updated 2:28 PM CEST, May 24, 2023

Douglas O'Donnell named acting IRS commissioner, ahead of Charles Rettig's scheduled departure

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has named IRS Deputy Commissioner Douglas O'Donnell to succeed IRS Commissioner Charles P. Rettig – at least for now – as acting IRS commissioner.

News of O'Donnell's appointment came on Friday, in a Treasury Department announcement.

As reported, Commissioner Rettig has long been scheduled to leave the Treasury on Nov. 12. He had been appointed to the role by then-President Trump in 2018. 

Prior to his appointment, Rettig, who is 65 and a long-time resident of California, had been a partner at the Beverly Hills tax firm of Hochman, Salkin, Rettig, Toscher & Perez, where he'd worked for more than 30 years.

'Career IRS employee'

O'Donnell was described in the Treasury Department's announcement on Friday as "a career IRS employee," who had spent "more than 36 years at the agency in a variety of roles." 

Prior to becoming deputy commissioner for Services and Enforcement, the announcement added, he served as commissioner of the IRS's Large Business and International Division for nearly six years. 

In recent weeks, tax industry experts and some journalists had been predicting that an interim commissioner would be named to take Rettig's place, given how little time was left before his departure, coupled with the fact that much of Washington is focused on the  U.S. Midterm Elections taking place on Nov. 8.  

The fact that President Biden recently set aside US$80 billion in funding for the problem-plagued IRS – as part of his Inflation Reduction Act – to boost its compliance and enforcement efforts as well as improving its technology and its capacity for looking after taxpayers, was also seen as making the choice of who would succeed Commissioner Rettig's successor all the more significant. 

Meanwhile, some experts have been pointing out, whomever is chosen to permanently succeed Rettig will need to have their appointment confirmed by the Senate. Given the highly-partisan atmosphere in Congress at the moment, and predictions that this is likely to intensify if the Republican party's numbers are strengthened by the midterms, some are predicting this could be a fraught and drawn-out business.