Elevating Our Profile, Communicating Our Value

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For many or perhaps even most of TEI’s membership, the legislative process that resulted in the Tax Reform Act of 1986 (TRA ’86) is a distant memory. Indeed, by the time I first became a head of global tax (it seems like yesterday, but it very much isn’t), the provisions of TRA ’86 were, by and large, fairly well understood and its regulatory framework established.

Fast-forward a generation.

Less than a year ago, with little debate, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA) was enacted, upending decades of settled expectations about how our tax code operates and thrusting large segments of every corner of the tax community into heightened states of uncertainty. For me personally, no longer could I head into a business meeting with reasonable certitude about how the tax issues on that day’s business agenda would likely be resolved. Settled principles were gone, replaced by new taxing regimes and unfamiliar terms and concepts, all without the benefit of a coherent public record about how everything was supposed to hang together. Subpart F has now become Darth Vader in the final scene of Return of the Jedi.

In one sense, this reality presents an enormous challenge to the in-house tax community, because we are responsible for formulating the tax positions of the companies we serve, documenting them, and reporting them in our financial statements, and, ultimately, on our tax returns. Yet, viewed differently, the era of the TCJA and beyond presents all of us with the opportunity to help shape the infrastructure for the new law and to guide and inform policymakers and regulators about how best to implement these new provisions, in ways that remain true to the spirit of the statute but without unduly encumbering tax compliance and administration.

In that spirit, I have cast my 2018–2019 presidential year as a challenge for TEI to “Elevate Our Profile and Communicate Our Value.” For us at TEI, this oh-so-complex environment presents an enormous and perhaps unparalleled opportunity to translate our collective experience and practical insight into discussion and advocacy with tax regulators, legislators, policymakers, and staff.

My goals, in one way or another (found at www.tei.org), flow from the premise that by elevating TEI’s profile in the tax marketplace, sharing our knowledge with policymakers, and communicating the value of TEI to the C suite, our ranks will grow, our prominence will be enhanced, and our future will be further secured.

Expanding our membership base is fundamental to TEI and its future. Our “Access Granted” campaign, now entering its third year, has already added more than 1,600 new members to our ranks. As important, members who signed up during the first year of the campaign are returning at a rate of well over ninety percent. Our efforts to grow TEI’s base will include expanding our social media presence as well as targeting un- or underrepresented companies. In addition, we will explore the feasibility of a new junior membership, designed in a way that recognizes that the demographics of the in-house community have changed over the years, but without breaking faith with the core five-year experience and management responsibility thresholds.

In a similar vein, we will explore ways to more affirmatively support our members in transition, including members who are currently employed but are looking to change as well as those who are on the sideline and are looking to reenter the workforce. A key component of this effort will focus on our newly created TEI Career Center as well as on the extensive network of academic and firm relationships TEI possesses.

TEI’s educational program will be enhanced and expanded in the coming year, in recognition of the challenges presented by the TCJA to understand and apply its provisions across all disciplines. TCJA-related content will be delivered at every TEI school, seminar, and conference we offer. In addition, we have added two new seminars focusing on “Using Pass-throughs After Tax Reform” and “Tax and Tax Technology.” The latter underscores the growing importance of technology tools to the in-house professional (both the tax professional and the tax technologist), regardless of the size of the tax department where he or she serves. A complete 2018–2019 educational calendar can be located at www.tei.org.

TEI’s advocacy efforts will remain front and center in the coming year, with regular liaison meetings expected with the IRS commissioner, IRS chief counsel, Office of Tax Policy, Canada Revenue Agency, Canada Department of Finance, and the Financial Accounting Standards Board. As important, I expect TEI to produce an array of TCJA-related submissions that will touch on many areas of technical tax. To that end, I strongly urge you to connect with any member of the Institute’s legal staff to share your insights on the technical submission(s) that most interest you. Translating your insights and perspectives into effective advocacy has, over the years, enabled TEI to earn and retain a seat at the tax policy table.

We will continue to embed diversity and inclusion elements at the Institute, region, and chapter levels, utilizing our education, publishing, and technology platforms to do so. Bringing your best self to work is a continuing mission for TEI around the world. And, finally, we will assess and develop recommendations for enhancing TEI’s financial strength by exploring ways to further expand and solidify our resource base.

How should you contribute toward achieving our 2018–2019 goals? Select a goal that appeals to you and then connect with either the staff or executive committee liaison assigned. Raise your hand and commit the amount of time you are comfortable with. Every hour counts. The complete list of 2018–2019 goals can be found at www.tei.org.

I am honored to serve as TEI president and look forward to continuing the strong traditions of education, networking, and advocacy that have enabled TEI to achieve and sustain its position as the preeminent association of in-house tax professionals worldwide.






James Silvestri
TEI International President

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