Jack McCullough, a Profile of Excellence

What makes a person a leader among leaders? We explore this in our series, Profiles of Excellence. We’re excited to premier this series by featuring Jack McCullough, author, keynote speaker, Forbes contributor, and a founder of two world-class organizations transforming the way CFOs network – thereby influencing how tax and other professionals will network – critical in our new all-digital environment.

Jack is continuously innovating and delivering high caliber products and services. Earlier career highlights include being a CFO and helping launch KPMG’s Global Technology Innovation Center in Boston, Massachusetts. In 2002, Jack cofounded MIT Sloan CFO Summit, a preeminent conference for CFOs. Four years later, Jack launched CFO Leadership Council (CFO LC) to provide nonpareil professional development and networking to financial executives. Last year, he parlayed insights collected from conversations with over 40 of the world’s foremost CFOs into Secrets of Rockstar CFOs.

With the economy spinning and conventional avenues for connecting upside-down, leaders are seeking solutions for guiding their company safely through the morass. CFO LC has been a beacon for singular networking and wisdom.

Why does this matter to a tax professional? What impacts a business often impacts its taxes. To competently advise our companies, we (tax professionals) must understand the financial and operational aspects of the business as these flow into the tax results. So, the concerns of a CFO will often be the concerns of tax executives. CFO LC has raised the bar on and set the trend for how networking and knowledge in finance, an overarching field, is delivered.

Take, for example, CFO LC’s Masterclass Keynote Series (MKS), five 90-minute courses held over a five-week period in May and June. When the pandemic closed the doors on in-person events, CFO LC masterfully pivoted from its in-person CFO Week to offering the virtual MKS, delivering in a scientific framework expertise on managing through catastrophic events from finance and research luminaries such as Elaine Paul, CFO of Amazon Studios, Christine Komola, former CFO of Staples, Steve Priest, CFO of JetBlue, Court Chilton, Senior Lecturer, Work and Organization Studies at MIT Sloan School of Management, and Renee Richardson Gosline, Senior Lecturer, Management Science Group at MIT Sloan School of Management.

More TED-like than standard webinars, MKS elevated subjects of surviving and thriving during an economic downturn by combining the science behind cultivating success with real life examples, conveying meaningful, actionable information to leaders. Addressing work styles, John Carrier, Senior Lecturer, System Dynamics Group at MIT Sloan School of Management and Managing Director of 532 Partners, opened the second episode by framing the discussion around behavior being a function of the people and system in which they find themselves, sharing keys to monitoring and measuring success, and from recent experiences of dignitaries in finance such as Amrita Ahuja, CFO of Square, and Elis Costa, CFO North America of Marsh & McLennan Companies to fill out the discussion. All the while, the audience of over 800 were participating in a live discussion through chat.

Professional organizations are more crucial when people are disconnected and unable to network through traditional methods. Leadership and volunteer positions in CFO LC are gateways to casually connect with executives, venture capitalists, and subject matter experts. This may explain why, even though financial executives are notoriously busy, more than 250 have scheduled time to volunteer on a committee or in programming at CFO LC.

In addition to leading and inventing, Jack finds time to speak, contribute to Forbes, and mentor.

Hear Jack’s insights on cultivating excellence in leadership and receive a free digital copy of his book at our upcoming five-week conference opening October 19, 2020.


Experience unrivaled networking and professional development at TaxForward (tax professionals) or Future Tax Leaders (tax students) by joining its leadership, volunteering, or becoming a member. Contact Info@TaxForward.org to learn more.

Ashby Walters is Executive Director and cofounder of TaxForward and Future Tax Leaders. She has served as head of or leader in tax for Peet’s Coffee, Inc., Quizno’s, Staples, Dish Network, and other companies. Over her 20-plus year career, Ashby has helped organizations from Fortune 200 companies to start-ups, save more than $200 million in cash taxes, millions in G&A, and thousands of production hours collectively.

Tax Department Heroes: Cash Saving Opportunities

It’s official; the U.S. economy, if not the world economy, is in a recession.

As usually happens during economic downturns, companies turn to the Tax Department for cash. No, it’s not because we are hoarding cash in barrels out back. Often, it’s because the newly enacted stimulus law involves taxes. Plus, savvy companies know Tax Departments can be a source of strategic opportunities to recover and save cash. In this article, we provide a list of places to explore as you’re turning over stones to help save cash for your company.

We have indicated the stones to look under by name or high-level description only. They might not apply to all companies and situations. Additional research or consultation with your advisors should be performed to confirm your business qualifies.

Recent stimulus:

  • EIDL (Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program) grants and loans (CARES Act)
  • PPPL (Paycheck Protection Program loans) (CARES Act)
  • Other business loan programs under the CARES Act
  • Deferral of payments on pre-existing SBA loans (CARES Act)
  • Delayed tax filings and payments (IRS)
  • Delayed payroll tax payments (CARES Act)
  • COVID-19 related sick leave (FFCRA)
  • NOL carrybacks (CARES Act)
  • AMT credit (CARES Act)
  • Increase in the cap on IRC Sec. 163(j) interest deductions (CARES Act)
  • Qualified improvement property (e.g. subject to 15 years depreciation) (CARES Act)
  • Payroll tax credits on retained employees (exclusion applies with the PPPL) (CARES Act)
  • Increase in the cap on charitable contribution deductions (CARES Act)

Preexisting laws:

  • Accounting methods
  • Capitalization policies
  • Treatment of customized or internally developed software
  • Enhanced charitable deductions for food donations
  • Research and development – have conversations with heads of different teams to learn about new activities
  • Tips credit for restaurants and other industries with tipped staff
  • Tax incentives such as work opportunity credits
  • Legal entity structure
  • Revenue recognition – take another look at large contracts and accounting’s policies
  • Analyze entries in select GL accounts
  • Evaluate fixed assets for:
    • Items that can be re-categorized or split into shorter-lived assets
    • Items that can be written off or down
    • Items that can be expensed
    • Items that can begin depreciating
  • Acquisitions:
    • Payroll taxes
    • Workers compensation rates
    • Goodwill – basis and release
    • Basis in liabilities (some liabilities do not follow GAAP, such as deferred revenue, which is based on anticipated cost of generating revenue)
  • Federal and state items subject to carryforward limitations to ensure proper treatment – if the rules are unclear, do not make assumptions, there may be resources to help you determine proper treatment such as Congressional intent, jurisdiction manuals, and instructions for returns from the year the law went into effect
    • NOLs
    • AMT credits
    • R&D credits
    • Excess charitable contribution deductions
    • Nonrefundable incentives
  • Foreign taxes, direct and indirect
  • Evaluate sales tax for:
    • Machinery and equipment used in manufacturing
    • Rate adjustments if you use a blended sales tax rate based on “to go” sales
    • Exempt or zero-rated items
  • Property tax:
    • Assessed values
    • Special rules and rates for specific assets, such as machinery and equipment
    • Property no longer in the company’s possession
    • Payment deferrals
  • Excise taxes – state and federal
  • Unclaimed property
  • Timing of tax prepayments – penalties and interest may be outweighed by the company’s need for or return on/cost of cash

G&A driven:

  • Renegotiate rates with external service providers
  • Opportunities for automation
  • Reevaluate the in house to outsourced work mix
  • Seek experts working on contingency to find opportunities to recover cash or capture future savings, such as through credits
  • Reevaluate capital spending plans
  • Reevaluate tools and the department’s use of them
  • Reassess priorities
  • Implement KPIs for performance optimization and ROIs to control costs and focus efforts
  • Implement project management processes and tools
  • Implement policies, procedures, and protocols to standardize processes and increase efficiency

Let us know how it goes. You can share your recommendations with us by sending an email to Info@TaxForward.org.

Happy hunting!


Ashby Walters is Executive Director and cofounder of TaxForward and Future Tax Leaders. She has served as head of or leader in tax for Peet’s Coffee, Inc., Quizno’s, Staples, Dish Network, and other companies. Over her 20-plus year career, Ashby has helped organizations from Fortune 200 companies to start-ups, save more than $200 million in cash taxes, millions in G&A, and thousands of production hours collectively.

The Wisdom of Greg Anton, Accounting Cultural Icon

Greg Anton, a CEO with a long list of accomplishments, has been influencing accounting culture for decades. While Greg may make success look easy, it was achieved through innovation, grit, and by embracing what he loves. We’ve captured some of the insights on building success he’ll share at TaxForward’s 2020 conference on October 25 through 27th here.

Before launching ACM LLP, a regional powerhouse CPA firm with 26 partners and four offices across two states, with two colleagues in 2002, Greg was a Partner at BDO. In 1999, he began six years of service on the Board of Directors for Colorado Society of Certified Public Accountants (COCPA), one of those years as its Chair. His influence expanded to the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), when he joined its Board of Directors, serving as its Chair, a liaison to Congress, and on several technical committees. In 2015, AICPA recognized Greg’s contributions by bestowing its highest honor, the Gold Medal Award for Distinguished Service, on him.

How does Greg cultivate success? By doing things that are generally within all our capacities to do.

He Integrates What He Loves with His Work

Greg says he has had only two careers his whole life: camp counselor and accountant. As a camp counselor, Greg learned the value of integrating what one loves – then, being a camper – into one’s work. According to Greg, focusing on the things he enjoys and does well helps him set his compass and decide where to invest his time, freeing him to do more of what he loves. He attributes communicating what he’s passionate about to helping people identify opportunities to partner with or learn from him. Acknowledging what he doesn’t do well enables Greg to find people with complementary skills.

Unable to think of ways in which to integrate what you love with work? Bringing to mind Mary Poppins teaching Jane and Michael Banks to find the “element of fun” in a job (turning chores into a game in the movie named after the titular character), Greg recommends looking at other ways to integrate your passions and work, such as exercising during breaks.

He Differentiates Himself and His Company

Differentiation sets us apart from our peers and competitors, making it easier for our target audience to select us. Sharing and pursuing what he enjoys doing is a way Greg differentiates himself from his peers.

He has done the same with ACM. When launching ACM, Greg wasn’t creating something new; as he points out, the tools and laws are the same, it’s the people that are different. His goal was “building a better mouse trap” by delivering a superior experience and product than other firms. Today, ACM is renowned for quality.

He Sets the Tone

As a camp counselor, Greg had the advantage in size and strength over the younger campers in races to the swimming hole. Yet, he purposefully led the races from behind rather than in front. This gave Greg better line of sight to coach campers on how to improve and enabled campers to learn from their decisions and experiences. It was an opportunity for him to learn from the campers, as well. “My way isn’t the best way,” Greg says, “it is a way.”

To build a professional and highly competent team at ACM, Greg created an environment that fosters growth and opportunity, where others can lead and contribute. “People want to be around opportunities to succeed, grow, and advance,” he says. He’s eliminated common barriers to growth by cultivating a culture that rewards teaming with people having complementary skills and encourages its professionals to welcome questions and opportunities to collaborate.

He is Continuously Learning

When Greg entered college, he knew he wanted to be an entrepreneur – but he didn’t know how to become one. He pursued accounting in part for the job security associated with the field. Now, he draws on what he learned as an accountant to be a successful entrepreneur.

He is Comfortable with Change

Having to innovate to overcome the hurdles of severe dyslexia, Greg learned early in life a person could have “major failures” but still be successful. A lifetime of seeking tools and techniques to succeed has put Greg in the forefront of adapting to the evolution undergoing the accounting field. For example, he uses dictation software, which can transcribe words three times faster than the average person, freeing up time.

Greg is excited about the technological changes occurring in his field. He believes artificial intelligence and virtual robots will assume unexciting work, enabling accountants to operate at a higher level and pursue more enjoyable consultative, observational, and value-added work.

Greg adds, doing what one enjoys will differentiate companies and individuals as technology displaces human capital.

He is Involved

Greg actively participates in what he calls the “enrichment cycle” – he is engaged in organizations within his field, which enriches his knowledge of the field, improving his ability to serve his company, employees, and clients, which creates opportunities for him, his team, and his company.

Lastly, He Tries

Greg says willingness to try and risk failure provides opportunities to succeed. Failing contributes to success by providing opportunities to learn and grow.

Learn more at this year’s conference, October 25 through 27. Register HERE.


Ashby Walters is Executive Director and cofounder of TaxForward and Future Tax Leaders. She has served as head of or leader in tax for Peet’s Coffee, Inc., Quizno’s, Staples, Dish Network, and other companies. Over her 20-plus year career, Ashby has helped organizations from Fortune 200 companies to start-ups, save more than $200 million in cash taxes, millions in G&A, and thousands of production hours collectively.

Doing the Math on Unemployment Benefits

With nearly 10 million people registering for unemployment in a two-week period, we decided to look at unemployment benefits and how much they’ll cover in the upcoming weeks.

Unemployment benefits vary by state. Generally, they are a percentage of a person’s wages and limited to a certain number of weeks – usually 26 – and do not start until seven days after a person files for benefits. Once a recipient’s allotted benefits run out (i.e. are paid out over the maximum number of weeks), they might not be eligible to receive unemployment benefits for a while.

Excluding expanded benefits under the stimulus package, Massachusetts offers the highest weekly unemployment benefits at $823 for up to 30 weeks; Mississippi offers the lowest weekly benefits at $235 for up to 26 weeks – not enough to keep a single adult over the U.S. poverty guideline of $12,490 ($25,750 for a family of four according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services). Georgia offers the shortest benefit period at 20 weeks.

Using, as an example, Colorado, whose weekly maximum unemployment benefit of $561 exceeds even California’s weekly maximum, unemployment pays no more than 60% of a recipient’s earnings. A person must earn $4,000 monthly, or $48,000 annually, to receive an average monthly benefit of $2,431 – the maximum benefit in Colorado – a $1,569 hole. (We’re comparing gross numbers because both amounts are subject to income tax.) Add on the monthly cost of COBRA – which averaged $610 per month for individual plans in 2019 according to the Kaiser Family Foundation ($1,749 for families, both figures include 2% administrative fees) – and, in a state where half the population earned more than $68,811 in 2018, $5,734 monthly, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, an additional $1,200 might not be sufficient to keep the unemployed in their homes if this continues over a protracted period.

Increasing weekly unemployment benefits by $600 will raise the maximum monthly benefit to $5,031. Anyone earning less than $60,000 annually – less than half Colorado’s working population in 2018 – will receive more in benefits through July 31, 2020, than they had been earning monthly. All others will receive less than they earned.


Ashby Walters is Executive Director and cofounder of TaxForward and Future Tax Leaders. She has served as head of or leader in tax for Peet’s Coffee, Inc., Quizno’s, Staples, Dish Network, and other companies. Over her 20-plus year career, Ashby has helped organizations from Fortune 200 companies to start-ups, save more than $200 million in cash taxes, millions in G&A, and thousands of production hours collectively.

Reality Bites: Oy Corona!

If you have been wondering what is the big deal about COVID-19 (you’re not alone), here is the scoop: COVID-19 spreads so fast that, if unchecked, experts worry the sick could overwhelm hospitals, forcing them to ration care, having to choose who receives services (ergo lives) and who doesn’t – an equation favoring the young, healthy, and wealthy. This occurred in Wuhan, China, and is occurring throughout Italy. The resulting strain on our medical system weakens our society’s ability to respond to other catastrophes.

If seeing is believing, the circumstantial evidence (and science) indicates COVID-19 spreads rapidly. Within five days of a conference held in Massachusetts last month, 50 out of the 175 attendees had flu-like symptoms and 70 confirmed COVID-19 cases could be linked to the conference, according to the Boston Globe. In Italy, one person is thought to have infected 43 people, according to Nicholas Christakis, MD, PhD, MPH, a Yale professor who studies networks, in an interview with WBUR. China went from 266 cases on December 31, 2019, to 80,000 by mid-March 2020.

Hospitalizations among the infected are high – ranging from 15% in China to more than 50% in Italy according to Liz Specht of STAT; the percentage of infected requiring critical care (e.g. placed in ICUs) range from 5% in China to 10% in Italy according to Ms. Specht. Estimates of the number of infected who will require hospitalization in the U.S. range from 10% to 20%.

Yet, U.S. hospitals do not have the resources – beds, equipment, and people – to care for everyone who would require treatment if the virus spreads unchecked, according to experts like Eric Richards, MD, an infectious disease specialist serving six Denver area hospitals. The U.S. has less than 3 hospital beds for every 1,000 people, or less than 0.3% of the population, according to the OECD. That translates into 8,400 beds in the Denver metro area, 12,900 in the Boston metro area, 13,100 in the San Francisco Bay area, and 19,600 in the Houston metro area – covering over 19 million people – if none are in use. When I spoke with Dr. Richards on the morning of March 13, he said the six hospitals he serves were already “full to capacity” without having a single COVID-19 patient in their beds.

In Wuhan, people requiring care were being turned away from hospitals because there were not enough beds for the sick, resulting in death as the sick convalesce at home. In Italy, experts are concerned about this and a collapse within the medical system.

According to Dr. Richards, more than 50% of the population falls into one or both of the two groups with the highest risk of complications or death from COVID-19: (a) those over age 65 and (b) those with compromised health. You’re bound to know someone who could be at risk if infected.

The U.S. has been struggling to test for and thereby track and contain the spread of the virus. As such, the only way to protect ourselves and the ones we love is by separating ourselves – the social distancing you might have been hearing about. As word of the crisis began to trickle in from Asia, many self-imposed their isolation. Now, it is being mandated by several levels of government.

As millions sacrifice for the social good, much as great generations have in the past, eyes are turning to D.C. and state and local governments for thoughtful leadership to provide relief and prevent a secondary national crisis.

While payroll tax reductions will help, they will not arrive in time to avert the crisis nor in amounts large enough to save homes and credit. They cannot feed children of furloughed employees while the sacrifice is being made.

The biggest priority for most families will likely be job security, their health and welfare, being able to feed their families, buying medicine, and keeping their homes. As thousands become unemployed (or, for the 10% of the workforce that is self-employed and the 20% of the workforce employed by them, lose revenue), promptly implementing policies such as the following could ease their turmoil.

  • Relaxing requirements for unemployment benefits;
  • Creating a paid leave program covering this period;
  • Creating a temporary safety net for the self-employed;
  • Extending deadlines for all tax payments coming due in the next three months, including income, property taxes, sales/use taxes, and payroll taxes;
  • Extending filing deadlines for all tax returns coming due in the next three months;
  • Deferring payments on government backed loans; and
  • Providing treatment for COVID-19 regardless of a person’s insurance coverage.

If you’re bunkered at home waiting for the pandemic wave to ebb and looking for ways to lighten the experience, here are a few ideas.

  • Sleep in an extra hour
  • Check on your neighbors
  • Help those in need
  • Serenade your neighbors
  • Binge watch TV with your family
  • Write a story, develop an app, or design a game with your kids
  • Make your friends laugh with videos
  • Watch more hilarious videos by John Garrett

TaxForward will be taking the following steps to assist you and our community during this saga.  

  1. Moving the March 25 Master Tax Mixer and webinars to May 6, 2020, to protect the health and safety of our speakers, attendees, and community. Registrants will receive the option of a credit towards an event or a full refund.
  2. Extending the early adapter pricing for the Spring Tax Detox to April 15, 2020, to provide time to decide as the situation stabilizes.
  3. Providing and referring materials, including webinars and articles, that will address critical questions for businesses, such as the following, on our website and social media. If there are any webinars and articles you’d like us to recommend, please send the information to Info@TaxForward.org.
    • How to advise employees;
    • Travel and leave practices;
    • Interaction with clients and vendors;
    • Whether and how to cancel events;
    • Whether and how to change store practices (including setting purchase limits);
    • Distribution channel and productivity concerns;
    • Continuity plans;
    • Cash flow options; and
    • What insurance options are available to help mitigate potential losses and risks.

We wish you and your family good health and safety!


Ashby Walters is Executive Director and cofounder of TaxForward and Future Tax Leaders. She has served as head of or leader in tax for Peet’s Coffee, Inc., Quizno’s, Staples, Dish Network, and other companies. Over her 20-plus year career, Ashby has helped organizations from Fortune 200 companies to start-ups, save more than $200 million in cash taxes, millions in G&A, and thousands of production hours collectively.

Meet the Tax Influencer Making National Waves

One of Denver’s Tax influencers (and past Future Tax Leaders’ National Board Director), is making waves in other markets while bringing an exciting new player to the local market.

An attribute that has established Chris Becze (pronounced “bee-zee”) as an influencer in tax is his approach to the field: from parties to T-shirts with cheeky slogans, such as “making tax sexy”™ (available at TaxTZs and in FTL’s online store), Chris makes being a tax professional look cool.

Since joining Armanino, a Silicon Valley based powerhouse accounting firm that seems to equal Chris’ energy and innovative style, in 2017, Chris, a licensed attorney with an LL.M in Tax, has helped Armanino expand across the country, including opening an office in Denver late last year.

With Denver’s robust market, talent pool, and embrace of technology, why wouldn’t a company open an office in Denver, asks Chris? This mix drew Armanino to the vibrant city and Denver’s reception to Armanino has been outstanding, according to Chris.

Why wouldn’t it be?

In addition to offering an expanse of services designed to fuel any business, including marketing, transformation, systems implementation, and wealth management services, along with the classic accounting firm staples of audit and tax related services, working on IA, and partnering with behemoths such as Microsoft, Armanino’s approach to managing its team has led to a contagiously vibrant and curious culture.

In Armanino’s Denver office, Chris’ entrepreneurial style flourishes. At a recent open house, members of his team said they feel they are “in charge of [their] destiny” at the firm and have “never worked in a firm as inspiring” as Armanino.

To enable his team to learn through experimentation and exploration, Chris empowers his team to pursue work that inspires them while encouraging them to assume leadership at all levels. For example, he charged his managers with identifying and selecting the space for the firm’s new Denver office. As a result, his team has a unique sense of ownership and personal pride in their office.

Leading a team this way comes with risk for Chris – such as the possibility of having to dress up as Cupid [I’m imaging diapers] in front of 60 business leaders and finance professionals. This specific hazard arose at a recent “Beer with Becze” roundtable, monthly meetings in which the team can pepper Chris with questions and test ideas. During the meeting, Chris’ team formed the idea of Armanino’s upcoming “Stupid Cupid” Archery Dodgeball Tournament on February 20th – and challenged Chris to dress as Cupid during the games if they achieved a certain goal.

Not sure what “archery dodgeball” is but you know you want to give it a try – or just want to see Chris dressed as Cupid? Contact a member of Armanino’s Denver team or email us to learn more. Space is limited.

Chris’ success in developing an inviting culture is reflected in several measures, such as employee engagement – including the frequency in which employees choose to work in the office rather than from home – and an increase in clients and applicants.

Chris’ team is curious, energized, and seems to be constantly seeking to develop new ideas and find solutions, which appears to be drawing clients and applicants to the Denver office. Combine all of the above with Chris’ knack for attracting established and up-and-coming talent and we’re expecting Armanino to make big waves in Denver.


Ashby Walters is Executive Director and cofounder of TaxForward and Future Tax Leaders. She has served as head of or leader in tax for Peet’s Coffee, Inc., Quizno’s, Staples, Dish Network, and other companies. Over her 20-plus year career, Ashby has helped organizations from Fortune 200 companies to start-ups, save more than $200 million in cash taxes, millions in G&A, and thousands of production hours collectively.