Tax Executives Oppose Law That CEOs Sign Tax Returns

Tax Executives Institute (TEI) has written to the Senate Finance Committee to express its opposition to S.1971. Consistent with Section 1001 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, S.1971 would require corporate Chief Executive Officers to sign corporate tax returns. Section 1001 says simply: "It is the sense of the Senate that the Federal income tax return of a corporation should be signed by the chief executive officer of such corporation."

The key arguments against the requirement:

  • The tax affairs of major corporations are extraordinarily complicated, and their management is routinely delegated to the Chief Tax Officer or some similarly titled individual who has been specially trained. TEI says it would be rare that a CEO would be "knowledgeable about the plethora of tax rules that apply to literally thousands of transactions that are reflected in the company's tax returns."

  • Any requirement that CEOs must sign the returns would force companies to devote significant time and resources to educating CEOs about the intricacies of the company's tax affairs. This would distract both the CEOs and the company's tax personnel from activities that put their professional expertise to their best uses.

  • A better alternative would be to require that the audit committee annually reaffirm its appointment of the chief tax officer as the individual authorized to sign the return and review significant tax matters with the designated individual.

TEI has 5,300 members who are accountants, attorneys, and other business professionals working for 2,800 of the leading companies in the United States, Canada, and Europe.

Download S.1971, the National Employee Savings and Trust Equity Guarantee (NESTEG) bill.

-Rosemary Schlank

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