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IRS commissioner departs; Agency without permanent leader

Over the years, many of our posts have covered announcements by IRS commissioner John Koskinen. They have covered many subjects from the flavor du jour tax scams to tips for avoiding tax penalties.

This week the commissioner completes his term in office. He will return to retirement at age 78. He told the New York Times, “[s]urvival is its own reward” in a recent interview. We will explain why he feels this way.

Scrutiny of both liberal and conservative groups

Many legislators had called for his censure and impeachment after he took over following allegations the IRS had wrongfully targeted the tax-exempt status of certain groups.

However, a recent inspector general report gave Koskinen some solace. It found the agency did not single out any one group for review.

Thin staff and reform 

The agency continues to feel the effect of budget cuts; its inflation-adjusted budget is 18 percent lower than what it was in 2010 and more cuts are likely. The number of employees working on enforcement has fallen by 23 percent. It will be without a permanent leader as congress discusses the largest tax overhaul since the 1980s.

Koskinen applauded ideas that would simply the filing process. He also warned that the agency’s staffing levels might make it harder to implement big tax code changes.

Pressing security concerns

Security was also top of his mind, which includes safeguarding taxpayer returns. He has been especially concerned about President Trump’s return. Storage of the hard copy is a locked cabinet at IRS headquarters, which should eventually be replaced with a safe.

The number of cyberattacks continues to increase (it is currently about a million “pings” each day) as hackers try to access taxpayer data. Continued budget cuts could make it even more difficult to safeguard the existing system.

Even with diminished staff, the agency continues to put an emphasis on offshore accounts, Trust Fund Recovery Penalties, underpayment cases and Earned Income Credit fraud. As change occurs at the agency, it is more important than ever to deal with tax issues right away.

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