Meet Daniel Werfel, the new chief of the IRS

Nancy Marshall-Genzer and Katie Long May 22, 2013

Meet Daniel Werfel, the new chief of the IRS

Nancy Marshall-Genzer and Katie Long May 22, 2013

Daniel Werfel starts Wednesday as the new acting administrator of the Internal Revenue Service, succeeding Steven T. Miller, who resigned under pressure last week.

You have to understand one thing about Daniel Werfel, who’s known as Danny to friends like Robert Shea.

“I have never seen Danny able to turn down a challenge that was offered to him,” Shea says. “Even though that might have been his inclination.”

Shea met Werfel in 2002, when they worked together at the Office of Management and Budget. Werfel’s last job was at the OMB helping manage the budget cuts from sequestration. In 2011, he helped prepare for the possibility of a government shutdown. Yes, he does like a challenge. 

Max Stier, president of the Partnership for Public Service, has also worked closely with Werfel. He says Werfel will have to ask some tough questions, such as, “What kind of culture do we need in the IRS to make sure these kinds of things don’t happen again.”

Stier says Werfel will have to restore public trust in the IRS and rein in rogue agents. And he’ll have to do it all in the space of a few months. His appointment only lasts through September.     

Getting to know Daniel Werfel:

A White House insider

Werfel, who is 42, has worked primarily in the White House Office of Management and Budget under both the Obama and George W. Bush administrations. Obama appointed him to the position of OMB controller in 2009. In that role, Werfel worked to cut government waste by decreasing travel costs and renegotiating IT contracts for federal agencies.

Earlier in his career, Werfel served as a lawyer in the Justice Department.

A wonk’s wonk

The Wall Street Journal has described Werfel, who holds a law degree from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a master’s degree in public policy from Duke University, as a technocrat. The Journal reports that Werfel “in one sentence, discussed the ‘heterogeneity in what agencies are doing,’ making ‘a strategic judgment call in terms of are we going to layer on top of that heterogeneity,’ and how all that fitted with ‘a data metrics framework that we anticipated.’”

Chief confidence officer

One of Werfel’s main priorities as acting IRS chief will be to restore confidence in the agency. Obama emphasized this point in his statement announcing Werfel’s appointment.

“Throughout his career working in both Democratic and Republican administrations, Danny has proven an effective leader who serves with professionalism, integrity and skill… The American people deserve to have the utmost confidence and trust in their government, and as we work to get to the bottom of what happened and restore confidence in the IRS, Danny has the experience and management ability necessary to lead the agency at this important time.”

Not to be confused with Danny Wuerffel

Former OMB director Peter Orzag wrote a blog post in 2009 which clarified that Werfel is not the same man as past Heisman Trophy winner and NFL quarterback Danny Wuerffel, who shares a similar name. Orzag said Werfel is “better than the Heisman.”


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