The Shifting Sands of American Law

In the midst of a thumbs-up for the estate tax repeal and the step-up basis retention, a warning:

If the bill is passed without changes to these provisions, then planning will focus on maximizing basis step-up at death, perhaps with additional lifetime gift planning in anticipation of a reasonably likely future return of the estate tax in the future when political tides shift.

And shift they will.  American politics and law are cyclical; today’s fashion is tomorrow’s crime.  To have a properly functioning economic system one must have a legal system that is both transparent and stable, and ours is less of both as time goes by.  Thus, people have less incentive to build wealth under one legal framework only to see it change to another.  The only people who manage to survive these rough seas are those who either anchor their wealth offshore (and don’t mind getting outed occasionally) or those whose wealth/corporations are big enough to buy the influence necessary to keep their place.

In my years in business, this was a persistent problem, especially when we got the feeling that a target was being painted on our back.  It’s unreasonable to expect people to provide jobs under these conditions, and it’s amazing that our economy has retained the vitality it has under the conditions to which it has been subjected.

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