As I looked out at over our five hundred participants at the recently concluded 63rd Midyear Conference, so many thoughts and emotions were running through my mind. I was immensely proud of the work done by our Committee chairs, moderators, leadership and staff to develop an outstanding program, especially regarding the range of senior tax and financial regulators from around the world that would be gracing the TEI dais. Their presence was certainly a testament to the importance of the business tax community in general, and the in-house tax professional community in particular, as a key constituency that must be continually engaged.
At the same time, the messages delivered by these regulators left me a bit unsettled about what the future holds.
Former Senator Olympia Snowe's assessment that compromise, the very hallmark of the legislative process, had virtually become a dirty word in Washington was deeply troubling. It was incredibly difficult for me to believe that one of the underpinnings on which our country had been founded had been swallowed up by partisan bickering. Reversing this troubling trend is essential for the country to begin to confront its significant, but not insoluble, fiscal challenges. Legislators must find the political will to confront these challenges – hopefully they will, and in time.
OECD Director Pascal Saint Amans' message about the work being undertaken to address base erosion and profit shifting was also unsettling – but for different reasons. While the premise of the efforts is certainly sound, to ensure tax is correctly being paid around the world, the implication that wholesale avoidance or evasion is rampant around the world is troubling. TEI members, and the companies by which they are employed, are committed to pay the correct amount of tax due around the world and to comply with the tax laws as they currently are. Sovereign state tax policies, priorities and objectives present companies with myriad rules that may conflict, contain gaps and asymmetries that taxpayers must address. If these gaps and asymmetries become unpalatable, it is within the province of national legislatures – working individually or collectively – to address these important matters. But until that time comes, I believe it is short sighted or even wr ong-headed to lay criticism about the shortcomings of statutory and regulatory regimes on those who are bound by them.
And, listening to FASB Technical Director Sue Cosper detail the range of complex financial reporting projects that directly affect tax on the docket in the coming year was a little breathtaking, to say the least; revenue recognition, FASB 109 or ASC 740, convergence, and "condorsement," just to name a few.
Hearing these messages directly and unfiltered was certainly enlightening and informative. However, taken together, I cannot help but conclude that they might have left many conference participants unsettled about the future of the tax and financial playing field. I know that is how I felt.
It was clear to me that myriad changes are likely to be considered in the near future, and at many levels. But what I also wondered was whether you — our TEI members — are well-positioned and prepared for those changes? Are you and your team properly aligned within TEI to ensure that you are getting current information about regulatory developments around the world, participating in advocacy projects that directly affect your business, and are aware of opportunities to enhance your network?
Your TEI membership provides you with all of these opportunities — please take full advantage of them!
Joining a technical committee at either the chapter or national level ensures that your tax issues (either technical or management, depending on the committee), will be considered. In addition, your fellow committee members represent a natural, issue-based network which whom you can engage on an ongoing, informal and confidential basis. Further, coming on-line shortly to support the Institute's committee work will be webbased capabilities to enable you to receive information streams and alerts on issues and areas that are of particular relevance to you. Finally, your legal staff liaison serves both as a technical support for our national committees as well as a resource for particular technical issues and concerns that you may have. I urge you to reach out to them and introduce yourselves. What piece of your company's tax portfolio do you manage? Controversy, planning, compliance, or maybe a bit of each? What types of issues are currently "on your desk?" and what resources or services should be added to your TEI membership package going forward.
Stepping back from the Midyear, the work of the Institute continues on several important goals that will directly affect our growth and success. In particular, our efforts to better ensure that our leadership reflects our membership. Under the direction of Katrina Welch of the Dallas Chapter, a comprehensive review was undertaken of the Institute's diversity policies. The draft report is now being considered by TEI's Board of Directors, and it is my expectation that the report will be acted on later this spring.
In addition, we remain focused on growth opportunities for the Institute as a whole; to seek locations where the in-house professional community is not well served – and to take steps to "raise TEI's colors," there. In particular, we have renewed our focus of late on South America. The types of questions that are animating our due diligence include, is there a demand for the type of organization TEI represents? What unique demographic, geographic and cultural issues might exist? Are there particular barriers to entry? What resources might be required to successfully "stand-up," a new TEI chapter. Under the leadership of Christer Bell of the EMEA chapter, we are vetting these very carefully. Again, your input is vital to this effort. Please let Christer or me hear from you as these efforts proceed.
I look forward to sharing my TEI experiences upon my return from a series of chapter and regional meetings in the United States, Canada and Europe.
Carita R. Twinem