chuck rettig (Video image by Sen. Bob Menendez’s office)

Commissioner: IRS Determined to Better Serve Taxpayers, Show Agency Pride

Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Chuck Rettig said a “spectacular filing season” has underscored some of the agency’s challenges including recruiting top talent, bringing on board needed technology and offering IRS help in more languages.

Rettig, who was a partner for more than 36 years at the Beverly Hills tax firm Hochman, Salkin, Rettig, Toscher & Perez, P.C., was confirmed by the Senate last September. He told the Government Technology & Services Coalition’s recent IRS Day that, being “on the outside when the IRS had certain public perception problems,” he jumped at the career change as a unique public-service opportunity.

“I love being commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service. I love going out places and saying ‘I’m commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service,’” Rettig said, stressing that the agency works “corner to corner, shoulder to shoulder.”

“There is no top, there is no bottom … we are one IRS and have one mission, which is service and compliance,” he added.

The commissioner wants Americans to know “that everybody has the same opportunity to interact with us as everybody else” and that transactions are handled by “very, very capable” teams.

“I want people to know what we do,” he said. “I want people to know who we are.”

Ninety-five percent of the nation’s gross revenue goes through the IRS. But the agency isn’t just handling a never-ending stream of 1040s: In six years of aiding the Federal Emergency Management Agency via its call center, 9,000 IRS employees fielded 1.6 million telephone calls about assistance. When the government shutdown left many federal employees and their families requiring assistance to put food on the table, the IRS stepped in with food bank donations.

Rettig said he wants employees to be proud that “the IRS helps provide the good of this country” and embodies something that makes America great – the ability of people to take up disputes with the government.

“I want our people … to stand up, throw your shoulders back, tell them ‘I work for the Internal Revenue Service,’” he said.

The message of agency pride and ensuring employees know “people care about them” is an integral part of recruitment efforts, as well. “We have every position available,” Rettig continued. “We need help. We need technology.”

“Moving us in a direction that a lot of us think we need to” also involves stressing that patriotic service can be fulfilled at the agency, he added.

Addressing the contractor audience, Rettig emphasized the need to better serve a sizable population interacting directly with the IRS, largely low-income people requiring substantial assistance.

“We should be in 120 languages,” he said. “We need to get into the languages of the people interacting with us.”

The commissioner stressed that the contracting community has a critical knowledge base that can benefit the IRS in certain areas.

“We believe in what we’re doing. We want you to believe in what we’re doing,” Rettig said. “We want to work with you… we want you to figure out how to help us.”

Ultimately, he said, “it’s not IRS versus somebody – it’s the American people helping the American people.”

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Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a senior fellow specializing in terrorism analysis at the Haym Salomon Center. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15, a private investigator and a security consultant. She is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera and SiriusXM.

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