Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Are the NFL Rules (and Those Who Enforce Them) Getting as Unpredictable as the Tax Code?

Coming off the heels of Monday night’s interesting finish  to the Packers-Seahawks game, I have started to wonder if the NFL rules have become so complicated, and the turnover of officials so frequent, that tracking the outcome of a football game is starting to get as difficult as tracking the changes to the tax laws. We are looking, once again, at potentially significant changes to our tax laws after 2012, what with an upcoming election that could change those who shape and enforce those tax laws.

I have spent the last two years discussing pending changes to the tax laws with clients and with my colleagues. We talk about what provisions are going to sunset, what provisions we are supposed to pretend never existed, what rates might fluctuate, what techniques still work, etc.  We try to guess at what might change next. I have in-depth discussions about proposed bills in committees and obscure Senate races as we try to picture what the tax rules may look like next year. I have clients waiting to sell their entire businesses until “after the election” just to see who will be creating and enforcing those tax rules next year.

Are we destined to have a 2013 that resembles the NFL games from this weekend? Will we be able to tell how many time-outs a team gets, or what a simultaneous catch really looks like?  Are the rules so complicated that we can’t add replacement enforcers without serious implications to the outcomes of the game?

I still have no idea what the tax laws will look like next year.  I also have no idea how the election will shake out.  But I do know that, like football, there will always be taxes and there will always be rules.   I might just have to learn the difference between a force-out and the new overtime rules, to accept the inconsistencies and unknowns of new officials, and try to continue to guide clients on the probable outcomes of the game.

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