When Israel Tannenbaum first started his accounting career at Deloitte twenty years ago, he was assigned to a group that worked with tax exempt clients. “It was very niche and non-traditional,” Tannenbaum says. “But I really enjoyed working in those sectors, especially with nonprofits. You’re helping organizations that are helping others.” He found the work so rewarding he remained in that sector throughout his career. He’s currently a partner at Withum.
Recent events have amplified the value of Tannenbaum’s specialty. Since he advises nonprofits on all aspects of their operations and tax compliance, his expertise was especially important at the height of the pandemic. “There was a big pivot in the industry because so much of their fundraising has always been in person, at events and galas,” says Tannenbaum.
For the most part, organizations made quick and effective switches to online events, he notes. But in many cases, organizations were compelled to rethink how they deliver services, with schools being the most obvious example. “Many of them are nonprofits and they had to change their whole model and figure out how to do Zoom school,” says Tannenbaum. He worked with those clients to strategize on the impact that COVID might have not only on fundraising, but on expenses. And he helped them navigate various government programs, such as PPP, and employee retention credits.
Tannenbaum also works with a number of charities that operate in Ukraine. In many cases, they’ve received an influx of donations, but are unable to perform their usual services because of disruption caused by the war. For instance, one organization offered health education country-wide, but could no longer travel. “We were able to turn it into a hub where they’re helping other charitable organizations that want to contribute to the relief effort in Ukraine,” says Tannenbaum. “So it’s almost a complete change in their business model.” It’s his job to make sure that organizations don’t run afoul of tax laws and international rules when they make such accommodations.
“My experience has been great. [Expert Panels] allow me to provide thoughts and expertise in a lot of different areas, not necessarily just corporate taxation."
In all his work, whether it’s with nonprofit organizations, public charities or social service organizations, Tannenbaum plays the role of trusted advisor to his clients’ financial staffs. If, for instance, an organization hires a new CFO who does not have experience in the sector, Tannenbaum will help get the executive up to speed on the industry. “We just want to be that phone call to help bring solutions to the organization so they can really focus on their programmatic mission,” he says.
A relatively new area of interest for Tannenbaum is crypto currency. He says that some of his nonprofit clients have been approached by donors who want to give cryptocurrency. “We’ve seen people create a lot of wealth using cryptocurrency,” Tannenmaum says. “They want to use efficient tax planning where you don’t pay capital gains but at the same time, you make a charitable contribution,” Tannenbaum says. “This issue has been coming up a lot. We want to be able to advise on this and help our clients properly navigate it.” He believes the FTX meltdown will ultimately have a positive impact on the industry because it illustrates the need for regulation. “Once people feel that there’s oversight and safety for their funds, it can be much more generally adopted,” he says.
As an engaged member of Newsweek Expert Forum, Tannenbaum says, “My experience has been great.” He leads the online forum’s cryptocurrency group. “Being able to hear how cryptocurrency affects other types of practitioners in all types of industries is really insightful and has a lot of value,” he says. Tannenbaum is also a regular contributor to Expert Panels. “I think from a visibility perspective, they’re fantastic,” he says. “They allow me to provide thoughts and expertise in a lot of different areas, not necessarily just corporate taxation. It really is valuable to get perspectives from different people to see what some of the best practices are.”