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Turnaround specialist John A. Koskinen agrees to take toughest job in Washington, D.C.: IRS commissioner

In speaking to professional tax preparers in Grapevine, Texas, earlier this week, Daniel Werfel jokingly noted that some of his friend questioned his sanity when he agreed to temporarily run the embattled Internal Revenue Service.

Werfel insisted that serving as Principal Deputy Commissioner of the IRS has been "an extraordinary opportunity for which I am grateful."

I also suspect that after yesterday's (Aug. 1) grilling by Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee over IRS readiness to handle its role in the administration of the health care reform law, Werfel is glad his temporary term ends Sept. 30.

John_A_Koskinen-IRS_Commissioner_nominee_080113Koskinen tapped to be next IRS chief: And who will step into the breach after Werfel leaves? President Obama wants John A. Koskinen to become the next IRS Commissioner.

Koskinen has worked in various private sector and government top offices and is lauded on both sides of the aisle as a turnaround specialist.

"John knows how to lead in difficult times, whether that means ensuring new management or implementing new checks and balances," Obama said in a statement announcing his intention to nominate Koskinen to the IRS top job. "Every part of our government must operate with absolute integrity and that is especially true for the IRS. I am confident that John will do whatever it takes to restore the public’s trust in the agency."

The White House release also provided Koskinen's most recent C.V., which includes service as  Non-Executive Chairman of Freddie Mac from 2008 to 2011 and acting CEO in 2009; President of the United States Soccer Foundation, 2004 to 2008; Deputy Mayor and City Administrator of Washington, D.C., 2000 to 2003; Assistant to President Bill Clinton and Chair of the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion, 1998 to 2000; and Deputy Director for Management of the Office of Management and Budget, 1994 to 1997.

Challenges ahead for IRS leader: Koskinen must be confirmed by the Senate. The upper chamber will have three weeks to do so, since Senators won't consider the IRS nominee until they return from their summer recess on Sept. 9.

If that approval is given, Koskinen will jump into the middle of the Obamacare implementation issue. The continuing roll out of the Affordable Care Act contains, according to IRS presenters at this week's Nationwide Tax Forum where Werfel spoke, around 50 tax provisions. The most contentious matter, right now, is the ability of the agency to monitor individuals' required minimal essential health care coverage and credits to help secure such insurance.

Koskinen also will continue Werfel's efforts to streamline and clean up administrative procedures and policies that got the agency in trouble in dealing. The IRS troubles began in May with the release of a look at how the agency handled applications by quasi-political groups, particularly Tea Party and other conservative organizations, for 501(c)(4) tax-exempt status.

And then there's the matter of the IRS budget, which in addition to being whacked under sequester also have been slashed by 24 percent by the House Appropriations Committee.

Senate yeas and nays: Sen. Max Baucus, who's Senate Finance Committee will conduct Koskinen's vetting hearing, praised the selection: "I am pleased with the President's choice of John Koskinen to be the next IRS Commissioner.  He has the right background and experience in helping turnaround organizations facing tough challenges."

The Finance Committee's ranking Republican, however, is not happy. But Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) seems more irked at being left out of the selection loop than upset with the choice.

"Given the dark cloud that currently hangs over the IRS, I would have thought that the president would have taken the time to consult with Congress before choosing the agency's next leader," said Hatch. "Yet, I am the Ranking Member of the committee with sole jurisdiction over the IRS and today's announcement is the first I've heard of this decision."

This is the political atmosphere that surrounds the IRS nowadays, so I suspect some of Koskinen's friends will be raising the same mental acuity questions that Werfel's pals asked.

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