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Year of accomplishment validates founders' vision.

When I realized that the President's Corner column in the May-June issue of The Tax Executive would be the last one to carry my name, my immediate reaction was "Where did the year go? It seems just like yesterday that the Institute's 2004-2005 Chapter Presidents, Officers, Executive Committee, and staff gathered in Annapolis to set our goals for the year and to begin work on accomplishing them." I also thought that while the Institute was able to accomplish many things over the past 12 months, one thing we couldn't do was slow the hands of time. In this final column, I want to present a brief review of TEI's year, to describe the challenges ahead, and to offer my thanks and appreciation to everyone who contributed to our success.

Goals Adopted, Vision Fulfilled

Last August, TEI's Board of Directors adopted an overall theme for the year ("Be Effective, Stay Effective") and identified five general areas in which our effectiveness would be challenged and validated. The specific objectives we adopted related to TEI's principal areas of activity--education, networking, and advocacy--but also included items focused on core membership services and effective management. Upon reading this column, I trust you will agree that we truly made progress on many fronts.

Be Current, Stay Current through Quality Education Programs

For sixty years, TEI has rightly prided itself on the quality and cost effectiveness of its educational programs. Given the pace of change and the ever-expanding scope of the tax executive's role, it is more important than ever for TEI members to stay informed, and I am pleased to report that TEI stepped forward in a number of important ways. Consider the following:

* We held a two-day seminar on financial reporting developments, which drew a sell-out crowd of nearly 350. The program proved so popular--and the forthcoming exposure draft on uncertain tax positions under FAS 109 so foreboding--that we will offer the seminar again this coming September.

* At our 2004 Annual Conference, we featured a session involving the Chief Accountant of the Securities and Exchange Commission, a first for TEI. Donald Nicolaisen's remarks were both informative and provocative, and generated more questions from the floor than could be accommodated in the allotted time.

* The Annual Conference last fall merits notice for another reason--it marked the Institute's 60th anniversary. From a group of 14 New York-based tax professionals in 1944 to more than 5,800 tax executives worldwide today, TEI has grown into a truly global organization. I was especially honored that 20 of my predecessors as TEI president were able to travel to New Orleans for the conference. These women and men pursued and built upon the vision of Paul Smith and the Institute's other founders; they kept the organization relevant, focused, and member driven. That 90-year old Morris Rinehart (our 1964-1965 president) attended--and addressed the conference--was a special treat.

* We continue to attract the top names in tax policy and administration to our educational programs, including Charles Grassley, the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee; John Snow, Secretary of the Treasury; Mark Everson, Commissioner of Internal Revenue; and Don Korb, IRS Chief Counsel.

Special mention is owing the Institute's Second Annual Senior Tax Executive Conference, which was held in Colorado Springs in mid-May. This two-day program featured the best and the brightest in the tax field; from our speakers and topics to our registrants and the facilities, STE-II demonstrated that TEI is second to none in hosting high-quality, high-caliber programs. I was especially pleased that George Buckley, Chairman and CEO of Brunswick Corporation, participated in the conference. His "CEO's View of Sarbanes-Oxley" was a highlight of the conference.

I would be remiss if I did not mention another of the Institute's major undertakings this year--our Corporate Tax Department Survey. The book and CD-ROM we produced in April are a treasure trove of useful benchmarking information for tax executives. If you have not done so already, order your copy of this important publication.

Be Connected, Stay Connected ... by Enhancing Member Communications and Strengthening the Network of Tax Professionals

TEI's launch of a new website in August 2004 helped kickstart the new year. From real-time information on TEI's advocacy and educational activities to the reinvigorated discussion forums to the sites maintained by many of our local chapters to the communications functionality available to all members through the site, TEI's website team has created an Internet presence that is both welcoming and informative. We have recently upped the speed of the site, and are continually working to enhance its features and functionalities. Our goal is simple: To make an indispensable stop on all tax executives' web surfing. If you have not visited the site recently, please log on and then share your ideas for making the site even better.

Internet technology and e-mail have expanded the tax executive's network, narrowing the distance that exists among business colleagues and our fellow tax practitioners. This past year we under took to use a more established form of technology--the telephone--to enable TEI's Board of Directors to meet more frequently than our traditional three times a year (in conjunction with our conferences and our Annual Meeting of Members). Specifically, we amended the By-Laws to permit telephonic meetings of the Board, and then convened two meetings (in January and June) to "bridge the gap" between our face-to-face meetings. Based on the feedback received, these telephonic meetings will continue.

Be a Voice, Have a Voice ... through Enhanced Advocacy

In discussing TEI's advocacy activities this past year, it is difficult to know where to begin. We've had an extraordinarily busy year. From our liaison meetings in Ottawa and Washington, to our letters to members of Congress, to our European Chapter's involvement with the European Union and OECD, to our amicus briefs in state tax cases, to our comments on the American Jobs Creation Act (both before and after its enactment), TEI has striven to give voice to the real-world concerns of the business community. Given our diversity, there may be occasions which the Institute is unable to take a position, but time and time again, we have weighed in and have had a positive effect on the outcome.

Five projects deserve mention. First, TEI continues to be a leader in opposing the enactment of a provision requiring Chief Executive Officers to sign either the corporate tax return or a declaration concerning the company's return preparation process. Even if this provision is ultimately enacted, we would have contributed to the narrowing and refinement of the proposal. (The same is true with respect to our continuing opposition to the codification of the economic substance doctrine.) Second, we have worked effectively with the IRS and Treasury Departments in setting guidance priorities under the 2004 tax law. And third, we successfully advocated for an amendment to Circular 230, recognizing the unique character of in-house tax professionals and exempting them from the more onerous provisions of the IRS regulations that govern "practice before the IRS." Had the Institute's efforts not been successful, all TEI members would be faced with expensive, time-consuming, and non-value-added compliance activities.

The fourth development involved a first--TEI's first ever testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The Institute's work in support of the Barbados and Dutch tax treaties contributed to the Senate's ultimate approval of the treaties.

The "state of play" on the fifth project--corporate e-filing--is more uncertain. TEI has been in the forefront on this issue, raising practical concerns about the IRS mandate and working with both the IRS and outside vendors to identify both problems and their solutions. We also continue to press the IRS to issue early guidance on what type of hardship waivers will be granted, and remain hopeful that meaningful relief will be forthcoming.

TEI's advocacy successes were noteworthy, and I am pleased to say that our Communications Committee and staff worked diligently to share information about our activities with both members and the public. We also stepped up our efforts to encourage more members to become involved in our projects, and while we can always do more, I am gratified by the contributions made by our members and am pleased with the progress we have made.

Be Involved, Stay Involved ... by Identifying and Addressing Demographic Trends and Other Barriers to Membership Growth

TEI continued to grow during the year. Our European Chapter held its largest meeting ever in May, and I was honored to travel to Copenhagen and address the group. More fundamentally, TEI chartered its first chapter in Asia, expanding the reach of its educational, networking, and advocacy benefits around the globe. Closer to my home in Chicago, the Institute has taken steps to organize a chapter in Omaha. My congratulations to everyone who contributed to the growth of our chapters.

We also took the opportunity this year to analyze member demographic trends and are in the process of developing an action plan for improving membership growth and retention, which will be shared with our chapters and regions at the 2005 Leadership Seminar in late June.

Be Efficient, Stay Effective ... by improving Operation and Management

Our final set of objectives focused internally, on how efficiently we manage ourselves. First, we expanded and realigned our staff to address the Institute's changing needs. We added two employees to enhance our use of the Internet and technology, and also welcomed new employees to our conference planning and membership staffs. Perhaps most important, we completed the transition of our legal staff, hiring Eli Dicker as Chief Tax Counsel and naming Mary Lou Fahey our General Counsel. (Eli and Mary Lou are joined on the legal staff by Tax Counsels Jeff Rasmussen and Greg Matson.)

More generally, TEI established a formal system of performance measurement and accountability, and has begun the process of addressing the succession planning challenges faced by many small organizations. We also worked to clarify the respective roles of our volunteer leadership, for example, developing a position description for Chapter Representatives to the Institute Board of Directors, thereby enabling them to better fulfill their fiduciary duties.

Unfinished Business

While TEI accomplished a great deal during the year, much remains to be done. I wish Mike Boyle and his leadership team well as they craft the Institute's goals for the coming year, and I pledge my ongoing support.

Finally, I owe a debt of gratitude to my colleagues and staff at Brunswick Corporation for their support. I also offer thanks to all the members of the Institute who helped make this past year such a fabulous experience for me. From the committee members who worked on submissions or made presentations, to Board members who called me with their views, to our Executive Director and other members of our wonderful Institute staff, and to everyone who offered a kind word or extended courtesies to my husband Paul, my sisters Nancy and Pat, their families, and me--you have made this year both wonderful and memorable. Representing TEI before Congress; leading the Institute's delegation to liaison meetings with the IRS and Treasury Department, and their counterparts in Canada; and presiding over our conferences--all of these have been an honor I could not have anticipated when I joined the Institute. Many, many thanks to all of you for making it possible.

Judith P. Zelisko

TEI International President

With Appreciation ...

Tax Executives Institute expresses its appreciation to the following Platinum sponsors of the 55th Midyear Conference:

ADP Tax Credit Services * Baker & McKenzie * Deloitte & Touche LLP * Ernst & Young LLP * KPMG LLP * Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw LLP * McKee Nelson LLP * PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP * RIA * Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP * Taxware, L.P. * Vertex Inc.
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Author:Zelisko, Judith P.
Publication:Tax Executive
Date:May 1, 2005
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