15 Days, 9 Hours, 8 Minutes, and 27 Seconds

December 16, 2010

Earlier this year we added a timer to our website (in the upper right corner of the home page) that counts down the days, hours, minutes, and seconds until the Bush-era tax cuts expire.

We weren’t sure how long we’d be able to leave the timer on the website—that is, whether Pres. Obama and Congress would address the problem of the expiring cuts soon, or whether their inaction would leave taxpayers guessing through the end of the year. Will the timer reach zero?

Probably not. Congress now seems poised to make a decision fairly soon—maybe—and when they do, they’ll probably be self-congratulatory. But our timer now reads 15 days, 9 hours, 8 minutes, and 27 seconds—only about two weeks until expiration. That’s cutting it awfully close.

One wonders sometimes if policymakers truly understand the impact of taxes and the problems caused by uncertainty over rates, credits, deductions, etc. Business owners make decisions based on corporate tax rates and other types of tax, individuals and families adjust household budgets due to income taxes, and people plan estates with taxes in mind. In fact, the consequences of the estate tax’s expiration and sudden reinstatement could be downright tragic. (It’s hard to think of a worse tax consequence than death.) Planning estates, household budgets, and business decisions is difficult enough due to the tax code’s complexity, but not knowing what the rates will be in the very near future makes it that much harder.

Let’s hope that if the compromise bill, with its two-year provisions, passes, legislators won’t wait one year, eleven months, and two weeks before making some decisions. We don’t want to have a reason to put another timer on our website in 2012 counting down the days until expiration of the new provisions.

Update—Friday, Dec. 17: Since Pres. Obama signed the bill this afternoon (with just 14 days left) the timer will be removed on Monday, hopefully never to return.

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