Forging Ahead at Full Speed
Carita R. Twinem
President's Corner - 2/4/2013

Membership Pulse Survey

In early December, TEI distributed a short and targeted membercentricity survey to the Institute’s membership. This 10-minute survey was built on the work of last year’s Vision 20/20 Task Force and was designed to provide a snapshot on selected issues to help ensure TEI continues to provide valuable membership services. Given the changing tax landscape and the growing diversity our members, the Institute’s leaders want to be sure that what TEI produces and offers our members as well as how we deliver value remains fully aligned with member needs. Please know that your participation is very much appreciated.

Assessment of Leadership Seminar

Each summer TEI holds a two-day orientation session for our rising chapter and regional leaders. The program is designed to share experiences about day-to-day Institute operations as well as to discuss the tools and resources available to successfully manage chapter activities. Over the years, we have fine-tuned the program, moving from lecture-like sessions to very interactive discussions involving senior leaders who, not that long ago, “walked in the moccasins” of the rising chapter presidents. The response to our “members teaching members” approach last year was positive, and accordingly, we are exploring further modifications, such as expanding the cadre of invited participants, sharing information earlier via conference calls or webinars, and embedding some portions of the discussions into the preceding Midyear Conference. By lengthening the “run-up” period before new chapter presidents assume their responsibilities, we hope to facilitate a deeper understanding of the tools and resources available to ensure success.

While the Leadership Seminar nominally affects only a limited number of individuals each year, every member of the Institute has a stake in the annual program’s success. By making the Leadership Seminar more responsive to the needs of our rising presidents, we will help make them better leaders and thus enhance the overall value of active participation in TEI.

Annual Conference Recap

“Life is what happens when you’re making plans.”

There is likely not one of us who has not had this truism spoken to us, often in commiseration, after our well-laid plans have been upended by forces beyond our control, such as political or economic uncertainty . . . or a hurricane named Sandy. The well-laid plans I’m referring to, of course, are those of TEI’s Continuing Education Committee, which put together an absolutely wonderful program. Alas, the tentative nature of the economic recovery, the dampening effect of today’s political climate (especially in advance of the U.S. elections), and Mother Nature conspired to suppress our attendance. Those members who were able to travel to Florida for the conference had an unsurpassed opportunity to attend outstanding technical sessions and network with their confreres and with top-notch practitioners. They also had the opportunity to use TEI’s first-ever mobile conference app and to visit exhibits hosted by TEI’s sponsors.

I offer my thanks to everyone who attended the conference, especially the speakers and registrants who “weathered the storm” (or worried about it) as Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc up the east coast. My heart goes out to those members whose homes or businesses were damaged by the storm. And I would also be remiss if I did not express my personal gratitude for all the courtesies extended to my family and me at the conference.

TEI’s Advocacy Efforts Continue Unabated

Here in the United States, TEI’s committees are focused on preparing for the coming debate on tax reform. As I observed in an earlier column, in the tax reform arena, the Institute’s greatest strength — member and industry diversity — is, in many respects, our greatest challenge. That diversity, however, will not be used as an excuse for inaction. Hence, while we will not break faith with our consensus model of decision-making, TEI’s Executive Committee and I pledge not to stand on the sideline as a spectator to arguably the most important tax policy discussion in a generation. I invite your participation in our process.

To the North, our advocacy efforts proceed at full speed. As TEI’s Canadian committees were preparing for our annual liaison meetings with the Canada Revenue Agency and the Canadian Department of Finance, “life” happened to disrupt my plans to join the group in Ottawa. This disappointed me because prior TEI presidents have held up the Canadian liaison meetings as a model — not only because of the large number of members who participate in the agenda-building process but because of the high level of engagement by our government counterparts. These annual meetings, dating back four decades, stand for the proposition that honest, candid, and good-faith discourse between government authorities and taxpayers is one of the best ways to promote mutual understanding and foster a tax system that balances compliance and enforcement with service and support. My thanks to everyone involved in making the meetings a success. Although not able to be there in person, I was there in spirit.

Overseas, our efforts to deepen our relationship with the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development continue. Our written submissions and public testimony to OECD working groups regarding transfer pricing and the taxation of intangibles are two recent examples where TEI’s comments have been solicited ... and valued. I am truly proud of the Institute’s European leaders and committee chairs, for they serve in the vanguard of our OECD advocacy efforts.

Staff Transition

We are also forging ahead on the TEI staff. I am delighted to welcome Patrick Evans to the TEI staff as our new Chief Tax Counsel. Patrick comes to TEI from the Washington office of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom and brings with him broad technical experience, an engaging manner, and true client-service skills. He has already established excellent rapport with Eli Dicker, who will become Executive Director in January, and with Jeff Rasmussen, Dan De Jong, and Ben Shreck — as well as the rest of the staff. I know he will fit in seamlessly with the entire membership.

Finally, a final word about Timothy McCormally, our retiring Executive Director, to whom I had the honor of presenting TEI’s Honorary Membership Award during the Annual Conference. Timothy has been the heart and soul of TEI for more than 30 years, contributing his energy, vision, and passion to help shape the Institute into what it has become today — the preeminent association of in-house tax professionals worldwide. As we enter 2013, we truly have a solid foundation on which to enhance our brand, extend our global reach, and extend advocacy, networking, and educational opportunities to our members.

Thank you, Timothy, and Godspeed!