Dog catcher more popular than IRS commissioner

John Koskinen, nominee as Internal Revenue Service commissioner, testifies during a confirmation hearing before the Senate Finance Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, December 10, 2013.

It may be the country’s most thankless job. The Senate Finance Committee is expected to vote on a new leader of the Internal Revenue Service Friday. If confirmed by the full Senate, John Koskinen faces a tough road ahead, helping the agency recover from scandal and carrying out part of the new healthcare law.  

In his confirmation hearing this week, Koskinen pledged to restore faith in the IRS.

“In every area of the IRS, taxpayers need to be confident that they will be treated fairly, no matter what their background or their affiliations,” he told the committee in prepared testimony.

He’s referring, of course, to revelations earlier this year that the agency gave extra scrutiny to Tea Party groups applying for tax-exempt status.

Koskinen has turnaround experience. He was brought in to rebuild mortgage giant Freddie Mac after the credit crisis. The new commissioner will also have to address the grim mood among employees in the IRS.

“What really builds morale are stories about how they’re doing a good job, or they’ve reduced errors, or they’re helping us try to solve some particular problems,” says Eugene Steurele, who follows tax policy at the Urban Institute.

The spotlight is only likely to intensify as the new healthcare law rolls out. From next month, the IRS is charged with policing who gets tax credits to buy health insurance.

About the author

Amy Scott is Marketplace’s education correspondent covering the K-12 and higher education beats, as well as general business and economic stories.

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