WASHINGTON (AP) - His agency under relentless fire, the new head of the Internal Revenue Service acknowledged to Congress on Monday that American taxpayers no longer trust the IRS amid a growing number of scandals - from the targeting of conservative political groups to lavish spending on employee conferences.
But Acting Commissioner Danny Werfel declared he was "committed to restoring that trust." He said he has installed new leadership at the agency and is conducting a thorough review of what went wrong and how to fix it.
He promised the transparency that was lacking for several years as tea party groups complained about harassment by the IRS, only to be met with denials from the agency.
"We must have the trust of the American taxpayer. Unfortunately, that trust has been broken," Werfel told a House Appropriations subcommittee in his first public appearance since taking over the agency nearly two weeks ago. "The agency stands ready to confront the problems that occurred, hold accountable those who acted inappropriately, be open about what happened, and permanently fix these problems so that such missteps do not occur again."
"It has to start," Werfel added, "with a recognition that a trust has been violated."
Werfel testified at a difficult time for the agency. Criticized from inside and outside the government, Werfel went to Capitol Hill to ask for a big budget increase.
Werfel acknowledged that it would be a "mistake" to ask Congress for more money to address the agency's recently revealed problems. But, he added, the IRS is seeking additional money to enforce tax laws, improve taxpayer services and implement initiatives.
"I'm prepared to defend the increase that we're asking for," he said.