Interim IRS Commissioner Werfel Steps Down

Daniel Werfel, the interim commissioner of the IRS for the past seven months, has resigned from his position as the head of the agency.

According to the White House Office of Management and Budget, Werfel’s last day with the agency was December 23.  It was not until the office’s confirmation on Monday that Werfel’s resignation was made public.

Werfel noted that he has no formal plans except to spend additional time with his family.

“I have not yet decided on what my next steps will be, but hope to do so in the near term,” said Werfel.  “My tenure with both [the Office of Management and Budget] and the IRS left me energized for new challenges.”

With Werfel’s resignation, it marks the first time in almost 17 years that he has not held a position with the government.  Werfel worked for the Office of Management and Budget for 14 years and served as an attorney for the Department of Justice for 2 years before he accepted the interim commissioner position with the IRS.

Werfel’s Role as IRS Commissioner was Limited in Duration as Planned

It was clear that Werfel’s tenure as the IRS commissioner was a temporary one and his role would come to an end once a permanent leader was identified.  That identification came in December when the Senate tapped John Koskinen as the go-forward leader of the IRS.

“With John Koskinen’s confirmation as the IRS commissioner late last month, it was a good opportunity for me to take some brief time off to spend with my family and also to explore new opportunities for the next phase of my career,” said Werfel on Monday.

Koskinen was formerly the non-executive chairman of Freddie Mac and is considered an expert at restructuring, a skill sorely needed by the agencies given the scandals that surfaced in 2013.

Werfel became the interim IRS commissioner in May 2013 shortly after IRS leaders acknowledged a targeting effort in the 2010 and 2012 elections that limited the speed with which conservative and Tea Party organizations could obtain tax-exempt status.  An audit by the Office of the Inspector General identified the targeting effort, which primarily involved additional questions and lengthened processing times such that some organizations waited literally for years for the IRS to approve their application for tax-exempt status.

However, a recent review of the IRS found no reason to file criminal charges against those who led the targeting effort, or evidence that the White House was responsible for directing the IRS to perform the targeting.  Many Republican leaders are questioning the results of the investigation, in larger part because the lead investigator was a proven supporter of President Obama who had contributed to his presidential campaigns.

To his credit, Werfel implemented various measures in an effort to prevent the IRS from targeting any one political group with additional scrutiny going forward.

The department of Werfel from not only the IRS but other governmental roles did not seem to come as a surprise.

“I think he’s just worn out,” said Relmond Van Daniker, executive director of the Association of Government Accountants.  “These are 18-hour days.”

Although Werfel has not indicated his plans beyond taking time with his family, many expect he will seek a role in the private sector.

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by Mark Johnston

Mark has been a contributor to legal web sites related to bankruptcy, tax, and criminal law since 2011. He has an Accounting degree from Texas A&M University.