On October 1, Charles Rettig began his term as 49th Commissioner of the IRS. This gives the IRS a Commissioner for the first time in approximately one year, since his predecessor John Koskinen, an Obama appointee, stepped down in fall 2017. David Kautter, the Treasury Department’s assistant secretary for tax policy, had been running the IRS in the interim.
Rettig’s nomination has proceeded slowly throughout the year: he was nominated on February 13, 2018; approved by the Senate Finance Committee on July 19, 2018; and finally approved by the full Senate on September 12, 2018.
In the past, Rettig has emphasized the IRS’s role in deterring taxpayers through audits. During his confirmation hearings, Rettig pledged that the IRS would be “impartial and non-biased.”
Rettig’s most significant task includes implementing the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which became law in December 2017. Rettig is also being pressured to enforce the 1954 Johnson Amendment, the tax code’s prohibition on political campaign intervention by 501(c)(3) organizations. Ongoing projects at the IRS include the ongoing audit of President Trump’s returns, of tax years preceding his presidency.
Rettig has an extensive background in tax controversy; prior to joining the IRS he had spent his entire 36-year legal career at a Beverly Hills law firm, now know as Hochman, Salkin, Rettig, Toscher & Perez. There, some of his work involved represented wealthy taxpayers, including taxpayers with prior undisclosed foreign assets through the IRS’s voluntary disclosure program and other related litigation. Rettig does not have experience managing large organizations, nor does he have prior experience working for the IRS—Commissioner is his first IRS position.
Rettig has a BA in Economics from U.C.L.A. in 1978, a JD from the Pepperdine University School of Law in 1981, and a LLM in Taxation from the New York University School of Law in 1982.