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May 15, 2014
ABA Meeting: Gibbs Warns of Tax Administration Challenges
by William R. Davis

Full Text Published by Tax Analysts®

Former IRS Commissioner Lawrence B. Gibbs on May 10 warned of the perilous state of the Service and the need for meaningful tax reform and adequate funding for the agency.
Gibbs, now of Miller & Chevalier and a Tax Analysts board member, is familiar with the adversity the IRS has faced. Gibbs oversaw the Service from 1986 to 1989, a period that included a shift to electronic systems that shut down tax administration, passage of the 1986 Tax Reform Act, and waning public confidence in the agency.

"Currently, there is no dearth of challenges to our tax system," said Gibbs during his acceptance speech for the American Bar Association Section of Taxation Distinguished Service Award in Washington. While it is unclear if or how tax reform will take place, reform will not be meaningful or long lasting unless the IRS's fiscal problems are addressed, he said.

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen has repeatedly warned of the threats to enforcement and taxpayer service posed by cuts to the agency's budget.

Gibbs cited the exempt organizations controversy as a consequence of the pressures facing tax administration and the need to reestablish the public's trust and confidence in the IRS.

The ABA tax section has the responsibility to work with the government to identify ways to improve tax administration for the benefit of all taxpayers, Gibbs said.

"We are after all the front lines of the interaction between our government and its taxpayers, many of whom are our clients," Gibbs said. "We have the knowledge, the experience, the expertise, and the capability to assist the IRS in meeting the challenges it is facing in order to improve the tax administration system and restore the public's respect for it."

Gibbs said that over the many years he has been involved with the tax section, he has admired the ability of tax professionals to engage in sincere tax discussions while checking client interests at the door or disclosing conflicts of interest during discussions and debates.

"I have marveled at the accumulation of tax law that the tax section has always represented," Gibbs said. "Most of all, I was impressed by the passion of the many talented men and women who brought to the practice of law our common commitment to work together and with those in government to address the periodic challenges that face our tax system and to find ways to improve that tax system."

Gibbs addressed the ABA tax section leadership directly and asked them to continue to focus on what the section might do to assist in finding ways to cope with challenges to tax law and tax administration.

"The section can also play a role as an honest broker to the politicians, media, and American public about what the IRS is doing and how it is performing as the IRS begins the long, hard, but very important process of restoring the public's respect and confidence," Gibbs said.

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