Nick Khouri RetiresState Treasurer Khouri Leaves
a Lasting Legacy as State Treasurer
by Jon A. Hayes, Executive Director
December 21, 2018 - At a recent GEAR UP 1040 seminar, I had a member approach me to challenge my optimistic view as to how the Michigan Department of Treasury had made substantial gains in efficiencies and customer service since 2008 when it literally hit rock bottom with drastic budget cuts and retirements that left it with little experience and leadership.
He was particularly upset with a form letter that the Department had sent him that asserted a problem with a client return was due in part because of a mathematical error that gave no tracking data he could use to chase down the alleged problem. He rightfully felt the letter pointed a finger of blame at him and gave him no way to show the client he hadn't made such a mistake.
I certainly understood his concern and asked him to forward the information to me so I could contact someone at Treasury to help resolve the issue and salvage the client relationship. Upon receiving his information, I forwarded it to the person at Treasury I felt could best handle it and I also shared it with the Treasury Income Tax Advisory Group so it could be discussed at their December 17 meeting.
MTAP member Mark Tallis (Lansing) attended the meeting and reported that not only was the issue brought up, but that Treasury immediately recognized how the generic letter casts a negative light on a tax professional. They entertained suggestions on changing the letter's language from the group, and assigned personnel to follow up with a re-written letter draft that provides better information so the taxpayer/practitioner can understand and identify the possible problem the Department has.
Why do I bring this up? Treasurer Nick Khouri.
When Nick accepted this post four years ago, he recognized that the Department's focus had to shift from a major emphasis on aggressively collecting taxes to one of emphasizing customer service as the foundation to being responsive to taxpayer issues, concerns, and complaints arising from the collection process. His commitment to investing in employee training and education, opening dialogues with various practitioner groups who deal with the Department, improving customer service response time, and resolving contested cases more timely transformed the Department and empowered all who operate within it and with it to share a common goal of making it the best and fairest it can be under the laws it is required to operate by.
In my 32 years working with Michigan Treasury, I can honestly say Nick ranks #1 on my list of Treasurers because he removed politics from his mission. He used his ears to hear what people were saying. He stepped up and took responsibility for problems even when he had nothing to do with how they started, and he energized a workforce that exudes pride in what they do for the citizens of Michigan.
Many MTAP members may never have knowingly experienced the benefits of Nick's leadership style, but they did as returns are now processed quicker than ever before; cases in informal and formal hearings are resolved in less than half the time as they were just 4 years ago, and the information available at www.michigan.gov/treas often provides the means to resolve issues and answer questions without dialing a number.
We will miss Treasurer Khouri, and it is my hope that his successor recognizes how his management and leadership style has made Michigan one of the best agencies in this country, and I hope the new successor makes the wise decision to continue down that path.
MTAP Letter to Treasurer Khouri
Treasurer Khouri Retirement Announcement