IRS seeks tax-advantaged bonds specialist

Bonds

In the midst of a declining workforce, the Internal Revenue Service is taking an “all hands on deck” approach to hiring that includes a recent announcement for a role focused on tax-advantaged bonds.

The Oct. 14 posting for a senior tax law specialist seeks a candidate experienced with complex matters involving tax-advantaged municipal finance transactions. The position is based in the Washington office of the Tax Exempt and Government Entities division of the IRS (TE/GE).

TE/GE works with local community organizations, universities, pension funds, small business retirement plans and local and state governments. Participants in complex tax-exempt bond transactions, and Indian tribal governments and tribal associations are also considered TE/GE customers.

”That’s a huge portfolio,” explained Sunita Lough, the TE/GE commissioner.

Sunita Lough

The expectation that someone overseeing all of that is going to be really good at all of those things that Lough said, “really don’t really overlap that much,” is one reason why the agency needs someone who really understands tax-advantaged bonds.

Lough, who has been a bond lawyer, describes it as a “very different area of the law.” As a result, she said, “you really need somebody who has practiced this…and who has been in the transactions, to advise the TE/GE director on compliance issues and the environment of tax exempt bonds and municipal bond financings.”

According to the position announcement, the chosen candidate will work under the division director in part on enforcement and voluntary compliance concerns. But Lough said that the role is “not just about helping the IRS catch bad actors.

”It is also to really focus our resources in the right place,” she explains.

For Lough, this includes making sure that TE/GE is taking the right tax positions when they are doing examinations of bond transactions and that they are selecting the right transactions for examinations.

“It’s good for the issuers and the bond industry to have somebody who…understands the depths of the environment out there [including] what is happening and…the reasons why people do transactions, so we don’t chase transactions that are perfectly legitimate,” Lough adds.

The posting comes as the IRS seeks to boost hiring across the board. According to a joint FY2022 program letter written by Lough and deputy commissioner for TE/GE, Edward Killen, the size of TE/GE’s workforce has also declined in recent years.

“Recruiting, hiring, training and on-boarding…new employees will be an ambitious exercise requiring “all hands-on-deck,” Lough and Killen wrote.

In addition to developing their workforce, TE/GE’s priorities for FY22 include strengthening compliance and operational efficiency and leveraging technology and data analysis. The division will also focus on enforcement, including appropriate criminal fraud referrals and civil fraud penalties.

The position announcement lists specific job duties including preparing technical responses to complex inquiries and networking and relationship building with the tax advantaged bond community.

However, Lough pointed out that TE/GE makes a “concerted effort to not pigeon hole people,” adding, “so somebody who takes this job for example… we want them to be exposed to other things,” Lough says.

For Lough, working in TE/GE is not just about making sure that people comply with the tax law. Rather, she said it is also about being able to work in a wide area–even if a hire was not an expert in that area when they came into the agency.

“Every day is a new day of learning–something different and challenging,” Lough said, adding, “This is a great place to make a career. It’s a wide open field and it’s up to the person to say how they want to take advantage of this [opportunity].”

Candidates must have specialized experience applying federal tax laws, regulations and guidance to tax-advantaged municipal bond transactions and strong analytical, organizational, writing and interpersonal skills.

The application closing date is Oct. 29.

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