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August 08, 2019 From the Chair

Salve et Vale

By Eric Solomon, Washington, DC

Sitting down to prepare my final ABA Tax Times column, I am once again reminded how quickly time passes. My term as Chair has rushed by—time flies when you are busy! It seems like yesterday that Karen Hawkins passed the baton to me to lead the Tax Section. It has truly been an honor to be Chair, and a privilege to have served in Section leadership for many years.

I have always known about the many contributions the Tax Section makes to our tax system, but I did not fully appreciate the extent of these contributions until this past year in my role as Chair. Our meetings, comment letters, publications and pro bono services are recognized as excellent, and are especially noteworthy when you remember that all of the work is done by Tax Section members on a volunteer basis. A particular example of the Section’s contribution in 2018-2019 has been our response to the tax legislation enacted in December 2017, commonly referred to as the TCJA. Our members have invested many hours preparing extensive and thoughtful comment letters on TCJA guidance. Treasury and the IRS deeply appreciate the feedback, and the comments help improve the final guidance product.

I especially wish to commend the Tax Section administrative staff. Under John Thorner’s able leadership, the staff deals with Tax Section matters efficiently and effectively, including affairs specific to the Tax Section as well as interactions with the American Bar Association umbrella organization.

Ty Hansen, the Associate Director, is a storehouse of institutional knowledge, particularly about the Tax Section’s finances, and is an accomplished problem-solver. When the ABA umbrella organization changed its website last year, resulting in meeting registration difficulties, Ty quickly identified and contracted with an outside vendor to register our members for meetings, substantially lessening the confusion and frustration.

Haydee Moore, Director of Meetings, leads the team that organizes Tax Section meetings. Haydee and her team do the planning and preparation, make the arrangements, and deal with all the issues that arise on the spot at our events. The logistics of the meetings are seamless because of their efforts.

Chris Tank, Director of CLE, has many years of experience making sure the educational aspects of our meetings and webinars are well executed. 

Meg Newman, Chief Counsel, has had her hands full shepherding all the comment letters about TCJA guidance. In addition to various other duties, she has worked closely with Bahar Schippel, the outgoing Vice Chair for Pro Bono and Outreach, to coordinate the Tax Section’s pro bono activities.

In addition to the Tax Section staff members I have specifically named, I wish to thank all the other members of the staff for their outstanding efforts to serve the Section and its members.

I am also grateful for the work of our Chair-Elect and our Vice Chairs. Tom Callahan, our Chair-Elect, has served the Tax Section for many years and is well prepared to take the helm. Pro bono work is among the Tax Section’s most important contributions, and Bahar Schippel deserves kudos for her leadership in this area. Larry Campagna, Vice Chair for Administration, has kept a close eye on the Tax Section’s revenues and expenses, a critically important task to help ensure the viability of the Section into the future. Eric Sloan, Vice Chair for Government Relations, has been instrumental in the review of the numerous comment letters on TCJA guidance. Megan Brackney, Vice Chair for Committee Operations, has shown great enthusiasm overseeing the operating aspects of all the committees. Fred Murray, Vice Chair for CLE, has applied focused attention overseeing the Tax Section’s educational programs, and Keith Fogg, Vice Chair for Publications, has helped manage the smooth transition of The Tax Lawyer from Georgetown University Law Center to Northwestern Pritzker School of Law. I cannot thank each of these Vice Chairs enough for their efforts.

I also wish to recognize Dick Lipton and Armando Gomez, the Tax Section’s two members of the ABA House of Delegates. They are the Tax Section’s eyes and ears with respect to the ABA umbrella organization. Their role is exceedingly important, and much appreciated, especially during this period of enormous change for the umbrella organization that potentially could have significant effects on the Tax Section down the road.

Finally, I want to thank Karen Hawkins, the previous Chair of the Tax Section. She has been engaged with the Tax Section for approximately 40 years, and is an essential part of the fabric of this organization. In her first Chair’s letter two years ago, she said she was eager to give back to the Tax Section in payment for all the benefits she had received as a member in the form of academic improvement, skill development and personal bonding. On behalf of all of us, I can say that Karen has given far more than she has received. We are grateful for her longstanding commitment to the Tax Section, including her commitment to pro bono service, her commitment to small-firm and solo practitioners, her commitment to the advancement of women and people from diverse backgrounds, and her commitment to the integrity of the tax system as a whole. 

Looking forward, the Tax Section’s greatest challenge is to remain relevant to our members and potential members, especially to young and diverse professionals who are an increasing portion of our profession. The Tax Section is a preeminent tax organization because it serves the tax system and tax professionals, and it must make sure it continues to do so in the future. Leaders of the Tax Section must recognize the needs of tax practitioners, and adapt the Section’s offerings accordingly. We must also emphasize and actively publicize the benefits of membership, including the educational programs and publications, the ability to interact with government officials through comment letters and meetings, the opportunity to participate in pro bono activities, and the creation of personal relationships with fellow members that last a lifetime.

In closing, I wish to say how privileged I am to have served in the Tax Section for many years. I look forward to continuing to serve in the future. I am one in a long line of Tax Section Chairs, hoping to pass the baton to my successor, as I received it from my predecessor, with the organization well positioned to enjoy the opportunities and face the challenges in the years ahead, continuing to provide the best service possible to the tax system and our members. ■