Many happy returns

Dave Kautter

Man on a mission

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For 33 years, Dave Kautter, former Ernst & Young LLP US Director of National Tax, helped to build one of the world’s largest and most successful tax practices. Today, as Chair of the Board of the Washington National Cathedral, he’s working to rebuild and preserve one of the nation’s most cherished and iconic landmarks.

An earth-moving experience

In August 2011, a 5.8 magnitude earthquake rattled the Eastern Seaboard, including the nation’s capital. The tremor lasted only seconds, but it inflicted more than US$25 million in damage to the Cathedral, which is privately funded. It is Dave Kautter’s job not only to oversee the restoration of the Cathedral but to ensure its long-term economic survival.

A major tourist attraction, the Washington National Cathedral remains an active house of worship for several denominations. However, Kautter points out that the edifice is more than a church or a parish, “It’s a cathedral and cathedrals play a unique role in societies and cultures.”

Kautter first got involved with the Cathedral in 2008, just after the economic downturn. Realizing a need for people with strong financial skills to guide it through the “challenging times ahead,” the Cathedral’s board asked Kautter to chair its finance committee. He was soon named to the board of directors, and in 2012 was named chair.

Living in harmony

With its mission to “be a catalyst for spiritual harmony in our nation,” serving the Cathedral is a natural for Kautter. “I’ve always had an interest in helping others, in faith in American society and in encouraging interfaith dialogue,” he notes, perhaps a reflection of growing up in a religiously “mixed” home.

With a Catholic mother and Protestant father, Kautter has childhood memories of Sunday mornings shuttling back and forth between Mass, Protestant services, catechism and Sunday school. Later, as a Notre Dame student, he spent a year in Tokyo studying East Asian religions.

In addition to being a house of worship, tourist attraction (some 700,000 people visit annually) and national landmark, the Washington National Cathedral is a business. With an annual budget of US$14 million — all from private donations — the Cathedral is always looking for ways to attract financial support.

“We’re constantly looking for those who have an interest in the principles the Cathedral advocates — interfaith dialogue, whether within the Christian denominations or with Jewish, Islamic or other religions — and developing ways of working together.”

In another area of outreach, last November the Cathedral launched a Veterans Initiative, holding a Veterans Interfaith Prayer Breakfast the Sunday before Veterans Day.

Always a teacher

In addition to his work at the Cathedral, Kautter is a full-time professor at American University and runs the school’s Kogod Tax Center, focused on tax issues affecting entrepreneurs and small businesses.

As director, Kautter has testified before Congress, appeared on national television and is regularly in the press. Considering a career “dedicated to learning, mentoring and teaching” at EY (as well as a three-year stint as Tax Legislative Counsel to former Senator John Danforth), Kautter says shifting into the academic role “was not a big jump. My passion has always been helping people, clients as well as staff, finding ways to help them grow and improve.”

Even though he retired from the firm four years ago, he continues to mentor a number of EY professionals.

I knew Mark Weinberger when …

Early in his career at EY, Kautter got to work with a young staffer named Mark Weinberger. He remembers Weinberger as a “thoughtful, energetic staff person who was not afraid of hard work or of taking a risk. Mark was an extraordinarily bright individual who tried to get better every day.”

National trailblazer

Looking back on his career with EY, Kautter is particularly proud of his accomplishments with the National Tax practice, which he ran from 1986 to 1989 and again from 2000 until he retired in 2010.

“Back then, the concept of a National Tax practice — having highly specialized tax professionals throughout the country linked by a sophisticated knowledge-sharing network and coordinated by a local Tax Services Coordinator — was revolutionary,” notes Kautter. The concept worked “with great success” and continues to underpin EY’s tax services model. Today, the model is used by all the national firms.

When not teaching or serving at the Washington National Cathedral, Kautter also sits on the Tax Analysts Board (publisher of Tax Notes). He and his wife, Kathy, an award-winning artist and photographer, have two adult children.