chevron-down Created with Sketch Beta.
September 21, 2023 From the Chair

And a Happy ABA New Year to All!

Scott D. Michel

With the turn of the calendar to August, the Tax Section—like legions of schoolchildren returning to their multiplication tables—makes its annual leadership transition. Over the past twelve months I have been privileged to serve as the Tax Section’s Chair-Elect under the measured, skillful, and dedicated leadership of my longtime friend and our outgoing Chair, C. Wells Hall, III. Wells did wonders for the Section. He implemented a major new initiative to increase Section membership, including creating a new Corporate Counsel Committee to open the benefits of Section membership and meeting attendance to a broad category of corporate tax professionals and to promote networking among them and our existing members. Under Wells’ leadership, we held three immensely successful Section-wide in-person meetings—in Dallas, San Diego, and Washington, D.C.—where attendees frequently remarked that we were recapturing the pre-pandemic spirit of the Section. Wells was also a forceful advocate for our tax system, submitting on behalf of the Section numerous comment projects on the regulations that have come out under the Inflation Reduction Act and supporting the IRS through letters documenting the importance to tax administration and tax practitioners of continued and increased IRS funding. We are all grateful for the time and energy he put into his time as Chair. I will do my best to follow his example.

It also gives me great joy that I will be working closely with the Section’s new Chair-Elect, Professor Alice Abreu. Alice is breaking new ground as a Section leader: she is the first full-time law professor to serve in this position, and she will be the first Latina woman to become Chair of the Section. Alice, a tireless worker for the Section over the years, is brimming with enthusiasm and ideas, and her contributions will be immense. At the same time, we bid farewell from leadership to Julie Divola, our transformative Immediate Past Chair. Julie helped lead the Section out of the pandemic and, among many other accomplishments, moved the Section exponentially toward becoming a more diverse and inclusive organization. We thank her for her many years of service to the Section.

2023–2024 Initiatives

Section leadership has many “irons in the fire” for the coming twelve months:

Lawyer Wellness

Building on recent panel presentations and on programming offered by the Women in Tax Forum and LGBTQ+ Lawyers in Tax Forum at the May Tax Meeting, the Section intends to promote the well-being and connection of our members through the launch of the new “Live Well, Lawyer Well” initiative. As a professional organization devoted to all aspects of the practice of tax law, we feel an obligation to address the very real concerns that the inherent stress of our profession can place on tax practitioners. This initiative will include looking at the practical considerations of balance in daily life for members at different stages in their professional lives; how to seek out resources to “live well” while also fulfilling professional obligations; and opportunities for members to build community and support through intentional activities. Watch this space and other Section communications for more information in the coming weeks.

Membership

As noted, Wells began a significant new program to try to increase Section membership. Jennifer Breen, a former Council Director, will head up a Membership Committee and work with staff and leadership to implement a variety of new initiatives. Last year we reached out to hundreds of lapsed Section members, many of whom were simply unaware that they had dropped off the rolls and were happy to renew, so we will continue this program. At the same time, we will focus on member retention, work with our many full-time and adjunct tax professors to ensure that law students learn about the many benefits of joining the Section, and increase our social media presence to get the word out about the exciting opportunities the Section provides. We will especially focus on seeking a more diverse and inclusive membership community as we undertake these efforts.

Fundraising and Giving

The Section has two endowments, the Tax Assistance Public Service (TAPS) and the Justice, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (JDEI) funds. TAPS provides the financial resources for the Section’s Christine Brunswick Public Service Fellowship and some of our other pro bono work. JDEI supports the Section’s DEI efforts, especially the Loretta Collins Argrett Fellowships under the leadership of former Chair Julie Divola and our Vice-Chair for Diversity, Membership & Inclusion, Caroline Ciraolo. The Section participates in the ABA’s Giving Day every fall on behalf of the TAPS Endowment and runs a year-end giving campaign for the JDEI endowment. We welcome and encourage donations of all sizes from our members and especially our leadership. This year, we will look at strategies to build these endowments to greater heights, which will ensure the continued existence of our fellowship programs and help us expand in both of these areas.

Meetings and Expenses

Although the last year was filled with joyful reunions as we returned to in-person Section meetings, the Section experienced a substantial budget shock due to inflation-related increases in hotel, meal, outside staffing, and related costs. We also lost over a decade of experience planning Tax Section meetings due to staff departures this spring, but we are excited to welcome a new Meetings Director, Sara Wiltshire. Sara has been great both in learning the historical way we have run our meetings and in undertaking a “ground up” review of meeting expenses to find ways to keep expenses under control. Through the hard work of Michael Davis, our outside sponsorship consultant, and Chris Tank, our Director of Programming and Creative, we have also dramatically increased our sponsorship activity in the last year. Professional firms and vendors have come to appreciate the great value in leveraging sponsorship and visibility at the Section’s events. If your firm or other companies you work with do not now sponsor Tax Section events, consider working to change that, especially if you are in committee leadership or are speaking on a panel!

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Building on the record of prior Chairs and leadership, the Section has made great strides in DEI over the past year. As Chair-Elect, I served as the Chair of the Section’s Diversity in the Profession Committee (DIPC), which has helped the Section undertake two significant steps forward.

First, a team of DIPC members finalized the Section’s Revised Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Plan, which lays out the Section’s goals across many aspects of DEI and sets down specific task lists for Section and committee leadership and staff in what we hope is a “user-friendly” document. I encourage every Section member to review this new plan and to internalize our DEI goals in the work we do for the Section. We are a much better place if our membership and leadership can bring to bear on the Section’s activities the perspectives and views from many diverse backgrounds.

Second, we have undertaken to change the function and responsibilities of the DIPC and to enhance the Section’s DEI infrastructure. The Section established the DIPC in 2018 as a senior-level advisory board tasked with moving the Section forward on various DEI objectives. Since then, the Section created the Vice-Chair position now ably held by Caroline, implemented the new Argrett Fellowships, and institutionalized our diversity efforts on multiple fronts. Now, we need a larger group of volunteers with time to help on specific projects, and so we solicited and selected applicants to increase the size of DIPC, with two new Vice-Chairs, Kathy Packenham and Eman Cuyler. DIPC will form a series of subcommittees and, under Alice’s leadership, will be up and running in the next few weeks, with the assistance of our great staff members Genevieve Borello and Jennifer Phillips.

Leadership Transitions

With the turn of the calendar, the Section says farewell to some of our leadership and welcomes new Officers and Council Directors.

We thank our dedicated outgoing Section leaders for their outstanding contributions over the past few years: Council Directors Jennifer Alexander, Jennifer Breen, James Creech, Cathy Fung, and Summer LePree; our outgoing Vice-Chair for CLE, Tom Greenaway; and Secretary, Christine Speidel. We welcome Eileen Marshall as the new Vice-Chair for CLE and Morgan Klinzing as Assistant Secretary. Finally, we are pleased that the following Vice-Chairs and other officers are returning:

  • Caroline D. Ciraolo, Vice-Chair for Membership, Diversity, and Inclusion
  • Anthony (Tony) C. Infanti, Vice-Chair for Pro Bono and Outreach
  • Roberta F. Mann, Vice-Chair for Publications
  • Mary A. McNulty, Vice-Chair for Committee Operations
  • R. David Wheat, Vice-Chair for Administration
  • Lany L. Villalobos, Secretary
  • Lisa M. Zarlenga, Vice-Chair for Government Relations

We are also happy to welcome these new and returning Council Directors, with the indicated committee assignments for the upcoming fiscal year.

  • New Council Directors:
    • Grace Kim—S Corporations; Partnerships and LLCs
    • Alexandra Minkovich—Capital Recovery and Leasing; Tax Accounting
    • Guinevere M. Moore—Standards of Tax Practice; Tax Practice and Technology
    • Rafi W. Mottehedeh—Financial Institutions and Products; Insurance Companies; Investment Management; Sales, Exchanges & Basis
    • Christine S. Speidel—Estate and Gift Taxes; Individual and Family Taxation
  • Returning Council Directors:
    • Leslie M. Book—Exempt Organizations; Tax Policy & Simplification; Teaching Taxation
    • John M. Colvin—Civil and Criminal Tax Penalties; Court Procedure and Practice
    • Rachel D. Kleinberg—Foreign Activities of U.S. Taxpayers; U.S. Activities of Foreign Taxpayers and Tax Treaties; Tax Exempt Financing
    • Scott M. Levine—Affiliated and Related Corporations; Corporate Tax
    • Stephanie A. Lipinski-Galland—Energy and Environmental Taxes; State and Local Taxes
    • Robb A. Longman—Closely Held Businesses; Real Estate; Young Lawyers Forum
    • Susan E. Morganstern—Tax Collections, Bankruptcy & Workouts; Pro Bono and Tax Clinics
    • Vanessa A. Scott—Diversity; Employee Benefits
    • Mary I. Slonina—Administrative Practice, Fiduciary Income Tax
    • Elizabeth Stevens—Corporate Counsel; Foreign Lawyers Forum; Transfer Pricing

Section Staff

The Section is incredibly fortunate to have a phenomenal professional staff. In May the Section’s Executive Director stepped down, and Robin Roy, who is also the Director of the Real Property, Trusts and Estates Section, has filled in as Interim Director and helped out immensely. Lacking a full-time Director, many of the responsibilities of that position have been shouldered by the hard-working senior staff members (Genevieve Borello, Ty Hansen, Meg Newman, Greg Peacock, Chris Tank, and Sara Wiltshire). We have also left several junior staff positions intentionally vacant to ease the inflation-related budgetary issues. I urge all Section members and leaders to exercise patience with staff—they work extremely hard but have a larger workload than normal at present. We expect to fill the Executive Director position soon.

Upcoming Events

Finally, here are some significant upcoming Section events:

  • The Virtual 2023 Fall Tax Meeting is scheduled for October 16–20. This year, in addition to our outstanding committee and other programming, our plenary session will feature Krishna Vallabhaneni, Tax Legislative Counsel, U.S. Department of the Treasury, in a panel discussion with active Section members/leaders Michael Desmond, Eric Solomon, and Lisa Zarlenga. We will also be privileged to welcome to our virtual meeting hundreds of representatives of IRS Chief Counsel, the Independent Office of Appeals, the Taxpayer Advocate Service, and other IRS representatives. Register for the Virtual Fall Meeting here.
  • The 34th Annual Philadelphia Tax Conference will be at the Union League in Philadelphia on November 14 and 15, featuring top quality programming across a broad spectrum of tax topics. This conference is particularly reachable for practitioners in the “Acela corridor,” so please join us in the City of Brotherly Love in November! Registration is open here.
  • ABA Giving Day will be Thursday October 26. Section members and leadership are encouraged to honor our TAPS Endowment by making financial contributions. For the last two years we have nearly doubled our goal, and we hope to do so again! More information on this will be forthcoming soon.
  • Finally, the annual Criminal Tax Fraud and Tax Controversy meeting in Las Vegas is scheduled for December 6–8. This conference is near and dear to me, as I attended some of the earliest versions held in DC and San Francisco dating well back into the 1980s and 1990s and have made deep and lasting friendships among its attendees. After a brief hiatus (let’s just say) elsewhere, we are returning to the Wynn Hotel, which has proven to be a popular venue for this incredibly content-rich networking session. If your practice involves tax controversy at all and you’ve not experienced Vegas in December, join us!

Conclusion

I am honored and privileged to begin my term as the Chair of the Section, and I look forward to working with leadership and our outstanding staff on the Section’s wide array of projects and programs—offering our superb CLE programming, both virtually and in person; making positive, constructive strides toward a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive Tax Section; growing our membership and putting the Section on sound fiscal footing; increasing support for our many pro bono and low income representation initiatives; publishing outstanding legal and analytical articles and materials; and providing our incisive comments to the IRS and Treasury as they administer the nation’s tax laws. We are onward and upward to a great 2023–2024 year for the Section. Happy “ABA New Year” and I look forward to seeing everyone at our meetings down the road.

Scott D. Michel

Caplin & Drysdale, Washington, DC

Entity:
Topic:
The material in all ABA publications is copyrighted and may be reprinted by permission only. Request reprint permission here.