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Saturday, November 4, 2006

Patenting Estate Tax Strategies?

One wonders about the thinking -- The U.S. Patent Office has been permitting patents on legal strategies for tax avoidance. The New York Times chimes in against the practice:

The broken American patent system has a knack for sanctioning the ridiculous. In the latest example, businesses are receiving patents for devising ways to obey the law — the tax code, to be more specific. What’s next, a patented murder defense?

As Floyd Norris reported recently in The Times, the broad category known as business-method patents (like patenting the idea of pizza delivery rather than the pizza itself) has expanded once again. Now it includes the legal ways that accountants and lawyers help their clients pay less tax.

The criticism seems so obvious: Why should anyone have a patent on a legal interpretation? If in my professional opinion a client should structure his or her estate in a way which would "violate" a patent, does that mean that I do not make the recommendation? Or do I have an obligation to refer the case to the patent-holder?

(Hat tip to Professer Beyer for the link, which is here).

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