After forty-nine years at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), it’s the last tax season for Carolyn Tavenner. The long-term IRS employee, sometimes called the “Mother of the 1040-EZ,” has announced her plans to retire from the IRS, effective March 2, 2019. 

Currently, Carolyn is the Project Director for the Tax Reform Implementation Office. Prior to that, she served as the Director of the DCSE Affordable Care Act (ACA) Implementation Office. She has held a number of other positions including Senior Advisor to the Chief Taxpayer Service and Chief Operations Officer; Director of Media and Publications; Assistant Deputy Commissioner for Operations Support; Special Assistant to the Information Technology Associate Chief Information Officer (ACIO), Applications Development; Senior Advisor and Director for ACA Legislative Implementation for the Information Technology ACIO for ACA; and Special Assistant to the Deputy Commissioner for Services and Enforcement.  

IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig noted, “Carolyn has had a remarkable career spanning nearly a half-century of exemplary service to the taxpayers of this country. She is one of the many unsung heroes at the IRS, taking steps to implement major tax law changes ranging from the 1986 tax overhaul to the current tax reform initiative. Carolyn also was a driving force in creating the Form 1040-EZ, a step that literally made taxes easier for many millions of taxpayers.”

In addition, Carolyn has been involved in every major tax law change since the Tax Reform Act of 1986, including the IRS Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998 and the Affordable Care Act. Most notably, she led a team that developed a new form 1040-EZ for the 1982 tax year. The form 1040-EZ stuck around for nearly four decades.

You can see what the form 1040-EZ looked like that year here (downloads as a PDF).

(Remember there’s no longer a form 1040-EZ through 2026 due to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.)

During her career, she was the recipient of five Commissioner Awards and two Presidential Rank Awards. Rettig says, “Her career of dedicated public service is a great reflection on her IRS colleagues and that of the entire federal workforce. You may not see her work in the headlines every day, but the dedication of Carolyn and many others at the IRS make a real difference to the nation and to taxpayers. Carolyn will be missed but never forgotten.”

I was lucky enough to meet Tavenner in 2017. I sat next to her at the National Press Club Luncheon. She and I spoke just before then IRS Commissioner John Koskinen offered a few words of appreciation for her, noting, “The average taxpayer has probably never heard of people like Carolyn, but she’s been involved in countless initiatives to improve tax administration over the years.”

Koskinen went on to emphasize that Tavenner’s career was illustrative of the nonpartisan aspect of the work that the IRS does, saying, “While presidential administrations come and go, our employees are still here, serving the American taxpayer and keeping our tax system running.” 

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Kelly Erb is a tax attorney, tax writer and podcaster.

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