The Internal Revenue Service has chosen William M. Paul to step into the role of acting chief counsel after William Wilkins stepped down this week.

IRS building

Paul is currently deputy chief counsel (technical) and will assume his new role, effective Jan. 20, 2017. He has more than 30 years of tax experience and joined the IRS last May as Wilkins’ deputy. In that role, he oversaw the IRS’s published guidance program and the work of approximately 600 attorneys in the IRS Office of Chief Counsel.

Wilkins has been the IRS’s chief counsel since 2009. Like many Obama administration officials, he is leaving just ahead of the incoming Trump administration. He is one of only two political appointees at the IRS.

Wilkins drew some controversy in the midst of the Tea Party targeting scandal in 2013 when it was revealed that he had met with President Obama only two days before the IRS provided new guidance to its Exempt Organizations unit on how to handle applications for tax-exempt status from political groups. Wilkins testified before Congress that he didn’t recall many of the details of his interactions with Treasury Department officials during the period when the new guidance was being drawn up, provoking outraged reactions from Republican leaders of the House Oversight Committee blasting him for his cautious testimony.

Before joining the IRS’s Office of Chief Counsel, Paul was a partner with Covington & Burling LLP in Washington, D.C‎. In the late 1980s, he worked at the Treasury Department’s Office of Tax Policy as deputy tax legislative counsel. He previously chaired the American Bar Association’s Section of Taxation. In his new role, he will‎ be working closely with Debra K. Moe, who continues to serve as the deputy chief counsel (operations) at the IRS.

“Bill Paul brings a wide range of experience into this critical tax administration position,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen in a statement. “His three decades of handling complicated tax matters inside and outside the government will serve the needs of the tax community well. I also want to thank Bill Wilkins for nearly eight years of dedicated service here as Chief Counsel at the IRS. As many in the wider tax community recognize, Bill has done an exceptional job leading the legal division of the IRS during a challenging period.”

Michael Cohn

Michael Cohn, editor-in-chief of, has been covering business and technology for a variety of publications since 1985.