Industry Insights

Key Takeaways from the 2017 ESCA Leadership Summit

March 2017
Author:  Cara Benningfield

Cara Benningfield

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The February 2017 Employee-Owned S Corporations of America (ESCA) Leadership Summit, held in Miami, Florida, had a record-breaking attendance with more than 200 ESCA members and guests and covered many topics important to employee stock ownership plans (ESOP).

The ESCA Advisory Committee and representatives from the IRS hosted a Q&A session covering various plan administration topics. Typically, representatives from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) also would attend this session. However, since the secretary of labor position was vacant at conference time, the DOL declined to participate due to uncertainty.

ESCA Chairman Steve Smith opened the general session and introduced Sens. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Bill Nelson (D-Florida). Attendees listened to both Republican and Democrat views on what may be accomplished in the Senate this year. While the confirmation process for the Trump administration continues, the Senate looks forward to focusing on hot topics such as comprehensive tax reform, health care reform and sustainability of government funding. Fortunately, ESOPs continue to be an area with bipartisan support. Sen. Nelson encouraged ESCA members by saying, “You give employees an opportunity to reap from their hard work and save for retirement. If anything, we need to expand the S ESOP model.” Sen. Crapo also expressed his support by stating, “I am a huge advocate of ESOPs—what an incredible American Dream ESOPs are, where people can truly build their own future.”

ESCA Executive Director Stephanie Silverman spoke on S ESOPs and the current political climate with the Trump administration. The tax reform process is beginning in both the House and Senate. While the ESOP community has influential supporters on tax writing committees, ESCA members should continue to be proactive and speak with their representatives in Congress to protect the benefits of S ESOP status.

Members recognized ESCA Board Chair Steve Smith for his service from 2014 to 2016. The board of directors officially elected Denny Scott, CFO at Burns & McDonnell, as the new ESCA board chair. Scott brought the conference to a close with a reminder to remain vigilant throughout the process of tax reform:  “Remember what you are protecting. Remember the jobs that you are protecting. Finally, remember the families’ retirements that you are protecting.”

To learn more about issues affecting S ESOPs, contact your BKD advisor.

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