Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen (right) swears in new Internal Revenue Commissioner Danny Werfel at the IRS Headquarters on April 4, 2023.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen (right) swears in new Internal Revenue Commissioner Danny Werfel at the IRS Headquarters on April 4, 2023. Bonnie Cash/Getty Images

New IRS Chief: Growing the Workforce Will Transform Agency ‘Armed Only With Their Calculators’

As a new commissioner is sworn in, the Biden administration will detail its $80 billion IRS spending plan this week.

The Biden administration will later this week release its detailed plan for spending the unprecedented $80 billion cash infusion for the Internal Revenue Service, with its new leader promising less wait time for customer service, better tracking of returns and additional crackdowns on wealthy tax cheats. 

The Treasury Department missed its own deadline to issue the operating plan, drawing the ire of many in Congress, but Secretary Janet Yellen said during the swearing-in ceremony for Commissioner Danny Werfel the administration would release it in the coming days. Werfel became the 50th person to head IRS after Biden nominated him earlier this year and the Senate confirmed him in a bipartisan vote last month. 

Werfel, a former Office of Management and Budget official who briefly served as acting IRS commisioner under President Obama, said the key leadership lesson he learned from his time in government was to trust his workforce. 

“Leaders that come in with a belief that they have all the answers and do not engage and listen to the people who have been there doing the work are bound to fail,” Werfel said. “Leaders who respect, engage, listen, and embrace the input and perspective of the workforce at every level are far more likely to succeed.”

He promised to give IRS employees the credit they deserve and better empower them with improved staffing levels and other resources. He took a shot at Republican lawmakers who have falsely warned the significant hiring under the IRA would lead to a new cadre of armed IRS agents targeting Americans. 

“Despite what some might think or say, these public servants within the IRS are armed only with calculators and their skills to help us address compliance issues,” Werfel said. “Their work will give people confidence that all taxpayers, regardless of means, are being treated fairly under the tax laws.”

In the forthcoming spending plan, Werfel said, IRS will detail how it will end long phone wait times for taxpayers, improve technology, boost digital tools to reduce paperwork, increase in-person assistance that has been “sorely missing,” and hire and train “specially skilled staff.” The changes will take “several years to achieve,” he added, but improvements from the funding are currently being felt. Yellen stressed IRS has already added thousands of customer service employees, dramatically increased the answer rate for its phone lines and reopened many tax centers. 

Werfel added that decades from now, future IRS leaders will look back at the coming months and years as pivotal in the agency’s history. 

“This is our moment in history to transform the IRS,” he said.