What the Heck(erling) Just Happened? A View from Orlando


Another Heckerling Institute is in the books. And it will come as no surprise that the recent tax legislation was a hot topic from the podium as well as among the audience members. So what can we say a month out from enactment and after a week of the best and brightest hashing out the impacts?  Well, I personally took two big picture lessons away.

First, the terrain is still shifting, and may continue to do so for some time. Many of the sessions at Heckerling included presenters almost throwing out ideas for the first time and seeing how their fellow panelists reacted. More than one presentation included a statement along the lines of "we're still trying to figure out a work-around for this." Marty Shenkman noted at his wrap-up session that he had only finished the article that attended his presentation after midnight. There are so many new provisions that call for techniques - from ways to prevent deduction limitations from hitting the bank accounts, to means of maximizing the advantage of new benefits like the pass-through income deduction and even the temporary increase in the estate tax exemption. 

Second - everything old, may very well be new again. The temporary exemption increase harkens back to the planning that was occurring at the end of 2012 and the fact that a change in administration in 2021 could accelerate a decrease, means taking advantage of this could be more "urgent" than the existing sunset would indicate. Attempts to break businesses or assets into multiple parts to capture additional SALT deductions or keep pass-through income below the thresholds under the new §199A could see the multiple trust rules return to significance as an arrow in the IRS's quiver. And that's not to mention the number of times I heard the words "we'll want to dust off our plans for" an array of techniques that have decreased in salience because of other changes.

So, we may have to wait a bit for things to work themselves through. But it certainly gives us something to look forward to for next year's Institute.