The Internal Revenue Service's tax-exempt bond office is launching a nationwide hunt to substantially boost the number of its field revenue agents and tax law specialists to deal with increasing compliance and regulatory matters, especially those brought on by the economic stimulus package enacted earlier this week.

Clifford Gannett, director of the tax-exempt bond office, said yesterday that TEB is seeking 19 to 21 new field revenue agents, as well as six to eight tax law specialists. These hires will supplement the office's current 68 employees, which include "approximately forty or so" revenue agents conducting audits in the field.

Gannett said TEB's workload has increased in recent years, especially with the new stimulus package, which contains a number of new bond programs.

"This hiring is coming ... as a result of additional legislative enactments broadening the scope of the use of tax-exempt bonds and tax-credit bonds," he said. "We're looking at our workforce right now and thinking we certainly need additional employees to deal with some of the new provisions and still continue to be relevant with respect to the other market segments."

"A lot of this hiring relates to those new legislative items, particularly with respect to the stimulus bill," he said.

Steve Chamberlin, senior manager of TEB's compliance and management program, said also that the office also is having to cope with market participants' increased use of ongoing initiatives such as the voluntary closing agreement program.

"We've had a consistent increase year over year in the amount of voluntary closing agreement requests and with the expansions of different types of bond provisions, that's logically only going to exacerbate that," he said.

The new bond provisions will also require more outreach and education on the IRS' part, Gannett said.

"There are a number of new types of bonds where I think there'll need to be interaction with communities to understand what opportunities for financing are available, how it works .... We're going to have to find some people to help us deliver that."

According to the federal jobs Web site, USAJobs.gov, where the positions are advertised, the field agents' responsibilities will include: conducting examinations of bond issues to identify and correct noncompliance, assisting in arbitrage-related enforcement initiatives, and verifying arbitrage rebate overpayment claims.

The tax law specialists will be responsible for providing technical and analytical advice, working on the VCAP, and assisting the IRS chief counsel's office on guidance projects, Chamberlin said.

Gannett said the IRS is casting a broad net for all sorts of candidates with experience in the muni bond market, from lawyers to accountants to those with financial experience. But a high priority for the IRS will be finding candidates who are experienced enough to join TEB without much training.

"We're interested in looking at folks who have some expertise in the various market segments who would be portable quickly into the program and would provide us with a high skill level," he said.

Pursuing candidates with high experience levels will hopefully minimize the amount of time and resources TEB will have to allocate for training the new hires, he added. TEB just finished training two groups of new agents it hired last year.

"Obviously you'll have different people with different abilities ... We're really making an effort to seek out the best candidates we can, so it'll be interesting to see how long that [learning] curve is," he said.

The agency is accepting applications until March 3, and hopes to finish hiring sometime in April.

The new round of hiring marks a departure from TEB's position just one year ago, when budget setbacks limited TEB to hiring just three new agents at the beginning of 2008, after it had requested 20. Ten more agents have been hired since then, Gannett said yesterday.

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