Perhaps the silliest chapter in US tax law administration came to a close on June 12, 2014 and with it goes the ubiquitous “Circular 230 Notice” on emails and every other type of writing.
Several years ago, by administrative fiat, someone at the IRS decided that those tax practitioners wishing to practice before the IRS had to declare that any writing issued that could be deemed to be a tax opinion was not unless it was. And with that, tax lawyers and CPAs included the appropriate statement at the bottom of each email. Failure to do so exposed the practitioner to certain penalties. Those reading this blog have likely used it and if not have certainly seen it. Heck, it was even on this website. This author’s first thought that fateful day some years back was that he and likely everyone else would put it one everything out of caution and it would soon become worthless. And that is what happened, almost immediately.
Tax lawyers did it for professional correspondence as did CPAs. Then it migrated to non-tax professionals, like insurance agents and stock brokers, who never had to worry about practicing before the IRS, but they did it anyway not understanding why they did it. Then it appeared on emails about little league practice and bridal showers and landscaping estimates. Clearly it reached ridiculous levels.
Its purpose was to put on notice taxpayers intent on abusing the system and then avoiding penalties if caught with the tax version of “the devil made me do it,” i.e. my tax lawyer said it was OK, that there were times when this shield might not work. Instead it became just more digital background noise that no one paid any attention to due to its ubiquity. Well, no more. Ding dong the Circular 230 Disclaimer is dead, destined to live on perhaps only at the bottom of those emails announcing cake in the break room sent by folks who not only don’t know why it’s there and may never know that it need not be there any longer.