Treasury head questions necessity of IRS board

Treasury Department Secretary Robert Rubin said last week that a proposal to establish a new governing board for the Internal Revenue Service "could create an uncertainty" that might "make it more difficult to do what we need to do" to improve agency operations including computer modernization.

Earlier this month the National Commission to Restructure the IRS proposed that the president appoint a governing board to oversee IRS management sparking congressional debate over the plan. "I think 100 percent they're wrong " Rubin told members of the Council for Electronic Revenue Communication Advancement a tax industry group that advocates the electronic filing of tax returns.

At a Senate hearing last week Sen. Robert Kerrey (D-Neb.) co-chairman of the restructuring commission countered that Rubin's claims about his panel's proposal "simply are not true."

The commission is scheduled to unveil the details of its recommendations this week. Panel members say their proposal for an IRS board of directors composed mainly of private citizens would provide more consistent oversight than Treasury traditionally has given the agency.

But Rubin who has put forward his own plan to make future Treasury officials more accountable for IRS performance said "part-time" board members would not devote as much time to the agency as government employees and would encounter conflicts of interest when it came to making budget and personnel decisions. Meanwhile he said the plan would raise "constitutional issues" of giving executive authority to private citizens that could take years to resolve in the courts.

Speaking with reporters Rubin said he could not predict whether Congress would provide the IRS with the funds it has requested for future information technology projects.

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