The Honorable J. Robert Kerrey, Co-Chairman
The Honorable Rob Portman, Co-Chairman
The National Commission on Restructuring
the Internal Revenue Service
708 O’Neill House Office Building
300 New Jersey Avenue, S.E.
Washington, D.C. 20515
April 24, 1997
Dear Senator Kerrey and Representative Portman:
On behalf of Tax Executives Institute, thank you very much for participating in our recent Midyear Conference. Your remarks on the work of the National Commission was very well received. At the conclusion of Senator Kerrey’s remarks, a question was raised about the qualifications and background of the next Commissioner of Internal Revenue. As President of the Institute, I am writing to state that TEI believes the Internal Revenue Service could benefit from the appointment of an individual with substantial business and tax background. We believe an individual with strong managerial and tax experience in industry would be uniquely qualified to address and manage the myriad technological, administrative, and tax law and procedure challenges that confront the Internal Revenue Service.
Tax Executives Institute is the premier professional association of corporate tax executives. Our 5,000 members are employed by the largest 2,700 corporations in the United States and Canada, and are responsible for coping with the tax laws — on both a planning and compliance basis — on a day-to-day basis. We are committed to working with government in developing and maintaining a tax system that works — one that is consistent with solid tax policy goals, that can be administered, and with which taxpayers can comply.
The next Commissioner of Internal Revenue faces formidable tasks. The Commissioner must cope with a management reorganization of Internal Revenue Service and oversee an absolutely necessary updating of the agency’s computer system. The Nation will clearly benefit if the Commissioner possesses superior management skills and wide-ranging business experience.
In our view, too, the Nation will benefit if the next Commissioner knows the tax system that he or she will be charged with administering. The next Commissioner must know the system’s strengths and weaknesses, understand its nuances, and be able to identify and attract the qualified people needed to make the system work. The next Commissioner must also have an appreciation for the limitations on overlaying the private sector paradigm on an agency that must provide quality customer service while collecting the revenue necessary to run the government.
To be successful, then, the next Commissioner must be multitalented and multidimensional. True, he or she must be a problem solver — a successful manager of people and of projects — but he or she also must fully understand what it is that the Commissioner must manage. TEI has long believed that the tax system will benefit from the appointment of individuals with substantial business experience — those with a "real world" appreciation both for the challenges that confront businesses and individuals in coping with the tax laws and for the harsh realities of what it will take to manage a major enterprise such as the IRS into the 21st Century. The key is balance.
We believe that the right private-sector tax executive would offer that balance and be up to the challenges of being Commissioner. To be sure, tax executives are usually trained as accountants or lawyers (or both), but it would be a mistake to pigeonhole them (or should I say "us") as "merely" tax practitioners. Many tax executives have unparalleled managerial skills that have been honed by years of running their companies tax departments. More important, they interact daily with their companies’ business units and with other executives in upper corporate management, and have had to wrestle with the gamut of issues that affect multinational, technologically advanced, customer-oriented corporations.
In other words, successful tax executives are qualified managers with expertise in the tax law. They have track records of selecting talented people, of letting them do their jobs, and holding them accountable if they do not. They are precisely what the country needs at the Internal Revenue Service.
Tax Executives Institute appreciates this opportunity to share our views with you. If you have any questions about this letter or if we can be of any assistance to you, please do not hesitate to call either me, at (503) 731-2117 or Mike Murphy, the Institute’s Executive Director, at (202) 638-5601.
James R. Murray
Tax Executives Institute