Working in the payroll software industry during the day has certainly opened my eyes to problems created by our federal elected officials. Under normal circumstances, Congress decides on a budget for the next year with significant lead time for the president to sign the legislation and the Treasury department (IRS) to issue tax tables based upon that law. Tax tables, if issued in early November, can be coded, tested and released by software companies well in advance of the next tax year. Once software companies release these tables, payroll and accounting software providers must update their customers with the new calculations after performing tests of their own. This entire process can take up to a month. Now, mix in this year's congressional indecision. The federal government's budget has still not been finalized as of the writing of this post. Many analysts and representatives are saying nothing will happen until the 'lame duck' session following the election in November. With no tax law available for writing next year's tax tables, there can be no software coding and testing at the tax table software level or the payroll software provider level. To add even more complexity to the situation, how is anyone supposed to plan for their tax liability with no rules in place to determine how much liability will exist?The Treasury Department has three choices:
- Issue new tables assuming all Bush-era tax cuts will be continued
- Issue tables assuming all Bush-era tax cuts expire
- Issue tables similar to this year with small adjustments for inflation
If Treasury and Congress do not follow the same path, any mix of two of these scenarios would cause tax confusion like we have never experienced before. Think about the Treasury Department assuming tax cuts will continue while Congress lets them all expire. Not only would there be two releases of withholding rules (expensive!) within a short amount of time, everyone would experience underwithholding. This would require that everyone re-evaluate their tax position to ensure withholding or estimated payments would be enough to cover liability.
While I normally don't get political in this blog, this time I'll make an exception. Please write or contact your Congressman and make a good case for the urgency of a new budget. Delaying will cause withholding problems with all taxpayers and prohibit those who wish to plan from making those plans. Should we withhold on an unpatched AMT, reduced child tax credits, Making Work Pay credit? Please Congress, let's get this resolved.