Ensuring Every Member's Voice Is Heard
Carita R. Twinem, International President
President's Corner - 9/15/2012

  

While the colors were changing and the U.S. Presidential Campaign was coming down to its final days, TEI was in full swing, tackling the projects and initiatives central to our overall Members First theme. I am delighted to report that members of TEI's Board of Directors responded well to my invitation for them to participate actively in our pursuit of the goals that were outlined in my last column.

In order to keep members fully informed of our efforts — and our progress — in my columns, I will focus on selected projects, highlighting the members involved, identifying the ideas and the options being considered, and reporting on the progress made. Members can be assured that TEI remains dedicated to working for their benefit. All its members, all the time. To ensure we achieve this goal, a common thread woven through all our activities this year is this: Every member's voice, every point of view, is important, and everyone will be heard.

TEI has developed an extensive and respected record of advocating on behalf of our members. We accomplish all that we do by listening carefully to the insights and needs of our members and, then, developing thorough, thoughtful, and incisive comments. And we do this while striking a balance in respect of our comments' temper, taste, and tone. Our listening skills — our balancing skills — will surely be tested as the Institute and the Nation turns their attention to the tax reform debate.

I am under no illusion that these efforts will be anything but complex. Indeed, our greatest strengths — the breadth and diversity of our membership — are, in the context of tax reform, something that will challenge us. How do you not break faith with the Institute's consensus model of decision-making while working to reconcile potentially irreconcilable positions, and how do you accomplish that without resorting to a vague, all-things-for-all-people, "lowest common denominator" approach? Very, very carefully, I say. You do it by being honest, forthright, and transparent about your points of view, by seeking common ground that leverages the Institute's strengths, and by ensuring that everyone's voice is heard.

I am truly delighted that John Mann, Vice-President – Tax for Walgreen Company and a member of the Chicago Chapter, is leading our efforts as chair of TEI's Tax Reform Task Force. John possesses both technical sophistication and good old-fashioned Midwestern common sense. (As a fellow Midwesterner, I'm able to say that!) John is an inclusive leader and an able listener. If you have thoughts or suggestions about TEI's role in tax reform, please reach out to John (john.mann@walgreen.com).

The Task Force's current projects focus on updating the Institute's Guideposts for Tax Reform, which were developed in 2009 (and may be found on our website), as well as evaluating the International Tax Reform proposal advanced by House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp. Once completed later this fall, the projects will be posted on our website and reprinted in the magazine. More important, they won't just be put "on the shelf," but will serve as the basis for discussions with legislative staff members as tax reform efforts accelerate after the election.

The scope and breadth of the Institute's advocacy efforts are extensive. Over the years, TEI has developed strong relationships with tax policymakers and administrators in United States and Canada, as well with tax policy organizations such as the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development and the European Union. Yet the continuing expansion of our membership beyond North America (which began in 1999) demands that we strengthen relationships with taxing authorities and other regulatory agencies in more jurisdictions, as well as with quasi-governmental organizations such as the OECD and United Nations, in order to advance our members' interests.

The challenge of constructively engaging with tax authorities at all levels meshes well with our commitment to being a Members First organization, because as our members and their companies become more global, TEI must, too.

Our committee chairs with international portfolios, in conjunction with our legal staff liaisons, have assumed the lion's share of responsibility for this effort, not only advancing their respective committees' agendas but holding coordinating calls to ensure issues do not fall between the cracks. I urge you to reach out to them. Here are their names and contact information:

  • U.S. International Tax — Jocelyn Krabbenschmidt of the Seattle Chapter (jocelynk@amazon.com)
  • Canadian Income Tax — Bonnie Dawe of the Calgary Chapter (Bonnie.Dawe@finning.com)
  • Canadian Commodity — Robert Smith of the Toronto Chapter (Robert.Smith@mckesson.ca)
  • European Direct — An Theeuwes of the EMEA Chapter (an.m.l.theeuwes@shell.com)
  • European Indirect — Siegert Slagman of the EMEA Chapter (Siegert.Slagman@pmi.com)
  • Asia Tax — Aaron Lam of the Asia Chapter (Aaron.Lam@ morganstanley.com)

Finally, related to the economy's continuing globalization, we are studying the efficacy of extending the Institute's global footprint to Australia and Brazil (and, more broadly, to Latin America). While many of us are keen on these two areas, in particular because of their growing importance as U.S. trading partners, we have to take a hard look at all aspects of this question.

Is there a place for TEI in those localities? Is there critical mass in terms of potential members and are other organizations already serving the special needs of in-house tax professionals? Are there structural or governance issues that must be considered? What impediments might the Institute confront as we consider planting two new TEI flags? I have asked Christer Bell of the EMEA Chapter, Vice-President – Tax for LEGO, to head up this study. Christer brings a truly global perspective to this role, with a nuanced understanding to the interplay of localities and regions. Here, again, I urge you to reach out to him (Christer.Bell@LEGO.com) with your comments and input.

A final word: I want to hear from you. Your thoughts, your ideas, your questions and compliments, and yes, your constructive feedback and suggestions for improvement are sought, too. My email address is carita.twinem@spectrumbrands.com. I look forward to hearing from you.