The Landmark Tax Legislation's Impact on International Tax: A 2020 perspective.

It's been a couple of tax cycles since the most comprehensive legislative revisions to the tax code in more than three decades were enacted. To take a look back, focus on the present, and take a quick look at the future concerning its impact on international tax issues, we convened a superb panel of corporate tax practitioners in this space, including Kent Cain, international tax director at The Michaels Companies in Texas and vice chair of the U.S. international tax committee for TEI; Peter Waterstreet, international tax director at VMware in Palo Alto, California, and past chair of the U.S. international tax committee for TEI; and Sarah Winters, chief tax officer and global treasurer for Cushman & Wakefield and the current chair of the U.S. international tax committee for TEI. Michael Levin-Epstein, Tax Executives senior editor, moderated the discussion.

Michael Levin-Epstein: What's your assessment of how the landmark tax legislation has been implemented so far when it comes to international tax issues?

Peter Waterstreet: Certainly it's a sweeping change. Many have debated whether it can be considered true tax reform or is something different, but nonetheless passage of the [2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act] legislation had a great impact on U.S. international tax compared to the last major reform back in 1986. Treasury has had a massive undertaking to issue guidance around all of the new TCJA provisions, and, given the size and scope of that responsibility, I think they've done a remarkable job. Nevertheless, as companies prepared for the last filing season, there was still a lot of outstanding guidance--late-breaking guidance--and one of the challenges that we faced was making various decisions on filing positions to be taken for which the guidance was just not there. We had to make our best guess and use reasonable judgments--to have a "reasonable method, consistently applied," I think is the language that has often been used to describe an appropriate approach when facing the lack of specific guidance. While there's still more expected, much of that guidance has since come out, so I think that'll improve the next filing season.

Kent Cain: I would certainly echo Peter's comments regarding the timing of the legislation and related guidance. The legislation was passed just before the holidays in December 2017, and, as a result of the timing, no one had the time to completely absorb the new provisions before having to account for the impact in...

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