February 26, 2016 From the Chair

A Midyear Report

By George C. Howell, III, Hunton & Williams LLP, Richmond, VA

I am now well into my year as Chair of the Tax Section. I am happy with the progress that we are making on a number of fronts, yet much remains to be done. This column highlights some recent activities and accomplishments, but unfortunately begins on a poignant note.

Ken Gideon

I am greatly saddened to report that our friend and colleague Ken Gideon passed away unexpectedly on January 10th. Ken was a wonderful human being, who also happened to be a great leader of the Tax Section and a brilliant tax lawyer. His accomplishments are too numerous to list, but include serving as IRS Chief Counsel, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Tax Policy, Chair of the Section, and a member of the ABA Board of Governors. Armando Gomez, my predecessor as Chair and Ken's partner at Skadden, hit the mark with the following description of Ken:

He was a consummate professional with a remarkable career, but he never let go of the plain-spoken, unassuming ways and values that he learned in Lubbock. Ken believed in government service and in giving back to the profession. Generations of lawyers, including me, are fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn from Ken, and we will all miss him dearly.1

Yes, Ken was a Texan, and Texas never left him, which is a very good thing.

There are so many Ken Gideon stories, but I will pass on one of my favorites, which illustrates some of the many facets of Ken's personality. As many of you know, Ken frequently attended the leadership dinner that is held on the Thursday night before each Tax Section meeting. As the story goes, if you were seated at Ken's table and started to discuss a tax issue, he would reach into his pocket and produce a yellow card similar to those used by soccer referees. You had been warned—tax was not to be discussed at dinner. Politics, sports, and current events were acceptable topics, but not tax. Of those familiar with this story, no one ever learned if Ken also carried a red card in his pocket.

We mourn Ken's passing but are richer because of our time with him.

Midyear Meeting

The Midyear Meeting in Los Angeles drew over 1,200 attendees. I sat in on a number of committee panels, all of which were interesting and well done. Of particular note were the excellent programs put on by our Diversity Committee and Young Lawyers Forum (YLF). The Diversity Committee sponsored a panel on "Elimination of Bias in the Profession: The LGBT Ally Toolkit." Developed by the ABA Commission on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI), the LGBT Toolkit serves as a resource for employers and human resources professionals to support their LGBT professionals and to provide education and training for their workforces. We were honored to have ABA President Paulette Brown speak on this panel, and I invite you to listen to the audio from this program and access the materials on TaxIQ.

From left to right: Tiffany Santos, Henry Talavera, Paulette Brown, Jessica A. Youngblood, and Robert J. Neis

In its 15th year and enjoying immense success, the Annual Law Student Tax Challenge finals, organized by our Young Lawyers Forum, were held during the Midyear Meeting. If you were not able to attend the final rounds, I encourage you to watch the clips from the competition here: 15th Annual Law Student Tax Challenge.   If you have not attended programs put on by our Diversity Committee or YLF in the past, I hope you will plan to do so at the May Meeting in Washington. The Diversity Committee and the YLF are the future of the Section and deserve our support.

Edward Kleinbard, a tax professor at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law and a former Chief of Staff of Joint Committee on Taxation, gave the keynote address at the Plenary Luncheon. Ed is universally recognized as one of the brightest tax minds in the country. His presentation on U.S. fiscal policy was well conceived and thought-provoking. You can listen to Ed's remarks and view his slide presentation here.

The Section presented a number of awards and honors at the Midyear Meeting in recognition of notable members. I am pleased to announce that the recipient of this year's Pro Bono Award is Andrew R. Roberson of McDermott Will & Emery, Chicago, IL. In addition, we selected the next class of Brunswick Fellows, and we also recognized the incoming class of Nolan Fellows. You can link to the audio of Andy's Pro Bono Award acceptance remarks and details about our Nolan Fellows in this issue of ABA Tax Times. Please join me in congratulating these individuals on their well-deserved honors.

I want to thank the Section's staff, led by Janet In, for all their hard work in connection with the Midyear Meeting. I am fortunate to have the opportunity to collaborate with such a talented and highly motivated group of individuals. I also want to thank the Section's committees for organizing such high-quality panels. Once again, all of these assured a successful and smoothly run meeting

Law Improvement Efforts

One of my three focus areas as Chair is ramping up the Section's law improvement efforts. I am delighted to report that we have completed 19 law improvement projects so far during the 2015-2016 year, which is more than were submitted during all of 2014-2015. I am pleased with the high quality of these government submissions and am confident that they will have an impact on the development of the relevant laws, rules, and regulations. Details about these submissions are available in the Government Submissions Boxscore inside this issue with links to the full text of the reports on the website.

Despite the recent surge in government submissions, the Section cannot relax its law improvement efforts. The projects completed so far represent the work product of a wide variety of committees, but other committees have not yet participated. I encourage each of you to become involved in one or more law improvement projects with your favorite committee. I think you will find participation in these projects to be one of the most rewarding aspects of Section membership.

TAPS Endowment

As you undoubtedly have heard, the Tax Assistance Public Service (TAPS) endowment has been established to assure long-term funding for the Brunswick Fellowships and the Section's other pro bono and public service efforts. The Section has raised over $390,000 in gifts and pledges so far, but we have a long way to go to achieve our goal of $2.5 million. This is a lofty objective, but I know that we can do it with your support. Please give TAPS full consideration when you think about donations and where your charitable dollars should go. As noted in Mike Clark's thoughtful and well written article in this issue of ABA Tax Times, contributions to the TAPS endowment are made through the ABA Fund for Justice and Education and therefore are tax deductible. I commend Mike's article to you.

Looking Forward

Next up is the May Meeting. I encourage you to attend this meeting, which will be held May 5-7 in its traditional location at the Grand Hyatt in Washington, DC. The May Meeting is always our most well-attended meeting, full of high quality CLE and many opportunities to hear from and interact with our government guests. I am confident that it will be a rewarding experience for all who attend. I hope to see you there. ■


1 Amy S. Elliott, Former Treasury Assistant Secretary Kenneth Gideon Dies, 2016 Tax Notes Today 8-9 (Jan. 13, 2016).