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Federal Tax

Senate Finance Grills IRS Chief Counsel Nominee

Jeff Carlson  

· 5 minute read

Jeff Carlson  

· 5 minute read

The Biden Administration nominee to serve as IRS Chief Counsel underwent critical questioning by Republican members of the Senate Finance Committee during a September 28 hearing meant to flesh out her stance on demanding issues facing the often-beleaguered agency.

Marjorie Rollinson, a former Ernst & Young executive who spent five years with the IRS Office of General Counsel, told lawmakers the example of friends and family in public service called her out of retirement in hopes of becoming the IRS Chief Counsel.

Saying it was a critical time for the IRS, Rollinson stressed that the agency has lacked adequate resources for decades, but increased funding could allow the IRS to develop into a “world class service organization and promote a fairer tax system.”

The IRS also is at the forefront of implementing a substantial number of recent tax law changes, she noted, allowing that “these efforts require tireless work from the Office of Chief Counsel, and I am eager to lead those efforts.”

Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon pointed out that the Chief Counsel’s office also has an important role in the IRS’ efforts to move away from auditing low-income and middle-class Americans and towards complex pass-throughs and wealthy individuals.

“I expect any Chief Counsel to provide support for the agency’s effort to put more attention on billion-dollar partnerships rather than low-income individuals,” he said in an opening statement.

“Given recent IRS controversies and the push for enhanced enforcement, Americans are rightly concerned with the potential erosion of their rights and privacy,” continued Wyden. “The IRS Chief Counsel must have the highest level of skill, judgment and integrity, and above all, must not let political pressures affect policy outcomes.”

Ranking Member Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, told Rollinson that if confirmed, she would also have a significant role in addressing a number of other recent, concerning IRS actions, including: use of IRA funds to increase enforcement in areas with a long history of burdensome and low-utility ‘no change’ audits; leaks of confidential taxpayer information; the destruction of 30 million information returns, which reportedly led to additional audits of earned income tax credit claimants; and the ongoing attempt to stand up and divert resources to an IRS-run tax preparation program without clear statutory authority.

“To avoid these outcomes, I stress the importance of engaging this Committee with transparency and responsiveness,” stated Crapo. “Too often in recent years, the Administration’s nominees have committed to working with us, but have failed to follow through.”

Michael Desmond – Former Chief Counsel to the IRS and now Partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, praised Rollinson.

“As the IRS works to deploy the funding provided for under the Inflation Reduction Act, ramp up long-needed hiring, and continue to implement recent legislation, including changes to our cross-border tax system made by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, Margie’s unparalleled combination of technical expertise and knowledge of the Chief Counsel organization will be invaluable.”

As the last Chief Counsel, Desmond, was reported out of the Finance Committee with a 26-2 vote and was confirmed by the Senate with an 84-15 vote. If confirmed, Rollison would be the first woman to serve as Chief Counsel. The Committee is expected to vote on the Rollinson nomination at a later date followed by final confirmation in the full Senate.


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