Saturday, December 25, 2004
The UCLA School of Law made one of the largest leaps in the latest US News survey of tax programs, moving from #25 in 2002 to #6 in 2004. In large part, this move was fueled by the unprecedented hiring of three tax professors in 2003, joining the four tax professors already on the faculty to form one of the strongest tax faculties in the country.
The resurgence of UCLA’s tax program is evident in its many activities planned for this year, including its Tax Policy and Public Finance Colloquium this Spring, the UCLA Law Review's Symposium on Rethinking Redistribution: Tax Policy in an Era of Rising Inequality in January, UCLA’s Institute on Tax Aspects of Mergers and Acquisitions in May, and the hosting of a Conference on Historical Perspectives on Tax Law & Policy in July. Moreover, because of the combination of an expanded tax faculty and substantial student interest, the UCLA Program in Business Law and Policy will offer a separate tax track in its business law concentration starting next year.
In a seven-part series, TaxProf Blog will spotlight the tax professors who make up the heart of UCLA’s tax program.
Kirk Stark joined the UCLA faculty in 1996 and quickly became one of the most popular professors at the law school. Over the past eight years, Kirk has taught Federal Income Taxation, Corporate Tax, Taxation & Distributive Justice, Multistate Taxation, and the first-year Property course. In addition, he has co-organized the UCLA Colloquium on Tax Policy & Public Finance during its first two years and is currently serving as the faculty advisor for the UCLA Law Review symposium, Rethinking Redistribution: Tax Policy in an Era of Rising Inequality, to be held in January 2005. A self-proclaimed “beneficiary of low student expectations about tax classes,” Kirk was elected Professor of the Year by the law school graduating classes of 1999 and 2002. In 2003, he received UCLA’s University-wide Distinguished Teaching Award. But even more importantly, Kirk is responsible for adding many more tax lawyers into the world, with many of them having no interest in the subject prior to taking his tax classes. As one student remarked, “Tax has become a must-take class at UCLA.”
Kirk’s interest in tax law and policy has its origins in a teacher’s strike in his hometown of Michigan City, Indiana. During the winter months of 1985, Kirk’s parents, both public school teachers in the mid-size Midwestern town, participated in a six-week long strike that cut short Kirk’s final year of high school. The strike brought to the fore divisions in the community about property taxes and school funding, and prompted Kirk’s interest in the details of state and local tax policy. Several years later, during his first year at Yale Law School, Kirk published a student note, Rethinking Statewide Taxation of Nonresidential Property for Public Schools. He later served as the Chief Articles Editor of the Yale Law Journal and took first prize in the American Journal of Tax Policy student writing competition for an article on the role of transition rules in tax policy.
Following law school, Kirk worked as a tax lawyer at King & Spalding, focusing primarily on the taxation of corporate mergers & acquisitions, partnership tax, and tax litigation in the United States Tax Court. He has also worked in the legal department of the Inter-American Development Bank, an international organization that finances development projects in Latin America. Having studied in Buenos Aires while in college, Kirk speaks fluent Spanish, albeit with a hybrid Argentine/Hoosier accent.
Kirk doesn’t hide his enthusiasm for tax as a field of study. “Tax is — of course — where the action is. It is the site of many of the great debates about the relationship between the individual and the larger community. It is no surprise, I tell my students on the first day of class, that many of the world's greatest thinkers (e.g., Locke, Hobbes, Zolt) devoted much of their writing to the question of tax. Tax implicates all the big, important questions: What do we owe each other and why? How should we allocate among ourselves the cost of our collective activities? To what extent do we "deserve" the outcomes that we achieve in our market economy?” Frequently, Kirk’s passion for tax rubs off on his students. As one student remarked upon completing Kirk’s basic tax course, “Had there been a ‘tax army” I would have immediately enlisted!”
Kirk has published numerous articles on tax law and policy, with a particular emphasis on state and local tax policy issues. State Tax Notes describes him as a leading scholar in the field “whose provocative research is shaking up the status quo.” Several of his recent articles have addressed topics concerning multiunit public finance and the Tiebout Hypothesis. His 2003 article, Tiebout & Tax Revolts: Did Serrano Really Cause Proposition 13? (with Jonathan Zasloff), presents new statistical and historical evidence challenging the argument, advanced by Dartmouth economist William Fischel and others, that California's school finance decision caused the state's famous tax revolt. He currently has an article coming out in the Canadian Journal of Law & Jurisprudence, Enslaving the Beachcomber: Some Thoughts on the Liberty Objections to Endowment Taxation.
Kirk and his wife, Mei-lan, met in the Yale Law Library during their first semester of law school. Mei-lan works as a trademark/copyright attorney for the Walt Disney Company. Their two daughters, ages 6 and 2, admire their mother’s career more than their father’s. The family makes occasional trips to The Happiest Place on Earth®, where they enjoy the benefits of the “no additional cost service” exclusion under §132(a)(1).
For prior UCLA tax faculty profiles, see:
Each Saturday, TaxProf Blog shines the spotlight on one of the 700+ tax professors in America's law schools. We hope to help bring the many individual stories of scholarly achievements, teaching innovations, public service, and career moves within the tax professorate to the attention of the broader tax community. Please email me suggestions for future Tax Prof Profiles. For prior Tax Prof Profiles, see here.