As a lifelong Detroit Lions fan, I can still envision the game-winning touchdown catch Calvin Johnson made in Chicago in September of 2012. You can watch the replay over and over and 99 out of 100 people will say, “Wow, that was a fantastic catch.”
Unfortunately for the Detroit Lions, the one person that didn’t call it a
catch was an NFL referee. Consequently, the Lions lost.
Fast-forward to this season with the Detroit Lions and Dallas in the
playoffs. A critical penalty was called against Dallas and announced on
the public address system. Seventeen seconds later it was suddenly not a
penalty and play resumed as if the flag were never thrown.
Football experts claimed they had never seen anything like this
before and Dallas won the game. One week later, a Dallas player made
what appeared to be a phenomenal winning touchdown catch. Again,
everybody but the referees saw a spectacular catch and the pass was
So why am I bringing this up in a personal finance column? Because
fans are being turned off by the NFL. Not because it isn’t exciting, but
rather, because the rules have become overly complex. What appears
logical or common sense isn’t happening on the field of play.
In today’s overly complex world, I think people want the rules simple
and straightforward and they want them applied fairly across the board.
Segue to the real world. People are just beginning to receive the
documents they need to complete their 2014 tax returns. Some taxpayers
will soon be opening up the tax programs on their computers. Others will
be calling the IRS for clarification or looking up tax information
online. And many will bring shoeboxes full of papers to their tax
The point is simple; the tax code isn’t. Nor is it logical. What
makes sense to you and how you interpret the tax code isn’t the issue.
Your interpretation of the tax code is irrelevant. Just as your take on a
touchdown catch doesn’t matter. The only opinions that matter are those
of the NFL referees and the IRS.
A recent example of the overly complex IRS tax code is the new health
care law. The IRS published a twenty-one-page booklet that explains the
new law. There is also a booklet with a dozen pages with instructions
on how to claim one of the 19 exemptions.
If by chance you’re eligible for a health care subsidy, there’s a
two-page Premium Tax Credit form with thirty-six simple steps to
complete. Also new to the 1040 form this year is a box labeled “full
The NFL is exciting, but the rulebook is becoming so overly complex
the television analysts now have rules experts to explain to the fans
why the catch they saw really wasn’t a catch.
The IRS has pages and pages of rules and regulations that often defy
logic. While growing up, many youngsters dream of playing in the NFL in
front of all the fans. Nobody grows up with the goal of being in front
of even one IRS agent.
I believe the time has come for both the NFL and IRS to re- examine
their rules with the objective of simplifying and bringing logic and
common sense back into the entire process.