In the Home Stretch

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Sandy Macfarlane

To borrow a racing expression, we are in the home stretch of the 2015–16 TEI year with the finish line clearly in sight. And, putting aside for a moment how quickly time has passed, it would seem logical to take some stock of where we are in our Building for the Future efforts, highlight areas of accomplishment, as well as reflect on further progress still to be made. To a person, the effort exhibited by our Executive Committee, working in conjunction with members and staff, has been nothing short of outstanding. Each has added purpose and perspective to the goals laid out at the beginning of the year, all with one overriding objective—to enhance TEI for the benefit of its members.

I start by acknowledging the strides TEI has made to embrace the emerging in-house tax professional (ETP). Few initiatives have taken root in so many different ways than our efforts to attract tax professionals who are in the early stages of their professional careers. Commenced formally more than a year or so ago, TEI’s efforts have incubated and have become part of our educational and networking efforts. Programs focused on ETPs have been hosted at every level within TEI—with plenty more to come. Following this incubator approach has fostered immense creativity attracting scores of members and prospective members to engage with TEI or otherwise take a close look.

Adding fuel to these efforts have been the specific design elements being built into our web redesign project. As important, the three-year strategic plan developed by the Emerging Tax Professionals subcommittee will hopefully form the basis for future action and increased success. That plan will foster a greater sense of coordination and allow the Institute to channel resources and staff to support those efforts.

To make a TEI membership even more accessible, a recommendation has been presented to the board to waive the Institute’s initiation fee for the upcoming membership year (July 1, 2016–June 30, 2017). If approved, this waiver will be featured as part of a global marketing campaign to promote the benefits associated with a TEI membership, all in an effort to expand our membership ranks.

In addition, TEI’s Chapter +1 visitation program will be tailored to concentrate on membership recruitment. At the same time, our Executive Committee has endorsed a guideline for chapters to create a member/nonmember program pricing as another way to highlight the value of Institute membership, an approach currently employed by many of the Institute’s chapters. A compelling case was made to the board to support a temporary waiver, and I am hopeful for their concurrence and support.

Professional Education

A central component of TEI’s mission is to provide best-in-class, continuing professional education to the in-house tax community. TEI’s ability to bring unmatched tax technical, policy, management, and technology expertise to you is unquestioned. Yet, it has become increasingly clear that skills-based knowledge is also essential for long-term, professional success. Described variously as enabling skills or professional development skills, these capabilities are taking on a greater degree of importance in our professional trajectories. Have you stopped to think about how you learned to become an effective negotiator, team player, or persuasive communicator?

These skills lie at the core of TEI’s efforts to build a comprehensive skills-based curriculum. And, who better to teach skills to in-house professionals than their in-house peers? This year, we have introduced skills-based sessions into TEI’s existing programming footprint, including sessions at the Midyear, Audits and Appeals, and Federal Tax I. These efforts will provide a basis to gather information and feedback about how to proceed with our efforts. Preliminary feedback has been positive, but we need a broader data set from which to make future decisions. Our ultimate objective is to provide in-house professionals with a comprehensive means to achieve skills-based proficiencies to accompany their technical expertise—both under the aegis of TEI.

Midyear Conference

The Institute’s conference pattern task force has made tremendous strides to collect and analyze survey data concerning the timing, content, and pattern of future Institute conferences. The recent interim report to the EC and Board revealed a general consensus to retain TEI’s Midyear Conference in Washington, but urged consideration of significant modifications to our current Annual Conference format. The task force is currently developing proposals for further consideration. I applaud these efforts to design our conferences to meet the changing needs of our members. The extent of the survey feedback was impressive and will be used to frame substantive recommendations. The data will be balanced against institutional tradition and the possible impacts that change may have on a broad range of constituencies. Over time, TEI’s Annual Conference has become a magnet for a range of TEI-related business meetings, all in addition to the rich array of CPE-eligible programming. That said, finding new homes for some of these will present challenges to better leverage our web investments and draw closer links between Institute, region, and chapter activities.

The work to review the Institute’s investment guidelines has resulted in Board approval to expand the range of investment categories available to TEI. This will allow TEI the opportunity to further maximize its investment return, without diverting from its conservative philosophy to money management. The Board’s confidence in the work of Institute Treasurer Jim Silvestri and the investment committee is appreciated.

TEI’s advocacy efforts continue to expand, both at home and abroad. In addition to our continuing efforts to inform the tax policy debate here in North America and abroad, in the coming months we expect to introduce a regular interaction with the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB). The impact of financial accounting and reporting on our day-to-day work requires that TEI develop a regular way to interact with the FASB. The FASB’s policy agenda touches tax directly and indirectly, and thus it is important that TEI have an ongoing dialogue with our financial regulators.

Finally, efforts are underway to assess how TEI can better serve its non-North American membership. Survey data is being assembled to determine how we can add greater value to our education, networking, and advocacy dimensions to meet the needs of our non-North American constituencies. I expect these efforts to continue and accelerate in the months ahead.

Now, coming back to the earlier point about how time has flown. Well, the whole idiom goes “Time flies when you are having fun.” And I sure am having far more than my share. Thank you for your continuing involvement, support, and leadership, and best wishes for a happy spring!

Warm Regards,

Signature of Sandy Macfarlane

Sandy Macfarlane
TEI International President

Note: In a prior letter (Tax Executive, January/February 2016), I inadvertently omitted the contributions of Angela Wallace to the successful development and implementation of our Professional Development webinar series. I thank her for her efforts and regret the oversight.

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