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Rettig Wants to Modernize IRS and Continue to Implement TCJA


Brian Whelan

Rettig Wants to Modernize IRS and Continue to Implement TCJA

IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig gave his first speech since being confirmed as the 49th chief of the Service at the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) November 13 National Tax Conference in Washington, D.C. “You’re going to see things [I do] and go, ‘I can’t believe he did that,’” Rettig said.

Rettig, nominated by President Donald Trump last February and sworn in as IRS Commissioner on October 1, was a practicing tax attorney for over 30 years. “I’m not going to lose my tax edge,” he told CPAs and other tax professionals.

Modernizing the IRS

Rettig, since being confirmed, has maintained that a top priority of the IRS is updating the Service’s technology. “We must work on our IT modernization efforts,” Rettig said in a previous statement.

Additionally, Rettig discussed the IRS’s antiquated information technology (IT) systems and software at the AICPA event. “I can call Google…or All State and a recording…says, ‘you are 14th in line, we can call you back, you won’t lose your place in line,” Rettig said. “We don’t have those tools, we need those tools.”

However, Rettig emphasized that the IRS’s employees should have pride in their roles, and that many IRS challenges are a result of constrained financial resources. IRS employees are “people who care,”Rettig said. Further, Rettig said he wants the IRS to gain taxpayers’ respect.

Additionally, in line with the IRS’s increased efforts toward transparency, Rettig said that employee training materials for last year’s tax reform will soon be posted to the IRS’s website. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) (P.L. 115-97) was enacted last December. Rettig is tasked with overseeing the new tax law’s implementation.

Tax Reform

A copy of Rettig’s prepared remarks for the AICPA event was provided to Wolters Kluwer by the IRS on November 14. Notably, an IRS spokesperson told Wolters Kluwer that Rettig “did not stick to the script.” In an informal outline of areas on which Rettig intends to focus, “the top of the list is continuing to implement the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which contains the most sweeping tax changes in 30 years,”Rettig stated in the prepared remarks. “The IRS has already made great progress in this area, but more remains to be done.”

IRS Guidance

The IRS is committed to helping taxpayers and tax professionals understand the new tax law changes, as well as file returns next year timely and accurately, Rettig noted. To that end, the IRS will continue to issue guidance this year related to tax reform, according to Rettig. “You can expect additional guidance in the next several weeks in a number of areas,” he added, which include TCJA provisions related to the following:

  • Opportunity Zones;
  • the limitation on the business interest expense deduction; and
  • the Base Erosion and Anti-Abuse Tax (BEAT).

Additionally, the IRS will continue to update taxpayer forms and instructions related to new tax law provisions, Rettig noted. “We’re well on our way to having those completed in time for [the 2019] filing season.”