In his State of the Union address on January 25th, 2011, the President made the following statement: “Those with accountants or lawyers to work the system can end up paying no taxes at all. But all the rest are hit with one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world. It makes no sense, and it has to change."
I agree with the President that we have an unfair tax system. It is exceedingly complex and has numerous laws that are nonsensical. For example, a law was passed in 2001 that encouraged wealthy people to die in 2010. Numerous attempts to remove this perverse incentive were rejected by Congress. On December 17, 2010, the 2001 law was reaffirmed in a deal brokered by the President. The new law also created a new incentive for wealthy people to die in 2011 and 2012. I have decided that I will not encourage my clients to take advantage of this tax savings “opportunity.” I hope the President will approve of my decision.
I must take exception with the President’s criticism of my profession. I have an ethical duty to do the best job that I can of counseling my clients on how to arrange their affairs to lawfully minimize their tax obligations based upon the laws that Congress and the President have enacted. Indeed, I should be disbarred if I concealed from my clients the laws that Congress has passed that would allow them to reduce their tax obligations.
President Obama is an attorney himself. He knows our ethical obligations. I have some advice for the President: Don’t blame others for following the laws that he is at least partially responsible for passing. Enact fair and simple tax laws and you will have a system that is fair and simple.