Senate confirms Daniel Werfel as IRS commissioner in bipartisan vote

Principal Deputy IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel testifies before the House Small Business Committee at a hearing on “The Internal Revenue Service And Small Businesses: Ensuring Fair Treatment” in Washington, July 17, 2013.

James Lawler Duggan | Reuters

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate confirmed Daniel Werfel on Thursday as the next commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, filling the key role just weeks before April’s 2022 income tax filing deadline.

President Joe Biden’s pick to lead the IRS won the support of nearly every Senate Democrat, plus a handful of Republicans. The only Democrat to oppose Werfel’s confirmation was West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin.

One of Werfel’s priorities at the IRS will be ensuring that the wealthiest Americans pay their full tax bills.

“If I am fortunate enough to be confirmed, the audit and compliance priorities will be focused on enhancing IRS’ capabilities to ensure that America’s highest earners comply with tax laws,” Werfel said in his confirmation hearing in February.

Following a directive from Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Werfel also vowed that the IRS would not increase audit rates for small businesses and households making under $400,000, relative to recent years.

Yellen’s priorities for the agency are largely centered around taxpayer services, such as clearing the backlog of unprocessed tax returns, improving customer service, overhauling technology and hiring workers.

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Werfel will take the helm at the tax agency during a period of increased scrutiny, largely driven by the new Republican majority in the House. Of particular interest to the GOP is a provision in last year’s Inflation Reduction Act, which funds the IRS with an additional $80 billion over the next decade.

In January, Republicans in the House voted to rescind that funding in their first official vote as the majority party. But without support from the Democratic controlled Senate or the White House, the bill was largely symbolic, and never advanced beyond the House.

The House Ways and Means Committee announced last month that among its oversight priorities, the $80 billion IRS funding was “at the top of the list,” according to Chairman Jason Smith, R-Mo.  

The IRS is also under fire over its failure so far to meet a Feb. 17 deadline to submit a plan for how it intends to use the new funding. The plan was requested by Yellen in August of last year.

Senators who voted to confirm Werfel on Wednesday have praised his experience in both government and the private sector.

“Confirming someone as qualified as Mr. Werfel as IRS Commissioner is crucial to making sure Americans take full advantage of all the tax credits we approved last year,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Monday on the Senate floor.

“It is also crucial for deploying resources we approved to go after rich cheats and ensure middle class families are not needlessly audited while those at the top get by scot-free,” said Schumer.

 Currently a partner at Boston Consulting Group, Werfel served in the second Bush administration as acting controller of the Office of Management and Budget. Under Bush’s successor, President Barack Obama, Werfel was confirmed as full-time OMB controller. He later served as acting IRS commissioner in 2013.