U.S. Treasury names senior tax officials in enforcement push

WASHINGTON, Feb 3 (Reuters) - A clutch of former Obama administration Treasury officials with strong tax and legal backgrounds are headed back to the department, part of a push by President Joe Biden’s team to beef up tax enforcement.

The Treasury on Wednesday named several people to Secretary Janet Yellen’s leadership circle, including international economist and former International Monetary Fund official David Lipton as a counselor to Yellen, an appointment first reported by Reuters on Tuesday.

Also named to senior roles were Itai Grinberg and Tom West, whose backgrounds are in tax policy, and lawyer Laurie Schaffer.

The Treasury plans to push for broad changes to global tax enforcement and regulation, with the personal blessing of Biden, who has sought options to use sharper enforcement of existing laws to reduce income inequality and raise revenues to pay for his sweeping spending proposals, a person with direct knowledge of the matter said.

These options include several different policy levers the Treasury has at its disposal: new guidance to the Internal Revenue Service, sanctions targeting tax havens and multi-lateral diplomacy to synchronize an approach with other countries, the person said.

Yellen has also said she will rejoin OECD negotiations aimed at reaching a global solution to the challenges of taxing large multinational technology services companies such as Facebook and Google. Her predecessor, Steven Mnuchin, had suspended U.S. involvement in the talks.

West, a KPMG tax adviser who spent five years in the Treasury Office of Tax Policy under former President Barack Obama, will return to as deputy assistant Secretary for domestic business tax, Treasury said.

Grinberg, who served in international tax roles during the George W. Bush and Obama administrations, is returning to Treasury as deputy assistant secretary for multilateral tax in the Office of Tax Policy, after a decade as a Georgetown Law School professor.

And Schaffer, a Federal Reserve Board deputy general counsel, would return to Treasury as principal deputy general counsel, the department said. Schaffer had been Treasury assistant general counsel for banking and finance from 2008-2011.

Treasury also named Fordham University tax law professor Rebecca Kysar as counselor to the assistant secretary of tax policy. An expert on international tax law, Kysar served on Biden’s transition team as an advisor to tax policy and Treasury agency review. (Reporting by David Lawder and Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Dan Burns and David Gregorio)