November 30, 2020 From the Chair

Building on Extraordinary Work

By Joan C. Arnold, Troutman Pepper, Philadelphia, PA

This has been a time of both extraordinary activity and introspection for the Tax Section. On the activity side, we concluded a very successful Virtual 2020 Fall Tax Meeting with more than 1,700 registrants, as compared to a typical in-person fall meeting that has averaged 500-600 registrants. We opened the meeting with a tribute to Professor Marty Ginsburg and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, focusing on how On the Basis of Sex arose from a tax case. It was bittersweet, as Justice Ginsburg passed away just two weeks before the tribute, but her family asked that we carry on with the program we had recorded prior to her passing. Their son, James Ginsburg, did a wonderful job of “channeling” his father as he narrated parts of the program. We then offered more than 50 hours of CLE as well as networking opportunities, including the Women in Tax Forum Community and Conversation event, a State and Local Tax Committee roundtable, a Civil and Criminal Penalties Committee networking event, and a closing plenary session reflecting on the implementation of the Taxpayer First Act.

For those who registered for the meeting, the recordings and material of all of the CLE sessions are available through the end of 2020. Just use the unique link emailed to you before the meeting. Or contact taxmeeting@americanbar.org for help.

Of the 1,700 registrants, more than 500 were from the government. Although we always look forward to meeting our government representatives at the regular in-person gatherings, their attendance at this virtual meeting in such numbers was an extraordinary opportunity for our members to hear what the government representatives were considering in real time. We thank the Treasury and IRS for their support of their members’ attendance at the meeting.

There were challenges that occurred during the meeting, particularly with technology. We worked to present a program that permitted attendees to see the panelists live, view slides as discussed, and earn CLE. Not surprisingly, the technology for this type of a program was still under development as we planned the meeting. There was no tried-and-true off-the-shelf solution, and the program had to fit into the ABA CLE parameters. We ultimately had a number of connectivity challenges. Some of the issues were on our end, and some were on the attendees’ end. For example, the platform was optimized for access via Chrome, but various attendees kept trying to access it through Internet Explorer, notwithstanding advance notice that Chrome was preferred.

The Introspection

Many of us were surprised by how many of our members who normally do not attend meetings attended the virtual meeting. In particular, we found that there were more participants across various demographics—students, government attendees, first-time attendees, and attendees from throughout the country. Likely the combination of travel savings and less costly registration encouraged some to participate who have been reluctant in the past. It is making us think harder about continuing the large, in-person meeting format for all three meetings. We were already reconsidering that, but this data is important in determining what we should do going forward to better serve all our members. I actively solicit your input on this topic.

What’s next? Our Midyear Tax Meeting will be virtual the week of January 25, 2021. In response to the comments from the Fall Tax Meeting, there will be many more opportunities for structured networking and only one plenary session at which we will award the Distinguished Service Award to U.S. Tax Court Judge L. Paige Marvel. I look forward to her thoughts on her service. We will also have a lead speaker and expect it to be a senior person from the Hill to discuss post-election tax reform. I encourage you to view the preliminary schedule and register.

The Thanks

The Tax Section staff did a phenomenal job, once again, to make the Fall Tax Meeting happen. First, they had the vision for what a virtual meeting could be. They all became technology wizards and analysts. They created the format and worked with the committees to make it come alive.

Our committees also stepped up to the plate. We needed a lot more cooperation from the panelists who actually needed to rehearse to make sure it would work and get their materials in earlier than usual.

I owe a big shout-out to the government speakers! You are the big draw, and this type of meeting demanded a lot in terms of managing the connectivity, often from your personal computers. We’ll try to make it easier for you for the Midyear Tax Meeting. Thanks for your cooperation in making the Fall Meeting a success.

So, stay tuned. We have more in the works. As always, if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, please get in touch with me at Joan.Arnold@Troutman.com