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In political transition, certainty on taxes is harder to come by

When it comes to tax strategies there are the before tactics and after tactics. The after tactics are those a person may draw upon if they are already under notice from the IRS that they face a serious tax liability. By working with experienced counsel, you can come up with a plan for how best to challenge the claim or work to resolve it.

Astute Minnesota readers will grasp that before tactics are those employed as a preventive measure. Developing workable policies depends on having a clear understanding of tax laws and how the IRS interprets them. To that end, the agency often issues guidance statements. Taxpayers might not always like the interpretations, but they do provide a measure of certainty that makes crafting tax compliance plans easier.

Such certainty is something many tax law observers say is hard to come by in this time of political transition in Washington. The new administration in the White House has issued a string of executive orders since taking office, including the one that requires agencies to plan to eliminate two existing rules for every one new rule proposed.

The problem, as one news reporter observed not long ago, has to do with the way President Trump communicates, or perhaps doesn't. In the reporters words, "What does he mean when he says words?"

According to some, this problem applies specifically to the executive order on rulemaking. One former Treasury Department lawyer now in private practice notes the president's order uses the term "regulation" rather broadly. She says it's not clear whether the order might apply to such things as revenue rulings and other notices.

Such actions are typically considered sub-regulatory, and if the executive order does apply to them, she says it "could wreak more havoc on the IRS and Treasury's ability to get guidance to taxpayers."

For now, it seems, we must wait and watch to see if definitions become clearer.

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