(Washington, DC) At its November 13-14th meeting, the IRS Oversight Board elected Paul Cherecwich, Jr. as its new Chairman. Mr. Cherecwich will serve a full two-year term effective immediately and succeeds Paul Jones, Jr. who stepped down from that post due to competing job demands. Mr. Jones will continue to be a Board member. Prior to joining the Board last year as a private sector member, Mr. Cherecwich enjoyed a distinguished career serving as a corporate tax counsel with three Fortune 500 corporations, as International President of the Tax Executives Institute–the preeminent association of corporate tax counsels in North America–and most recently, as Of Counsel with Miller and Chevalier Chartered.
"On behalf of the IRS Oversight Board, I want to thank Paul Jones for his contributions as the chairman. As a Board member under Paul's leadership, I especially appreciate his wisdom and ability to identify the real strategic issues during Board discussions. That is a quality I will strive to emulate," said Chairman Cherecwich, adding, "I recognize that tax administration continues to face many challenges, from the tax gap to the never-ending problem of insufficient resources, but I also believe this is an exciting time to be Chairman of the Oversight Board. I believe that the Board, Treasury Department, and the IRS will work together to set a strategic direction that will allow the IRS to continue to improve the state of tax administration in the country."
Tax Preparer Regulation Issues Discussed
Regulation of federal tax return preparers has come before the Board in various forms over the past several years. The topic is often raised at IRS National Tax Forums and public meetings. Several stakeholder organizations and Members of Congress have endorsed some sort of regulation for tax preparers.
At its meeting, the Board received a briefing from Michael Chesman, Director of the IRS's Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), who described heightened efforts to hold tax professionals accountable for standards of conduct under Circular 230. Those covered by these rules include attorneys, certified public accountants, enrolled agents, enrolled actuaries, and appraisers. Mr. Chesman outlined the process by which his office investigates potential ethical violations–which can come from a taxpayer complaint–for possible referral to IRS Chief Counsel for action and subsequent trial before an Administrative Law Judge. Sanctions can range from a private reprimand to disbarment.
David R. Williams, Director of Electronic Tax Administration and Refundable Credits, briefed the Board on efforts to strengthen the integrity of IRS e-file and, in particular, Electronic Return Originators (EROs)–also known as Authorized IRS e-file Providers–who must adhere to specific rules in order to participate in the program. A recent Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) review of the e-filing program yielded nine recommendations for EROs, of which eight were accepted by IRS and one is under review. Mr. Williams said that implementation of TIGTA recommendations will reduce the risk of unscrupulous providers participating in IRS e-file. Moreover, IRS continues to work to improve screening methods of applicants while limiting unnecessary burden.
Efforts to Boost IRS Employee Engagement Outlined
The IRS Chief Human Capital Officer Robert Buggs discussed ways the IRS can boost employee engagement. The Board was pleased at the dramatic boost in employee participation in this year's employee attitude survey (see Board's 10/03/07 release), and encouraged the agency to explore ways to further engage employees. Mr. Buggs described goals for FY2008, which include enhancing the recruitment and retention plan, improving communication to link strategic direction with day-to-day operations, and continuing to analyze how to improve employee job satisfaction.
Board Briefed on New IRS Office Dedicated to Taxpayer Privacy Issues
Deborah Wolf, Director of the IRS's new office of Privacy, Information Protection and Data Security (PIPDS), briefed the Board on its two principal programs: (1) improving public, preparer, and external stakeholder awareness of privacy policies, procedures, and general information; and (2) improving the IRS's response to taxpayers and practitioners who fall victim to data loss incidents, identity theft, or online fraud. Some of its 2008 activities include developing and maintaining internal and external websites to provide for better outreach and awareness of privacy topics.
Overview on Tax Exempt and Government Entities
IRS Tax Exempt and Government Entities (TEGE) Operating Division Commissioner Steve Miller described to the Oversight Board his division's challenges, accomplishments and future activities. Of note, TEGE has reversed the decline in examinations and is expanding its enforcement presence. It is emphasizing new areas of compliance for hospitals, non-profit executive compensation, and municipal bonds and has developed new ways of delivering education and outreach to its customer base. Mr. Miller also told the Board that his operating division plans to use available technology to improve customer satisfaction and will obtain and disseminate improved data to promote public transparency and enhance case selection. In addition, Mr. Miller made clear his commitment to greater research to improve TEGE's understanding of noncompliance and its ability to detect and address it.
IRS Briefs Board on Filing Season Preparations
With the 2008 tax season only weeks away, the Board received a briefing from Deputy Commissioner Richard Spires on filing season readiness. Discussed were some of the key risks the IRS has identified and how they can be mitigated. Of greatest concern is the potential effect of delayed enactment this year of Alternative Minimum Tax legislation. (Please go to www.irsoversightboard.treas.gov for additional information on AMT legislation delay issues).
Work Continues on IRS Long-Term Goals
The IRS Oversight Board also heard a follow-up report by IRS Director of Research, Analysis and Statistics (RAS) Mark J. Mazur on the IRS's progress in developing additional long-term strategic measures. More research is needed but progress is being made on two additional goals, according to Mr. Mazur.
In a related matter, the Oversight Board was told by Deputy Commissioner Spires that there continues to be a strong consensus at the IRS to update its existing strategic plan (2005-2009) and involve the Board in the update process.
The Board's next meeting will be held on February 19-20th, 2008 in Washington, DC. On February 19th, the Board will hold a public meeting. Information on the meeting will be released in the coming weeks.