Dare to make a difference - get involved!When I left public accounting in 1983 to become Tax Manager for Canada Development Corporation, there was no question that I would join the Toronto Chapter of Tax Executives Institute. Even if I had not come to appreciate the value of TEI during my 11 years with Arthur Andersen, my boss--Sadru Mawji--would have insisted: He was slated to become the chapter's president the following year. I was truly fortunate to enjoy the support of my employer as I began my career as a tax executive. As I assume the Institute's presidency, I wish to acknowledge the debt I owe to Sadru and to the other employers whose support during the last quarter century has been indispensable to my involvement in TEI and to my development as a tax professional. My current employer, Hydro One Networks Inc., has been particularly supportive as I assumed increased responsibilities at TEI.
The Growth of TEI
Tax Executives Institute is a remarkable organization. For more than six decades, TEI has devoted itself to enhancing and improving the tax system and to serving its members, their employers, and society generally. Founded in 1944, Tax Executives Institute has grown from an organization of 15 tax professionals, to 3,700 when I joined in 1984, to nearly twice that now. It has evolved from a single location in New York City, to 42 chapters in 1984, to 54 now (in close to 30 countries). Each year, TEI and its local chapters hold more than 600 educational programs, meet with government officials, advocate on a variety of tax policy and administration issues, and provide private discussion forums in which members can ask questions, share their insights, and build a network of trust and credibility. These activities proceed from a common commitment to excellence, collegiality, and collaborative decision-making, as well as a willingness of members to share information and insights with their peers.
TEI's success has not come by accident. It has become the one-stop shop for in-house tax professionals by dint of the vision, creativity, and hard work of its volunteer leaders and the exceptional support of our staff in Washington. To be sure, other professional organizations benefit from the efforts of their members; otherwise, they wouldn't remain in existence. I firmly believe, however, that TEI is unique. For 64 years, the Institute's volunteer leaders have adhered to the credo (ascribed to Theodore Roosevelt) that professionals owe some of their time to the upbuilding of their profession.
The Year in Review
This past year, 110 member has spent more time upbuilding his profession--more time advancing the mission of Tax Executives Institute--than Bob McDonough of the New England Chapter, who completed his term as International President in mid-August. I was fortunate to serve as Bob's Senior Vice President, and a more dedicated, effective leader you could not find. Bob grouped his objectives under three groupings--Teamwork, Excellence, and Integrity--and his commitment to all three, as well as recognition of their interdependence, was evident throughout the year.
Thus, TEI significantly notched up its advocacy activity during the year. For example, we filed a successful amicus brief with the Supreme Court of the United States in a state tax case involving apportionment standards and another brief with the Alabama Supreme Court on the state's add-back rule. We urged Congress to enact the Mobile Workforce Act and the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws to go slow in revising UDITPA. We provided comments to the OECD on its tax intermediaries project, the European Commission on the Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base, and the Ontario Minister of Finance on the odious practice of retroactively changing the law. We filed comments with a Canadian task force on international tax reform, and the IRS Oversight Board on the recruitment and retention of a qualified workforce. And we held very productive liaison meetings with Canadian and U.S. tax officials, filed comments with the IRS on a variety of projects (including contract manufacturing, changes in accounting methods, and cafeteria plans), and discussed the appropriate tax return and opinion standards for taxpayers and practitioners.
Our education programs were equally strong. From our Annual and Midyear Conferences, to our Chief Tax Officers Forum, to our week-long courses for less seasoned tax professionals, this year's programs continued TEI's tradition of excellence. Under Bob's leadership, moreover, TEI partnered in January with Thomson Reuters Tax and Accounting to offer a no-charge webconference on the MeadWestvaco case and other state and local tax developments for TEI members (and other Thomson Reuters customers). All told, more than 4,000 tax professionals were educated at these programs, and there were thousands more "clicks of the turnstile" at our chapter and regional meetings. Minute for minute and dollar for dollar, TEI programs remain the best deal on earth.
In addition, we took major strides during Bob's term to enhance member services. First, having signed a new lease on our office space in Washington, we undertook a complete renovation. (The result is spectacular and, importantly, within budget.) Second, we signed contracts to design, build, and launch a new association management system and website. And third, we significantly upgraded the professionalism of our staff by hiring both our first Director of Membership and Chapter Relations and a highly experienced bookkeeper. Members can be assured that TEI's house is in order.
Last but not least, Bob asked the Institute and its members to look at themselves in the mirror and refine our role as members of the tax community and society at large. More than once Bob challenged us to be "about more than making money and saving taxes." For example, he appointed a Special Task Force on Social Responsibility, which considered a full array of options before recommending that we significantly expand our scholarship program, implement a program of charitable giving, and both encourage and recognize volunteer works by our members and our staff. Implementation of these solid recommendations lies in front of us, but it was Bob who pointed down this important path.
TEI 2009: Making a Difference
Bob McDonough would be the first one to say that these accomplishments do not belong to him of to any single person of group of individuals. He would be right. But the tone and overall direction of an organization ate set by the person at the top. And this past year, that person was Bob McDonough. I am humbled to succeed him, and am grateful for his commitment to remain involved in Institute activity.
I am also grateful for the strong team of individuals who have pledged their efforts to help TEI continue to grow and remain relevant. If TEI is to achieve its potential, however, it's not enough for those members who have already given to give even more. Rather, we have to "enlarge the circle." We have to draw more members into our chapter leadership and into our committee work. We need to reinforce our current foundation and make it even stronger. Accordingly, TEI's overarching theme this year will be "Dare to Make a Difference--Get Involved!"
To me, the case for greater involvement is self-evident and an example of enlightened self interest: I have received much more from the organization than I have ever put in. Indeed, there is no better vehicle for professional development, no more effective way to positively affect the development of tax law and policy, no more rewarding service to the tax community, than to get involved in the Institute's educational, advocacy, and networking opportunities.
There ate a number of ways in which we hope to persuade in-house tax professionals around the world of the benefits of not only joining TEI and attending our top-notch educational programs but of stepping up their involvement in our advocacy and other activities.
Specifically, we have adopted a number of objectives, which can be grouped into the following broad categories:
* Membership and Networking: (i) explore establishing a chapter in Australia, including a possible alliance with other organizations; (ii) expand outreach to students; (iii) expand involvement of Chief Tax Officers; (iv) invigorate chapter and regional recruitment and networking efforts; (v) assist chapters in encouraging member participation; and (vi) replace the Institute's website to enhance information sharing and networking among members.
* Advocacy: (i) expand advocacy with the OECD and other international organizations; and (ii) review the advocacy mandates of all committees, especially the State and Local Tax Committee and European Direct Tax Committee, to ensure that TEI remains responsive to members needs.
* Education: (i) ensure appropriate attention is devoted to professionalism; and (ii) modify structure and content of educational programs, possibly teaming with other distance-learning providers.
* Management: (i) implement the Social Responsibility Plan adopted in April 2008; (ii) explore strategic collaboration with other providers of educational programs; and (iii) assess TEI's overall staffing needs.
None of these tasks will be easy, but neither are they insurmountable. By working together, we can both do good and do well. In the coming months, we will be fleshing out these objectives, and working hard to eliminate barriers to greater involvement by our members. In the meantime, please let me know what you think. Equally important, please share your ideas for how we can achieve the objectives and let us know if you want to help. Please write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
TEI International President