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IRS still waiting for new commissioner to take charge

Corner office desk_executive office decor_Cage-Design-Group_flipped-cropped
The IRS still has a desk waiting for its new commissioner. (Photo courtesy Cage Design Group)

David Kautter, no doubt, was among the millions of Americans who were glad to see the 2018 high tax season end.

Kautter is the acting Internal Revenue Service commissioner and he was on his way to Congressional hearing on how things were going when he got news of his agency's Tax Day computer hardware problems.

How much longer will Kautter, who also is assistant Treasury secretary for tax policy, have to deal with all the IRS' operational matters, including the many issues related to implementation of all the confusing Tax Cuts and Jobs Act changes?

No one knows because, as Naomi Jagoda writes in today's online issue of The Hill, the Trump Administration is struggling to get its new IRS team in place.

Trump taking his time: John Koskinen, the last IRS commissioner, completed his term Nov. 10, 2017. Trump, however, didn't nominate Charles Rettig to replace Koskinen until almost three months later.

"It is not unusual for the IRS to have acting commissioners for stretches of time, nor is it unusual for the confirmation process to take several months. But the stakes are particularly high given the importance of the tax law to Trump's presidency and the myriad challenges the agency faces," notes Jagoda in her article.

Her look at how the Trump Administration is taking its time in filling critical IRS positions — the post of IRS chief counsel also remains empty — earns this weekend's Sunday Shout Out.

Leadership matters: I know IRS administrative matters might seem a bit too much in the tax weeds for the average taxpayer, but as anyone who's had to pick up slack when a coworker left, it's hard to do two jobs (like Kautter now is) well.

"You sort of have one person dividing their time between two jobs," said Mark Mazur, director of the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center and who had Kautter's Treasury job during the Obama administration. "And they're two full-time jobs.”

Mazur's take is shared by other former Treasury officials, including some previous IRS commissioners.

"There's more accountability when you have a Senate-confirmed commissioner," said Mark Everson, IRS commissioner from 2003 to 2007, short-lived GOP 2016 presidential primary candidate and now vice chairman of alliantgroup.

The last man to permanently helm the agency agrees.

"Any organization runs better when it has a leader who's going to be there permanently," Koskinen told Jagoda.

And we taxpayers and tax professionals, now focusing more intently on just how the new tax code provisions affect our 2018 tax planning, need all the help we can get from an IRS that's functioning properly from bottom to top.

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