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IRS nominee pledges to step up enforcement, modernization

Office of Management and Budget Deputy Director of Management Mark Everson, the nominee to be the next IRS commissioner, breezed through a confirmation hearing before the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday.

Everson, a former auditor and businessman, told the panel he intends to cut down on tax cheating through improved enforcement, which, he hinted, had not received a high enough profile at the IRS recently.

"Enforcement will be a principal responsibility of the IRS," Everson said. "Commissioner [Charles] Rossotti did that, but at the end of his term," he told the panel. Rossotti finished his five-year term at the IRS late last year.

Modernization of the IRS's antiquated computer systems is important to the IRS's ability to catch tax evaders, and to IRS reform legislation that Congress passed in 1998. Everson told senators that two key technology improvements should be unveiled this summer.

One would apply to 1040 EZ files-which have not been improved since the 1960s-and the other to the IRS's internal finance system. How these new systems perform will be critical indicators of how the IRS modernization plan is going, Everson said.

Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and ranking member Max Baucus, D-Mont., said they will work together to send Everson a list of technology improvement benchmarks on which they want interim reports from Everson later this year.

Asked after the hearing whether he thought Everson would be easily confirmed, Grassley said, "I believe so."