By FATIMA HUSSEIN
WASHINGTON (AP) — New IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel delivered a tax-season pledge Tuesday that the agency will use an $80 billion infusion of cash to become faster, more tech-savvy and provide “real-world improvements” to taxpayers.
Werfel, as he was ceremonially sworn in on Tuesday, said he would release a Strategic Operating Plan later this week laying out how the agency will use the money approved in last year’s Inflation Reduction Act
“This is our moment in history to transform the IRS,” said Werfel, who began working at the agency in mid-March.
“We have a great deal of work ahead of us to ensure a more modern and high-performing IRS that provides world-class services to taxpayers,” he said.
Some of the planned improvements include hiring more people to end long call wait times, additional locations for IRS staff to provide in-person service and expanded online accounts, so taxpayers and professionals will be able to address tax issues through electronic means, instead of paper mail.
President Joe Biden nominated Werfel to steer the IRS as it receives the new funding, which has come with much political consternation. Republicans have suggested without evidence that the agency would use the new money to hire an army of tax agents with weapons. They also say the IRS would increase audits on middle-class taxpayers.
Werfel navigated some of that controversy during his February confirmation hearing.
He pledged before senators not to expand tax audits on businesses and households making less than $400,000 per year, as he faced rounds of questions before the Senate Finance Committee on how he would spend the agency’s big new infusion of money. He drew praise for being willing to leave a private consulting job to take on the top job at the troubled agency.
Werfel formerly led Boston Consulting Group’s global public sector practice and has previously served as an acting IRS commissioner.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who presided over Werfel’s swearing in, said in a speech to IRS and Treasury employees that he will be tasked with “dramatically improving taxpayer service and ensuring that large corporations and the wealthy pay the taxes they owe.”
“The IRS will invest in data and analytics to help the agency audit large corporations, high earners, and complex partnerships that have not paid their full bill,” Yellen said. “The technology will be complemented by hiring more top talent – including accountants and attorneys.”
While the administration has showcased the boosting employee ranks with 5,000 new workers and investments in new technology, a March Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration report on the 2022 tax season states that the “ongoing backlogs of tax returns and other account work continued to challenge the IRS during the 2022 Filing Season.”
In a March 13 letter to employees, Werfel said “I returned to government to work with you and focus on this tremendous opportunity we have with the resources available under the Inflation Reduction Act.”