March Madness puts most of us in mind of the NCAA basketball tournament. But Washington offers March madness of a wholly different sort, one that stretches the bounds of unpredictability far beyond the usual debt ceiling dance or legislative cliffhangers. “Fake news” and “hyperbolic opinion” have become the new normal. In all candor, I really miss plain ol’ Washington unpredictability, like divining when the cherry blossoms will be at peak bloom.
Yet, while Washington reaches new highs (or is it new lows?) of unpredictability, TEI remains a rock of stability for its members. Put differently, if it’s March in Washington, it must be Midyear Conference time—this year, our sixty-eighth consecutive gathering. We are delighted again to offer a rich blend of technical, policy, management, and technology-related content presented by a best-in-class faculty. This year, as a result of the recent enactment of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, a dedicated tax reform track has been added to the program to enable attendees to explore virtually every dimension of this new, complex, and oh-so-challenging piece of legislation. Specifically, attendees can participate in tax reform–specific content in the following areas:
- transition tax;
- Subpart F and foreign tax credit planning;
- IP planning;
- income tax accounting;
- financial reporting effects;
- state and local tax implications;
- transaction tax considerations;
- interest expense limitation;
- choice of entity/entity characterization;
- anti-base-erosion rules;
- international supply chain management; and
- employee benefits.
In addition to the technical discussions, our program will explore how the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act came to be; the prospects for future tax legislation, e.g., technical corrections and tax extenders; and the financial statement, reporting, and compliance implications arising from this new legislation. I urge you to take maximum advantage to engage with and challenge our cadre of instructors with your questions and observations. They are excited to be on our agenda and look forward to meeting you.
In the spirit of this year’s theme, “Getting Connected, Staying Engaged, & Having Fun,” we are thrilled to welcome back the political satirists the Capitol Steps to our Midyear Conference. With all the madness going on in D.C., I am confident there will be no shortage of material to keep you laughing.
I also want to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of TEI’s tax reform task force, including members and leaders present and past, for sustaining interest and engagement in an important but elusive subject. Easily, for the past decade and maybe more, TEI’s tax reform task force has weathered numerous false starts and half-starts in tax reform, blue ribbon reports, and commission studies. “Is this the year?” our task force chairs would ask optimistically (OK, plaintively and perhaps somewhat cynically), in the hope that TEI would be able to meaningfully engage in this important debate.
Now, finally, major tax legislation has come (though whether it is actually “tax reform” is debatable), and TEI’s task force has engaged. Under the stewardship of John Mann, the task force has kept members apprised of legislative developments, creating separate industry-based working groups to focus attention and to develop materials for future use. Regrettably, the compressed legislative timeline precluded a detailed examination of the bill’s provisions prior to its enactment.
With the new law on the books, our task force has shifted its focus to identify statutory gaps and ambiguities that can be corrected or at least mitigated through the regulatory guidance process. The task force’s work helped frame the agendas for our recent liaison meetings with the Internal Revenue Service and Treasury and will continue to do so. And, the seventy-plus grants of regulatory authority contained in the new tax law present opportunities for TEI to have its voice heard. In addition, we hope to have opportunities to engage with the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation to help inform the development of the legislative Bluebook. I urge you to reach out to John Mann or to Watson McLeish, the task force’s staff liaison, to share your thoughts and concerns. I know they would be pleased to hear from you.
Finally, we look forward to continuing to develop our liaison relationship with the Financial Accounting Standards Board and expect to schedule our annual meeting with it for April. In that regard, a special shout-out to TEI’s financial reporting committee and chair Stephen Dunphy (Silicon Valley Chapter) for successfully advocating for proper ASC 740 treatment for the new base erosion and anti-abuse tax (BEAT). For TEI to assemble a working group, develop a comprehensive position, and then effectively advocate that position before the FASB, all under severe time constraints, is emblematic of TEI at its best!
I look forward to seeing everyone in Washington.
Robert L. Howren
TEI International President