What's up with Congress?

December 27, 2012, by

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Saturday, December 22nd. Lars is at his CPA office, making sure details are worked out for a few clients making year-end gifts. Nobody knows what Congress will do with the estate and gift tax laws in 2013. The gift tax exemption might drop from $5 million per giver to $1 million, but Lars doesn't think that's probable.

One of Lars's clients is a newly-widowed woman whose husband had a successful business. She's not old, but she's not young. She has been trying, with Lars's help, to determine whether to make large gifts of company stock or other assets, to her children before year-end. This ain't right that she has to wrestle with this so soon after her husband died, Lars muses. Even if Congress puts something together this last week of the year, the widow has still been burdened with worried uncertainty.


Lars is a nice guy, overly forgiving. This has served him well in keeping clients and friends. But he's developing a bit of resentment and maybe even anger on behalf of clients, at Congress for its fumbling around with the tax rules. The last go-round, in 2012, Congress waited until December to decide what the rules were for the year already past. And why is the President doing the negotiating with the Republicans? Doesn't he have enough to think about without stepping in on what Congressional Democrats should be doing?

Lars is also a pretty good thinker about things human. He questions, is it just knee-jerk conventional reaction for him to blame Congress for the unfair pressure on his widow client? Isn't Congress just a bunch of fairly able people trying earnestly to accomplish things for our country? Lars isn't so sure. He recognizes that politics is complicated, but he's having a hard time excusing the procrastination on tax policy discomfiting his clients.