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TEI member survey finds high level of satisfaction but highlights areas for improvement.

A survey of Tax Executives Institute's membership reveals that on the whole TEI members are satisfied with the Institute's activities in three major areas: educational programs, technical activities, and networking activities. Responding members also suggested that there are a number of areas in which the Institute can enhance its effectiveness. Approximately 1,300 of the Institute's 4,500 active members responded to the survey, which was sent to the membership on September 22, 1992. Twenty-six percent of the respondents included written comments on subjects ranging from the Institute's policy on reserved tables at Annual and Midyear Conferences to the desire for TEI to increase its involvement in state and local tax activities.


The tabular results from the survey are set forth in the accompanying tables. Respondents were asked to evaluate, on a scale of 1 to 5, whether TEI's membership dues are a bargain or expensive for value received. Of those responding, 64 percent said the Institute's dues are a bargain or somewhat a bargain for value received; another 30 percent were neutral (choosing answer 3); and 5 percent responded that dues were somewhat expensive for value received. None of the respondents chose answer 5--that dues were expensive for value received.

With respect to TEI's educational activities, 85 percent of the respondents said the Institute performs "very well" or "well." Eleven percent said the Institute performed at a satisfactory level, whereas 2.4 percent said TEI did somewhat poorly or poorly. The Institute's technical and liaison activities received similar ratings: 78 percent gave the Institute ratings of 1 or 2 (on a scale of 5), 20 percent rated those activities "satisfactory," and two percent gave the Institute's technical activities either a 4 or 5 rating ("somewhat poorly" or "poorly"). With respect to networking opportunities, 68 percent of the responding members said TEI performed "very well" or "well," 24 percent said TEI did a satisfactory job, and 6 percent gave the Institute either a 4 or 5 rating.

The survey also asked respondents for their views on how important certain TEI activities or benefits are-- from technical submissions and liaison meetings, to educational programs (at the chapter, regional, or national level), to publications, and networking opportunities. The last activity (networking opportunities) received the highest rating--61 percent said such opportunities were very important or somewhat important. In contrast, the largest "not very important" or "not important at all" responses were received by the Institute's Midyear, Annual, and Regional Conferences.

Comments Are Plentiful and Diverse

Twenty-six percent of the responding TEI members included written comments in the survey. The comments touched on all aspects of the Institute and reflected the diversity of the Institute's membership and what its members look for in their professional association. According to TEI Executive Director Mike Murphy, "the positive comments far outnumbered the negative ones, but that does not mean they will be ignored. We are going to review all aspects of the Institute's operations in light of the comments." Reprinted below are a cross-section of the comments.

Institute-Level Educational Programs

* The conferences are the best bargain in continuing education. I have yet to come away from a conference without at least several pieces of information that when implemented, pay for my trip to the conference ....

* Conference technical sessions are often much too technically detailed since the conference draws mostly the senior tax officials of companies, who are generally not the hands-on in detail technical "gurus." I believe the conference technical sessions should be more "overview" or macro in nature....

* We tend to rely too much in our programs on "Washington Experts" when we should be also balancing the programs with our own experts.

* Too much is crammed on Sundays at Midyear and Annual. Just make it Monday to Thursday or Friday. The week is shot anyway.

* Seminars & conferences are usually very well done--likewise for the courses; the timing of the courses and seminars/conferences poses a problem at times because of fiscal year and return preparation conflicts; but I realize scheduling must be done to accommodate the masses. Keep up the good work.

* As a Christian, I am very frustrated that some of the best sessions take place on Sunday morning of the Midyear and Annual Conferences. I don't believe the organization should force me to decide between church and valuable professional input. I would request that all official TEI functions take place after Sunday.

* My own experience with TEI's educational programs has been very positive. However, the annual conference seems to have become "vacation/ resort" oriented making it a hard sell in today's economy. The very mention of Hawaii as a location for example, makes the trip an impossibility, whatever the means.

* You may want to consider some more attractive locations for your seminars... .

* Seminars would be more valuable if they were more subject specific and shorter in length.

* For the limited opportunities that my company will allow me to pursue in meetings and seminars, I personally am not getting a lot of bang for the buck. TEI provides the opportunities; I just cannot take advantage of them. I mention this cost issue just to make you aware that the cost issue is severely important. As an example, our tax library budget was slashed by 60% two years ago. I would think that seminars and education would become an essential part of replacement .... Perhaps TEI could offer the same seminars (international tax, emerging tax issues, etc.) on a regional basis at 4 or 5 locations over a short time frame.

* Re: Annual Conference: I'm very disappointed with the current method of assigning banquet tables ....

* The last financial statement indicated that TEI makes money on Educational programs, almost 100% profit. If the cost were reduced, could we not attract more participants without jeopardizing the financial stability of the organization?

Canadian Activities

* There should be more Canadian programs and technical sessions. Maybe there should be someone ... [who] devotes their time to Canadian tax issues.

* In view of the modest turnout at the Midyear and Annual Conferences at the Canadian sessions, serious consideration should be given to concentrating Canadian content at one of the two sessions--presumably the Annual, since the Midyear draws an audience specifically interested in U.S. matters.

* Overall, I think the Institute does an excellent job of representing the views of the tax executive to the IRS, Revenue Canada and the various legislative bodies in the U.S. and Canada.

Technical and Liaison Activities

* The increase in position papers enhances the stature of the organization.

* Recently TEl appears to have gotten too "cozy" with the IRS--you need to call their hand more often on key administrative issues concerning their CEP, e.g., their extensive use of counsel in the audit function is slowing the process down considerably and their use of the so-called unofficial technical "assistance" procedures is making a mockery of the official technical "advice" procedures.

* The single most important asset of TEI that has occurred in my 23 years has been the dramatic upgrading of professionalism at the TEI staff level and even in the officers/directors positions. Although the social/networking opportunities are as good today as in the past, the quality staff work has improved dramatically. There is no doubt about the productive nature of the organization today compared to 15-20 years ago. Keep up the good work.

* Results of liaison meetings with IRS officials have remained poor over the years. Promises by IRS to communicate policy statements to field agents with view to improving tax administration and lead to better cooperation with taxpayer (and tax departments) remain just that--promises- TEl should place much greater emphasis on tax administration--which should be TEI's primary reason for existing (raison d'etre)--by making concrete, practical, and sensible proposals at IRS liaison meetings and monitoring very closely the implementation of the proposals accepted by the IRS.

* I'm disturbed by a recent trend. I notice that TEl has been discriminating in favor of its CEP/large case members on lobbying the IRS for administrative change. For example, TEI's successful attempt to get the IRS to grant automatic 60 day extensions to file written petitions was only requested for CEP taxpayers. Why was this? I suspect this relates to the make up of those individuals serving on the Institute level. However, this cannot be in TEI's best interest in the long run.

* TEI's submissions and liaison meetings are almost always of very high quality. However, they are not as effective in producing beneficial change. Much more effective follow-up by TEI is needed with the House, Senate, IRS, and Treasury.

* It would be helpful to have more advanced notification of technical submissions and the ability to influence the submission.


* The Tax Executive is too much of an internal publication, about what is happening at chapters. I would like to see more technical articles.

* The technical articles that have appeared in The Tax Executive have been first rate during the last 3-5 years. The quality rivals the Journal of Taxation.

* I am somewhat isolated now that I'm in Wichita so local activities are no longer available. However, The Tax Executive is helpful, particularly responses to proposed regulations.

* The Tax Executive is the publication I read the least of all the publications I receive. It usually is full of position papers and rarely has any information that is useful in my tax practice.

General Comments

* TEI is the most well run, best organized, maintains the highest profile, and commands the highest respect from/of Tax Administrators of any tax organization of which I am familiar.

* The people who run the national organization get caught up in their own importance and forget about us at the chapter level. The chapter runs just fine without national interference, but perhaps better communication between the chapter and national would be appropriate. Remember also that most of us have demanding jobs and families so that time to devote to TEI is limited.

* TEI's greatest assets are its members. TEI has provided wonderful networking opportunities with tax peers at both the local chapter and the national levels. The national conferences usually provide a timely mixture of hot topics, government administrators and quality industry sessions. The liaison meetings (national and chapter) are a vital link with tax administrators. TEI's strong education and networking capabilities has maintained its strong reputation with tax administrators and consulting firms. The National TEl staff are professional and easy to work with. How do you improve? ... Maintaining such high standards is not an easy task, but I am confident that TEI will.

* I was out of work for over a year. TEl National was of no help in my search. TEl local was very supportive. I'm not sure what to do, but TEI National should help out of work tax executives.

* At various times the TEl staff seems to forget that they work for the members. Letters aren't answered, phone calls not returned, etc. If I get this impression as a fairly active member, what happens to the member who only calls once or twice?

* I feel the organization provides an invaluable service to its members. The only suggestion would be to have the local chapters provide more information to members as to how they can get involved at the national level.

* I would like to see National develop programs which could be used by a number of chapters. This could be done in conjunction with one of the Big 6 firms. Three quality programs a year on timely topics will really improve the offerings at the local level.

* I find TEI to be a valuable part of my professional activities. I also enjoy it very much. I wish I had more time and the budget to participate more than I do currently. I find this to be a theme with many other professionals. Anything TEl can do to raise its visibility with upper management to show that participation is valuable to both the company and the individual participant would help us all out.

* TEI is doing a poor job of assisting its members with using technology to improve and enhance its members.

Institute Action Plan

In releasing the survey results, TEl President Bob Perlman expressed general satisfaction. "I think the results confirm that the Institute is on the right track. At the same time, this is certainly no time to rest on our laurels. To serve our members, we must do a better job of communicating what we do, why we do it, and how they can help."

He added that he was gratified that' a quarter of the respondents supplemented their responses with written comments. "Obviously, we are not happy about the criticisms, and I want to assure the membership that each one will be looked at carefully."

Executive Director Murphy added that he would pay particular attention to the comments--both good and bad-- about the Institute's management and staff. "If you don't listen, you won't learn. We want to learn, and improve," he said.

Both Messrs. Perlman and Murphy said their favorite response came from the member who wrote: "P.S. My TEl membership has given me benefit that will last for the rest of my life. Should I capitalize my dues for tax purposes under INDOPCO?" (Mr. Perlman quipped that the Institute would not be seeking a private letter ruling on the issue.)

Mr. Perlman was somewhat philosophical in discussing the broad range of comments. "They confirm that you can't be all things to all people. Some members want us to hold our meetings at airport hotels; others want to be downtown. Some want us to offer hyper-technical presentations; some want general overviews. Some think we are too cozy with the IRS; many say 'keep up the good work.' I think the key is to strike a balance."

Mr. Perlman promised, however, that "striking a balance" does not mean doing the "same old thing." "We can't simply dismiss the complaints as grousing; they need to be carefully considered." He then explained that in consultation with Ralph Weiland, 19931994 President-nominee, he had appointed a task force to review all the responses and to develop a series of recommendations for consideration by the Institute's Board of Directors.

Mr. Perlman concluded by pointing out that 14.5 percent of the respondents said they wanted to become more involved at the Institute level. "We are going to take them at their word," Mr. Perlman said. "We have already followed up with those members, inviting them to join our committees or otherwise to begin participating in our technical activities."
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Title Annotation:Tax Executives Institute
Publication:Tax Executive
Date:May 1, 1993
Previous Article:Corporate Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT), vols. 1-2.
Next Article:TEI-IRS interview on Voluntary Compliance Resolution Program.

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