Trump Tax-Returns Defender on Tap to Head IRS: Report

The choice of tax litigator Charles Rettig would reportedly break a two-decade precedent during which IRS chiefs tended to come from corporations.
David KatzJanuary 25, 2018

President Trump is reportedly on the verge of naming Charles P. Rettig, a Beverly Hills tax lawyer who wrote that candidate Trump’s lawyers shouldn’t advise him to release his tax returns, as commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service.

Charles P. Rettig

Charles P. Rettig

“Is there any legal impediment to Trump publicly releasing his tax returns? Absolutely not,” Rettig, a tax litigator who has served more than 35 years at Hochman, Salkin, Rettig, Toscher & Perez and has represented clients before the IRS, said on February 28, 2016  in one of a number of columns he’s written for the “IRS Watch” section of Forbes.

“Would any experienced tax lawyer representing Trump in an IRS audit advise him to publicly release his tax returns during the audit? Absolutely not,” Rettig added. To date, President Trump, who Forbes reports as having a current net worth of $3.1 billion, hasn’t made his returns public.  

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On Tuesday night,  Politco, citing multiple sources with knowledge of the selection process, reported that President Trump will nominate Rettig to head the IRS. Rettig would then have to be confirmed by the Senate.

If the president does nominate Rettig, he would break a precedent of almost 20 years of picking IRS chiefs from the corporate world, according to the report. Before that, commissioners were often tax lawyers.

Rettig would replace David Kautter, a previous Ernst & Young partner who has been the IRS’s acting director for tax policy since November and is also serving as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Tax Policy. Kautner succeeded John Koskinen, a former non-executive secretary of Freddie Mac who stepped down as IRS Commissioner after four years on the job.

In the wake of an IRS scandal in which conservative political groups were said to be targeted for extensive scrutiny by the IRS, 19 Republican Representatives brought a bill of impeachment against Koskinen in 2015. The effort was later turned back by the House leadership.

In his Forbes column, Rettig wrote that candidate Trump’s tax team would  “likely have their hands full responding to numerous informal and formal detailed inquiries by the IRS ‘Wealth Squad’ audit team assigned to his case” and wouldn’t want to help create a great detail of publicity by advising the candidate to release his returns.

More formally known as the Global High Wealth Industry Group of the IRS, the squad is “a specialized, experienced group of examiners solely focused on conducting audits of high-income/high-wealth taxpayers,” Rettig noted.

Recently, Rettig has been involved in discussions regarding the offshore voluntary disclosure programs of the IRS. As IRS commissioner, he would be extensively involved in making rules under the new U.S. Tax Cuts and Job Act, which mandates that U.S. corporations repatriate offshore earnings.