I.R.S. Commissioner Aims to Show Progress Amid Threats of Budget Cuts

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Daniel Werfel will try to persuade skeptical Republicans on Thursday that funding the tax agency is a good investment.

At his senate confirmation last February, Daniel Werfel told lawmakers that if given the job of Internal Revenue Service commissioner he would work to increase “public trust” in the beleaguered agency and use the $80 billion that Congress had granted it to build a “more modern and high performing” organization.

A year later, Mr. Werfel has overseen the clearing of a backlog of thousands of tax filings, shrinking wait times on the I.R.S. telephone lines and the creation of a system that lets qualified taxpayers submit their federal returns with no cost. But those achievements have not been enough to satisfy Republicans, who have accused Mr. Werfel of making the I.R.S. more intrusive and even engaging in lawless behavior.

Hostile congressional hearings are routine for I.R.S. commissioners and when Mr. Werfel testifies before the House Ways and Means Committee on Thursday, he will receive a frosty reception as he fends off efforts to cut his agency’s budget.

For Mr. Werfel, the face-off is an opportunity to explain why even skeptics would benefit from a well funded I.R.S.

“I think the most powerful statement the I.R.S. can make, when there’s a proposal to significantly cut our budget, is to show our work and to demonstrate that we’re on a strong path to improving tax operations in a way that benefits taxpayers,” Mr. Werfel said in an interview this week.

The I.R.S. was supposed to get $80 billion as part of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 and that money was expected to help the agency beef up its enforcement abilities to crack down on tax cheats and modernize its antiquated technology. As part of an agreement to raise the debt limit last year, Democrats went along with Republicans’ demands to claw back $20 billion of those funds. And Republican lawmakers have in recent months been eyeing additional cuts amid negotiations related to paying for other policies.

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