New IRS Commissioner – Does Anyone Care?

On November 9, 2012, (former) IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman stepped down as his five year term ended (even though he had not served a full term). We then had acting Commissioner Miller who resigned on May 21, 2013 due to the Section 501(c)(4) controversy. We got a new acting Commissioner – Daniel I. Werfel on May 22, 2013. Because the term “acting” can only be used for 210 days after the official position holder leaves, his title was Principal Deputy Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner for Services and Enforcement.

On August 1, 2013, President Obama nominated John Koskinen. President Obama stated:

“John is an expert at turning around institutions in need of reform. With decades of experience, in both the private and public sectors, John knows how to lead in difficult times, whether that means ensuring new management or implementing new checks and balances. Every part of our government must operate with absolute integrity and that is especially true for the IRS. I am confident that John will do whatever it takes to restore the public’s trust in the agency.”

The Senate Finance Committee held hearings on December 10 and 11, 2013. The committee approved his nomination by voice vote on 12/13/13 and the Senate voted to confirm him as the 48th IRS Commissioner on 12/20/13 (59-36 vote). On that same day, President Obama issued a brief statement applauding the senators who voted to confirm and thanking Mr. Werfel.

Commissioner Koskinen’s term will end on November 12, 2017. That is due to the language of IRC Section 7803, Commissioner of Internal Revenue; other officials. Thus, he loses 13 months of his five year term due to delays of the nomination and confirmation process.

It was known for months that Shulman would be stepping down because the statute says that the Commissioner’s five year term begins November 13 (originally it was 1997 and appears to be every five years from that point regardless of precisely when the Commissioner starts or ends their official time as the Commissioner).

Despite running a significant organization with over 92,000 employees that collects over $2.2 trillion of revenue and affects the lives of most people in the United States, it doesn’t seem to me that anyone really cares about who is running the IRS. While I get asked lots of tax questions every week, no one has asked why there was no permanent commissioner and no one has asked me anything about new Commissioner Koskinen. Why is that?

At his Senate Finance Committee confirmation hearing, Mr. Koskinen noted that his priorities at the IRS would include dealing with identity theft, implementing the Affordable Care Act, improving employee morale and dealing with funding issues. Those are all very important and significant tasks that need attention. I wish him well.

In accordance with Circular 230 Disclosure

Annette Nellen, CPA, Esq., is a professor in and director of San Jose State University’s graduate tax program (MST), teaching courses in tax research, accounting methods, property transactions, state taxation, employment tax, ethics, tax policy, tax reform, and high technology tax issues.

Annette is the immediate past chair of the AICPA Individual Taxation Technical Resource Panel and a current member of the Executive Committee of the Tax Section of the California Bar. Annette is a regular contributor to the AICPA Tax Insider and Corporate Taxation Insider e-newsletters. She is the author of BNA Portfolio #533, Amortization of Intangibles.

Annette has testified before the House Ways & Means Committee, Senate Finance Committee, California Assembly Revenue & Taxation Committee, and tax reform commissions and committees on various aspects of federal and state tax reform.

Prior to joining SJSU, Annette was with Ernst & Young and the IRS.

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