When Paul Smith and his colleagues founded Tax Executives Institute (TEI) in 1944, the global economic landscape was almost exclusively on a war footing, with industrial productivity (in the United States and elsewhere) focused on supporting the Allied war effort. Smith’s vision for an organization dedicated to supporting industry tax professionals (in-house tax professionals in today’s parlance) foretold the eventual conclusion of global hostilities and a return to economic activity and growth focused on commercial, industrial, and consumer enterprises.
As the U.S. economy grew, so too did TEI, with chapters established throughout the United States. In the early 1970s, TEI established its global presence by setting up chapters in several key cities in Canada. Toward the end of the century, TEI further expanded its global footprint to Europe (later extended to the Middle East and Africa) and, ultimately, to Asia in 2005 and Latin America in 2015. This growth reflected the continuing vitality of Smith’s vision that TEI should serve members of the in-house tax community wherever they may be located.
Yet the growing complexity of the business tax landscape, coupled with the shifting responsibilities of in-house tax professionals, demanded a reassessment of TEI’s membership structure. Attracting future generations of in-house tax professionals could no longer start when individuals reached the threshold for TEI membership (i.e., five years of management experience). Rather, TEI had to create membership opportunities for prospective tax professionals who, at the very earliest stages of their training and careers, could experience TEI directly and learn about the in-house tax profession as a potential career path.
Tasked with this challenge, TEI’s Membership Expansion Task Force, under the leadership of Colleen Brown (Salt Lake City Chapter), set out to craft new categories of membership that were consistent with Smith’s vision yet reflected the new and changing business tax landscape. Their efforts resulted in the creation of two new membership categories, students and associates, effective September 1, 2019.
Full-time students can now join TEI for a nominal fee and immediately experience TEI by interacting with in-house tax professionals and by building relationships with TEI’s diverse membership. In addition, they can gain insight into career trajectories and advantages helpful to landing a first job and build confidence from knowing TEI is there for them while they grow personally and professionally. Recently, TEI staff members participated in career-outreach programs in Atlanta and Montreal, to very positive reviews. And, with active relationships with over 100 academic institutions worldwide, including accounting, business, and law programs, a network already exists to accelerate these outreach efforts.
In short, we now have something specific to offer students considering a career in tax, accounting, or business. We have created a means by which students can experience TEI at the earliest point in their careers. How chapters will embrace their student members is still very much an evolving process. But I expect chapters will place significant emphasis on opportunities for students to meet and network with current in-house tax professionals. By making student members feel immediately connected and welcomed, we hope to make a strong and favorable impression on them. Invitations to chapter meetings, buddy systems, and individual recognition at chapter programs and on chapter websites are just a few possible approaches. I am confident that as the population of TEI student members grows, we will be prepared to embrace them.
Associates are TEI members who already have a career in tax but have yet to reach the five-years’ experience requirement necessary for full membership. Much like full members, associate members can attend TEI’s more than 600 yearly educational programs, benefit from networking opportunities for career growth and knowledge sharing, and access Tax Executive magazine. In addition, TEI Connect, discounts to Thomson Reuters and Carswell tax and accounting products, and member rates for TEI events and content are also available to them.
By offering value to both aspiring and rising in-house tax professionals, we carry forward the Institute’s historical mission to serve the community of in-house tax professionals—now and into the future.
TEI International President