Guess what the Internal Revenue Service is getting for Christmas? A new boss.
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John Koskinen has been confirmed by the Senate as the new IRS Commissioner. The vote was 59 aye to 36 no. Although Koskinen was popular and well-regarded by both parties, all of the no votes were cast by Republicans. Five Republicans crossed the aisle to vote aye, including Sen. Burr (R-NC); Sen. Collins (R-ME); Corker (R-TN); Sen. Hatch (R-UT); and Sen. Portman (R-OH).
Confirmation hearings for Koskinen were fairly friendly. Chances are that his first few weeks on the job won’t be nearly as easy.
Koskinen faces some big challenges at the helm of IRS. The agency has been widely criticized over the past year following a number of black eyes. Top of the list? The tax exempt scandal, followed closely by charges of wasteful spending. As Koskinen cleans up those messes, he’ll have a potential new issue: ushering in the era of Obamacare at IRS.
Koskinen is no stranger to fixing organizations that are broken. He was brought in as the non-executive chairman of Freddie Mac (FMCC) after the credit crisis which tainted the organization. His job description changed after the chief executive officer quit and the chief financial officer committed suicide, and Koskinen added CEO, CFO and chief operating officer to his job title. While at Freddie Mac, Koskinen made a number of friends in Washington, making it likely that he would be confirmed.
President Obama said, about the nomination this summer, that “[w]ith decades of experience, in both the private and public sectors, John knows how to lead in difficult times, whether that means ensuring new management or implementing new checks and balances.”
Difficult times is quite the understatement. In addition to the scandals from the past year, IRS is facing a potential talent drain, low employee morale and further demoralizing budget cuts.
Koskinen replaces Acting IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel who stepped up in May one day after President Obama accepted the resignation of then Acting Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Steven T. Miller. Miller resigned on May 15, 2013, in the midst of the tax exempt organization scandal that has plagued the IRS. Miller accepted the post after former IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman said goodbye in November 2012; Shulman had served a nearly four year term at the helm of the IRS.
Secretary of the Treasury Jacob Lew had this to say about Koskinen:
“I am pleased the Senate took bipartisan action to confirm John Koskinen as the next Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service. From turning around large private sector organizations, like the Penn Central Railroad, to tackling obstacles facing the government, including the Y2K challenge, John’s distinguished career has prepared him to assume this important position at this critical time. I have known John ever since we worked together at the Office of Management and Budget during the Clinton administration, and we are fortunate he is returning to public service.
“John shares my ironclad commitment to continuing to rebuild the public’s trust in the IRS. The work of the IRS, which is carried out by dedicated public servants, touches virtually every American, and we need someone at the helm who brings both a strong commitment to high quality customer service and the practical abilities to strengthen the agency. Not only is John that person, he is someone with a great deal of integrity who has earned bipartisan support over the decades for achieving results on behalf of Democratic and Republican Presidents.
Secretary Lew also took time to recognize Werfel:
“I also want to thank Danny Werfel for his tremendous work as Acting Commissioner of the IRS. During trying times, Danny has been extraordinarily successful at taking on a very difficult task and moving the agency in the right direction. He acted swiftly to root out problems and reshape the management structure at the IRS. Danny even remained in this position much longer than he had planned in order to provide a seamless transition in leadership. As a longtime career civil servant and as a policy official, he has consistently put his nation first. Danny’s achievements over the past several months are a testament to his tireless dedication and long history of excellence.”
While the IRS has not announced an official date for Koskinen’s first day, some believe it could happen as soon as the end of December.
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