Let’s go to the next one: the Tax Dabble Trap. This is basically a belief that the Business Lawyer can advise on some or any International Tax issues related to Business Transactions even though he’s not a practicing Tax Attorney.
Oftentimes this belief, comes from prior experience. Meaning a Business Lawyer perhaps was involved ten years ago in a similar deal and an Accountant was present and the Accountant advised on this as the Business Lawyer recalls that situation. He may think, “This is a similar deal; why do I need an Accountant? Why do I need an Attorney? I can do it myself.” He then starts advising on Tax Issues believing that his advice is exactly the same as it was ten years ago.
Perhaps the contributing factor to this belief is a bit of hubris which is present in all attorneys, myself included. If you remember the song, “Anything you can do, I can do better. I can do anything better than you.” It’s exactly that kind of attitude; it’s exactly that kind of attitude which is completely false in International Tax Law.
You cannot dabble in International Tax Law for two reasons. First, it’s extremely complex. You may think that this advice was given to you ten years ago by an Accountant or even a Tax Attorney is correct but perhaps there were some details, something in the facts of that particular case that influenced that advice. In a different situation, which might be very similar but yet slightly different and that slight difference might make a world of difference in terms of what kind of advice should be given.
The second reason is that this is a tremendously dynamic area of Law. International Tax Law changes all the time. Today, you don’t have to report this asset; tomorrow there are three reporting requirements. Yesterday, it was not taxed; today it is taxed. Yesterday it was entitled to a Long-Term Capital Gains treatment. Today it’s not or vice versa.