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IRS executive staff update: Werfel still in, Lerner now out

A lot of attention has been paid, rightfully, to the federal workers who are on furlough or working for free until Capitol Hill agrees on a fiscal 2014 budget.

Among those sitting out the political stalemate are around 86,000 Internal Revenue Service rank and file workers.

But as the shutdown approached, there also were some changes -- or not -- at the IRS' executive level.

IRS head Daniel Werfel testifying before House committeeWerfel remains, for a while: First, the top guy's status.

Daniel Werfel stepped in as Acting IRS Commissioner (his title was tweaked for administrative reasons in June) after word broke, and Congressional hearings began, on how the IRS deal with groups' requests for 501(c)(4) tax-exempt status. The investigation's initial focus was on treatment of conservative groups, particularly those associated with the far-right Tea Party.

Upon taking the job, Werfel said he would serve only through the remainder of the 2013 fiscal year. But as it became clear that the start of the 2014 fiscal year on Oct. 1 would be screwed up by the federal government shutdown, the IRS announced that Werfel "currently has no plans to leave the IRS on, or immediately after, Sept. 30."

The budget impasse also has thrown a kink in the confirmation of Werfel's successor. John A. Koskinen was tapped by President Obama in August to be the next IRS Commissioner.

Presumably, Werfel will hang in there until Koskinen is confirmed, whenever that might be.

Lois Lerner_IRS Director of Exempt OrganizationsLerner's exit: Lois Lerner, on the other hand, is no longer with the IRS.

The former Director of the IRS' Exempt Organizations unit has retired from the tax agency. Her departure was announced by the IRS on Sept. 23.

Lerner had been the biggest lightning rod in the tax-exempt status mess since she leaked the application review process to the media in advance of a damaging Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) report.

Heat had been on Lerner since she invoked her Fifth Amendment right to refuse answer questions from Congress in May. Shortly after that Capitol Hill confrontation, she was placed on paid leave from her post.

Her retirement came just as a review board was about to propose that Lerner be fired, according to a statement by Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.), the ranking minority member on the House Ways and Means Committee.

Lerner et al lawsuit pending: I doubt Lerner got a gold watch or even a goodbye party from her IRS colleagues, but I suspect she's darn glad she's out of there.

Lerner is, however, still a named defendant (as is former IRS Deputy Commissioner Steven Miller whom Werfel replaced) in a federal lawsuit filed by conservative groups.

The legal action, filed for the groups by the American Center for Law and Justice, alleges that the IRS and other U.S. officials violated not only tax agency rules and regulations, but also the First and Fifth Constitutional Amendments protecting free speech and equal protection under the due process clause.

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