Biden Announces His Pick to Lead the IRS

Biden Announces His Pick to Lead the IRS

Jonathan Ernst

President Joe Biden on Thursday announced that he will nominate Daniel Werfel, who served in the administrations of Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, to lead the Internal Revenue Service.

Werfel has spent the last nine years at the Boston Consulting Group, according to the White House Before that, he spent 15 years in government, including as acting controller of the Office of Management and Budget under Bush and then as OMB controller and acting IRS commissioner for seven months under Obama.

Current IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig, appointed by former President Donald Trump, will be leaving the agency when his term expires on Saturday. The administration has previously announced that Douglas O’Donnell, a deputy commissioner at the IRS, will lead the agency until a new commissioner is nominated and confirmed by the Senate. Werfel stepped into the top job at the tax agency at a sensitive time in 2013 and will be doing so again now.

“In the wake of an Inspector General report alleging various forms of mismanagement and bias in the determination of tax-exempt status for non-profit organizations, President Obama appointed Werfel to serve as Acting Commissioner of IRS in 2013,” the White House noted in its announcement. “Werfel provided immediate stability to the IRS, effectively responding to numerous Congressional investigations, successfully launching the Affordable Care Act technology that IRS was responsible for, and navigated the IRS through a multi-week government shutdown. At the end of his tenure, both the majority and minority leaders of the Senate Finance Committee publicly recognized his contribution and performance.”

If confirmed, Werfel will face some major management challenges as the IRS puts to use an infusion of $80 billion in additional funding over 10 years — money approved by Democrats that is meant to help the agency step up enforcement and crack down on tax cheats as well as improve its technology and service. That funding has been the subject of months of attacks by Republicans, who have leveled misleading claims that an army of auditors will come after middle-class taxpayers. House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who may be the next speaker, has said his party will seek to roll back the additional IRS funding, and while the chances of that may be slim, the GOP will clearly continue to closely scrutinize the IRS.

Mark Everson, who served as IRS commissioner during the Bush administration, told The Washington Post that Werfel is a good pick. “Werfel is an experienced executive who understands the service and helped out at a critical period in 2013,” he said. “He did an excellent job coming into the agency during a tough period, and so he’s very well suited for the job.”

Top Democrats also praised Werfel. “For years under a [T]rump appointee, the IRS has been mired in chaos and failure,” tweeted Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), who heads the House Ways and Means Oversight subcommittee and had called for Rettig to be fired. “The agency needs a leader who can answer the phones, get refund checks out fast, and crack down on big business tax cheats. Good move by the Biden admin.”

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) called Werfel an excellent nominee. “Danny is committed to government that works and rebuilding the IRS, with a focus on modernizing decades-old technology and improving administration. He understands that American taxpayers deserve top-rate service, and will work tirelessly to achieve that goal. He’s also committed to being a good steward of taxpayer dollars, as demonstrated by his work in 2012 to recover $4.2 billion in improper health care payments and prevent identity theft by better integrating Medicare and Social Security data.”

What’s next: “It’s unclear when the Senate might take up the nomination,” Politico reports. “There had been chatter Democrats could potentially move it during a lame-duck session of Congress, especially if Republicans pick up enough seats to control the Senate next year. But if Democrats retain the chamber — several key races are still undecided — there will be less urgency to act quickly.”