President Donald Trump plans to nominate California tax attorney Charles “Chuck” Rettig to head the Internal Revenue Service as it implements the nation’s tax code revamp, according to a person familiar with the deliberations.
In addition to carrying out the Republican tax overhaul, Rettig would also have an even more sensitive job—overseeing an audit of the president’s returns. Trump departed from roughly 40 years of tradition for presidential candidates by refusing to release his tax returns during the 2016 campaign. The president has said he’s under a federal audit and won’t release his returns until the audit is over.
Rettig, who has been with Beverly Hills-based Hochman, Salkin, Rettig, Toscher & Perez for 35 years, would succeed former IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. David Kautter, the assistant Treasury secretary for tax policy, was appointed as interim replacement after Koskinen’s term ended in November. Koskinen had an acrimonious relationship with House Republicans, who alleged that he misled Congress.
Rettig didn’t respond to emailed requests for comment.
Rettig has weighed in on a variety of tax policy issues as a contributor to Forbes, including supporting Trump’s decision not to release his tax returns.
“Would any experienced tax lawyer representing Trump in an IRS audit advise him to publicly release his tax returns during the audit?” Rettig wrote in 2016. “Absolutely not.”
If confirmed by the Senate, Rettig would join the agency as it struggles with limited resources and a possible restructuring by Congress. Adjusting for inflation, the Taxpayer Advocate Service estimates the IRS budget has been cut by 20 percent since 2010.
Unlike the last several IRS heads, Rettig has a tax background, rather than business management expertise. In his law practice, Rettig has represented clients before the IRS, the Justice Department’s Tax Division, state tax authorities and in federal and state courts, according to a biography on his law firm’s website. Rettig has also represented scores of U.S. taxpayers seeking to disclose their unreported offshore bank accounts to the IRS.
“I’m happy that he is a tax specialist coming from the tax controversy world who understands how frustrating it is to resolve these issues,” said Christopher S. Rizek, a tax attorney at Caplin & Drysdale in Washington and a former Treasury official.
In 2010, Rettig was appointed by the IRS to serve as chairman of its Advisory Council, after having been an active and contributing member since 2008. The advisory body to the IRS Commissioner reviews existing tax policy and makes recommendations and suggests operational improvements.
Rettig, who received his law degree from Pepperdine University and a Master of Laws in taxation from New York University, currently serves as vice chairman of administration for the American Bar Association’s Taxation Section. Previously he was chairman of the Tax Section’s Civil and Criminal Tax Penalties Committee, which addresses criminal and civil tax issues throughout the country.
Politico previously reported that Trump was going to nominate Rettig.
—With assistance from Lynnley Browning, Elizabeth Wasserman and Robert Lee