IRS chief: Agency's discussions with Trump team 'very positive'

IRS chief: Agency's discussions with Trump team 'very positive'
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IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said Thursday that his agency has had “very positive discussions” with the Trump transition team.

“They’ve been very straight-forward, very factual ... productive discussions,” Koskinen told reporters.

Republicans have frequently criticized the IRS, particularly in the wake of 2013 revelations that the agency had subjected conservative groups’ applications for tax-exempt status to extra scrutiny.

But Koskinen said there’s been no indication that transition officials have “any axes to grind” or any focus other than learning about how the IRS operates.  

Tax reform is a top priority for the incoming administration and congressional Republicans.

The IRS focuses on tax administration rather than tax policy, but wants to make sure that any tax changes are administrable. Koskinen said that the IRS would be happy to provide support to the administration and Congress to look at the technical issues surrounding any reforms to the tax code.

Koskinen also said that the IRS has spoken with transition officials about how a potential government-wide hiring freeze could hinder the tax-filing season.

“A hiring freeze would affect the filing season because it would interfere with our ongoing ability to hire temporary and seasonal employees,” he said. “But we’ve discussed that with the transition team, and I think they understand that that would be an unintended consequence of a government-wide hiring freeze.”

The 2017 tax filing season begins Jan. 23. The deadline to submit returns will be Tuesday, April 18, rather than the traditional April 15, because April 15 is a Saturday and D.C. will observe Emancipation Day on April 17.

The IRS said it expects to receive more than 153 million individual tax returns, more than 80 percent of which will be filed electronically. Those making $64,000 or less will be eligible for free tax-preparation software.

The agency also anticipates that more than 70 percent of taxpayers will get a tax refund in 2017, a similar percentage as last year. In 2016, the average refund was $2,857, and Koskinen said that he expects the average refund to be about the same size this year.

More than 90 percent of refunds are expected within 21 days, though the IRS will not be able to release refunds for people claiming the earned income tax credit and the refundable child tax credit until Feb. 15 as a result of a law Congress passed in 2015.