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Progress on all three E's - engaging members, empowering members, and enhancing membership value.

When TEI's staff informed me that this column would be my final one as TEI President, my first reaction was to look at the calendar. Wasn't i it just yesterday, I thought, that I was working on my first column, outlining the Institute's goals and objectives for the coming year and gearing up for an eventful and fulfilling year? No, it wasn't just yesterday; it was nearly a year ago. Hence, this column properly becomes the one in which I look back and review the progress the Institute has made on the objectives that the Board of Directors approved last August.

Reminiscing, of course, is something that comes with the time of year. Graduations and commencements are typically a time to look both forward and backward, and the 60th anniversary of D-Day and the recent death of Ronald Reagan prompted a flood of memories across the nation and the world. TEI was founded six decades ago, a little more than two months after the Normandy Invasion. Forty-two years later, in 1986 and in the midst of the Reagan Presidency, I joined the Institute's Santa Clara Valley Chapter. At the time, one of the hallmarks of the Reagan years--the Tax Reform Act--was wending its way through Congress. Among the first projects to command my attention was the International Tax Committee's pre-regulation comments on the legislation's behemoth international tax provisions. Many of those provisions continue to haunt tax executives, and while some progress has been made to "reform the reforms" in the ensuing 18 years, much remains to be done. Indeed, many of the recommendations set forth in TEI's submissions on the pending FSC/ETI repeal bill are the legacy of the work done in 1986, first to identify potential problems with the legislation and then to temper and ameliorate their harsh effects.

Communication and Member Service as TEI's Overarching Goals

It is not only Ronald Reagan's tax reform efforts, however, that spurred my memories as I take stock of TEI's accomplishments. It is also his unparalleled abilities as "the Great Communicator." Communication, of course, is the key to success in any field, and that is why effective communication was one of the Institute's two overarching goals this past year. Specifically, TEI undertook to promote our advocacy, networking, and educational accomplishments more effectively and to strengthen our unwavering commitment to high professional standards. Our other general goal was improved member service--to equip TEI's members with the information and tools they need to be effective and to advance good tax policy and administration.

To advance the twin themes of communication and member service, the Institute established three working groups to bring focus to our activities. I am gratified by the work of each of the groups.

Engaging Members

The principal focus of the Engaging Members Working Group was getting members involved in the Institute's activities, and its mantra was, in effect, the more members, the better. Led by Bob McDonough of the New England Chapter, the group aimed its efforts at expanding and enhancing the diversity of the Institute's membership in all respects. Specific activities included the following:

* Solidifying the link between TEI and its members, and between the chapters and the regions. While we can always do more, we made clear progress on this objective, for example, by sending monthly "blast emails" to the membership and periodic advocacy alerts to chapter leaders.

* Expanding the membership, especially in Asia and other underserved areas. Five years ago, TEI expanded beyond North America by chartering a chapter in Europe. With that chapter approaching the 200 member mark, the Institute has turned its attention to Asia, where an energetic group of members and potential members will likely move toward requesting a charter later this year. Building upon on our success, I think it is quite possible that, within a few years, we will have additional chapters in Europe, Asia, and Latin America.

* Holding a conference targeted at the needs of senior tax executives. This program, which was held in Scottsdale in May, was an undeniable success. Not only was the program oversubscribed, but the evaluations were uniformly positive. Consideration is now being given to repeating the STE conference within the next year or so.

* Aiding members in transition. While the economic trends appear good, one of the consequences of the recent recession was an increase in the number of unemployed or underemployed members. To address the situation, TEI extended the period during which unemployed members remain eligible to participate in Institute program and also implemented a new fee schedule that permitted members in transition to attend Institute conferences at a significant discount. In addition, many chapters voted to waive or reduce fees for unemployed members.

Empowering Members

The second working group, quite ably chaired by Bill Sample of the Seattle Chapter, was dedicated to expanding the scope and effectiveness of TEI's advocacy and networking activities, as well as to drawing more members into our advocacy efforts. An important step in this process was the development of a "How To" advocacy guide, which would not only share recent advocacy successes with the membership at large, but also underscore just how easy--and measured--becoming involved could be. The How To guide was distributed to all members last fall, and a special session on advocacy was held at the Midyear Conference.

While the working group was focused on process issues--as well as with assessing whether TEI's current policies and procedures might be productively revised or refined--the Institute's committees continued their outstanding work on particular projects. I am particularly pleased with TEI's responsiveness--indeed, leadership--on the new Schedule M-3, the section 482 services regulations, LMSB's "breakthrough" initiative (including the proposed 20-day IDR requirement), and the OECD's initiative to clarify the permanent establishment rules. Special mention should also be made of TEI's ongoing efforts in respect of pending tax bill, the Institute's first-ever amicus brief in a Canadian court case, and our challenge to the Multistate Tax Commission on its so-called tax sheltering study. Finally, our Ottawa and Washington liaison meetings provided members with the opportunity to raise real-world issues in a timely, constructive manner.

Enhancing Membership Value

The third working group--devoted to enhancing membership value--had an incredibly broad scope. For example, the working group was charged with overseeing the development of TEI's new website (including satellite sites for each chapter), which will be launched in later this summer. The group also worked closely with TEI's Corporate Tax Management Committee in developing a tax department survey, which will soon be distributed to the membership and which (when completed) will provide valuable benchmarking data for all tax executives.

Several initiatives of the working group related to TEI's educational efforts--fine-tuning our industry sessions, expanding our distance-learning programs, and doing more at our conferences to make new members feel welcome. My thanks to Vince Alicandri of the Toronto Chapter and his colleagues for all their efforts.

Concluding Thoughts

That TEI has been able to make progress on its goals and objectives during the past year--that we enhanced both member service and the quality and effectiveness of our communications--is a tribute to the unstinting efforts of many people. From our chapter presidents and committee chairs to our officers and our staff, TEI has a qualified group of people dedicated to advancing the organization's goals. I owe special thanks to the Executive Committee, whose dedication, intelligence, and vision--to say nothing of their stamina--are amazing. My thanks are also due to the many members who selflessly shared their ideas, their insights, and their time with me and the Institute, and who extended personal courtesies too numerous to recount.

What did I learn during my year as TEI President? Something very simple ... that by sharing information, tax executives can become empowered to advance their common goals, and at a personal level, that the more you give, the more you get back. For six decades, TEI has answered that call to duty, for the benefit not only of its members, but for the tax system as a whole. With the breadth, depth, and diversity of our membership, I believe our potential is virtually endless. Indeed, with Judy Zelisko and the team she had assembled, I have every confidence that the Institute will continue to advance.

Acknowledgment

Tax Executives Institute expresses its appreciation to the following firms that were Platinum sponsors of the 2004 Midyear Conference:

Baker & McKenzie

Deloitte & Touche LLP

Ernst & Young LLP

KPMG LLP

Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw LLP

McKee Nelson LLP

PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP

RIA

Raymond G. Rossi

International President
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Author:Rossi, Raymond G.
Publication:Tax Executive
Article Type:President's Page
Date:May 1, 2004
Words:1410
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