Nominee for IRS Commissioner Vows to Restore Public Trust

President Obama’s choice for IRS Commissioner is John Koskinen, a man known for his talent in turning around large corporations on the brink of collapse.  He is known for his skills in “restoring public trust” after major disasters.  Isn’t it a little funny that Koskinen is coming highly recommended for the post without any significant tax knowledge?  I don’t know if it is funny or just a sign of the times.

The nomination of John Koskinen shows where our priorities are with the IRS.  The IRS is in survival mode and they need a strong leader who will right the ship.  Sure, they are fine-tuning and making needed adjustments to their processes along the way (according to the near weekly TIGTA audit reports), and this makes it seem like they are focused on the important details of tax administration.  But don’t be fooled.  The nomination of Koskinen speaks volumes about how the president views this agency in crisis.  And the Senate too, since it looks like Mr. Koskinen has received bipartisan support at his confirmation hearing earlier today.

50 years ago it may have seemed odd to put somebody like Koskinen at the head of the IRS, but it was a different agency back then.  I do think they have the right guy for the job.  The IRS needs a proven leader and game-changer, not just another bean counter.  Koskinen went on the record saying, “public trust is the IRS’ most important and valuable asset,” and I think this is spot on.  If taxpayers can’t be certain the IRS will safeguard their private information and administer the tax laws fairly, then the concept of “voluntary compliance” will not work because people literally won’t pay.

How Will Werfel Restore Trust at the IRS?

Daniel Werfel was appointed by President Obama as acting Commissioner at the IRS.  He replaced Steven Miller a couple weeks ago and his honeymoon period lasted only a couple hours.  A lot is expected of Werfel, and Congress (and the American people) are not likely going to give him too much time to get it done.  We need to know what he’s going to do to clean things up at the IRS.

He has been at it for less than three weeks so far, but I think he’s on the right track.  He is focused on holding IRS employees accountable for their missteps.  He has ensured that the managers responsible for the tax exempt investigations fiasco no longer have jobs at the IRS, even if that means encouraging them to resign instead of firing them.  Either way they’re being removed, which is the main thing.  He appears to be committed to bringing all the dirt out into the open as a first step in restoring trust.

The newest example of IRS waste that has come to light is the $4.1 million conference that was held in Anaheim, CA in 2010.  At least two high-level IRS employees reportedly accepted lavish gifts in violation of IRS ethics rules and stayed in $1,500 per night rooms during this conference.  Werfel is taking the necessary steps to expeditiously terminate these individuals too.

I do feel like Werfel “gets it” when it comes to restoring trust.  He appears to be acting decisively and quickly.  He is not dodging questions during hearings.  He has also said that what the IRS needs is not more money; it needs better management, which I think is key.  Although that comment can be taken with a grain of salt because who would ask for more money 3 weeks into the job?  Maybe if we give him a few months he’ll be whining about underfunding too.