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Senate Confirms Daniel Werfel as Next IRS Chief

The Senate voted 54-42 to confirm Werfel, a former acting IRS commissioner under the Obama administration.

The Senate on Thursday confirmed Daniel Werfel as the next commissioner of the IRS by a 54-42 vote, the New York Times reported.

Werfel, a former acting commissioner of the IRS under the Obama administration, won the support of six Republicans, according to the NYT, despite increased scrutiny of the tax agency by many conservatives. Those six Republicans senators were Bill Cassidy (Louisiana), Susan Collins (Maine), Charles Grassley (Iowa), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Thom Tillis (North Carolina), and Todd Young (Indiana).

“For Mr. Werfel to get bipartisan support to lead the IRS at a time when a lot of Republicans would happily mothball the entire agency is a testament to his fairness, his ability to work with both sides and his undeniable qualification for this role,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said in a statement on Thursday. “Republicans spent a decade cutting the IRS budget, and the effect was miserable customer service and rampant tax cheating by the wealthy and corporations. That’s what Democrats sought to correct when we passed additional funding for the IRS in the Inflation Reduction Act. Mr. Werfel understands that his directive is to go after wealthy tax cheats and scofflaw corporations, while improving customer service for everybody else. There have already been remarkable improvements in taxpayer service with the IRS having used only a small fraction of the funding it got in the Inflation Reduction Act, and this is shaping up to be the smoothest tax filing season in years. We’re counting on Mr. Werfel to maintain that progress.” 

However, Werfel did not receive the backing of Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia who called him “supremely qualified” for the job but added he has “zero faith” Werfel would have any autonomy in the post. Manchin has ongoing dissatisfaction with the Biden administration over its handling of Inflation Reduction Act provisions that he authored.

Werfel will take over an agency that just received an influx of funding as part of the Inflation Reduction Act which was passed by Congress in August. The $80 billion in funding the IRS is slated to receive over the next 10 years will be used to hire more personnel—including tax agents and customer service representatives—and to update the agency’s antiquated technology.

However, some Republican lawmakers have claimed that the IRS will use the new federal funding to hire 87,000 “agents” in an effort to increase audits of the middle class—both of which are not true, the IRS has said. The IRS and Democrats have attempted to reassure Americans that the additional audit activity will affect only those making $400,000 or more. And once the GOP took control of the House of Representatives in January, Republicans passed bills to abolish the IRS and to replace federal income taxes with a national consumption tax. Both bills are expected to stall in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

Earlier in his career, Werfel worked for the federal government under both Republican and Democratic administrations. He began his career at the Office of Management and Budget in 1997 during the Clinton administration as a policy analyst in the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. He continued his work at the OMB during the Bush and Obama administrations.

After serving as OMB deputy controller, Werfel was nominated by President Obama to be controller of the OMB in 2009, a post he served in for four years before becoming acting commissioner of the IRS on May 22, 2013.

Werfel followed Steven Miller as acting commissioner of the IRS after Miller resigned on May 15 of that year. Miller departed after the IRS admitted to improperly scrutinizing the federal tax-exempt status of some conservative groups. Werfel stayed on as acting commissioner until John Koskinen was nominated and confirmed as IRS commissioner later in 2013.

Werfel joined Boston Consulting Group in 2014 and was most recently the global leader of the consulting firm’s Public Sector practice. He previously led BCG’s Public Sector practice in North America.

The Senate Finance Committee voted 17-9 to approve Werfel’s nomination on March 2.