Thank you for that warm welcome. I want to thank the National Press Club for inviting me back for a fourth time. I have to admit, one of the reasons I keep coming back is for the unusual cookies, which are terrific again this year. I generally have started these talks, as a Duke guy, with a reference to the NCAA tournament. But, after the first weekend, my bracket was such a wreck that it was more fun for me to watch NASCAR races.
Now that March Madness is over, we’re focusing on April Madness at the IRS, otherwise known as the tax filing deadline, which this year is April 18th. So I can’t resist a public service reminder. For anyone who hasn’t filed their taxes yet, you have less than two weeks to do so.
Every year, tax time rolls around like clockwork. And I admit, before I became Commissioner, I was like most people. I didn’t give it much thought. I just assumed my tax return would be processed and the IRS would send me my refund every year. And they did. But after nearly three-and-a-half years as Commissioner, I can tell you I don’t take that process for granted anymore.
Working for the agency has been an eye-opener, and has led me to conclude that everyone should know what I found out: that the tax filing season doesn’t happen automatically or by accident. It happens because our employees spend months beforehand preparing for it, and then making sure it goes smoothly. This was a lesson I learned almost right away, since I came to the IRS just as the 2014 tax filing season was about to start.
At the time, I told our employees that, as the new kid on the block, the best thing I could do to help was to stay out of the way. The strategy worked well that first year. And, while I’m more involved now, I am pleased to report we’re about to complete our fourth successful filing season in a row. And, so far, this is the smoothest filing season since I became Commissioner.
One of the things that still amazes me is the sheer size of the numbers the IRS deals with. Listen to some of these numbers; they’re what accountants dream of:
So far this filing season, we’ve received more than 93 million individual 1040s, on the way to an expected 152 million. We have issued more than 74 million refunds totaling more than $213 billion. That’s right, billion. By the time we’re done, we will have issued well over $300 billion in refunds. That’s more than the GDP of some countries.
As impressive as those numbers are, the most important one may be the average size of refunds, which is running about $2,900. We all like getting refunds, but for many households, that refund is the biggest check they’ll see all year.
That’s especially true for people who qualify for refundable credits, particularly the Earned Income Tax Credit, or EITC. We call the EITC “refundable” because you receive whatever amount you qualify for, even if it’s more than your tax liability. The EITC has been called one of our most important anti-poverty programs for that reason. We provide about $67 billion in refunds to over 27 million beneficiaries each year.
These numbers I’ve just given you paint a picture that I think is often overlooked by the public. The IRS is a flexible, can-do agency with a remarkable group of employees.
This fact is not overlooked by the Congress. Whenever they pass a new program, we are often the ones given the job of implementing the legislation, with or without any related funding. These legislative mandates to us include not only the EITC and the Affordable Care, Act but more recent programs like the ABLE Act, the Health Coverage Tax Credit and the Private Debt Collection Act. We certainly have areas where we can improve, but at the end of the day, Congress knows when they give us a job, we’ll get it done. And that’s something we’ve seen through the years.
A wonderful example of that can-do spirit is sitting up here on the dais with us: Carolyn Tavenner, who has been an IRS employee for more than four decades. She currently heads the IRS office that administers the tax-related provisions of the Affordable Care Act.
The average taxpayer has never heard of people like Carolyn, but she’s been involved in countless initiatives to improve tax administration. For example, anyone who has ever used the 1040-EZ, the “short form,” to file their taxes, has Carolyn to thank.
Back in the early 1980s, she was part of a small team that was asked to find a way to make tax filing simpler for taxpayers with a straightforward, uncomplicated tax situation. Carolyn and her team developed the 1040-EZ. It’s one page, fewer than 20 lines, and you can fill it out in almost no time. You always hear a lot of talk around Washington about tax simplification. Thanks to Carolyn and others at the IRS, the 1040-EZ has made life simpler for millions of people. And through the years, it’s saved people millions and millions of hours because they don’t have to work through the longer 1040.
Sometimes we joke that Carolyn is the mother of the 1040-EZ. But she’s done many other things. Her long career also illustrates the nonpartisan aspect of the work we do. Carolyn had a leading role in implementing portions of the Tax Reform Act of 1986, which was passed during a Republican administration. Nearly 25 years later, she was one of those who helped implement the tax provisions of the Affordable Care Act, under a Democratic administration. And now, once again under a Republican administration, she and others at the IRS are closely watching any changes that may be made to health care coverage laws.
There are thousands of employees like Carolyn across our agency, with the same work ethic and dedication to their jobs. While presidential administrations come and go, our employees are still here, serving the American taxpayer and keeping our tax system running.
For many of our employees, public service is practically in their DNA. They went into government because they saw what a good experience it was for their parents. A great example is Margaret Johnson, who is up here on the dais with us. She works in our IT division here in Washington, and has been with the IRS for 32 years. Margaret credits her mother, Willianna Smith, with being her role model and showing her the value of a career in public service.
You may have seen Willianna portrayed on the big screen recently. Willianna was one of several female mathematicians who worked for NASA in the 1960s. Their story was told in last year’s movie, Hidden Figures. Willianna and her colleagues provided unheralded but critical support to our space missions, including John Glenn’s historic orbit around the Earth in 1962. Margaret’s mother is a wonderful role model for public service, and the IRS is lucky Margaret decided to follow her mother into government work. When you step beyond the stereotypes of the IRS, these people reflect the can-do nature of the agency.
Talking about the 1040-EZ made me think about how different taxes are today compared to 20 or 30 years ago. Back then you knew it was time to start thinking about your taxes when you got a late “gift” in your mailbox from the IRS just after Christmas – a package of tax forms and instructions.
So you assembled all your tax documents, filled out your return, and dropped it in the mailbox. On April 15th there were always long lines at post offices, and many of them stayed open late to accommodate the procrastinators. After everyone filed, they kept checking their mailbox, waiting for their refund to arrive. There were also long lines of trucks, like a military convoy you might see in one of those grainy black and white newsreels from the 1950s, delivering millions of paper returns to IRS campuses across the country.
Fast forward to 2017. Now there is no package of forms in the mail that reminds you to start your taxes. Instead, you know it’s tax season when you see those commercials from H&R Block and TurboTax around the Super Bowl. Those commercials definitely are more entertaining than a package of tax forms. Seeing John Hamm made me think tax time has made Mad Men of many of us. And you have to admit that on its challenging days, the IRS isn’t as scary as that house Kathy Bates moved into with the creepy kids.
Nowadays, if you’re like most taxpayers, you prepare your return using tax software, and then file the return electronically. In fact, we estimate that more than 87 percent of people will file electronically this year. Plus, most people no longer need to wait six or eight weeks for a refund check to come in the mail. The vast majority of taxpayers choose direct deposit for their refund, which usually takes 21 days or less from the day they filed their return.
Through the years and all the changes to the way we file our taxes, there is one thing at the IRS that has stayed around, though some have wondered how much longer it will survive in its current form.
Let me stop there and leave you in suspense for a moment. I want everyone to open the envelope that was left on your chair. Take out what’s inside.
Everyone should have a copy of Form 1040, the basic U.S. tax return.
Now, take a look at the top of the form. You’ll see a note from me. For those watching or listening at home, it says, “Thanks for filing” – and is signed by none other than yours truly. Now I’ll admit we can’t personally thank all 152 million people who file every year. We didn’t even send Oprah a note when she mentioned a few years ago that no one thanked her for filing her return. I wasn’t Commissioner then. But I’d like everyone to know that we really do appreciate the millions and millions of people who do their civic duty and file their taxes. Without their voluntary cooperation, our tax system couldn’t function properly. And we also appreciate the work of the private-sector tax community, which helps people file their taxes.
Let me explain why I wanted everyone to have their own copy of the 1040 as a souvenir. Since 1913, you couldn’t file your taxes without using the 1040, or later on, one of its shorter versions, like the famous 1040-EZ I mentioned earlier, or the 1040A. Years ago, seeing these forms every April was like seeing flags on the Fourth of July. But not anymore. Think about the last time you saw a blank 1040. It’s probably been a while. At this point, I should stop for another public service announcement to remind everyone you’re supposed to hold on to a printed or electronic copy of your completed tax return for your records. It’s an important financial record. Keep it in a safe and secure place.
So anyone over a certain age, myself included, knows that filing your taxes used to mean grabbing a pen and filling in a blank 1040, line by line, signing it and mailing it in – in some cases, along with a check, if you owed money. And just like back in school, lots of people made mistakes filling out those paper forms – maybe transposing numbers or adding the columns incorrectly.
My crack research staff tells me that today, only a little more than 3 million 1040s are completed by hand each year. That may sound like a lot, but it’s only about 2 percent of returns filed. Most taxpayers – or the professionals they hire – use tax software to prepare their taxes, and the vast majority of them then file their return electronically. So they normally wouldn’t need to work from the 1040 at all. If you think about it, there probably are some millennials who have never seen a 1040. The form itself is no longer central to the average person’s tax filing experience, as it was in days gone by.
I’m not here to tell you I know what’s going to happen. But I do know that the space crunch on the 1040 has gotten to a critical point. Over the years, as the tax code has been changed countless times, we’ve added lines, and kept shrinking the font size, so everything could still fit on two pages. But there’s a limit to what our experts in our Forms and Publications division can squeeze onto two pages.
Now let me be clear, and I want to make sure all my friends in the press hear this: We have no plan to do away with the 1040. Unlike Crayola’s dandelion crayon, the 1040 won’t be retiring anytime soon.
I think the folks at Crayola would agree, finding a replacement color is a lot simpler than determining how you would replace the 1040. I’m just making the point that the IRS has to keep evolving, long after I’m gone from the agency, and keep innovating in how it provides services to taxpayers. What’s happened to the 1040 is symbolic of all the changes to the tax filing experience we’ve seen as people have increasingly embraced electronic filing. More changes to the tax filing experience will occur in the years ahead.
So, what do we do besides the filing season? We spend quite a bit of time helping taxpayers. That’s a big part of our mission. One area where we have been trying to improve is in the online services we provide, in response to the changing needs of taxpayers. Our research has shown that many people want to interact with the IRS through digital channels, just as they do already with their financial institution, brokerage firm or mortgage company.
The IRS has been working very hard to give people the types of things they need online. Because, believe it or not, many people would prefer to avoid talking to the IRS at all if they can.
Taxpayers can go to our website, IRS.gov, to find a wealth of helpful tax information, and for many other things as well. Last year there were more than 500 million visits to IRS.gov.
For example, you can pay your taxes online using the Direct Pay tool. Or maybe you need to set up a payment plan – you can do that on our website using our Online Installment Agreement tool. Or, let’s say you’re applying for a mortgage and you need a copy of last year’s tax return. You can use our Get Transcript application to download it from IRS.gov. And if you ever get an unexpected call from someone claiming to be from the IRS saying you owe money, you can even check that online too. We’ve added these and other digital services because this is what people have told us they want.
Speaking of IRS.gov, you might be surprised to know it’s one of the most widely-used federal agency websites, as measured by Google Analytics. At one point earlier this year we had more than 25 million page views and over 6 million unique visitors – and that’s just in one day. Over a recent 30-day period, we were the number-one government website. We even had more visitors than the National Weather Service. The IRS more popular than the weather forecast? It’s true, at least sometimes.
For some time now, we’ve been working toward the development of an online account at the IRS, where a taxpayer or their tax professional, can log in securely, get information about their account and interact with the IRS as needed.
We have many, many people across the IRS involved in this initiative, and one of them is here on the dais with us: Mike Lin, a manager in our Online Services division. Mike and his team have been supporting the effort to bring you all those wonderful new tools on IRS.gov I just mentioned. This includes help in developing online accounts. Not only that, but they’re also looking at how we can provide a better experience across all our service channels. To do that, they have been soliciting feedback from taxpayers and tax professionals. It’s people like Mike who are making it happen.
Mike’s been with us only a few years, after more than a decade in the private sector. He’s got an interesting story about what convinced him to leave the private firm where he was, and work for the IRS. When someone he knew at the IRS asked if he was interested in joining us, Mike said he was happy where he was. But then this person asked Mike to imagine the impact he could have working on just one of our products, such as our smartphone application, IRS2Go, which has been downloaded more than 40 million times. He said from that moment on, he was sold.
So where are we, exactly, with online accounts? Although we’ve been talking about this for a while, I’m delighted to report we’re now putting some of the building blocks in place.
At the end of last year, we took the first step toward establishing an online account for individual taxpayers. We introduced the first feature that lets you check how much, if any, taxes you owe. We recently launched a second feature that allows you to view your payment history as well. Going online to check your balance at your financial institution has been around so long it’s something people take for granted. But for the IRS, it’s a major step forward.
Over time, we will be adding many other features as resources permit. One that’s in the testing phase will allow for secure online messaging between taxpayers and the IRS – to communicate about issues that come up on their return. This will help us resolve these issues much faster than the current way, which is to send a letter to the taxpayer and then wait for a response through the mail.
As exciting as these developments are for us, we are just as committed to making sure all taxpayers get the help they need, no matter what way they communicate with us. Last year we received more than 63 million calls and answered nearly 8 million letters from taxpayers needing assistance. And we provided help in-person to more than 4 million people who visited one of our walk-in sites, called Taxpayer Assistance Centers.
These centers are, in fact, a great example of how we’re working to improve service for all taxpayers, not just those who go online. Over the last few years, the demand for service at our walk-in sites during the filing season had been growing tremendously. In some locations, people were lining up hours before the center opened, sometimes before dawn, just to try to make sure they could get in the door. This was a terrible situation for taxpayers and frustrating for our employees, who want to be able to provide really good customer service.
Two years ago, after a conversation I had with the Canadian tax commissioner, we began testing the idea of letting people make appointments to visit a taxpayer assistance center. When we tried this out at a few walk-in sites in 2015, it was so successful that we expanded it to all of them this year. And guess what? We’ve had no reports of lines out the door this filing season, a major improvement over the experience in past years. So we’ll leave the long lines for Apple’s rollout of the next generation of the iPhone this fall.
We discovered other benefits from the appointment process as well. First, when a person calls for an appointment, we can tell them what documents they need to bring with them. That way, they can avoid the aggravation of a second trip to the IRS. Who would ever want that?
Secondly, the IRS employee making the appointment can often help the taxpayer resolve their issue over the phone, eliminating altogether the need to visit us. In fact, we have found that about half of the taxpayers who call for an appointment resolve their issues during that initial phone contact.
So that’s our vision for the future of taxpayer service. I’m often asked why we can’t move faster to develop online accounts. It’s something that will take time, because it has to be done carefully. A big challenge facing us is making sure these accounts are secure and well protected.
The IRS needs to know whether the person trying to access our systems is legitimate. Anyone who’s ever gotten a call from a scammer – and I’m guessing that’s nearly everyone here – knows that criminals are out there trying to steal personal financial information, and more.
To stop identity thieves, the IRS has been working to improve our methods for verifying the identity of taxpayers using our online services. Let me be clear: before we offer a fully functioning online account, we must have a strong authentication process built in, to protect taxpayers from identity theft. This may mean added time and extra steps for people, but it’s worth it to keep these accounts secure. At the IRS, there is no argument about how to balance convenience and security, because security is the highest priority. That’s how it has to be.
Experience has also shown us we can’t take security for granted, and can’t let up in our efforts in our battle against on-line criminals, especially the criminal syndicates around the world that we’re battling. We have to continuously work to protect our main computer systems from cyberattacks. These systems currently withstand more than one million attempts to maliciously access them every day.
We’re also waging an ongoing battle to protect taxpayers and their personal information from identity thieves and refund fraud. The storyline on this has improved dramatically from just a few years back.
The problem of stolen personal data being used to file fraudulent returns increased significantly from 2010 to 2012, and for a time overwhelmed the IRS and others in law enforcement. Since then, we have been making steady progress against identity thieves. That progress has accelerated in 2015, thanks to the collaborative efforts of the Security Summit Group.
The Summit Group is a unique partnership involving the IRS, the states and the private-sector tax community. This has been a model of collaboration between the public and private sectors. Some of our Security Summit partners are here in the room today, and I want to publicly thank them for their great work helping to protect the nation’s taxpayers.
Working together, we were able to put in place many new safeguards for last year’s tax filing season that produced real results for taxpayers. Let me give you one example. In 2016, the number of people who reported to the IRS that they were victims of identity theft was down 46 percent from 2015. That’s a stunning number, and shows we improved our ability to stop criminals from filing fraudulent returns using someone else’s personal information.
There’s a flip side to this progress, though. While we’re keeping more identity thieves out, they’re trying harder to get in. The fraud filters in our processing systems are still catching a large number of false returns. That shows that identity theft continues to be a major threat to tax administration. Last year, in fact, our systems stopped $6.5 billion in fraudulent refunds on nearly 1 million tax returns confirmed to have been filed by identity thieves. That alone is more than half the annual IRS budget.
Because we can’t let up against this threat, we made an important decision last year to make the Security Summit Group permanent. With their help, we added more taxpayer protections for the current tax season, and we will continue working on new ways to safeguard taxpayers in the coming years.
It’s important to understand that everyone has a stake in stopping identity thieves. The IRS can't do it alone. We need everybody to keep their personal and financial data out of the hands of identity thieves. People need to be actively safeguarding that data, whether on their personal devices or in their personal interactions.
This is so important, in fact, we developed, with our Security Summit partners, a public awareness campaign called “Taxes. Security. Together.” This was to let taxpayers know they have a critical role to play in making sure the tax filing process is as safe as possible. I’d ask all of you watching and listening to take a moment to review these basic security steps. You can find them on the IRS.gov home page. Many of these are simple, common-sense things like using security software on your laptop or knowing how to spot a suspicious email message.
And I would also ask that you make sure your loved ones are aware as well. I think we all know someone – maybe a parent, a close friend, or a relative – who may be technologically challenged or behind the curve in some way.
There may be some right here in this room. Take me, for example – here’s my cell phone. It’s actually a relatively new one. When I replaced my last one, I just asked the customer service rep “Where do you keep the model T’s?” Regardless of where you stand on smartphones, everyone should encourage friends and family to check that their passwords and security software are up to date. The more people we can get to protect their information, the harder we make it for the criminals who are trying to steal this data.
Ensuring the security of taxpayers and their data is only one challenge the IRS faces as we work to improve taxpayer service. Another is our resource situation.
We were grateful for the additional $290 million Congress gave us in 2016. We used this to strengthen cybersecurity, increase our efforts against identity theft, and improve taxpayer service. For the average person, the improvement in service was especially noticeable on the phones. If you called us for help during the 2015 filing season, I’ve consistently described it as an abysmal experience. Wait times were extremely long. And the majority of people couldn’t even get through.
But the additional funds allowed us to hire an extra 1,000 people during filing season to answer the phones and, as a result, our level of service leaped up and we cut wait times on the phone significantly.
This is especially important because, even with the additional funding we received in 2016, the IRS remains under significant resource constraints. In fact, we’re still under an agency-wide hiring freeze that began in 2011. For the last six years, we have been unable to replace most of the employees we have lost when they retired or left to take a position outside the agency. As a result, our full-time workforce has shrunk by more than 17,000 since 2010. That works out to a loss of around 50 employees every week – a pace that has continued now for 350 weeks, or seven years.
While our workforce has been declining, the IRS’s workload has increased. The number of individual returns filed grew by more than 10 million between 2010 and 2015. And the tax code keeps growing, too. At well over 10,000 pages, our tax code is now the most complicated it’s ever been. Even our nifty 1040-EZ is no match for it.
For the system to function properly, the IRS needs to be able to fulfill its mission, not only to enforce the tax laws, but also to help taxpayers meet their tax obligations. As former IRS Commissioner Larry Gibbs once said, there are three types of taxpayers: Those who comply, those who are trying to comply, and those who are actively trying not to comply.
It’s our responsibility to make sure everyone in those first two groups has everything they need to file their taxes as quickly and easily as possible. It’s also our responsibility to pursue those taxpayers who have decided not to comply.
We know many people have difficulty fulfilling their tax obligations. And we want to work with them. As I have often said, if you have a problem but are trying to comply, you don’t have to hire someone off late night T.V. to contact us. We’re here to help you become compliant whether it’s through an installment agreement or an offer in compromise. But then there are those who don’t want to comply, who push the envelope beyond acceptable limits. We need to enforce the tax code against them.
Along with taxpayer service, our compliance programs have suffered as a result of constrained hiring. Of the more than 17,000 employees we’ve lost since 2010 are 7,000 key enforcement personnel. These are the people who audit returns, collect taxes and investigate tax-related crimes.
Take just one group within our enforcement ranks: Revenue officers. These are the people who go door to door collecting back taxes. In IRS-speak, this job is known as “carrying the bag.” These frontline employees who go out into the community to bring in taxes owed represent one of the core parts of our mission. So you would think we would add more of them over time, as the number of returns has increased.
And we did, for a while. In 1956, we had about 5,700 revenue officers. That number grew steadily, to nearly 7,400 in 1996. But 20 years later we have only about 3,500 revenue officers. That’s over 50 percent below where we were 20 years ago and 38 percent below 1956. Let me repeat that: 38 percent below where we were 60 years ago. That’s a stunning number, given the size and complexity of our economy and the tax system today.
To see how serious this situation has become, consider the number of audits we’re doing now. Last year, we audited about 1 million people. That may sound like a lot, but it’s less than one percent of individual returns filed. It’s also the lowest number of audits in more than a decade.
For some people, that might sound like good news. But a big part of the reason we do compliance activities is to make sure those folks who are trying to comply can be confident that the system is fair and everyone is paying their taxes. If I’m paying my fair share of taxes, but I see others who don’t and get away with it, I’ll be a lot less motivated to be tax compliant in the future.
If this situation continues, the risk is to the nation’s overall compliance rate. We will have a real problem if the IRS doesn’t have enough employees to help people figure out what they owe or to fairly enforce the tax code.
And the impact of that will be the ability of the government to fund itself. A one-percent drop in the compliance rate translates into a loss of more than $30 billion in revenue a year. Think about what a loss of $300 billion over ten years would mean to the federal deficit. And if the notion takes hold that the tax system is unfair, reversing that notion – and that decline in the compliance rate – won’t be easy to do.
Here’s the bottom line: To fulfill its mission over the long term, the IRS will need to once again be able to bring in new people and the new ideas that come with them. In my earlier speeches to the Press Club, I warned that the IRS was facing its own version of the Baby Bust. This is because the portion of our workforce eligible for retirement remains incredibly high. Within a couple of years, it will be around 35 percent. Meanwhile, our inability to replace people over the last several years has left us with only 122 full-time employees who are 25 or younger. That’s out of a workforce of about 77,000. That’s less than one-half of one percent. When you consider that adults under 34 make up roughly a quarter of the total U.S. population, you can see what a disconnect there is.
Given my level of maturity, I would be the first one to say that a workforce made up of long-time veterans is a plus – up to a point. People like Carolyn Tavenner and Margaret Johnson, with their experience and institutional knowledge, are critical to the success of any organization.
But you can’t ignore the fact that people retire. I have told employees that, if there’s a hiring freeze, there should also be a retirement freeze. But that idea doesn’t seem to have taken hold.
It’s important for us to be developing the next generation of employees to take the place of those leaving. We need more people like Michael Lin so we can have a seamless transition when the Carolyns and Margarets retire. This is an ongoing problem that will only be solved by adequate resources.
Given all the challenges I’ve described, I find it all the more remarkable that our employees continue to be energetic, enthusiastic and innovative. They continue finding new ways of delivering on our mission. One great example comes from our IT division. To me, they do a really heroic job, year-in and year-out, given that we’re running antiquated information technology systems. We estimate that about 60 percent of the IRS’s hardware and 28 percent of our software are out of date and in need of an upgrade. Would you be satisfied running 50-year-old applications in your home or office?
Since we have to rely on outdated software programs to run some of our systems, we still use very old programming languages that are even more outdated than COBOL or FORTRAN. But that has presented a problem because we don’t have enough people around anymore who know those languages. So we needed to figure out how to reduce our dependency on these old languages and harness the flexibilities provided by more modern ones.
Last year, two IRS employees were part of a team in our IT engineering function that found a truly innovative way to meet this challenge. The employees, Mark Yu and Jian Wang, along with several contractors, developed a method for translating the programming language used in our legacy tax processing applications into the JAVA language, which is the current standard. This was a big technological breakthrough. In fact, it was so unique that the IRS is applying for a patent for this methodology.
Mark and Jian are a great illustration of the fact that our talented and dedicated workforce hasn’t gotten discouraged with all the challenges we face. Our employees remain dedicated to serving the American taxpayer. In fact, the IRS workforce is as good a group of employees as I’ve ever had the privilege of dealing with in the 50-plus years I’ve spent in the private and public sectors.
And there are still more challenges ahead. There’s a good chance we could have a major piece of legislation to implement before long, if Congress passes a tax reform bill. I’m an optimist by nature, so I’m hopeful that Congress will understand we need the resources to carry out any new mandates that are enacted.
While we’re on the subject of tax reform, I think it’s important to remind people that the IRS does tax administration, not tax policy. Policy decisions are the domain of the Administration and Congress. Put another way, the IRS doesn’t have a dog in any fight about policy issues being considered in Congress. We just have a great interest in trying to work cooperatively with the tax writers on the Hill to make sure tax policy is clear, and as easy as possible for taxpayers to comply with. And I do want people to know we have a lot of IRS employees who are big fans of tax simplification.
I hope I’ve given you an idea of where the IRS is and where we’re going. Next year at this time, with any luck, there will be a new Commissioner who can give you the annual tax season update. Although I still have several months to go as Commissioner, I have encouraged the Administration to begin the search for a candidate to follow after me as soon as possible. That way, he or she can be confirmed by the time my term ends in November. And I will be happy to advise my successor that the Press Club is a terrific group, and the cookies are first-rate.
But I should warn you: Although this is my last visit to the Press Club as IRS Commissioner, don’t assume you’ve seen the last of me. While I plan to retire in November, I could come back in some other position one of these days. After all, I have already failed retirement twice.
And since I still have the floor, I can’t resist one more public service reminder: Make sure to file your taxes, if you haven’t already done so. Don’t forget, April 18th is just around the corner.