Going Concern: Tax cuts are a pretty popular way for politicians to pander to their constituents. It seems pretty convenient that they are set to expire right after the mid-term elections. Who should we blame for this?
Gerri Willis: There are plenty of people to blame – George W. Bush put them into place way back in ’01 and ‘03 and we knew way back then they had an expiration date – so take yer choices, there are plenty of politicians to point the finger at.
GC: And God knows Americans need someone to blame. Since Congress let the estate tax expire, is there a real risk that the tax cuts could expire without any action?
GW: Sure, it’s actually the easiest action to take because it requires absolutely no effort on the part of anybody – Congress doesn’t have to do anything. The President doesn’t even have to pick up a pen to sign the bill. They could all just dither until midnight December 31. Whoosh! Tax hikes.
GC: Just like tornadoes in Brooklyn. And that's not good for anybody. Anyway, there’s a lot of information and misinformation out there with regard to the tax cuts. Can we safely assume that objectivity is taking a back seat to political gain and Americans are at the mercy of the rich and powerful (who, incidentally, are the ones greatest affected by the ultimate outcome)? How can Americans know what’s really going to happen? How can accountants best sort through all the noise to best serve their clients?
GW: Surprise! Politics are involved – of course they are, but Americans aren’t stooges. There are plenty of places to get objective information on the tax cuts. I’d suggest Fox Business and The Willis Report. Frankly there is no way for accountants or anyone else to know what is going to happen – Congress is really holding us hostage – my financial advisor sources say nobody is going on vacation in December because they know that something can happen anytime that will change the landscape.
GC: Here’s something strange – Warren Buffet has indicated that he’s in favor of eliminating tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. Alan Greenspan is in favor of letting all the tax cuts expire. So we have one of the richest people in the world saying he’s willing to pay more taxes and the former head of the Federal Reserve saying that everyone should pay more taxes. Generally speaking, these are smart guys. Are they onto something or is this a sign that we need to start ignoring everything that old men say?
GW: Okay, to be fair here there is wealthy and then there is wealthy, right? $250,000 in San Francisco or LA or NYC is not the same thing as $250,000 in Omaha or Comanche TX. And, Greenspan simply continues to try to resurrect his reputation which was harmed by the mortgage meltdown.
GC: Ultimately though, the one thing Congress agrees on is that tax cuts for the middle class should stay and the big debate is whether the wealthy get a short extension on their cuts or a “permanent” (although it’s not really permanent) one. But do rich people really need an additional moderately-priced BMW?
GW: Heehee. Maybe they won’t buy a BMW – maybe they’ll hire someone! The thing for the middle class to know is that it isn’t just your income taxes at stake – there are a handful of beloved middle class tax credits at stake too – write-offs for college loan interest; child tax credit; and of course there is no AMT patch yet this year – if that doesn’t come to pass tens of thousands of Americans could owe AMT -- a tragedy.