TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron
Pepperdine University School of Law

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Sunday, April 18, 2004

Bush-Cheney Tax Returns and Athenian Democracy

Sunday, April 18, 2004

David Cay Johnston has a nice piece today in the NY Times on how the 2003 Bush and Cheney tax returns "demonstrate how far American tax policy has veered from two classic philosophical insights about how to finance government: 'horizontal equity' and 'vertical equity.'" In her article, Democracy, Equality, and Taxes, Maureen Cavanaugh (Washington & Lee) observed that "Athenian democracy, with its complete commitment to political equality, allocated its tax burden to the wealthy and exempted ordinary citizens from tax, an exemption largely responsible for incorporation of ordinary (i.e., non-wealthy) citizens in democratic government." In the NY Times piece, Cavanaugh notes that the Bush-Cheney tax returns reflect a shift away from the ability-to-pay ideal. Johnston concludes that "One thing's for sure: Judging from the Cheney and Bush returns, we've come a long way indeed from the classic tax policies of ancient Greece."

April 18, 2004 in News | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

IRS Says "Bling Bling" Not Deductible

Sunday, April 18, 2004

The Watley Review, which describes itself as being "dedicated to the production of articles completely without journalistic merit or factual basis," reports in its latest issue that the IRS will not allow taxpayers to deduct the cost of "bling bling" -- diamonds, jewelry, and related showy paraphernelia.

April 18, 2004 in News | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Top 5 Tax Paper Downloads

Sunday, April 18, 2004

The Social Science Research Network compiles a list of the most frequently downloaded tax papers over a rolling two-month period. Here are the Top 5 tax downloads from this week's Top 10 list:

1. Corporations, Society and the State: A Defense of the Corporate Tax, by Reuven Avi-Yonah (Michigan)

2. The Dividend Divide in Anglo-American Corporate Taxation, by Steven Bank (UCLA)

3. Balance in the Taxation of Derivative Securities: An Agenda for Reform by David Schizer (Columbia)

4. The Tax Efficiency of Stock-Based Compensation, by Michael Knoll (Pennsylvania)

5. The Progressive Consumption Tax Revisited by Steven Bank (UCLA)

April 18, 2004 in Top 5 Downloads | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, April 17, 2004

More on Kerry's 2003 Tax Return

Saturday, April 17, 2004

Jack Bodganski (Lewis & Clark) has a nice discussion on his blog of Kerry's 2003 tax return. This follows up on the earlier discussion here as well as on InstaPundit. For further Kerry tax discussion, see here, here, and here. Thanks to Bob McCombs for the leads.

April 17, 2004 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

TaxProf Blog Debuts on InstaPundit

Saturday, April 17, 2004

TaxProf Blog debuted on InstaPundit today on John Kerry's 2003 tax return, noting how the curious $85 deduction for non-monetary donations to Goodwill on page 25 of the return:

"raises an interesting parallel to Clinton's tax returns he released when he first ran for President. Remember how he got excoriated for deducting various clothing items donated to Goodwill, including, most famously, used underwear? . . . Kerry deducted $85 for a Goodwill donation! Enquiring minds want to know: what was it Sen. Kerry? Underwear? Military Medals?"

April 17, 2004 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Kahn on Estate Tax Apportionment Act

Saturday, April 17, 2004

Douglas Kahn (Michigan) has posted The 2003 Revised Uniform Estate Tax Aportionment Act on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

This Article describes the significant sections of the 2003 Uniform Estate Tax Apportionment Act (the "2003 Uniform Act"). The Article explains the purpose and operation of the 2003 Uniform Act's various sections and notes some of the differences between the 2003 Uniform Act and its prior version.

April 17, 2004 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Warren on Taxation of Options On Issuer's Stock

Saturday, April 17, 2004

Alvin Warren (Harvard) has posted Taxation of Options on Issuer's Stock on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

This paper reconsiders the tax policy question of whether gains and losses on options on the issuer's stock should be excluded from the corporate tax base. The principal conclusions are that nonrecognition provisions of current law are problematic, and that the appropriate legislative response depends on a range of considerations, including the function of the corporate tax and the appropriate treatment of employee stock options.

Part I briefly reviews the principal provisions of current law and identifies the role of the corporate tax that provides the tentative normative perspective of the paper. Part II illustrates the inconsistent taxation under present law of options and certain substantially equivalent transactions. Part III examines some combinations of options and substantially equivalent transactions. Part IV considers alternatives to the 1984 legislation. Part V provides a summary of conclusions

April 17, 2004 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, April 16, 2004

Western New England To Offer Estate Planning LL.M.

Friday, April 16, 2004

Western New England College of Law announced that it will begin offering an Estate Planning LL.M. program in Fall 2005. Western New England thus will join Miami and Missouri-Kansas City as the only law schools offering an Estate Planning LL.M.

April 16, 2004 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Kerry's 2003 Tax Return

Friday, April 16, 2004

Intersting post on JustOneMinute about John Kerry's 2003 tax return, charging that David Cay Johnston's story in the NY Times omitted unflattering details in a Reuters report.

April 16, 2004 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Harris on Discriminatory Property Assessments

Friday, April 16, 2004

Lee Harris has posted "Assessing" Discrimination: The Influence of Race in Residential Property Assessments on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

In this Article, I document evidence that residential property in majority-minority neighborhoods is assessed at higher effective rates than like property in majority-white neighborhoods. I examine data on sales price and assessed value for more than fourteen hundred homes sales in New Haven, Connecticut from 2000-2001. My chief finding is that residents of minority neighborhoods - namely, African American and Latino - face assessments that are significantly higher than the market value of their residences, while residents of majority white neighborhoods are assessed at significantly less than market value. As a solution to assessment discrimination, I propose that assessments be meted out not on the purported market value of the underlying residence as is the case currently in most jurisdictions, but based on the actual cash costs of making home purchases.

April 16, 2004 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Boston College Symposium

Friday, April 16, 2004

Boston College Symposium on "The State of the Federal Income Tax: Rates, Progressivity, and Budget Processes"

James Repetti (Boston College), Opening Remarks

Martin McMahon (Florida), The Matthew Effect and Federal Taxation

Abstract: “For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance; But whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.” -- Gospel of Matthew, chapter 25, verse 29.

The term the “Matthew effect,” was coined by sociologist Robert K. Merton in 1968 based on the passage from the Gospel of Matthew in the epigram. “Put in less stately language, the Matthew effect insists in the accruing of greater increments of recognition for particular scientific contributions to scientists of considerable repute and the withholding of such recognition from scientists who have not yet made their mark.” The Matthew effect is not limited to the context in which Robert Merton first coined it. More generally, it is a synonym for the well known colloquial aphorism, “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.” This article is about the Matthew effect in the distribution of incomes in the United States, and the failure of the federal tax system to address the Matthew effect.

Over twenty years ago Paul Samuelson observed, “[i] f we made an income pyramid out of a child’s blocks, with each layer portraying $1,000 of income, the peak would be far higher than the Eiffel Tower, but most of us would be within a yard of the ground.” Things have changed little since then. The peak is higher, but most people are still in essentially the same place. During the last two decades of the Twentieth Century the distribution of incomes and wealth in the United States reached levels of inequality that have not been seen since the Roaring Twenties. Although the “Roaring Nineties” might have been “the world’s most prosperous decade,” as described by Joseph Stiglitz, the prosperity was not spread around. The data indicate that a very small number of people garnered an overwhelming amount of the increase in incomes and wealth in that decade, as well as in the prior decade.

During the 1950s and 1960s, family income inequality decreased, but the tide changed after 1969, and through the last three decades of the twentieth century income inequality increased. Nevertheless, the federal tax system did little to ameliorate the increasing economic inequality. As of 2000, the redistributive effect of the income tax was somewhat less than it was in the early1980s, although it was somewhat greater than it was in the early 1990s. As we move into the new Millennium, however, recent changes in the federal tax system presage a decreasing role not only in redistribution, but in mitigation of vast disparities in income and wealth. Since the inauguration of the Bush administration in 2000, there have been three major tax acts, which have reduced significantly the tax burden of the super-rich, while handing out small change to everyone else.

This article first examines in detail the increasing concentration of income and wealth in the top one percent, and particularly within much narrower cohorts near the top of the top one percent, that has occurred over the past twenty-five years. It demonstrates the strong Matthew effect in incomes in the United States over that period. The super-rich are pulling away from everyone by so much and at a rate so fast that the fact that incomes of many households at the bottom and in the middle have stagnated, or even fallen in constant dollars, has been obscured by ever increasing per capita income — a false talisman of progress because it obscures distributional issues.

The article then examines changing effective federal tax rates over the last two decades of the twentieth century. It discusses relevant legislative changes and the shifting tax burdens, as measured by effective tax rates on different income cohorts, of the various federal taxes individually and collectively. The article demonstrates that by the close of the twentieth century the tax system was not raising revenue as fairly and was doing less to mitigate inequality than it had in the middle of that century.

Moving into the new century, the Republican tax policy, as embodied in tax legislation enacted in 2001 through 2003, provides tax cuts very disproportionately favor those at the top of the income pyramid with very small tax cuts going to everyone else, even the upper middle class and the merely rich, in contrast to the super-rich.

The article demonstrates that economic theory does not support the argument that the tax cuts were necessary to spur incentives to save and invest and to work, and that the empirical evidence of the effect of tax cuts on savings and investment clearly contradicts the claims made by supporters of the tax cuts. It examines the rapidly growing body of economic literature supporting the thesis that economic inequality impedes economic growth rather than fostering it, and concludes that because the tax cuts increase inequality, they probably impede economic growth. The article then examines empirical data that debunks the notion that “a rising tide lifts all boats.”

After analyzing the economic issues, the article discusses the philosophical basis for a highly redistributive tax system, arguing that in a modern industrialized democracy, most of what everyone earns is attributable to infrastructure created by society acting as a whole, principally through government. It rejects the notion that individuals have the first claim to everything that they earn and adopts a more communitarian approach. The article then examines the paradox of public concern with increasing economic inequality, thinking it undesirable, and while simultaneously supporting tax cut legislation that in fact delivers vastly disproportionate benefits to the super-rich.

Finally, the article suggests that its time for the tax system to address these problems by substantially increasing progressivity at the top of the income pyramid. Marginal tax rates should be increased for incomes in excess of $500,000, and as incomes increase to progressively higher levels, additional rate brackets should be added to impose substantially higher marginal rates on incomes in excess of $1,000,000, and particularly on incomes that exceed $5,000,000. Future tax legislation ought to mitigate the Matthew effect, rather than enhance it."

Comments by: Deborah Schenk (NYU) & Richard Schmalbeck (Duke)

William Gale, Tax Policy in the Bush Administration: 2001- 2004

Abstract: This paper examines tax policy in the Bush Administration. After describing the key elements of the tax cuts enacted since 2001, the paper examines the impact of the tax changes on the federal budget, the distribution of tax burdens and after-tax income, economic growth, complexity, government spending, and fundamental tax reform. We also examine interactions between the tax cuts and the alternative minimum tax. We conclude that many of the ultimate effects of the tax cut will depend on how it is financed — with either spending cuts or future tax increases.

Comments by: Paul McDaniel (Boston College) & Linda Sugin (Fordham)

Daniel Shaviro (NYU), Reckless Disregard: The Bush Administration's Policy of Cutting Taxes in the Face of an Enormous Fiscal Gap

Abstract: The Bush Administration's policy of sharply cutting taxes while increasing government spending is both misguided and harmful. Presumably rationalized as a way of shrinking government over the long term without paying a current political price, it in fact increases the government's distributional intervention by handing money to current voters at the expense of younger and future generations. The Bush policies have increased the future tax increases that are likely to be necessary. In addition, they are likely to require additional Social Security and Medicare cuts that can be seen in large part as negative taxes, refunding some of the positive lifetime net taxes that future retirees will by then have paid. Reducing future negative taxes is a lot like increasing future positive ones. Finally, the Bush policies may lead to an Argentina-style meltdown in the U.S. government's position as a borrower in world capital markets, potentially yielding chronic inflation, unemployment, and bank and currency crises that affect our economic productivity for an indefinite period.

Comments by: Lawrence Lokken (Florida) & David Walker (Boston University)

Thomas Griffith (Southern California), Progressive Taxation and Happiness

Abstract: The strongest argument for progressive taxation is that transferring income from richer to poorer individuals through a combination of taxation and government spending increases total welfare in the society. The reason is simple: additional income produces more utility for a poor person than a rich person. Progressive taxation also, however, may be costly. The higher marginal rates required to fund redistribution may reduce work effort and encourage individuals to engage in costly and nonproductive activities to shelter their income from taxation. The gains in social welfare from redistributing income to the poor, then, must be weighed against the losses in social welfare from reduced work effort. This Article focuses on one half of that balance the potential gains from redistribution and considers the following questions. How much, if at all, does redistributing income from the rich to the poor increase total happiness in the society? Is the answer different in wealthy societies than in poor societies? If redistributive tax and spending policies slow economic growth, does such a slowdown significantly reduce total happiness in the society? More broadly, what is the relationship between economic conditions in a society and the happiness of the members of that society? Until recently there was little serious scholarship focusing on such questions. Over the past two decades, however, there has been an explosion of what might be called happiness studies research on the determinants of human happiness. This Article examines some of the central findings of this literature and considers their implications for redistributive tax and spending policies.

Comments by: Marjorie Kornhauser (Tulane) & Diane Ring (Harvard)


April 16, 2004 in Conferences | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

TaxProf Blog's First Day

Friday, April 16, 2004

It was a whirlwind first day for TaxProf Blog! Thanks to the 2,500+ who visited the site yesterday.

And special thanks to the folks who emailed me words of encouragement and content for the site.

We already have made a splash in the blogosphere, including mentions on the three big kahunas of law professor blogging:

InstaPundit (by Glenn Reynolds (Tennesee))
The Volokh Conspiracy (Eugene Volokh (UCLA))
The Leiter Reports (by Brian Leiter (Texas))

Other law professor blogs were kind enough to give us a plug, including:

Jack Bog’s Blog (by Jack Bogdanski (Lewis & Clark))
The Yin Blog (by Tung Yin (Iowa))
ProfessorBainbridge.com (by Stephen Bainbridge (UCLA))
Venturpreneur (by Gordon Smith (Wisconsin))
IsThatLegal? (Eric Muller (North Carolina))
The Right Coast (by Tom Smith and colleagues at San Diego)
Legal Theory Blog (by Larry Solum (San Diego))
Althouse (by Ann Althouse (Wisconsin))


TaxProf Blog also made appearances on several legal education web sites, including:

JURIST
The Blogbook
Robert Ambrogli’s Law Sites

It looks like we may be here for awhile!

April 16, 2004 in About This Blog | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Bush & Cheney 2003 Tax Returns

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Jack Bogdanski's (Lewis & Clark) blog has a great post about the Bush & Cheney 2003 tax returns released by the White House (as well as a great cartoon suitable for classroom use). He also promises future blogging about the motherlode of tax returns released by John Kerry (1999-2003 returns).

April 15, 2004 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 6-8 Meeting of ABA Tax Section

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Two panels on Friday, May 7 (3:00 - 6:00 p.m.) may be of particular interest to tax professors:

1. Rethinking Corporate Tax Planning and Teaching in the New World of Partial Integration. The speakers will discuss tax planning for corporations and their shareholders, and will consider how these changes impact the teaching and study of corporate taxation. The speakers will also discuss whether it matters that the rate reductions, at least as initially enacted, are temporary. Moderator: Linda Galler (Hofstra). Panelists: Martin McMahon (Florida) and Daniel Simmons (UC-Davis).

2. The Intersection of Race and Tax. This panel will discuss how tax policy intersects with race in areas including the marriage penalty, rate structure, economic development programs such as the New Markets Tax Credit, and the status of tax-exempt organizations. The panel will also discuss the effect of racial issues on the formation of tax policy. Moderator: Craig M. Boise (Case Western). Panelists: Professor David A. Brennen (Mercer), Beverly Moran (Vanderbilt), Janet Thompson Jackson (Baltimore), and Mildeen Worrell (Tax Counsel-Democratic Staff, Committee on Ways and Means).

April 15, 2004 in ABA Tax Section, Conferences | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Buchanan Colloquium on Capital Budgeting at NYU

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Neil Buchanan (Rutgers-Newark) presents "What is Fiscal Responsibility?
Long-term Deficits, Generational Accounting, and Capital Budgeting"
at the NYU Colloquium
on Tax Policy and Public Finance. Here is the conclusion:

"The traditional debate about budget deficits witnessed a divergence between the
economic analysis, which saw that deficits are poorly measured in the U.S. and argued
that certain deficits are beneficial for the economy, and the political view that every
deficit is evidence of moral failure. This unusual stalemate is currently on hold, as the
brief era of surpluses gave way to the (hopefully even more brief) era of terror, leading to
a decreased emphasis on fiscal orthodoxy.

In addition, an alternative approach to budgeting, Generational Accounting, has
emerged. Designed to correct some of the weaknesses of annual budgeting, GA purports
to provide an “early-warning system” to allow us to correct our long-term fiscal
imbalances before it is too late. Unfortunately, this theory is based on highly contestable
assumptions, makes questionable analytical choices, and is inherently incapable of
providing the useful baseline that its proponents promise.

Instead, a modified system of capital accounting should be used to guide
economic policy. This would emphasize case-by-case analysis, allowing legal analysts to
compare the likely costs and benefits of policy proposals while keeping a clear eye on the
importance of government investment in our future prosperity. If political concerns
about the potential abuse of capital budgeting prevent the federal government from
adopting an explicit capital budget, the best response would be to continue to rely on the
current (admittedly imperfect) budget measures, which at least provide some useful
guidance regarding the immediate effects of our fiscal policies."

April 14, 2004 in Colloquia | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Hotz Colloquium on Earned Income Tax Credit at UCLA

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Joseph Hotz (UCLA) presents two papers at the UCLA Tax Policy and Public Finance Workshop:

1. “The Effects of the EITC on the Employment of Low-Wage Populations: Are the Apparent Effects for Real?” Here is the conclusion:

"The EITC transfers a large amount of money to working poor families and reduces poverty. There is also a considerable amount of evidence that the credit not only redistributes resources, but also encourages employment, thereby avoiding one of the negative behavioral incentives of traditional income transfer programs. Our paper develops new evidence that calls into question the incremental employment effect of the EITC. Ours is the first EITC paper to use data from tax returns to help examine the employment effects of the credit, and the first paper to use longitudinal data, which avoids potentially troublesome compositional issues that may arise from repeated cross-sectional studies based on the CPS or SIPP.

Before examining tax data, we show that employment for families with two or more children increases relative to one-child families, and the temporal pattern of these increase mirror, with a lag, relative increases in the EITC for larger families. The descriptive patterns in the data and the identification strategy for our regression work are similar to several previous studies that suggest the EITC increases employment of low-skilled families. However, when examining tax return data, we see little evidence of a similar increase in tax filing or EITC claiming among families with two or more children relative to one-child families. Moreover, the “EITC-like” employment patterns hold as strongly in a sample that does not claim the EITC as they do in the overall data. These two facts lead us to conclude that the EITC is not causing the relative employment increase of families with two or more children in these data.

To this point we have not been able to answer the puzzle raised by our paper. Namely,
while our data show patterns consistent with the EITC increasing employment, tax data make it
clear that the EITC is not causing the observed patterns. Several other papers based on the CPS
and SIPP claim that the EITC increases employment. We are now more skeptical of these results.
But we have considerably more to do to reconcile the results of our paper with previous work.
Our second major longer run task is to use statewide administrative data from California,
covering more than 3 million adults, to further explore the robustness of these EITC results, and
develop new information on the employment effects of local labor market developments, GAIN
and other welfare policy choices at the county level, and the way these interact with the EITC."

2. "The Earned Income Tax Credit" (with John Karl Scholz).

April 14, 2004 in Colloquia | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Welcome

Monday, April 15, 2004

Welcome to TaxProf Blog, the only web source of resources, news, and information of interest to law school tax professors in their scholarship and teaching. TaxProf Blog combines both (1) continuously-updated permanent resources and (2) daily news and information:

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Current News and Information:

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What TaxProf Blog Is Not: This blog is not a collection of ruminations about the latest tax policy issue in the news or the latest tax case or ruling. I leave that terrain to the many existing blogs with that mission, as well as to the TaxProf email discussion group.

Please email me with comments and suggestions on how to make this blog more useful to you. And please email me content to post here.

Paul L. Caron

April 14, 2004 in About This Blog | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (1)