Newly minted IRS Commissioner John Koskinen is promising transparency in all of the Service’s dealings with federal lawmakers, the taxpaying public and especially applicants for Code Sec. 501(c)(4) tax-exempt status. The former deputy director for the Office of Management and Budget said, however, that restoring the public’s trust and improving the morale of IRS employees will take time.
Koskinen noted that he does not expect changes to take place overnight but he is committed to equal treatment of all taxpayers. “We need as much clarity as we can get,” the 74-year-old told reporters during a 60-minute briefing just hours after being sworn in as commissioner during a brief ceremony on January 6. “Transparency has always been the way I’ve dealt with anything in my career,” he said.
Referring to the scandal over IRS targeting of conservative organizations applying for tax-exempt status, Koskinen said there was too much focus on applications when IRS employees should have been clarifying the kind of political activity allowed and explaining the application process. He stated that the IRS will respond quickly to requests from Congress for information on the Service’s practices.
Known as a turnaround specialist in his past endeavors, Koskinen told CCH that he does not believe the IRS is in need of significant restructuring; instead, he plans to focus on better management practices and leadership training where the opinion of front-line employees is valued and there is faster response time to taxpayer inquiries. “They deserve better,” he added.
Efficient response time to taxpayer questions also dovetails with improved tax compliance, one of his top priorities, according to Koskinen. With greater understanding of tax rules comes better compliance, he said, adding that he believes most taxpayers want to comply but often receive little assistance from IRS call centers. “We need to meet their expectations.”
Koskinen’s first challenge as the new commissioner involves getting through the upcoming tax filing season, which has been delayed due to the government shutdown in November 2013. Although he plans to “stay out of the way,” and let IRS employees do their jobs, he plans to visit at least 25 IRS centers and listen to feedback from front-line workers. He also plans to” put to rest” the issues and problems involved in Code Sec. 501(c)(4) applications, improve tax compliance, especially on the international level, and make sure the Service is on top of compliance with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) (P.L. 112-148).
By Jeff Carlson, CCH News Staff