Prepared remarks of IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel – Swearing-in


April 4, 2023

I'd like to begin by thanking Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen for being here today and administering the oath. I want to say a special thank-you to my wife, Beth, who is here and always by my side through it all. There are a number of other people I'd like to thank for attending, including NTEU President Tony Reardon. I'd also like to acknowledge Deputy Secretary Wally Adeyemo as well as former IRS Commissioners Fred Goldberg, Charles Rossotti, Mark Everson, Doug Shulman and John Koskinen. Please thank them for their service.

It is truly an honor to be a part of this great organization and serve as the 50th IRS Commissioner. The importance of being Commissioner – particularly a milestone number like 50 – has made me think a lot about the historical implications of the moment.

In fact, as I went through the Senate confirmation process, I took some time to dive a bit into IRS's history. On our website, I discovered a wonderful timeline and found a copy of the letter Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase sent to President Lincoln recommending George Boutwell as the first Commissioner of Internal Revenue. Commissioner Boutwell's mission was to stand up a new organization and collect the taxes necessary to help save the Union – as critical a mission as one can imagine. Examining that thread of history made me reflect on how important this agency has been to the nation over 161 years – and continues to be. Our ongoing legacy is to collect the funds that support the functions that make life in America possible – a safe food supply, safe skies, safe roads, domestic safety from foreign adversaries, and on and on.

Also during the confirmation process, I had time to reflect on the type of government leader I want to be. What I have learned from my years of government service is that the path to success in any government organization is its workforce. Leaders that come in with a belief that they have all the answers and do not engage and listen to the people who have been there doing the work are bound to fail. Leaders who respect, engage, listen, and embrace the input and perspective of the workforce at every level are far more likely to succeed.

I have seen, both from afar and up close, what this workforce is about. They know what we do well, what we can be better at, and have insights into how to move to the next level of performance.  Of course, opinions and perspectives on the best path ahead are diverse. But there is a critically important common denominator -- a deep belief in the importance of effectively serving taxpayer needs, ensuring fairness in tax administration and protecting taxpayer rights in everything they do.

My commitment as our new leader is to build trust with you, communicate by both listening to input and regularly sharing updates, to own and shoulder our mistakes and setbacks, and to make sure the workforce rightfully receives the credit for accomplishments.

We have a great deal of work ahead of us to ensure a more modern and high-performing IRS that provides world-class service to taxpayers. Over the past few years, I have watched from afar how the IRS workforce navigated the challenges of underfunding and understaffing while still maintaining the tax system and providing critical economic assistance during the pandemic. I have been impressed but not surprised by the way IRS employees have always risen to the occasion and delivered for taxpayers with the limited resources available. Now, with new resources provided by the Inflation Reduction Act, I am excited to see the great things IRS employees can accomplish to help our nation.

So while Commissioner Boutwell embarked on the first chapter – our launch – we stand now 16 decades later at the start of our own new and vital chapter. The enactment of the Inflation Reduction Act provides an opportunity to envision and realize the future of Federal tax administration. Later this week, we will be issuing our Strategic Operating Plan for the Inflation Reduction Act.

The plan is rich in detail, but when you cut through the many pages of objectives, initiative, projects, and milestones, you find a bottom line of real-world improvements – for every taxpayer, tax professional, and IRS employee.

For taxpayers? In the short-term and the long-term, here are just a few of things the IRS will accomplish.

  • An end to long wait times on the phone - regardless of the time of year – so calling the IRS will no longer frustrate taxpayers and tax pros. 
  • More service locations and more IRS staff to provide in-person help that has been sorely missing for many years in so many parts of the nation.
  • More digital tools to help people get the service and the information they need. For example, this will mean a more detailed version of refund tracking, so people have a clearer view of when and where their refunds are in the processing pipelines. 
  • More digital scanning to speed processing of paper returns we receive. This will reduce errors and speed refunds for paper filers. 
  • An expanded Online Account, so taxpayers and tax professionals have a clearer view of their tax information and easier ways to address issues with their tax return. For example, taxpayers will be able to respond to IRS issues instantly by electronic means - avoiding weeks of mailings and paper processing. For many, letters from the IRS in the mail could be a thing of the past. 

Add these all up, and the new IRS will make a very complex tax system much easier for people. It will be easier for them to file and understand their tax obligations. This will make it easier for people to claim the vital credits they are entitled to; something millions of people can overlook each year by missing out on the Earned Income Tax Credit and other vital credits. So not only will our work help provide bigger and faster refunds for many, but these changes will also help people get it right the first time - avoiding follow-up contacts from the IRS and reducing the need for potential audits.

The future of our efforts to ensure compliance with tax laws? We want people to avoid audits in the first place. But we understand that we must safeguard the nation's tax law and revenue needs. So, we will hire and train specially skilled staff to give us a much greater capacity to unpack the complex return filings of high-income taxpayers, large corporations and complex partnerships.

Let me note something about our civil-side compliance employees. Despite what some might think or say, these public servants within the IRS are armed only with calculators and their skills to help us address compliance issues. Their work will give people confidence that all taxpayers, regardless of means, are being treated fairly under the tax laws.

The future of our technology? Another part of our vision involves an organization and infrastructure rooted in modern technology. This will give taxpayers increased confidence that their data is secure and that we are prepared to more rapidly meet new security requirements or responsibilities that may emerge in the future.

While much of what we envision will take several years to achieve, you can already see pieces of this in motion. I'm proud to say our workforce is already delivering on the promise of the Inflation Reduction Act. During the 2023 tax filing season, the IRS has provided taxpayers with a dramatically better experience than they have seen for several years. We have answered more calls from taxpayers, helped more people at our Taxpayer Assistance Centers and provided new online services for taxpayers who want to interact with us in this way.

This is just the beginning. There will be more improvements in the next filing season and in the years to come. Throughout my term, my top priority will be to ensure that the IRS uses this historic investment wisely and in the way that best benefits the country.

This is our moment in history to transform the IRS. Working together, I am confident we will fulfill our mission and achieve our goals. Decades from now, those leading the IRS will look back on our work as a moment of transformational change. They will say we delivered for the nation, and we never lost sight of our true north – our commitment to serving taxpayers and the nation. Thank you.