The Tax Section’s (Section) Fall Tax Meeting with members of the Real Property, Trust and Estate Law Section (RPTE) was held in San Francisco in October with over 1,000 members in attendance. We appreciate our continued collaboration with RPTE during the Fall meeting. It is always interesting to have a number of programs jointly sponsored by members of RPTE and the Section. We look forward to continuing to work with our friends in RPTE as co-sponsors of the Fall program.
The 2017 tax legislation (TCJA) continues to provide important topics to be addressed by our committees. The panel presentations covered a number of domestic and international topics dealing with the TCJA, and those panels were thought-provoking and well done. In addition to best-in-class CLE programming, we were fortunate to have Martin A. Sullivan, Chief Economist and Contributing Editor of Tax Notes, deliver the luncheon address at the Plenary Session. Marty’s comments touched on a number of unique issues affecting the world economy. These issues include the expanding use of tariffs in connection with trade disputes, the impact of tariffs on supply chains, the use of negative interest rates by central banks to discourage the inflow of capital, and the impact of deficits on the economy.
Diversity & Inclusion
The Section continues to support diversity and inclusion. At the Council meeting on October 3rd, Council passed the Diversity & Inclusion (“D&I”) Scholarship. The D&I scholarship will provide the following benefits to two recipients at each Section meeting:
- Waiver of registration fees.
- Reimbursement of hotel room charges (and applicable taxes) for up to three nights at the host hotel.
- Reimbursement of air travel pursuant to the Section’s applicable zone-rate reimbursement schedule.
The D&I scholarship is available to diverse practitioners, and to practitioners with a demonstrated commitment to promoting diversity within the Section. Upon submitting a completed D&I application, a selection committee led by Chair-Elect, Joan Arnold, will select the candidates to be awarded the D&I scholarship. Although priority will be given to first-time applicants, previous recipients will be considered as well. For more information regarding the D&I scholarship, please consult the Section’s website here.
Pro Bono and Public Service
This Section’s commitment to Pro Bono is outstanding, and I want to thank Sheri Dillon, our Vice Chair for Pro Bono and Outreach, for her able leadership in this area. As another year comes to a close, it’s important to highlight some of our marquis programs that continue to need your support. Early next year, the military VITA/Adopt-A-Base program begins a new cycle. The program currently serves 39 military installations for which the Section needs volunteers to train instructors regarding the tax law and tax return preparation. In addition, the Section has agreed to participate in a pilot program where our members will prepare tax returns for members of the military. Having participated in this program, I can attest to worthwhile benefits. Similarly, the VITA program provides an opportunity for Section members to prepare tax returns for low-income taxpayers. As tax filing season approaches, I invite you to volunteer for one of these pro bono opportunities.
In another advancement of our pro bono commitment, Council agreed to a one-time $5,000 contribution to support the newly-created Center for Taxpayer Rights (Center). Nina Olson, the former National Taxpayer Advocate, has founded the Center to (i) organize the 5th International Conference on Taxpayer Rights and (ii) establish a Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC) support center. We appreciate Nina’s dedication to supporting taxpayer rights and LITCs, and we wish Nina continued success with the Center. Council also agreed to the continuing appointment of the Vice Chair Pro Bono and Outreach to the Center’s Advisory Board.
The 2019-2021 class of Brunswick Fellows began their positions during the first week of September. Andre Robinson is working with the Southeast Louisiana Legal Services in Hammond, Louisiana, and Evan Phoenix is working with Bet Tzedek Legal Services in Los Angeles, California. Our continuing Brunswick Fellow is Omeed Firouzi who is working at Philadelphia Legal Assistance in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
I am pleased to report that our collaboration with the Northwestern University Tax LL.M. program regarding publication of The Tax Lawyer is running smoothly. Under the leadership of T. Keith Fogg, Vice Chair of Publications, the Section and Northwestern are working well together to publish The Tax Lawyer on a timely basis. I encourage readers to consider submitting an article for publication in either The Tax Lawyer or the ABA Tax Times. The editors are always looking for worthwhile content for both publications.
Section membership continues to be busy drafting and submitting comments to Treasury and the IRS. Recently, the Section has submitted comments on the proposed PFIC regulations, and the temporary and proposed regulations under Code sections 245A, 951A and 958. The Treasury and IRS welcome the Section’s comments, and they carefully consider our comments when drafting guidance. I encourage you to volunteer for a current comment project as part of the Section’s on-going contribution to the tax system.
The Section’s Midyear Tax Meeting will be held at the Boca Raton Resort, Boca Raton, Florida, on January 30-February 1, 2020. Michael J. Desmond, IRS Chief Counsel, has agreed to address the Section Luncheon and Plenary Session on Saturday, February 1, 2020. Registration is already open, so please join us then for stimulating committee and plenary sessions. ■