Senate approves Danny Werfel as IRS commissioner

Martha Waggoner

The Senate voted 54–42 on Thursday to approve Danny Werfel as the new IRS commissioner. Werfel, a former acting IRS commissioner who has served under both Democratic and Republican administrations, will lead the agency through a period of what is likely to be exceptional growth.

The vote by the full Senate followed a 17–9 vote by the Senate Finance Committee on March 2 to approve Werfel's nomination by President Joe Biden. All 14 Democrats on the committee voted yes to the nomination, along with three Republicans.

During Werfel's Senate hearing on Feb. 15, several Democrats and Republicans said Werfel was leaving the private sector to take on what is considered the most thankless position in Washington. Biden nominated Werfel to lead the IRS as it decides how to spend a congressional infusion of about $80 billion over 10 years through the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, P.L. 117-169.

"Americans rightfully expect a more modern and high-performing IRS," Werfel said of the new funding. He said he would be "unyielding in following my true north to increase public trust" in the agency, which has been lambasted in recent years for its enormous paperwork backlog and inability to answer phones in a timely fashion. Both situations are improving, the IRS has said.

President Barack Obama appointed Werfel as acting IRS commissioner in 2013 following a report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration that cited mismanagement and bias in the determination of tax-exempt status for not-for-profit organizations.

During President George W. Bush's administration, Werfel was involved in implementing the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, P.L. 110-343, and helped achieve a clean financial statement audit in the first year of the Office of Financial Stability.

Werfel also served as controller of the Office of Management and Budget, where he led a cross-government effort to implement the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, P.L. 111-5. He also led governmentwide efforts to prepare for and implement the budget sequester of FY2013. 

The IRS missed a Feb. 17 deadline to turn over a spending plan for the $80 billion to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. A spokesman said at the time that the plan was expected within a few weeks.

Werfel replaces Charles Rettig, whose term ended in November. Acting Commissioner Doug O'Donnell has led the IRS since Rettig's departure.

Werfel has spent the last nine years at Boston Consulting Group, where he helped launch its U.S. public sector practice.

— To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Martha Waggoner at Martha.Waggoner@aicpa-cima.com.

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