Springtime in Washington means cherry blossoms, federal budget proposals, debt ceiling debates, and a host of other seasonal events. In the TEI world, we count our Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Treasury liaison meetings and our Midyear Conference as falling into this “seasonal” bucket. These events, to gather and exchange views on issues of mutual interest, get us up to speed on the latest technical, policy, and management developments, and establish and renew acquaintances, become that much more important in a presidential election and transition year.
Let me explain.
Because presidential elections are always about change, with new parties and leaders accompanied by changing agendas and shifting priorities, TEI’s “seasonals” ensure that we keep our places at the policy table, staying current not only about who’s who and who’s new, but also about what’s what.
IRS and Treasury Meetings
In late February, I was delighted to lead this year’s delegation to our IRS and Treasury meetings. These discussions are a prime example of ensuring continuity through engagement. Although the senior ranks of the Treasury’s Office of Tax Policy had yet to be filled, our meetings included a series of issue-based discussions regarding technical, policy, and administrative challenges of particular interest to our membership that will likely animate the tax reform debate in the months ahead.
Although these discussions yielded few concrete answers, they underscored just how important the perspective of in-house tax professionals can be in placing into practical context the impact specific proposals may have on various industries. Of particular interest to our Treasury counterparts were the administrative and compliance implications, not to mention the financial statement impacts, which are dimensions of tax policy debates that often do not receive adequate consideration while legislation is being formulated. We expect follow-up discussions to take place as proposals take shape, enabling TEI to comment on the compliance and administrative aspects of these proposals. Our dialogues with the IRS were equally constructive, with an agenda focused on LB&I developments and campaign rollout, among other issues. The IRS commissioner led a delegation that included Acting Chief Counsel William Paul, LB&I Commissioner Doug O’Donnell, Deputy Commissioner Rose Sereti, Assistant Deputy Commissioner Ted Setzer, and Chief of Appeals Donna Hansberry, among others.
Thank you to TEI’s delegation of EC members, committee chairs, and task force leads for coming to D.C. and participating in these important discussions. I do apologize that the “Cash Room” was in use during our Treasury meetings. Perhaps next time!
As of this writing, we have closed the books on another TEI seasonal, our Sixty-Seventh Midyear Conference. The conference, themed “Tax Policy and Reform: Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed,” brought together practitioners and policymakers to examine tax reform proposals from state, federal, and international points of view. I was delighted to welcome over 550 attendees to the Grand Hyatt to participate in a wide range of technical tax, policy, technology, and management sessions. We were especially pleased to welcome former Assistant Treasury Secretary (Tax Policy) Mark Mazur, former Deputy Assistant Secretary (International Tax Affairs) Robert Stack, International Tax Counsel Danielle Rolfes, and Commissioner of Internal Revenue John Koskinen, as well as senior state tax officials from Massachusetts, Texas, and Illinois to share their views and insights about what may lie ahead in the tax world.
In what I hope becomes another TEI seasonal, I am delighted to report that a TEI delegation recently concluded its first liaison meeting with representatives of the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) in Norwalk, Connecticut. TEI’s delegation comprised Robert Howren, TEI senior vice president; Katrina Welch, TEI treasurer; Eric Johnson, chair, TEI Financial Reporting Committee; Stephen Dunphy; Don Rath; and Dave Stevens. The FASB delegation was led by Jim Kroeker, vice chair of the board, and included Christine Botosan, board member; Harold Monk, board member; Sue Cosper, technical director; Cullen Walsh, assistant director; Nick Cappiello, supervising project manager; and Jennifer Wyss, supervising project manager, among others. The meeting agenda focused on the FASB’s current exposure draft on income tax disclosures, as well as the FASB’s recent efforts to simplify and improve the clarity of tax matters in financial statements.
TEI’s advocacy efforts in the financial reporting and compliance space arose in response to the growing importance that financial reporting matters play in the operation of the in-house tax department. Our education and advocacy efforts, initially driven by TEI’s financial reporting task force, are now fully supported by a permanent standing committee. Over time, we have welcomed senior FASB members and staff to address our conferences and seminars. Now, I am pleased that our advocacy efforts have reached the liaison level. I applaud our Financial Reporting Committee for their work and congratulate them on this important milestone.
Finally, on behalf of TEI, I would like to wish John Schoenecker, TEI tax counsel, the best of luck in his new role on the House Ways and Means Committee staff. John joined TEI in August 2015 from the Department of Justice (Tax Division) and took up the Federal Tax and Canadian Income Tax liaison portfolios. His contributions were immediate, helping to shepherd the Institute’s Section 385 comments as well as to develop TEI’s tax reform advocacy strategy. The Hill is definitely getting a good one!
TEI International President