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IRS Commissioner: finish investigation, make changes


New IRS Commissioner John Koskinen came to Cincinnati Thursday to find out how the process of applying for 501 (c)(4) status can be more efficient and learn from employees what resources they need and what obstacles they have.

Koskinen is known as a turnaround specialist, having run Freddie Mac in the middle of the financial crisis, and guiding Penn Central Railroad and a teamsters pension fund. He was also President Clinton's Y2K czar in the late 1990s. He now aims to restore confidence in the Internal Revenue Service.

"People need to be treated fairly no matter what their political beliefs," said Koskinen in a one-on-one interview with WVXU. This follows allegations that the IRS gave extra scrutiny to conservative political groups wanting tax-exampt status. These groups, including the tea party, waited months and sometimes years for a decision. The commissioner said the IRS needs to "be efficient and effective in those responses and restore trust and confidence over time."

The foot-dragging has been linked to the Cincinnati IRS office, and, reportedly, the U.S. Justice Department has hired Taft Stettinius & Holliser and Squire Sanders to represent 19 employees in a federal lawsuit.

The Justice Department is only one of handful of investigations underway. Koskinen said, "My position is we need to get the facts out. We need to do whatever we can from the IRS standpoint to assist these investigations so everybody knows as quickly as we can what the actual facts were."

Hundreds of thousands of pages of documents are being reviewed. The Senate could be finished with its investigation in a matter of months.

The commissioner said he will solve the problems along with Cincinnati employees. "So I'm here to learn and I'm learning a lot already, but I'm also here to send a message that the employees in Cincinnati are important, they haven't been forgotten and they're not on their own."

Ann Thompson has decades of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market and brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting.