For this tax professional, the arbitrary, inequitable, and changing benefit of the first-time home buyer credit was the proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back.” I started writing The F-Word during the final days that credit was in effect.
At the time, several of my clients asked me why the home buyer credit was created and implemented the way that it was. I understood their question. Frequently, when I explain a provision of the tax code, I am asked why. After years of struggling to provide a sensible answer to a reasonable question, I finally gave up. I refuse to try to explain the logic of a system that has none. I cannot justify the rationale of a legislative body that has lost all reason. Sadly, I had no answer—no explanation—for them.
My office wall holds a framed cross-stitch given to me by my daughter several years ago. Now, if a client asks “why,” I just point to the tapestry, which reads,
- I can tell you what.
- I can’t tell you why.
I wrote The F-Word to "tell it like it is" and to offer some of the "what" to American taxpayers. What follows is taken from the Preface to the book.
Although the title is a not-so-subtle hint at what many feel the Internal Revenue system is doing to American taxpayers, I chose it for another reason. Yes, I wanted to grab your attention, but more importantly, I titled this book The F-Word because there are many adjectives that begin with the letter "F" that can be appropriately used to describe our Failed tax system—Frustratingly Faulty and Fatally Flawed. In a word—our tax code is FUBAR. For those with limited exposure to the military, FUBAR is a military acronym that dates from World War II. It stands for #%#*@ (read F word) up beyond all recognition.
The Financial Future of America, weighed down by a Finicky, Fluctuating tax code, is Frightening. Problems will continue to Fester under a Flaky, Feckless, and Fluky tax system. Maintaining the status-quo is Foolish, but trying to fix this snafu is Futile. The Internal Revenue Code is a Farce and we have to start over—we have to do better.
Although I am knowledgeable on most provisions of the Internal Revenue Code related to individual income taxes, I caution every new client, “I don’t know the tax code, and, in my view, no one does.” It is just too complicated and changes too frequently.
This complexity was aptly described by former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill, who said,
“Our tax code is so complicated, we’ve made it nearly impossible for even the Internal Revenue Service to understand.”
For average taxpayers, there is no way they can understand what the code requires or allows, no more than they can comprehend how it truly affects them.
The growth of the tax preparer industry and the proliferation of user friendly tax preparation software have rendered this problem largely moot for most taxpayers. They can now easily prepare and file their own returns, or they can have their returns prepared by a professional—in either case, whether correctly or not. Year after year, a majority of American taxpayers choose one or the other option to file their returns knowing little of the tax code and, worse, understanding none of its real impact. Contrary to the familiar expression, what you do not know can hurt you.
The problems America faces are as many and diverse as the people who call the United States home. Solutions to these problems are frequently complicated and more often hard to find. If a resolution is identified, it is seldom easy to implement even if agreement is reached on the solution. It seems intuitive, however, that the simplest injury to prevent, the easiest wound to dress, is one that is self-inflicted.
Yet many of the injuries America sustains are self-inflicted by our tax system. I believe that the cause of many of our problems can be traced to the completely dysfunctional IRC. We aren’t just shooting ourselves in the foot with our tax system; we are playing Russian roulette with only one chamber empty!
These words offer an ominous, foreboding tone to our tax system, rightly so. But, perhaps some levity is appropriate. The word joke carries a variety of definitions, including “something not to be taken seriously.” Nonetheless, given the unbridled authority bestowed on the IRS to enforce an unenforceable tax code, the issue of tax reform must be taken seriously. Our tax code is no joke. A second definition suggests that a joke is a story intended to cause laughter. Try as I might, I find nothing in our tax code that can be considered a laughing matter.
Writing The F Word was important to me. But bringing about real tax reform is important—scratch that—critical for all Americans. I told one of my sons that I wrote this book for me, but I took on the task because of my children. I went on to say that I finished it for my grandchildren, so that they might have the same opportunity Americans who came before had and enjoy the same freedom my generation and preceding generations enjoyed.
As America embarks on a Presidential election yet again, voters should demand a pledge of real, meaningful tax reform from all candidates.
Typically, a nonfiction book is meant to educate, enlighten, and inform. The F-Word more closely resemble a Stephen King novel. Prepare to be frightened. On reflection, perhaps horrified is a better word. Regardless, if after reading the book, you conclude that our future is in danger, and you are sufficiently disturbed to take action, I will have accomplished my goal.