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US Senate approves Danny Werfel as IRS commissioner

Internal Revenue Serice Sign

President Joe Biden’s nominee is set to be confirmed as IRS commissioner for a five-year term.

The US Senate voted 54-42 to approve nominee Danny Werfel to become commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, yesterday, March 9.

Werfel is set to return to the IRS as commissioner after a nine-year hiatus from the agency. He previously held a number of roles at the IRS over a 15 year stint, including as acting commissioner and controller of the office of budget management.

Former US president Barack Obama made Werfel acting commissioner following the controversy over claims the IRS had denied tax exemptions to conservative groups from 2010 to 2012. Werfel also served as interim tax chief from May to December 2013 before handing over to John Koskinen.

US Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, a Democratic senator from Oregon, said Werfel “helped right the ship and improve confidence in the IRS” during that time.

Werfel was nominated by President Joe Biden on November 10 2022, following the departure of IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig. The nominee faced a grilling from the Senate Finance Committee in February before the committee approved Werfel’s nomination by 17 votes to nine on March 2.

After leaving the IRS in 2013, Werfel joined management consultancy Boston Consulting Group in 2014 and served as director of its global public sector practice in Washington DC. He will be giving up that position to serve as commissioner.

‘Zero faith’

Joe Manchin, a Democrat senator from West Virginia, was the only Democrat to vote against Werfel’s appointment. He did so because of his objections to the Treasury’s implementation of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).

“While Daniel Werfel is supremely qualified to serve as the IRS commissioner, I have zero faith he will be given the autonomy to perform the job in accordance with the law and for that reason, I cannot support his nomination,” said Manchin.

The IRS is gaining $80 billion in funds over the next 10 years as part of the IRA, which was approved in August 2022. This funding has drawn criticism from Republicans who advocate public spending cuts.

It was a key issue for Republicans voting against Werfel. Texas Senator John Cornyn stressed this point.

“I don’t think this is so much about a vote on Werfel, I think it’s the fact that Democrats appropriated $80 billion for the IRS without any plan for how it’s going to be spent,” said Cornyn.

“There’s a lot of scepticism about how that power might be used,” he added.

However, Werfel did get the approval of six Republican senators: Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Todd Young of Indiana.

“Danny Werfel showed an openness to different ways to update IRS processes. This is long overdue,” said Cassidy.

Since Rettig stepped down, long-time IRS official Doug O’Donnell had been serving as acting commissioner. Werfel will be sworn in on Monday, March 13, and his five-year term will run until November 2027.

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