IRS Chief Counsel Williams Steps Down

July 7, 2003 ( - Effective July 31, 2003, Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Chief Counsel B. John Williams will step down from his post to return to private practice.

Announced July 1, 2003 via an internal e-mail by Treasury General Counsel David Aufhauser , Williams decided that the time was right to return to the private sector. The move comes just two years after President George Bush nominated Williams to the position, according to Washington-based legal publisher BNA.

IRS Deputy Chief Counsel for Operations Emily Parker will serve as acting chief counsel upon Williams’s departure.

Despite the relatively short tenure in the position, Williams was praised highly for his contributions by a plethora of Treasury officials. In the internal e-mail, Assistant Treasury Secretary for Tax Policy Pam Olson said that Williams “brought tenacity and the courage of his convictions to the job. The Treasury could not have found another lawyer with his willingness to tackle difficult issues and recalcitrant taxpayers/promoters. In short, he was just what the tax system needed.”

Further, IRS Commissioner Mark Everson expressed his gratitude to Williams in a prepared statement, saying he has been a “dedicated servant of the people and a fierce advocate for the integrity of our tax administration system.” Likewise, Treasury Secretary John Snow lauded Williams’s accomplishments, saying he did an “excellent job” and that taxpayers “were extremely well served” during his tenure.

Looking Back

President Bush announced July 3, 2001, his intention to nominate Williams as IRS chief counsel. He was confirmed by the US Senate in January 2002 and focused his administration on two key issues:

  • impeding the spread of abusive tax avoidance transactions
  • increasing published guidance issued by IRS.

At the time, Williams was a partner with Shearman and Sterling, Washington, DC, responsible for the firm’s tax litigation practice. He served as a US Tax Court judge from 1985 to 1990, was a partner with Morgan, Lewis and Bockius from 1990 to 2000, and also served as chairman of the American Bar Association Section of Taxation’s tax shelter task force. Williams in the 1980s served in the Justice Department’s Tax Division as an assistant attorney general and as a special assistant to the IRS chief counsel.