Senate confirms John Koskinen as IRS commissioner

BY ALISTAIR M. NEVIUS, J.D.

The Senate on Friday voted 59–36 to confirm the nomination of John Koskinen to be the next IRS commissioner. Koskinen was nominated by President Barack Obama on Aug. 1. The previous commissioner, Douglas Shulman, stepped down in November 2012 at the end of his term. Since May 22, Daniel Werfel has been serving as acting commissioner.

The IRS commissioner is “responsible for the administration and enforcement of the Internal Revenue laws” (Treasury Order 150-10 (4/22/82)). Koskinen’s term will expire Nov. 12, 2017.

Koskinen, who was described by the president as “an expert at turning around institutions in need of reform,” will take the reins of an agency that has been beset by problems in the past year. A report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) released in May found that the IRS used inappropriate criteria that identified for review applications for tax-exempt status from tea party and other organizations based on their names or policy positions instead of focusing on the activities of the organizations and whether they met the requirements under the law for tax-exempt status. This led to congressional hearings; the resignation of the previous acting commissioner, Steven Miller; the placement of the director of the IRS Exempt Organizations Division, Lois Lerner, on administrative leave (she later retired); and the opening of a criminal investigation by the Justice Department.

The IRS is also being asked to do more, often at the last minute. Late-in-the-year legislation delayed the start of the 2013 filing season (some forms could not be filed until March), and this year’s government shutdown has already delayed the start of the 2014 filing season. Coupled with the agency’s increased workload, Koskinen will have to deal with whether the IRS is adequately funded. The Service saw its budget cut by almost 3% from FY 2010 to FY 2012. (The AICPA has urged Congress to provide the agency with sufficient financial resources to perform its duties.)

Koskinen was previously nonexecutive chairman and CEO of Freddie Mac. He has also served as president of the United States Soccer Foundation; deputy mayor and city administrator of Washington; assistant to the president and chair of the president’s Council on Year 2000 Conversion; and deputy director for management in the Office of Management and Budget.

Koskinen received a B.A. from Duke University and an LL.B. and J.D. from Yale University School of Law.

Alistair M. Nevius ( anevius@aicpa.org ) is the JofA’s editor-in-chief, tax.

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