The uncertainty of the "fiscal cliff" negotiations in Washington has resulted in a recent flood of activity for attorneys as their clients try and plan for the future.
"This year is almost the perfect storm," said Miller & Chevalier tax member Marc Gerson, former majority tax counsel to the House Ways and Means Committee. He pointed to not only the fiscal cliff and the expiring Bush-era tax cuts, but also the increase in Medicare taxes and a new investment tax.
As a result, businesses are looking to accelerate income before the year ends to avoid the uncertainty of 2013.
"Traditionally there always is year-end tax planning that we do on behalf of our clients," Gerson said. "Obviously folks are operating with a lot of uncertainty."
The uncertainty has created the question of what to do before the end of the year, as attorneys present their clients with different scenarios to better prepare them for the future.
"I think it's negatively impacting businesses and the stock market," said McDermott Will & Emery partner Henry Christensen III in New York, leader of the firm's national and international private client practice. "If you don't know, then you have to plan for the worst."
Christensen said that attorneys have been working around the clock and on the weekends to help their clients finish transactions before the year's end.
He said that there are about 100 transactions that must close before the end of the year in the New York office and another couple hundred in the firm's Chicago office. Christensen said that trust transactions and charitable contribution planning are two areas where the firm has been swamped. But attorneys are still waiting to see what will come out of Washington.
Christensen said that the lack of guidance on state income tax reduction has been disruptive for businesses. He pointed to two companies that are planning to move from New York to Florida as a result of income tax reduction. He said states like New York, Illinois, Michigan, California and Pennsylvania may lose out to states like Texas, Florida and New Hampshire when it comes to attracting businesses.
"My sense is that Congress is not paying a great deal of attention to the estate and gift tax, but what they're really focused on is the personal income tax," Christensen said. "Lawyers will be busy, but their clients will not be happy with Congress for making them do all these things."