Canadian liaison meetings reinforce wisdom of TEI's advocacy policy.

Author:O'Connor, Paul
Position:Tax Executives Institute

When Sol Coffino received TEI's Honorary Membership Award at the Annual Conference in Chicago, he reminded the group that the Institute did not start meeting annually with the Treasury Department's Office of Tax Policy until his term as 1982-1983 President. That's not to say that TEI did not occasionally venture into tax policy discussions in the United States before the 1980s. We did, not only in our discussions with the Internal Revenue Service but also with the Treasury Department. The first recorded instance of TEI's involvement that the Institute's staff could document was less than two years after our founding, when the Treasury Department asked for TEI's help in revising the Corporate Income Tax Form. Two years later, in 1948, TEI was asked to testify before the Senate Committee on Appropriations against proposed cuts in the Bureau of Internal Revenue's staff.

The Roots of TEl's Advocacy Policy

Such interactions, however, were rare, and the Institute always moved cautiously in the advocacy arena. Our 1948 testimony, for example, did not proceed until the Board of Directors polled the entire membership. While there were occasional forays into tax policy, it was two decades before the Institute adopted a formal advocacy, and perhaps surprisingly, the impetus was not developments in the United States. Rather, it was the creation in Canada of the Royal Commission on Taxation, whose mandate was to recommend comprehensive improvements to the federal taxation system.

The so-called Carter Commission issued a six-volume report in 1966, and three years later the government issued a White Paper proposing implementation of several far-reaching recommendations. Some of the recommendations were so controversial that TEI's comments on the proposals were sought and, after appropriate clearances were obtained from the Board of Directors, ultimately provided. In light of the diversity of the Institute's membership, TEI neither endorsed nor rejected the policy underlying any specific proposals (such as those relating to mineral depletion allowances); the Institute did, however, offer comments on the unnecessary complexity, administrative difficulty, and increased recordkeeping that the proposals would spawn. (My 1970-1971 predecessor--Mac McKie, the Institute's first Canadian president--gave an interview to the Toronto Globe & Mail about TEI's comments in which he advocated for a "'pure' and uncluttered tax system" in which the definition of income...

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