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The leadership of the United States Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is about to change hands at perhaps one of the most challenging periods in the agency's history.
The Treasury confirmed on October 10 that Doug Shulman, the 47th commissioner of the IRS, has decided to step down on November 9, the last day of his term.
Shulman, who had already indicated earlier this year that he planned to vacate the post at the end of his term, will be replaced Deputy Commissioner for Services and Enforcement Steven T. Miller, who is a 25-year veteran of the IRS.
Miller will serve as acting IRS Commissioner when Shulman steps down, but faces something of a baptism of fire; there is much uncertainty over tax law for 2013 with several temporary individual income tax provisions due to expire at the end of this year, and little prospect of them being renewed until the next Congressional period, which begins next year.
What's more, the IRS is responsible for implementing much of President Obama's new healthcare law, which contains 47 tax or tax-related provisions, some of which are already in force or due to be introduced over the next 18 months.
The healthcare law has been described as the largest entitlement programme in a generation, and the ever-increasing remit of the agency has worried some members of Congress. Charles W. Boustany (R - Louisiana), Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Oversight observed in a recent Ways and Means Committee hearing that: "Through the years, Congress has sought to advance a multitude of non-revenue objectives through the tax code – energy policy, housing policy, and of course health care policy. Making the IRS both revenue collector and administrator of these activities has diverted IRS resources from its central mission and can diminish taxpayer service.”
Every year, the IRS is charged with collecting roughly USD2.4 trillion in taxes, processing 145m individual tax returns, issuing USD345bn in tax refunds, and administering numerous non-revenue. However, almost 75% of the agency's requested budget increase of USD360m will be spent on technology needed to deliver hundreds of billions of dollars of premium tax credits.
Shulman nevertheless says that the IRS has made "remarkable progress in the last few years during a challenging period".
"It has been an honor to serve the American people during this dynamic time," he added.
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