OPR Director Featured as Keynote Speaker at NYU's 1st Annual Tax Controversy Forum

NEW YORK, July 9, 2009 - New York University's School of Continuing and Professional Studies launched its 1st Annual Tax Controversy Forum on June 12 at The Westin New York at Times Square. Presented by the Division of Programs in Business, the daylong Forum featured interactive presentations by expert practitioners covering a broad range of issues and concerns arising in tax audits and tax litigation at all levels. 

In what was only her second official public appearance since taking over as director of the IRS Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), Karen L. Hawkins took on the task of being the Forum’s first keynote speaker, and she did not disappoint.  A room full of practitioners listened intently as Hawkins spoke about what she plans to do during her tenure as director of OPR.  According to Hawkins, practitioners can count on consistency in style and perspective from the office. Hawkins said that she remains committed to employing a balanced enforcement approach, but is not afraid to start cracking down on infractions when needed. 

“I intend to use monetary penalties,” Hawkins said. “I intend to look for places to use monetary penalties.”

Hawkins noted that while there are plenty of ways to discipline practitioners, she will also seek ways to discipline firms. Monetary penalties are really the only way to punish firms for bad conduct, she explained.

She also promised that OPR will spend time on "real cases" where the office can feel good about taking offenders out of the system because of the harm they ultimately cause taxpayers.

Hawkins said there was a need for her department to be taken more seriously. She warned those who were not compliant or cooperative with OPR would face additional charges under Circular 230 section.

"I really prefer to speak very softly," Hawkins concluded, "but that doesn't mean I don't have a baseball bat in the trunk."