AICPA Tax Division Relies on Volunteers

By Jeffrey R. Hoops, CPA

The AICPA Tax Division’s primary goals are to help its members be the most trusted professional providers of tax services and to advocate sound tax policy and effective tax administration. The Tax Division consists of AICPA staff members and a myriad of volunteer members who serve on various committees, task forces, and tax technical resource panels (TRPs). The volunteer groups and staff work together to achieve the Tax Division’s objectives by commenting on legislation and regulations, writing articles and practice guides, and representing CPA tax practitioners to the government, the public, and other practitioner groups.

The Tax Division gets its work done through a structure of working groups. The various groups—committees, TRPs, and task forces—consist of appointed members, liaisons from other working groups, and Tax Division staff liaisons.

Tax Executive Committee

At the top of the structure is the Tax Executive Committee (TEC). The TEC is responsible for setting AICPA tax policy. It consists of 20 volunteer members, who are drawn from large and small tax practices as well as from academia. Generally, TEC members have had substantial prior experience serving the Tax Division.

As a senior technical committee, the TEC is authorized to make public statements on taxation without clearance from the AICPA Council or Board. The TEC speaks and acts on behalf of the AICPA in tax matters, including tax legislation, tax administration, ethical standards of tax practice, and information to help members maintain and increase their proficiency in taxes. The TEC also promulgates the Statements on Standards for Tax Services.

Committees, TRPs, and Task Forces

Beneath the TEC are four committees and ten TRPs made up of volunteers appointed for up to three one-year terms. Each group has a chair, a vice chair, and between 8 and 19 members. Committees and TRPs monitor tax developments in their assigned areas, develop comments on pending legislation and regulations, and work with the IRS to suggest subjects for rulings, assist in improving tax forms, and recommend tax administration improvements. They also participate in Tax Division efforts to comment on and make suggestions for the president’s budget proposals, major tax legislation, and the IRS Priority Guidance List. The groups also help develop products and services for Tax Section members, including writing articles, speaking at tax conferences, and reviewing CPE courses.

The four Tax Division committees are the IRS Practices and Procedures Committee, the Tax Legislation and Policy Committee, the Tax Practice Improvement Committee, and the Tax Practice Responsibility Committee. The committees help represent the interests and needs of Tax Section members and help the Tax Division maintain high standards of tax practice. The chairs and members of the committees are appointed by the chair of the AICPA Board of Directors.

The IRS Practices and Procedures Committee is the AICPA’s primary liaison with the Service. It acts to improve the tax administration system. The Tax Legislation and Policy Committee advocates AICPA tax positions to Congress and works to get them enacted. The Tax Practice Improvement Committee develops products and services for Tax Section members, including the annual tax practice guides and checklists. The Tax Practice Responsibility Com-mittee makes recommendations on rules regulating the conduct of tax practice.

The TRPs monitor and discuss developments in their particular areas and help the TEC formulate policy. They also help the Tax Division develop practice guides and other practice aids to help members comply with the law. The chairs and members of the TRPs are appointed by the chair of the TEC.

The current TRPs cover the following areas: corporation and shareholder taxation, employee benefits taxation, exempt organizations taxation, individual income taxation, international taxation, partnership taxation, S corporation taxation, state and local taxation, tax accounting, and trust, estate, and gift taxation.

Occasionally, TRPs will recommend to the TEC the formation of task forces to focus on a single issue or project. Task forces are appointed by the chair of the TEC. A task force will work under the auspices of a committee or a TRP, which will review and approve the task force’s work and forward it to the TEC for any required approvals. Task forces are designed to have a limited lifespan and are disbanded once they have achieved their objectives.

Volunteers Needed

What keeps the work of the Tax Division and its various working groups going is member volunteers. Approximately 250 volunteers serve on the various Tax Division working groups. Without dedicated volunteers, the Tax Division could not fulfill its mission. The volunteers are responsible for attending meetings, participating in conference calls, and helping the discussions and work of their group. They also suggest items for their group to consider.

Chairs of working groups are responsible for actively directing the group’s projects and assuring that projects are completed and presented for TEC approval. They also encourage full member participation in all group activities.

In their capacity as members of the Tax Division, volunteers act on behalf of the AICPA, not on behalf of their firms, their clients, or themselves. Anyone who would like to help with the important work of the Tax Division should check the volunteer opportunities online at

Tax Gap Survey Results

The results of the AICPA member survey on the tax gap are now in. The tax gap is the IRS estimate of the shortfall between taxes collected and amount owed by taxpayers. For 2001, the Service estimates that only 86% of taxes owed were collected, resulting in a tax gap of approximately $290 billion. Earlier this year, the AICPA surveyed its members about their views on the tax gap. The results have been shared with the IRS and other government agencies.

The Tax Division believes that AICPA members can contribute to reducing the tax gap by helping clients understand their tax liabilities and comply with the law. Since AICPA members are held to high (and enforceable) professional standards, their work with clients should contribute to increased tax compliance.

The survey had 1,290 respondents. Of these, 75.1% work for an accounting firm, 14.8% work for business and industry, 1.8% work in academia, and 8.3% work in other areas or did not respond. In some cases, the responses do not add up to 100%; responses where the respondents did not know or did not provide an opinion, or where the number was an insignificant percentage when tabulated, have been omitted. See the exhibit.

Mr. Hoops chairs the AICPA Tax Division’s Tax Executive Committee. DC Currents heightens awareness of the Tax Division’s activities and apprises readers of tax policy, technical issues, and other practice support matters.

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