August 25, 2020 From the Chair

Moving Forward

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

It has been an honor and a privilege to serve as Chair of the Section for 2019-2020. This year has flown by quickly, and I am amazed at the level of dedication that our staff and members have to the Section. This is especially significant in light of the many challenges that the Section has faced due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite these challenges, the members and staff were able to complete a substantial number of projects over the past year. Here is a sample:

  • Two highly successful in-person meetings—Fall and Midyear—with high attendance and world-class CLE;
  • On short notice, moving the May meeting into a virtual format with 21 separate webinars presented from early June through the end of July, providing over 50 hours of CLE;
  • Completion of 30 webinars covering both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 topics;
  • Submission of 26 comment letters, including 7 dealing with COVID-19 and 19 covering other topics;
  • Implementation of the COVID-19 Tax News and Information webpage to provide members with the latest resources related to the pandemic;
  • Coordination with the pro-bono community, the ABA and the IRS to distribute information regarding economic impact payments to vulnerable populations;
  • Creation of the Diversity & Inclusion Scholarship to cover registration fees, hotel expenses and air travel for two successful applicants at each of our in-person meetings;
  • Successful meetings with officials from Treasury and IRS to discuss tax issues of mutual interest; and
  • Surveys of our committees and members regarding changes to the scheduling and format of our in-person meetings.

I want to thank all of the members and staff who worked so hard this year to achieve these milestones.

Pro Bono and Public Service

The Section’s commitment to Pro Bono is remarkable. The Section supports the Adopt-A-Base and VITA programs wherein training and assistance are provided in connection with tax return preparation for low-income individuals and members of the military. As a participant in the Adopt-A-Base program over the years, I can attest to the personal satisfaction that comes from participating in this program. The Section also supports the Tax Court Calendar Call program, wherein attorneys assist pro se individuals in navigating the Tax Court process, and the Partnering for Pro Bono program, wherein members work with LITCs to represent low-income taxpayers across the country. I invite you to volunteer for one of these pro bono opportunities.

Thanks to a Terrific Team

I want to take this opportunity to thank the skilled and energetic team of members and staff that made my job possible this year.

First, members should know how outstanding our Section Officers have been in this year of rapid changes in our procedures due to COVID-19. Larry Campagna (Administration) has done a superb job in handling the Section’s finances, and I am particularly grateful to him for his help with a presentation on the Section’s finances to the ABA in February. Megan Brackney (Committee Operations) has done a wonderful job of guiding our committees and helping the Section pivot to a virtual format for the May Meeting. Fred Murray (CLE) spent countless hours over the past three years working to develop an alternative meeting format that will be useful in future discussions regarding the structure of in-person meetings. Eric Sloan (Government Relations) tirelessly reviewed and revised the Section’s comment letters and helped me to understand a number of complex tax issues described in those letters. Sheri Dillon (Pro Bono and Outreach) energetically led the Section’s pro bono response to COVID-19 and continues to effectively lead the Section’s numerous pro bono programs. Keith Fogg (Publication) has been a steady hand continuing to cement our relationship with Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law in connection with publication of The Tax Lawyer. Robb Longman (Secretary) and Christine Speidel (Assistant Secretary) have been invaluable in their contributions to the Section.

Second, I want to thank our outgoing Council Members—Gregg Barton, Catherine Engell, Cathy Fung, Peter Lowry and David Wheat—for their hard work and guidance of the Section and its committees. The Section looks forward to their continuing involvement in Section leadership in the future. I also want to thank our continuing Council Members for their dedication to the Section.

Third, the Section’s delegates to the ABA House of Delegates—Dick Lipton and Armando Gomez—have contributed significantly to our work throughout the year. Dick and Armando have substantial institutional knowledge regarding the Section, and they have vast experience in dealing with the larger ABA. The Section is fortunate to have the benefit of their insight.

Fourth, a special “thank you” is due our Immediate Past Chair, Eric Solomon, for his wisdom, humor and insights regarding Section matters. As you can appreciate, this has been a challenging year for the Section and its leadership. Eric always has a positive attitude, and I am grateful for his wise counsel.

Fifth, I want to acknowledge the work of our current Chair-Elect, Julie Divola. Julie was instrumental in helping to lead the Section’s response to COVID-19.

Sixth, thanks, as always, are due to the Section staff for their hard work and dedication to the Section. John Thorner (Director) has effectively led his team throughout this most challenging year. John has had to manage the shift from in-person to virtual meetings, and he has done a fine job of coordinating with the ABA. Ty Hansen (Associate Director) keeps the Section’s finances in order, and he has done a great job of working to address technical issues with the ABA.

There are so many others worthy of recognition. Haydee Moore, Director of Meetings, did a wonderful job of managing our two in-person meetings, and led the team that was responsible for avoiding costly fees to the Section upon cancellation of numerous hotel contracts due to COVID-19. Meg Newman, Chief Counsel, undertakes the day-to-day work of reviewing and revising comment letters and was deeply involved in the Section’s responses to COVID-19. Chris Tank, Director of CLE, provided substantial support to Fred Murray in connection with the alternative meeting format project and managed the increased webinar workload that resulted from COVID-19. Todd Reitzel, Director of Publishing, handles the day-to-day work on the Section’s marquee publications such as The Tax Lawyer and ABA Tax Times. In addition to the Section staff members noted above, I wish to thank all other members of the Section staff for their outstanding efforts to serve the Section and its members.

Last, I want to recognize Joan Arnold’s role as Chair-Elect during this past year. Joan has brought incredible energy to leadership this year. She has been a driving force behind the creation of the Women in Tax Forum, and I look forward to the fresh ideas and innovations that Joan will bring to the Section as our next Chair. The Section will surely be in good hands.

I will end as I began. It has been a singular honor for me to be Chair of the Section during the past year. As Chair, I have had the unique opportunity to witness the incredible work done by Section members and staff under very challenging circumstances. For that, I am truly grateful.