From the Sidelines: A Deconstructionist View of Circular 230


Over the past several months, the new written tax advice rules in Circular 230 have engendered a great deal of debate. On one side, tax practitioners have repeatedly voiced their frustration in interpreting the new rules along with their fears that the rules may have a far-reaching and radical impact on everyday tax practice. On the other side, the government has attempted to soothe practitioners’ fears while at the same time insisting upon a generally broad interpretation of the new rules. In this short essay, I provide an outsider’s perspective of this debate over the meaning of the new written tax advice rules. Viewing the action from the sidelines, I maintain that, in this debate, we are actually watching deconstruction in action. After providing a bit of background on the deconstructionist concept of the liberation of the text from the author, I assert that we are witnessing the free play of the text of Circular 230 following its liberation from its government authors. While I explain that this is quite a normal and natural process, I do express my sympathy for those who must live with the uncertainties inherent in the free play of a text that governs one’s own conduct.

Date of this Version

May 2005

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