Tax Executive, The

Working in tandem – Tax Executives Institute

Working in tandem – Tax Executives Institute – President’s Page

Betty M. Wilson

One of the final Olympic events this year was the men’s marathon, the grueling nature of which was accentuated by blustery headwinds in Sydney that at some spots seemed to push the runners from one side of the course to the other. Remarkably, 81 of the 100 athletes persevered and finished the 26 mile-plus course.

Tax executives know a little bit about the unyielding nature of marathons. For many businesses, the finish line is September 15, the extended due date for calendar-year taxpayers to file their tax returns. But unlike marathoners, tax executives barely get an opportunity to relax before they face new deadlines and challenges. After the federal deadline comes and goes, state deadlines loom, and there is never an end to the research, planning, and compliance activities that keep our lives busy and full. And, of course, so far, I’ve only mentioned work. We also have family obligations and our volunteer activities — including TEI — to consider.

The only way we can do all that we do is to enlist the help of our colleagues and our friends. Thus, just like in a marathon, where runners often trade the lead to take turns facing the wind (and shielding their fellow runners), tax executives must work in tandem, trading off the harder tasks, in order to accomplish their goals. During the past two months, I have had the privilege of representing TEI in several meetings with government representatives, but as my predecessors as President have said (and I have quickly learned), this is not about me. It’s about the organization, and how collectively we can advance TEI’s goals. Accordingly, I want to devote this column to highlighting the recent contributions of other TEI members.

Meetings with LMSB Officials

Much of the activity since I became President concerns the Internal Revenue Service’s Large and Mid-Size Business Division. TEI has enjoyed an unprecedented opportunity to provide early and frequent comments to LMSB on a whole range of subjects. For example, in late August, I was pleased to join three other TEI members — Dave Bernard of the Northeast Wisconsin Chapter, Dan Leightman of the Houston Chapter, and Judy Zelisko of the Chicago Chapter — and members of TEI’s staff in meeting with the representatives of the IRS’s new Office of Tax Shelter Analysis. (The IRS group was led by Dave Harris, the head of the OTSA, and included John Petrella, who has spearheaded the IRS’s pre-filing agreement initiative.) The free-flowing meeting covered everything from how the OTSA (which is still in formation) will treat taxpayer disclosures under the temporary regulations to the use of pre-filing agreements, industry issue resolution, and other innovative tools in providing guidance to taxpayers on transactions the IRS questions and mounting an effective (and fair) enforcement effort. Dave, Dan, and Judy were characteristically professional but anything but shy in responding to the LMSB group’s questions, raising their own concerns, and contributing to a very positive meeting (notwithstanding the sensitive subject matter). That TEI was invited to meet with the IRS early in the process is a testament not only to LMSB’s commitment to reach out to taxpayers, but to the credibility and good faith that TEI members have worked so diligently to earn.

Another helpful meeting took place in late September when Earl Blanche and Tom Carberry of the IRS Appeals organization visited TEI. The purpose of the meeting, at which I was joined by Mike Murphy and Timothy McCormally of TEI’s staff, was to discuss Appeals settlement; authority in the new IRS structure. Earl, who is Director, Appeals (LMSB), and Tom, who is an Appeals Team Chief, were quite interested in the levels of approval required in corporations to resolve issues, as well as TEI’s views on any limitations that should be imposed on an Appeals Team Chief’s settlement authority. Although the study group the IRS has convened on this subject is still in the data collection mode, we remain hopeful that the Commissioner will ultimately decide to keep restrictions on Appeals’ ability to resolve cases to a minimum.

The final LMSB meeting I want to mention was a week-long training session that was held in Kansas City the last week of September. More than 800 LMSB managers participated in the meeting. I was delighted to be a panelist during one session. Other TEI members who participated included Roger Wheeler of the Detroit Chapter, Bob Perlman of the Santa Clara Valley Chapter, Dan Nichols of the New Jersey Chapter, Ken Levinson of the Minnesota Chapter, Oscar Jones of the Houston Chapter, Dean Fischbeck of the San Francisco Chapter, and Steve Boocock of the Pittsburgh Chapter. The feedback we’ve received about the session has been great. These sessions are helpful because they demonstrate not only the diversity and strength within TEI, but also taxpayers’ general commitment to work for positive change.

The three meetings summarized above were all ones that I had the privileged to attend. But TEI’s assistance to the LMSB organization was not limited to these. As mentioned above, the only way TEI is able to accomplish everything that it does is through the efforts of many, many volunteers. In this vein, I want to thank the members who participated in the six focus groups across the country that the IRS held to discuss the development of a “compliance strategy” for LMSB. In addition, TEI members and staff made a presentation at a recent training session for IRS engineers, and we are constantly on the outlook for other opportunities. To all of you who have helped, thanks!

State and Local Efforts

TEI’s liaison efforts have not been confined to the federal area. On September 28, the Institute held its regular liaison meeting with the Federation of Tax Administrators, which is the association of state tax commissioners. The meeting was quite productive, because it focused not only on substantive tax issues (such as the use of contract auditors and the fate of federal legislation on taxing Internet transactions), but on process issues, such as how TEI’s local chapters can more effectively interact with state revenue departments and whether TEI can play a constructive role in the orientation sessions the FTA conducts for new revenue commissioners.

One area where we spent a considerable amount of time was the Streamlined Sales Tax Project, which has the goal of developing a simplified sales and use tax system for nationwide adoption. TEI recommended that the States reaching out more to business in connection with their efforts, and volunteered to assist the SSTP in educating business about the scope and specifics of the project. I am pleased to report that we have already taken the first step in this process. In this issue of The Tax Executive, we are publishing an article by Harley Duncan, FTA’s Executive Director, about the SSTP. The article not only provides background on the project, but provides an update through the SSTP’s September 29 public hearing. A tip of TEI’s hat to Harley for responding so quickly to our request.

Thanks also go to the leadership of the Institute’s State and Local Tax Committee, which coordinated plans for the liaison meeting and participated in it. Bruce Reid of the Seattle Chapter led the Institute’s delegation, which included committee vice chairs Barbara Barton of the Dallas Chapter, Katrina Doerfier of the Santa Clara Valley Chapter, and Fred Montgomery of the Chicago Chapter. In addition, Steve Boocock from Pittsburgh and I participated, as did Mike Murphy, Timothy McCormally, Mary Lou Fahey, and Jeff Rasmussen from the staff. The committee is now assessing how best TEI can directly interact with the SSTP. Given the diversity of the Institute’s membership, it may not be possible for us to become involved in all the nitty-gritty decisions that must be made in developing a simplified sales and use tax system, but we clearly have a role to play in educating our members and making sure that all parties appreciate the important tax policy and administration aspects of the competing


It’s Almost Here

This issue of The Tax Executive is due to arrive on your desks shortly before the Institute’s 55th Annual Conference convenes in San Diego. The combination of a wonderful location with terrific technical sessions promises to make this year’s conference both memorable and worthwhile. For more than half a century, TEI has provided its members with great educational and networking opportunities. That tradition will continue this year.

Let me mention some conference highlights. Our keynoters include Congressman Phil Crane of Illinois, Assistant Treasury Secretary Jon Talisman, IRS Commissioner Charles Rossotti, and Linda Burke, the first Division Counsel of the IRS’s new Large and Mid-Size Business Division (and a former TEI President, whom we will honor during the conference). In addition, in light of the IRS’s reorganization, we have scheduled sessions on each of the five new Large and Mid-Size Business Division Industry Groups. These LMSB sessions will feature numerous IRS officials and complement tried-and-trued sessions on everything from the new FSC regime and e-commerce to Canadian and U.S. competent authority and “getting more from your consulting buck.”

I am especially excited about several changes we have made to make it easier to interact with one another. We have worked hard to minimize the amount of “pomp and circumstance” at our lunches and dinners by eliminating our long head tables, seating our leaders throughout the room, and adopting a casual dress policy. These changes were designed to make the Institute more open and responsive to your needs. I encourage all of you to attend and to let us know whether we’ve succeeded.

Betty M. Wilson International President

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