Aggressive Enforcement Program says the Commissioner

New IRS Commissioner Shulman airs his philosophy to ABA audience:

The question of whether IRS will focus on services or enforcement poses a false choice, IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman, who became the 47th Commissioner of Internal Revenue on March 24, 2008, told an American Bar Association audience on May 9.

The agency must do both of these and do them very well, he said. “Stated another way, IRS should do everything possible to make it as seamless and easy as possible for those taxpayers who are trying to pay the right amount of taxes to navigate our organization, get their questions answered, pay their taxes and get their way,” Shulman said. “But for those who understand their federal tax obligation, but fail to comply, we must have an aggressive enforcement program,” he added.

Shulman said he brought two “philosophical inclinations” to his job as Commissioner the belief that IRS must understand the economic realities of the environment in which taxpayers operate and the belief that IRS must do everything possible to provide clear guidance to taxpayers. He also touched on “a few specific areas of focus,” including the need to continue on the path of modernizing IRS, the challenge of maintaining strong leadership and a dedicated workforce, addressing the increasing globalization of tax administration, and targeting the root causes of noncompliance.

In addition, Shulman stressed the importance of increased transparency. “When all parties are working from the same information, the opportunity for miscommunication and misunderstanding decreases dramatically,” he said. He elaborated on this subject with a cautionary note. “IRS personnel must not confuse greater transparency of information with greater authority over taxpayers,” Shulman said. “More than ever, the IRS will need consistent procedures, training, and an organizational commitment to using data in a way that is fair to taxpayers.”

On a lighter note, Shulman, who assumed his position on March 24, admitted to ignoring the sage advice of several former IRS commissionersdo not take office until after April 15.

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