General Practice, Solo & Small Firm DivisionMagazine

 

From the Editor / jennifer j. rose

© American Bar Association. All rights reserved. jennifer j. rose, editor-in-chief of The Complete Lawyer , is a lawyer and writer living in Morelia, Michoacan, Mexico. She can be reached at jenniferrose@abanet.org .

 
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Booty, plunder, and simply taking what it wanted may have funded ancient Mesopotamian regimes, but a Roman Empire seeking to encourage the use of Latin, erect important antique buildings, and otherwise spread its good cheer throughout the Western World had to depend upon more than its citizens’ kind charity.

Around this time, wiser minds, also referred to as "politicians," came to the conclusion that rules might lend a semblance of fairness to collecting the lucre needed to pay for civilization and shape appropriate social conduct.

Before long, tax codes were born, giving rise to concepts like danegeld, scutage, and tallage, which enabled peasants to fund armies to fend off marauding Danes and fete a lord’s eldest daughter’s wedding. For the peasants, tax payments also had the welcome side effect of curbing potentially socially destructive behaviors such as accruing wealth or eating.

Were it not for Lady Godiva’s bareback tax-protesting ride through Conventry’s lanes, her husband Leofric, Earl of Mercia, would be little more than a mere footnote in the annals of history. Aquitane indignation over Edward the Black Prince’s oppressive tax policies fueled the Hundred Years’ War. Charles I lost his head over taxes. Later on in the New World, American colonists weathered tax laws named after molasses, sugar, and tea only to put George Washington’s power to the test in the Whiskey Rebellion.

More euphemisms and oxymorons cloak taxation than any other disagreeable or disgusting aspect of life. Voluntary taxation. Social Security. Revenue enhancement. Deficit reduction. Frequent flyer points for anteing up with a credit card (next year).

It’s a Dog’s Life

Leona Helmsley, Al Capone, Willie Nelson, and Mustang Rancher Joe Conforte all share a common bond—tax infamy. Zoe Baird will be remembered more for her tax woes than her legal acumen. Even my dog, a humble progeny of German tax collector Louis Doberman’s breeding efforts, bears a cruel scar of tax policy, his tail docked in a nod to archaic English exemptions for working dogs.

Remember when your seventh-grade teachers warned that everything you did would appear on your Permanent Record? Spitballs, after-school detention, and dress code violations could ultimately cloud important adult career goals such as becoming a lawyer. The sigh of relief that there is absolutely no evidence of that Permanent Record, not even on the World Wide Web, the repository of all information known to mankind, is short-lived.

The Permanent Record that’ll follow you for the rest of your life is the tax return. Just try and run for any real important public office—from president of the United States to Dimebox, Texas, Parks Board—and the public will demand revelation of those tax records. Richard Colombik and Cary Rosenthal explain how to avoid embarrassing tax penalties in "Seven Steps to ‘Nanny Tax’ Compliance."

Paying those taxes, even those that you’d never heard of before in your entire life, isn’t the only issue. It’s not simply a matter of reporting and paying the piper. Each income tax return is a report card of the year gone past. Replacing the seventh-grade teacher who revealed the semester’s transgressions to a parent, your CPA now looks sneeringly in smug accusation that you didn’t make enough money, spent what you did make unwisely, or broke the rules.

Instead of squirming before the vice-principal, you and your client shudder before the IRS, revealing, justifying, explaining, protesting, pleading, and ponying up. George Marifian explains it all in "Representing A Taxpayer before the IRS." Confused about which citation will be the most convincing to the IRS and the Tax Court? Susan Lindley and Ron S. Jong’s article, "Tax Research: A Hierarchy of Authorities," can help.

Don’t Throw This Issue in the Pile

Unless you practice tax law, it’s tempting to put any literature about taxes aside for later, knowing that it’s as good for you as eating liver or losing weight. Not your usual boring tax law magazine, this issue’s packed with articles of relevance to every lawyer’s practice. Peggy Podell’s "Tax Returns: A Discovery Tool for Family Lawyers" reveals how a federal income tax return can be a footpath to discovery.

In "Allocations and Distributions in Partnerships and LLCs," Robert Keatinge sorts out the business of sharing the proceeds in partnerships and LLCs. Richard Shapack explains the most recent income tax changes to real estate transactions in "Recent Income Tax Changes Affect Property Owners." The quotidian sales tax, around since Julius Caesar, is a serious matter in C. Wells Hall and Sue A. Sprunger’s piece, "Multistate Sales and Use Taxes." In "Gift Taxes: Family, Friends, and the Tax Collector," Deborah L. O’Neil demystifies those taxes on inheritances that’ve been around since biblical times.

What’s in store for your next issue of The Complete Lawyer? April/May 1999 offers The Law of Leisure. After all, you can’t take a break from working hard without knowing the rules. CL

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