IRS nominee Daniel Werfel confirmed by Senate vote

WASHINGTON (AP) – The U.S. Senate confirmed Daniel Werfel to serve as commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service on Thursday by a vote of 54-42.

Werfel, who pledged before senators not to expand tax audits on businesses and households making less than $400,000 per year, will serve a five-year term as leader of the federal tax collection agency.

The approval came after the Senate agreed a day earlier to move to a final vote on Werfel’s nomination, with six Republicans breaking party ranks to back him and a lone Democrat, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, voting against him.

“While Daniel Werfel is supremely qualified to serve as the IRS Commissioner, I have zero faith he will be given the autonomy to perform the job in accordance with the law and for that reason, I cannot support his nomination,” Manchin said in a statement.

President Joe Biden nominated Werfel to steer the IRS as it receives nearly $80 billion over the next 10 years through the Inflation Reduction Act, which Congress passed in August along party lines.

Previously a private consultant who led Boston Consulting Group’s global public sector practice, Werfel faced rounds of questions before the Senate Finance Committee in February on how he would spend the agency’s new infusion of money.

He drew praise for being willing to leave a private consulting job to take on the top job at the troubled agency.

Werfel will have to navigate controversy surrounding the new funding, as critics have distorted how the new law would affect the IRS and taxes for the middle class. About $46 billion was allocated for enforcing tax laws and the rest for taxpayer services, operations support and updated business systems.

Republicans have suggested without evidence that the agency would use the new money to hire an army of tax agents with weapons.

IRS officials say the new money is already being put to use – announcing Wednesday that the agency has expanded its digital scanning capabilities. The agency has scanned more than 120,000 paper forms related to unemployment taxes, a twenty-fold increase compared with all of 2022.

“This expansion of scanning is another milestone for the IRS as we work to transform the agency,” acting IRS Commissioner Doug O’Donnell said in an emailed statement.

Taking note of the potential impact of the funding, Werfel said during his confirmation hearing that “Americans rightfully expect a more modern and high-performing IRS.”

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, praised Werfel’s ability to receive support from Republicans for the top IRS role.

“For Mr. Werfel to get bipartisan support to lead the IRS at a time when a lot of Republicans would happily mothball the entire agency is a testament to his fairness, his ability to work with both sides and his undeniable qualification for this role,” Wyden said.

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