August 08, 2019 From the Chair-Elect

Building on Success

By Thomas J. Callahan, Thompson Hine LLP, Cleveland, OH

It is an honor and a privilege for me to have the opportunity to serve as Chair of the Tax Section for 2019-2020. In looking forward to my tenure as Chair, I want to take a moment to pause and reflect on the accomplishments of the past year under the outstanding leadership of our current Chair, Eric Solomon. I have had the benefit of working with Eric on a number of significant initiatives, including expanding membership, transitioning to a new website format, and continuing to support the Section’s flagship pro bono and public service activities. I want to thank Eric for his energetic and passionate work on behalf of the Section over the past year, and I look forward to his continued advice and support as I take over as Chair for the coming year.

Goals for the Coming Year

I have three goals for the coming year:

  • Attracting younger members from diverse backgrounds, and finding ways for the Section to be relevant to those members in the future;
  • Continuing the promotion of the Section’s outstanding pro bono and public service activities;
  • Continuing to focus on the quality and timeliness of comments that are submitted by the committees to the government.

Membership

It is critically important that we attract new members to the Section, and that we find ways to make the Section’s programming and activities relevant to new members. For example, the Section plans to reach out to law professors and LLM students to showcase the benefits of Section membership and to encourage those who have not participated in the past to join and become active in the Section.

I also want to recognize the important roles that the Section’s Diversity Committee and Young Lawyers Forum play in attracting new members. The Diversity Committee presents informative programs that attract lawyers from diverse backgrounds. The YLF sponsors the highly successful Annual Law Student Tax Challenge and the Tax Bridge to Practice program.

On a personal level, I’d like to invite readers to help with the Section’s recruiting activities as well. I still remember attending my first Section meeting and wondering how I got here and what I could possibly add to the deep tax expertise that was being showcased at Section programs. Fortunately, several members encouraged me to get involved, and the Section has become an integral part of my life. So, please introduce yourself to young members and attend the Section’s Welcome Reception. If you are in leadership, please keep an eye out for new members, and encourage them to get involved in committee activities. It is up to all of us to help build the future of the Section.

Pro Bono and Public Service

The Section is known for its commitment to pro bono and public service programs, and I fully support the Section’s activities. Members of the Section participate in initiatives such as the Adopt-A-Base (led by Wells Hall) and VITA programs where training and assistance is provided in the preparation of tax returns for low-income individuals and members of the military, the Tax Court calendar call program where attorneys assist pro se individuals in navigating the Tax Court process, and Partnering for Pro Bono where members work with LITCs to represent low-income taxpayers across the country. I encourage all Section members to get involved in at least one pro bono program. Despite our busy schedules, the personal satisfaction that comes from helping others makes the time and effort very worthwhile. For further information on volunteer opportunities, please contact Meg Newman, the Section’s Chief Counsel, at megan.newman@americanbar.org.

Finally, I encourage you to contribute to the Taxpayer Public Service (TAPS) endowment. Through the TAPS endowment, the Section sponsors a fellowship (named in honor of the Section’s former Executive Director, Christine Brunswick) for two recent law school graduates to provide representation to low-income taxpayers. The Section’s various pro bono and public service activities require adequate funding, and your contribution to TAPS will help to fund the Section’s good work into the future.

Government Submissions

The volume of comments prepared by our committees and submitted to the government has been particularly impressive over the last year. Under the able leadership of Eric Sloan (Vice Chair Government Relations), the Section has submitted 35 comment letters to the government since the beginning of this fiscal year. In that regard, the 2017 tax legislation will continue to provide opportunities for committees to respond to requests for comments on rules and regulations that are being drafted in response to that legislation. Government officials take the Section’s comments very seriously, and I encourage members of the Section to get involved in comment projects. The experience is very rewarding.

The Coming Year

We have three CLE-packed meetings to look forward to over the coming year—the Fall Tax Meeting with RPTE in San Francisco, the Midyear Tax Meeting in Boca Raton, and the May Tax Meeting in Washington. For the Fall Tax Meeting, we are looking forward to hearing the remarks of Martin Sullivan, chief economist and contributing editor of Tax Notes, at the Plenary Session.

In addition to the extensive programming at the three meetings, the Section is involved with a number of other tax conferences, including the 36th National Institute on Criminal Tax Fraud in December. Members of the Section also participate in telephone conferences and webinars on a wide variety of topics. I invite you to take advantage of these learning opportunities as they represent the best-in-class CLE anywhere.

The Leadership Team

The Section has a superb leadership team for the coming year. As most of you know, Joan Arnold is the incoming Chair-Elect. I am excited to be working with Joan, and I am looking forward to having the benefit of her experience and energy. Sheri Dillon, the incoming Vice-Chair (Pro Bono and Outreach), takes over for Bahar Schippel, who provided exemplary leadership of the numerous Pro Bono and Outreach programs offered by the Section, including launching the Pro Bono Pledge program and expanding the VITA program. Thank you Bahar! The continuing Vice-Chairs include Larry Campagna (Administration), Megan Brackney (Committee Operations), Fred Murray (CLE), Eric Sloan (Government Relations), and Keith Fogg (Publications). I am thrilled to be able to work with such talented and dedicated individuals.

I am also very fortunate to have the support and guidance of our two Section Delegates to the ABA House of Delegates, Richard Lipton and Armando Gomez. Both Dick and Armando have a long-term perspective on the activities of the Section and the ABA, and they do a wonderful job of representing the Section in the House of Delegates.

The Section is also indebted to our Council Directors who are responsible for the smooth running of our committees. The 2019-2020 Council Directors include: Gregg Barton, Jaye Calhoun, Katherine David, Catherine Engell, Diana Erbsen, Mary Foster, Cathy Fung, George Hani, Anthony Infanti, Peter Lowy, Eileen Marshall, Julie Sassenrath, Robert Turnipseed, David Wheat, and Lisa Zarlenga. Robb Longman will take over as Secretary, and our new Assistant Secretary will be Christine Speidel. Finally, I want to recognize the valuable contributions of our outgoing Council Directors: Adam Cohen, Sheri Dillon, Ronald Levitt, Christopher Rizek, and Melissa Wiley.

The Section Staff

It is important to acknowledge the outstanding job done by our Section staff. Our Section meetings, submissions to the government, publications, and CLE are in no small measure due to the efforts of our dedicated staff. I want to thank John Thorner (Executive Director), Ty Hansen (Associate Director), Haydee Moore (Director of Meetings), Chris Tank (Director of CLE), Meg Newman (Chief Counsel), and Arnyae Neal (Director of Membership and Marketing), as well as their talented staff, for all of the excellent work they do on behalf of the Section.

In closing, I anticipate that 2019-2020 will be another busy year for the Section, and I look forward to your ideas and input as we move through the coming year. ■


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