Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Mark Everson will leave the agency to become president and chief executive of the American Red Cross next month.Everson, 52, has served as IRS commissioner since May 2003. During his time with the agency, he has publicly focused his attention on efforts to better serve taxpayers, continue the agency’s modernization of its systems and enhance its enforcement activities. In recent months, Everson has heard increased clamoring from Congress over how the agency and the Treasury Department should best work to address the nation’s growing tax gap -- estimated at $345 billion for the 2001 tax year.

“I look back over the last four years with great pride and satisfaction,” said Everson in an email to employees announcing his plans to leave. “Together, we have rebalanced the organization, bringing to life the equation: Service + Enforcement = Compliance.”

Tom Ochsenschlager, the vice president of taxation for the American Institute of CPAs, said that Everson should be remembered as a commissioner who guided the IRS through some of its most difficult times.

"[He took] office when tax shelters, electronic filing goals and a changing demographics of the workforce made the position particularly challenging," Ochsenschlager told WebCPA. "That he was able to maintain a balance between enforcement and taxpayer service during this turbulent time is truly remarkable."

The director of the national tax office at Cbiz Accounting, Tax & Advisory Services, Bill Smith, said that there's no question Everson leaves the legacy of an agency that has cracked down on high-profile tax shelters, increased the level of audit activity and begun the outsourcing of collections.

"Everson has changed the tax landscape by shifting the burden of enforcement from the taxpayer to the tax advisor more so than previous administrations," Smith said. "While this has improved compliance, it has also made life much harder for the tax professional and damaged the relationship between the IRS and the tax community.  Whether the next commissioner chooses stays the course laid out by Everson, they should also focus on repairing that relationship."

Everson will assume the Red Cross post on May 29, taking over from the organization’s interim president, Jack McGuire, who will stay on in the position of executive vice president for biomedical services. Marsha Evans stepped down from the charity’s top slot in December 2005, as she battled publicly with the Red Cross’s board of governors, and critical fingers were pointed at the organization’s slow response to Hurricane Katrina.

With Congress set to vote on legislation to reduce the organization’s 50-member board and lessen the influence of presidentially appointed overseers, the Red Cross itself remains in a time of transition. The bill, aimed at reducing the charity’s sometimes bureaucratic and occasionally unaccountable culture, is expected to pass this spring.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee who sponsored that legislation, has been a watchdog of the IRS in recent years. He said that Everson should get good marks for his leadership in reforming the tax-exempt community in recent years. 

"Since [Everson's] had to manage with tight resources, I hope he'll also be good at extracting the maximum value from every Red Cross donation," said Grassley, in a statement. "His sense of accountability, his energy and his respect for institutions while being reform-minded are all attributes the Red Cross needs.  The institution gathered some moss over the years, but it's working to change.  It needs a leader to guide that change. Mark Everson is a good choice." 

Prior to joining the IRS, Everson served as deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, acting as the president’s chief management officer, and before that, joined the Bush administration in August 2001 to serve as controller at the Office of Federal Financial Management.

Everson also served as a vice president of Dallas-based SC International Services Inc., a $2.2 billion food services company, and as an executive with the French industrial business Pechiney Group. He began his career with Arthur Andersen & Co. in New York.

Last year, the Red Cross’s 1 million volunteers and 35,000 employees assisted victims of a record 72,883 disasters.

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