Senate expected to vote Thursday on confirming Rettig as IRS commissioner

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The Senate Finance Committee plans to vote Thursday on President Trump’s nomination of tax attorney Charles Rettig as the next commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service.

The committee held a confirmation hearing at the end of June where it heard testimony from Rettig, who was asked about Trump’s reluctance to release his tax returns (see IRS nominee says he’s never had a client under audit for a decade).

Rettig is a tax practitioner at the Beverly Hills law firm Hochman, Salkin, Rettig, Toscher & Perez, P.C. who has spent most of his career representing clients before the IRS. During his confirmation hearing, he discussed some of his experiences over his 35-year career in the tax profession. He noted that he has served as chair of the IRS Advisory Council and in a similar role in California, as well as vice-chair of administration for the 12,000-member Taxation Section of the American Bar Association and as president of the American College of Tax Counsel.

“Through decades of experience working across the table from the IRS, I have seen the difficulties faced by taxpayers of all kinds — from large employers, to small businesses, to low-income taxpayers who need help,” he told lawmakers during his opening statement. “When the IRS started ‘Problem Solving Days’ to allow taxpayers to come in without an appointment, I organized dozens of tax professionals in my area to assist unrepresented taxpayers who appeared at the IRS seeking a resolution of a tax issue. I’ve also devoted a significant amount of time assisting taxpayers who can’t afford professional help on a pro bono basis.”

He noted that he has worked closely with many IRS professionals over the years and dealt with their frustrations with the agency’s aging computer systems. “Throughout my career I have also been privileged to work with many professional and hard-working IRS employees and, if confirmed, would be honored to work alongside them and earn their respect,” said Rettig. “Despite the challenges it faces, the IRS is fortunate to have an experienced workforce committed to its mission. In my career I have seen the impact of those challenges firsthand. Long waits on the phone and inadequate IT systems are significant sources of frustration.”

Rettig told lawmakers he would also work to implement the new tax overhaul that Congress passed last December.

“If confirmed, I will work with this committee to take on these and other challenges with the impact on taxpayers in mind,” he said. “We cannot fall into the trap of viewing the challenges the IRS faces as facts of life but must work together to solve them. If I am privileged to serve as commissioner, my overriding goal will be to strengthen and rebuild trust between the IRS, the American people, and their representatives in Congress. That trust is critical to all that the IRS does — particularly as it works with the Department of the Treasury to implement once-in-a-generation tax reform legislation enacted by Congress last year. The successful implementation of that landmark reform law will be among my highest priorities as commissioner.”

Rettig is likely to be confirmed, as the current acting commissioner, David Kautter, has been doing double duty as the assistant secretary of the Treasury for tax policy since last November, when the previous commissioner, John Koskinen, completed his term, and the IRS is badly in need of a full-time leader to implement the wide-ranging tax reform law while also dealing with other issues such as identity theft and taxpayer service.

Senate Finance Committee chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, indicated Rettig had his support, saying during last month’s hearing, “Mr. Rettig has decades of experience representing taxpayers before the IRS. He knows the agency inside and out, due to his years of work on advisory councils and stakeholder groups. And he brings the necessary passion and dedication that this role will require. I am confident, that if confirmed, Mr. Rettig will be a trustworthy, responsive, and earnest partner with Congress and this committee as we pursue our shared mission to improve the agency.”

However, the ranking Democrat on the committee, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Utah, indicated Tuesday that he would withhold his support in response to an announcement Monday by the Treasury Department that Section 501(c)4 tax-exempt organizations would no longer be required to disclose the names and addresses of their donors on the Form 990 or 990-EZ. He believes that will affect the transparency of who is funding tax-exempt political groups during the upcoming midterm election season (see Many political tax-exempts no longer required to report donors).

“Trump’s Treasury Department made it easier for anonymous foreign donors to funnel dark money into nonprofits the same day a Russian national linked to the NRA was arrested for attempting to influence our elections,” Wyden said in a statement Tuesday. “It’s the latest attempt by Secretary Mnuchin and Donald Trump to eliminate transparency and keep officials and lawmakers from following the money. That’s why I’ll be opposing Charles Rettig, nominee to be IRS Commissioner, unless Mr. Rettig commits to restoring this critical disclosure requirement.”

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Tax reform Trump tax plan Orrin Hatch Ron Wyden IRS Treasury Department