Prepared Remarks of IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman before the AICPA

And I would be remiss if I didn't mention our focused efforts to make the IRS the Best Place to Work in Government. We can only serve the nation's taxpayers well if we have engaged employees who are respected and challenged and whose managers support them...help them do their jobs...and hold them accountable. In 2008, I created the Workforce of Tomorrow task force, which has spawned many important workplace initiatives. This remains one of our top priorities, and we will continue doing everything we can to improve our work environment.
 
It's heartening to see that we have been making headway on workplace improvements. We know this because the IRS has showed remarkable improvement in the Best Places to Work in Federal Government survey. In two years we moved from a ranking of 127th to a ranking of 65th out of the 240 participating agencies. And we moved from eighth to third out of 15 large agencies in that survey's employee engagement index. 
 
Now, on top of the proactive agenda I've just outlined, the IRS has been called on more and more to play a vital role in key policy objectives set forth by Congress and the Administration. I call this final category of work "incoming priorities," and it's must-do work that's critical to the country's future.
 
The IRS is now recognized as a highly efficient and effective institution to carry out important and high profile government initiatives. Our portfolio of duties was greatly expanded during the economic crisis when we were called upon to help revive the economy. For example, about one-third of the Recovery Act, or approximately $300 billion, ran through the tax system and the IRS.
 
That includes things like an expanded net operating loss carryback that enabled us to push out tens of billions of dollars to businesses when the credit markets were frozen in 2009. 
 
And we have recently been asked to play a major role in implementing and executing the tax provisions of the Affordable Care Act. For instance, we are working closely with the state and federal health insurance exchanges, as we will provide hundreds of billions of dollars in tax credits through the exchanges to help people afford health insurance. I am very proud of the role we're playing to help people gain access to affordable health insurance. 
 
I've spent most of my time today looking at our past successes so I would be remiss if I didn't take a few minutes to talk about the future...and this is a bit of a cautionary tale. As much as we have been praised for our work on implementing the Recovery Act and the Affordable Care Act...for example...we can't take these successes for granted going forward. 
 
In today's super heated partisan atmosphere, it's easy to vilify the tax man...it's easy to turn the IRS into a scapegoat for all that ails us...it's easy to cut the IRS' budget versus that of a popular program or agency.
 
But given the IRS' importance to the economy and the functioning of our government, it is my sincere desire that cool heads will continue to prevail in any debates over the IRS...those with the long-term vision who see the necessity and great value a consistently well-funded IRS brings to our great nation. 
 
It is also my desire that Congress keep a keen eye on tax legislation that adds to complexity and is difficult for taxpayers to comprehend and for us to administer. You can create the most elegant piece of policy in the world but if we can't administer it or taxpayers don't understand how to take advantage of it, the value of that policy plummets. 
 
So let me end by saying that it has been an honor to serve as IRS Commissioner during such exciting but challenging times. 
 
I believe that during the past five years the IRS team has made lasting contributions to the tax system and taxpayers. We challenged and changed the old dynamic in many ways. We weren't afraid to take on the sacred cows. We achieved true progress by standing on the shoulders of those who preceded us. We built on their work and took it to the next level.
 
I believe that we leave the IRS a better place. And this is due to the men and women who are the IRS...from our senior executives...to our front-line managers...to the person who answers the phone...to the tens of thousands of employees you never see but who are part of the fabric America's tax system and this great institution.
 
Our success is also due to deep engagement with the private sector and key stakeholders. Indeed, we need to be in constant dialogue with those that we have an effect on in order to do our job well. And with those words, let me say thank you again. I wish you all well and I hope our paths cross again in the future. Thanks for listening today, and I would be happy to take some questions.
 
Source: IR-2012-89, November 7, 2012

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