Former Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Charles Rettig used his farewell message to highlight the work the agency’s workforce did during his four-year term as commissioner, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, but also during more normal times.
“My time as Commissioner has given me an even deeper appreciation of what our workforce is capable of achieving,” Rettig wrote in his message posted November 11, 2022, on the IRS website. “I have been constantly amazed at the accomplishments of IRS employees during what has been a challenging and historic time for our nation. Time and again I have seen them deliver for taxpayers under tight timeframes and difficult circumstances – responding in a manner that demonstrates the importance of every American to the IRS and the IRS to every American.”
He noted a number of accomplishments of the workforce, including disbursing COVID relief payments of more than $830 billion while the agency was still working to conduct its normal business operations, which included delivering more than $1.5 trillion in refund payments and making more than 200 million advanced payments of the Child Tax Credit totaling $93 billion.
“It’s also important to realize that, during this pandemic period, our employees faced the same health and safety concerns for themselves and their families as everyone else,” he added. “Nonetheless, they went the extra mile in doing their jobs, and they also made a difference in their communities.”
But he also praised the employees of the agency for stepping up even when there was no disaster requiring immediate actions.
“IRS employees don’t wait for a disaster to pitch in,” he wrote. “They routinely give back – by collecting food for the hungry, volunteering to help low-income people, older Americans or underserved people prepare their tax returns, and in so many other ways. IRS employees make a difference, they care, and they take pride in serving taxpayers, tax professionals, and our country, on and off the job.”
Rettig also identified a number of accomplishments he was proud of during his time, particularly getting publications out in more languages to help the agency reach a wider audience and make its activities more accessible to Americans, as well as making the Form 1040 available in Spanish for the first time during the 2021 tax filing season.
He also highlighted the work of Criminal Investigations during his time.
“There are many examples, but one I’d like to highlight involves agents from CI’s Cyber Crimes Unit,” he wrote. “These agents played a key role in the largest cryptocurrency seizure ever recorded for the federal government, valued at more than $3.6 billion. This involved an alleged conspiracy to launder cryptocurrency stolen from a virtual currency exchange called Bitfinex. This was also the largest single financial seizure recorded by the federal government.”
The Next Steps
In addition to highlighting the accomplishments of the agency, he also pointed to the direction he leaving the agency headed, including modernizing the IRS’ information technology infrastructure, both hardware and software.
“An important part of our modernization strategy involves expanding our digital services, to give everyone a seamless experience when they interact with the IRS online,” he wrote. “A great example is the IRS Online Account. We are continually working to expand the transactions that individuals can conduct through this account. Last year, for example, we launched a new feature allowing people to authorize their tax practitioner to represent them before the IRS with a Power of Attorney, and to view their tax accounts with a Tax Information Authorization.”
He continued: “At the same time, we realize that there is still much for us to improve on to help taxpayers and the tax system. Our employees know we need to do more. The IRS continues to focus on reducing paper correspondence inventory and processing paper tax returns from 2021 as well as work on our response to an unprecedented level of phone demand – situations that have been compounded by the pandemic and related issues. Actions we’ve taken to address the inventory include surge teams, mandatory overtime, innovating to expedite case closures and suspending various notices. We are continuing to work hard on this area, and the efforts of our hard-working employees are enabling significant progress.”
Other challenges he noted include the thwarting of identity thieves and improving work in underserved communities, areas that will benefit from the funding received from the Inflation Reduction Act. And he has faith the leadership and the workforce is up to meeting the challenges ahead.
“Although the IRS is a large government institution, it’s an institution run by people –people who care,” he wrote. “The IRS has made great strides over the last four years, but as always, IRS employees want to do more, and I know they will continue moving forward in every area, in service to our great nation.”