. In addition to investing in our own website, SOI is an active participant in the open government initiative, Data.gov.
Second, SOI must continue to invest in its most outstanding resource: its human capital. We must provide challenging, innovative, and rewarding work to our dedicated staff.
Finally, SOI must continue to play a vital role in the federal statistical community. Working collaboratively with others in the community will allow SOI to contribute to, and benefit from, agencies’ ‘best practices.’ By achieving these three priorities, SOI will thrive as a leading statistical organization.
What do you see as your biggest challenge(s) for SOI?
Over the years, SOI has done an outstanding job of pioneering new processes and harnessing new technology. For example, SOI adopted computer technology, entered the Internet age, built systems for creating digital images of paper documents, and developed techniques for using electronically filed return data. However, we cannot be complacent and rest on our previous accomplishments—we must continue to grow as an organization. Like all statistical agencies, we are challenged to provide more data and provide it faster. We’re also challenged to meet the opportunities that arise from electronic data, all in an environment of shrinking budgets. However, with input from—and the creativity of—SOI staff, as well as input from our peers in the statistical community, customers, and oversight groups, I know SOI will continue to thrive, providing its customers with innovative and high-quality statistical products and services.
How can the statistical community help you?
A member of the Interagency Council on Statistical Policy, SOI actively participates in, and benefits from, the federal statistical community. SOI staff support and participate in the Federal Committee on Statistical Methodology (FCSM), the interagency committee dedicated to improving the quality of federal statistics. In recent years, SOI has worked with other FCSM agencies to create interagency innovation workgroups to share ideas and develop ‘best practices.’ Workgroups have addressed balancing print and web-based dissemination of statistical products, and data review, editing, and imputation for administrative records and surveys. This type of collaborative work will allow SOI to gain valuable knowledge from the statistical community.
While SOI’s statistical products and services, and the vehicle for many of those products and services, SOI’s Tax Stats website, are well known and regarded among our primary customers and others, we continually seek new ways to reach new users. We certainly look to the statistical community for help in further promoting our products and services to potential users.
Prior to your tenure, what do you see as the biggest recent accomplishment of the agency?
Again, in its efforts to produce the best possible tax data, SOI has always identified process improvements and adopted new technology. Because of this, SOI has recently experienced significant reductions in the time required to complete its major programs. Let me give one example in the area of corporate tax data.
In 2004, the IRS introduced the modernized electronic filing (MeF) system, which allowed certain corporate taxpayers to file their tax returns electronically. MeF has expanded, and the IRS now requires all firms with more than $10 million in assets and at least 250 annual filings to file electronically. Talented IT and other staff within SOI developed an XML relational database (XRDB) to store electronically filed corporate (and other) tax data. This required creating “shred scripts” to parse XML data into database columns and tables. Since its original design, staff [members] have introduced improvements to XRDB that have dramatically reduced the time required to complete the annual corporate program. The time savings are impressive. Use of XRDB for SOI’s corporate tax program reduced cycle time by 3,000 hours, or 17%.
Do you envision any major changes to SOI’s projects, products, or services?
Of course, in coming years, SOI will continue to provide projects, products, and services that meet customer needs, and SOI staff will work closely with our primary customers and others to ensure our deliverables evolve as customers’ needs change. For example, in response to customer requests and to make SOI data accessible to a broader audience, we have steadily introduced more metadata to the pages of SOI’s Tax Stats website. SOI also has developed a single-page snapshot that presents simple statistical information on various topics for access by customers who are less familiar with tax data. We also continue to explore ways to encourage collaborative research on tax issues, while respecting the confidentiality required when sharing tax data.
In meeting the needs of our customers, as well as meeting our original mandate to annually publish statistics related to the operations of the internal revenue laws, SOI is ever mindful that our data—and high-quality data produced throughout the federal statistical community—play a critical role in achieving good government. That’s a great responsibility and one that SOI takes very seriously.