He's trying to fix the IRS and has $80 billion to play with. This is his plan There are two competing trends: The population of the U.S. has grown at the same time as the workforce of the IRS has shrunk. A 10-year, $80 billion plan aims to tackle the agency's troubles.

He's trying to fix the IRS and has $80 billion to play with. This is his plan

IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel says the agency had lost capacity over the years to adequately assess "high wealth, high income filers." Joe Raedle/Getty Images hide caption

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Joe Raedle/Getty Images

IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel says the agency had lost capacity over the years to adequately assess "high wealth, high income filers."

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

There are two competing trends: The population of the U.S. has grown at the same time as the workforce of the IRS has shrunk. Meet the man tasked with a 10-year, $80 billion plan to tackle the agency's troubles.

Who is he? The recently-appointed commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, Danny Werfel.

  • Werfel took the job in March, becoming the 50th commissioner in the agency's history.
  • Here are some quick figures to get your head around what he is dealing with: The IRS has about 85,000 employees, an annual budget of $12 billion, and collects about $4.1 trillion in tax each year, which represents about 96% of the total gross receipts of the U.S.

Danny Werfel says building trust is essential to the IRS. Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images hide caption

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Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Danny Werfel says building trust is essential to the IRS.

Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

What's the big deal? To be blunt, the IRS is struggling on a number of fronts — in ways that can directly impact you.

The IRS is at the start of a multi-year effort to boost its capacity. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images hide caption

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Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Want more finance journalism? Listen to the Consider This episode on the rise and fall of a notorious financial investor.


What is Werfel's plan?

On cracking down on people not paying taxes (and ensuring this is done equitably):

Where we have lost capacity over the years is in our ability to assess high wealth, high income filers.

There are roughly 390,000 of these wealthy and very wealthy filers. And right now the IRS has about 2,600 people to assess. Also really important, is these 390,000 filers, their filings are very voluminous ... and they're very complicated.

We have to increase our capacity to deal with that. And that involves hiring — and not just auditors, but economists and engineers and data scientists to really figure out and assess for the American people what these wealthy filers owe versus what they're paying, and make sure that we're closing that gap.

[And] I'm offering the strongest assurance I can that the audit rates that are in place for people earning under $400,000 a year in small businesses, those audit rates are not going up.

On beefing up the workforce and improving customer service:

We need to meet taxpayers where they are.

Some want to walk into a walk-in center and talk to us in person. And so we have the ability now to reopen walk-in centers that were closed due to underfunding, and fully staff them and offer Saturday hours ... People want the IRS website to work more effectively. And so we can make investments so that [the] web platform is as modern and as good and as functional as your local bank or your favorite airline.

So, with funds, we can start to build out a world class customer service set of solutions that taxpayers deserve.

So, what now?

  • While Werfel and the IRS implement the plan, they face ongoing pushback from House Republicans, who claim the agency has targeted conservative groups in the past and will go after middle class Americans — assertions the IRS and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen deny.
  • Werfel said building trust was essential to the IRS and it was on a "continuous journey" to improve its service. "We're in a really good place right now, in terms of getting the funding that we need to build our capacity and where our focus should be on serving taxpayers."

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