FSI ramps up lobbying on indie contractor status, other tax issues

Lewis is latest hire charged with pushing advisers' agenda on Capitol Hill

Apr 16, 2012 @ 3:51 pm

With tax issues a pressing issue for financial advisers who own their businesses, as well as for their clients, the Financial Services Institute recently added a senior member to its Washington lobbying force to focus on tax and retirement concerns.

Robert Lewis, who took up the role a month ago, will concentrate on helping advisers retain their independent-contractor status, a long-standing issue for FSI members, as well as to continue the fight against the Labor Department's planned revamping of fiduciary duty rules for advisers to retirement plans.

“One of the top tax issues is advisers' independent contractor status, and there are frequent and constant challenges to that status,” said FSI chief executive Dale Brown. “That is critical to their business so we want to invest in those areas.”

Mr. Lewis, with a law degree from Catholic University of America and a political science degree from Morehouse College, joined FSI from the Community Financial Services Association of America, where he was manager of federal affairs. Previously, he was a law clerk for Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, manager of government affairs for Financial Executives International, and was an aide to Sen. Zell Miller, D-Georgia, for four years in Washington.

Mr. Lewis becomes the fifth member of FSI's internal advocacy team, which also hires outside help on certain issues and for some state concerns, Mr. Brown said. FSI members were hit with a dues hike last year as part of the group's stated plan to increase its lobbying efforts on taxes and other issues.

FSI spokesman Chris Paulitz said last week that the group had successfully fought a proposal under consideration by the California Assembly to tax “high-net-worth estate planning,” a term the proposed bill did not define.

In addition, Mr. Lewis will be the point person for tax reform when that debate heats up again in Congress after the November presidential election, said FSI chief executive Dale Brown. While most agree the nation's complicated tax system needs revamping, some lawmakers and President Barack Obama have said increased taxes on wealthy individuals and families are the best source for additional revenue to tackle the nation's debt.

The FSI has more than 100 broker-dealer member firms and represents more than 35,000 individual financial advisers.

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