A great teacher can often make an epic difference in your life. Just ask Walter Doggett, the executive tax director of E*Trade Financial Corporation and incoming TEI international secretary.
While attending the University of Virginia, Doggett took elective tax courses from David LaRue, an experience that greatly influenced his future career path. “He was an extraordinary professor, and his classes inspired me to pursue a career in the field of taxation. This is a great example of the profound impact a college professor can have on the lives of their students,” Doggett says.
Doggett has spent most of his career in the banking industry, and the experience has been an education unto itself. “During the last twenty-four years, I have served as the head of tax at four publicly traded banks,” he says. “Unfortunately, all four of those financial institutions have been acquired by large financial institutions. This has taught me a very valuable lesson about the importance of keeping my skills current. When you work for a publicly traded company, you never know when you may be forced to look for a new position due to an acquisition.”
The E*Trade Experience
Doggett says there’s a strong culture of teamwork at E*Trade. “We work in a cross-functional environment with close interaction between many departments,” he explains. “E*Trade is a customer-focused company. The company is always focused on providing the best possible trading and banking experience for our retail customers. E*Trade also has an entrepreneurial spirit, with many new product offerings.”
What’s the most interesting tax issue he’s worked on at E*Trade? “The company had a significant tax reserve related to a complicated debt/equity refinancing issue dating back to the financial crisis of 2009,” he says. “E*Trade was selected for an IRS audit, and the examiner immediately focused on this key issue. Two years later, we were able to obtain a no-change letter coupled with a closing agreement which allowed us to fully release the tax reserve. Having the opportunity to work this issue through the various levels of the IRS hierarchy was a great learning experience.”
The TEI Experience
Doggett is very bullish on the value of TEI: “It is truly the premier organization for corporate tax professionals in the world. I have greatly benefited from many excellent educational offerings at the national, regional, and chapter levels. The networking opportunities have also been invaluable. Some of my best friends are acquaintances from TEI. It has also been exciting to participate in several important advocacy efforts. It is amazing to see the influence TEI can have on proposed legislation and pending judicial cases.”
As the incoming TEI secretary, Doggett’s perspective on the Institute’s future is hugely important. Here are his visions:
- Focus on the needs of TEI members. Develop and implement new programs to serve the changing needs of members.
- Build and grow a more diverse membership base. Leverage the TEI brand to identify and engage a more diverse group of tax professionals.
- Deliver best-in-class educational programs. Continue being a training leader through innovative and diverse offerings.
- Strengthen TEI’s advocacy programs. Continue to engage with policymakers at all levels to remain a trusted tax advisor.
- Focus on financial viability. Expand and cultivate TEI’s base of sponsors by demonstrating the Institute’s strong value proposition.
“I view my greatest accomplishment as building and leading great teams of corporate tax professionals,” he says. “I have been fortunate to lead very accomplished tax departments at E*Trade, Wilmington Trust, Chevy Chase Bank, and Riggs Bank. The single biggest way to impact an organization is to focus on leadership development. There is almost no limit to the potential of an organization that recruits good people and continuously develops them.”
When not immersed in tax issues, Doggett often turns his attention to sports: “I am a huge sports fan. My biggest passion is college football. I have held UVa. season tickets since the 1993 season. My wife and I attend nearly every home game. I also have season tickets to the Baltimore Ravens and partial season tickets to the Baltimore Orioles. My wife and I are also big theater fans. We subscribe to three local theaters within the Baltimore/Washington area.”
Let’s go back to teachers for a second. For the last thirteen years, Doggett has served as a part-time college instructor at Loyola University Maryland. “I teach a corporate tax course in the fall semester, an individual income tax course in the spring semester, and a state tax course in the summer session. After working in the tax field for thirty-five years, I believe it is important to pass along my knowledge to the next generation of tax professionals and future CPAs. I also actively serve as a career mentor to my former students following their graduation from college,” he says.
It wouldn’t be surprising if perhaps Doggett has inspired a future tax professional himself.