For TEI, Washington, D.C., in the springtime usually means two things: cherry blossoms and our Midyear Conference. Well, this year, Mother Nature’s timing was a bit off, and the blossoms showed up about two weeks later than usual. Regarding the second, however, we were right on time—in virtually every way. For the almost 500 tax professionals who joined us, my comments here will help refresh your memories. For those who were not able to join us, I am delighted to provide a complete—and yes, perhaps a little bit biased—report on the proceedings from the Institute’s 65th midyear gathering—president’s prerogative.
Styled as Confronting Tax Challenges Around the World, our conference was anchored by four key tax policy decision-makers who served as conference keynoters and delivered remarks about the state of tax affairs from their particular perspectives. Lily Batchelder, deputy director of the National Economic Council and deputy assistant to the president, shared the Obama administration’s perspective on the need for tax reform as a means to accelerate the current economic recovery and the need to make investments in infrastructure and education to enhance our economic future. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Centre for Tax Policy and Administration Deputy Director Grace Perez-Navarro explored a broad range of base erosion and profit shifting-related developments and the status of the aggressive timeline for completing various actions. Deputy Assistant Secretary (International Affairs) Robert Stack addressed many of the U.S. positions related to the BEPS project, including country-by-country reporting regime and interest limitations, among others. Finally, we were pleased to welcome back IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, who addressed many of the challenges confronting the IRS as it works to balance its workload and reallocate its resources, all in the face of shrinking budgets. Welcoming senior policymakers is one of the hallmarks of our Midyear Conference, a continuing testament to the importance of TEI as a key stakeholder in the business tax community.
Emerging Tax Professionals
Equally impressive was the range of plenary and breakout sessions that were offered, enabling tax professionals to obtain cutting-edge content in both their areas of expertise or responsibility as well as those of more general interest. Achieving the right balance in subjects and topics is a definite challenge, and our committee chairs and staff liaisons work hard to ensure a broad array across the entire spectrum of tax, management, and policy. We have continued to “track” our offerings so attendees can build a program customized to their particular needs.
Programming tailored specifically for our emerging tax professionals continues to be a part of our conference agenda. The speed-networking session led by Emerging Tax Professional Subcommittee co-chairs Kris Rogers and Emily Whittenburg was both animated and well-attended. Pairs of professionals took turns engaging in interactive, five-minute discussions designed to teach and model networking techniques. The feedback on their efforts has been outstanding, and both Kris and Emily will be taking their efforts on the road to promote TEI to emerging tax professionals. Their leadership and the many members who they have recruited to join them have been outstanding.
On the other end of the continuum, our chief tax officer briefing featured former Obama White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler, who discussed recent developments in the investigation and prosecution of Foreign Corrupt Practice Act cases. She was both informative and entertaining when sharing her insights. She did not, however, disclose anything about her former boss! As part of TEI’s continuing efforts to engage new members and more closely connect with our chapter leaders, special events were hosted for both constituencies.
As many of you know, TEI’s conferences (both Annual and Midyear) are the times in which the executive committee, board of directors and standing technical committees meet. These meetings, scheduled for the Sunday preceding the commencement of our conferences, allow TEI to conduct its business, including approving budgets; receiving task-force reports; and reporting on the status of a range of goals, objectives, projects, and initiatives that are ongoing throughout the year. Our standing committees also hold meetings to discuss pending projects, both education and advocacy, and review developments in their particular subject-matter areas.
This year, we were especially pleased to welcome Lionel Nobre, Dell’s tax director for Latin America to our board of directors meeting. Nobre, along with Daniel Paco (Petrobras) and others, is one of the key leaders who has spearheaded the Institute’s efforts to bring a chapter to Latin America. Lionel was able to share his insights about next steps on the ground in Latin America and how to accelerate growth in TEI’s newest chapter. For information about the chapter and Lional Nobre, check out our cover story and Member Profile in this issue.
Without a doubt, there was plenty in Washington for just about everyone. I extend my heartfelt thank you to all keynoters, panelists, moderators, and participants. Together, we delivered outstanding education and networking to you.
TEI International President