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Thursday, August 31, 2006

IRS Clears NAACP in Probe of Political Activities

Irs_logo_251 NaacpThe IRS has informed the NAACP that it has concluded its examination of NAACP activities and determined the association did not violate conditions of its tax exempt status.  From the NAACP Press Release:

“We have determined that you continue to qualify as an organization described in IRC section 501(c)(3),” the IRS wrote in a letter to the NAACP dated Aug. 9. IRS official Marsha A. Ramirez said that a review of video footage of the Bond speech and other information indicated “that political intervention did not occur.”

Press reports:

Prior TaxProf Blog posts:

August 31, 2006 in IRS News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

WSJ: IRS Is Winning the Tax Shelter War

Interesting front-page article in today's Wall Street Journal:  U.S. Scores a Win Against Tax-Shelter Abuse, by David Wessel:

The [Castle Harbour] ruling is the latest in a series of appellate-court wins in corporate tax-shelter cases for the IRS and Justice Department as they continue to battle corporate excesses of the 1990s. The government recently has prevailed over Dow Chemical, Coltec Industries and Black & Decker in decisions that are, or should be, scrutinized by executives pondering the wisdom of overly creative tax shelters.

With the perspective that comes from moving between representing the IRS and representing companies over a 30-year career as a tax lawyer, IRS Chief Counsel Donald Korb says the wind is shifting in the government's direction now, as it often does after a period in which taxpayers go too far.... "The widespread use of computers and the exotica of modern corporate finance, coupled with the desire of the Big Six public accounting firms, investment bankers and some law firms to generate revenues not based on traditional billable hours, but instead based on...fees, led to a new phenomenon, commonly called corporate tax shelters," Mr. Korb observed in a recent lecture. Tax cops were outmanned and outmaneuvered. Congress was beating up on the IRS in the 1990s as too tough on taxpayers. And, as we know now, an anything-goes attitude prevailed in many corporate boardrooms with too many lawyers and accountants becoming accomplices instead of obstacles....

William Nelson of McKee & Nelson, ... who did a stint in the 1980s as chief IRS counsel, says "The tax law is undergoing a recalibration. The courts are all over the lot. There is a lot of confusion...and lack of consistency."

But when the courts, for whatever reasons, come down on the side of the IRS repeatedly, a lot of corporate executives, tax lawyers and accountants grow wary -- at least for a while -- about tax shelters that stretch the laws beyond recognition. Some stories have happy endings.

August 31, 2006 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Joulfaian on The Behavioral Response of Wealth Accumulation to Estate Taxation

Ntj_logo_3David Joulfaian (Office of Tax Analysis, Treasury Department) has published The Behavioral Response of Wealth Accumulation to Estate Taxation: Time Series Evidence, 59 Nat'l Tax J. 253 (2006).  Here is the abstract:

This paper explores the behavioral response of taxable bequests to estate taxation. To gauge its effects, the estate tax is converted to an equivalent income tax. This highlights the importance of expected rates of return, and also makes it possible to compare effective tax rates on saving over time. Using data on federal revenues from the estate tax over the past 50 years, and employing the equivalent income tax rate measure, the findings suggest that estate taxes have a dampening effect on the reported size of taxable estates. Estate taxation seems to depress taxable bequests by almost ten percent.

August 31, 2006 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

WSJ: Can Bloggers Go on Vacation?

Interesting article for us bloggers in today's Wall Street Journal:  No Day at the Beach: Bloggers Struggle With What to Do About Vacation, by Elizabeth Holmes:

In the height of summer-holiday season, bloggers face the inevitable question: to blog on break or put the blog on a break? Fearing a decline in readership, some writers opt not to take vacations. Others keep posting while on location, to the chagrin of their families. Those brave enough to detach themselves from their keyboards for a few days must choose between leaving the site dormant or having someone blog-sit....

Yet for the sliver of people whose livelihood depends on the blog -- whether they are conservative, liberal or don't care -- stepping away from the keyboard can be difficult. Unlike other jobs, where co-workers can fill in for an absent employee, blogs are usually a one-person show. A blogger's personality carries the site. When the host isn't there, readers tend to stray. August is a slow time for all blogs, but having an absent host makes the problem worse. Lose enough readers, and advertisers are sure to join the exodus.

For those wondering, TaxProf Blog will be open for business throughout the Labor Day weekend!

August 31, 2006 in About This Blog | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

IRS Publishes List of Attorneys and Accountants Suspended from Tax Practice

Irs_logo_296 The IRS has published Announcement 2006-57, 2006-35 I.R.B. 343 (Aug. 28, 2006): Announcement of Disciplinary Actions Involving Attorneys, Certified Public Accountants, Enrolled Agents, and Enrolled Actuaries — Suspensions, Censures, Disbarments, and Resignations:

August 31, 2006 in IRS News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

LUI -- Litigating Under the Influence

Gripping video on YouTube:  A Nevada trial judge notices that a criminal defense lawyer representing a defendant facing life imprisonment on a kidnapping charge is slurring his words and orders him to take a breathalyzer test.  The lawyer blows a .075 and the judge declares a mistrial:

Part I of the video is here.  (Hat Tip: Dave Hoffman.)  Dan Filler outlines the criminal charges facing the lawyer here.

Update:  David Lat has more on the case here on his new Above the Law blog.  For press coverage, see the Las Vegas Review-Journal:  Kidnapping Case: Alcohol Test on Lawyer Stirs Mistrial; Breathalyzer Used in Court

August 31, 2006 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Willis Criticizes IRS Outsourcing of Tax Collection

WillisLauren E. Willis (Loyola-L.A.) has published an op-ed in the L.A. Times:  The IRS' Biggest Tax Cheat: Itself; Why Is the Agency Outsourcing Overdue Debt Collection, When It Can Do the Job Cheaper?:

Unless Congress steps in to stop it, the IRS is set to begin implementing a wildly inefficient plan to outsource the collection of past-due taxes from those who owe $25,000 or less. IRS employees could collect these taxes for about three cents on the dollar, comparable to other federal programs' collection costs. But Congress has not allowed the IRS, which is eliminating some of its most efficient enforcement staff, to hire the personnel it would need to do the job. Instead, the agency has signed contracts with private debt collectors allowing them to keep about 23% of every taxpayer dollar they retrieve. Employing these firms is almost eight times more expensive than relying on the IRS, but, according to IRS Commissioner Mark Everson, it fits in with the Bush administration's efforts to reduce the size of government.

(Hat Tip:  Katie Pratt.)

August 31, 2006 in News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Germain on Discharging Income Tax Liabilities in Bankruptcy

Ssrn_112Germain_3Gregory L. Germain (Syracuse) has posted Discharging Income Tax Liabilities in Bankruptcy: A Challenge to the New Theory of Strict Construction for Scriveners' Errors on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

The Supreme Court has been closely split on whether judges may consider legislative history in determining if a statute contains scriveners' errors. With the recent appointment of Justices Alito and Roberts, the Supreme Court's balance has likely shifted toward the strict constructionists' view. If strict constructionism becomes the law of the land, courts will be powerless to correct drafting errors that do not, on the face of the statute alone, give rise to absurd results.

Continue reading

August 31, 2006 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

SOI Releases Nonresident Alien Estate Tax Returns

Irs_logo_287The Statistics of Income Division has released Estate Tax Returns Filed for Nonresident Aliens:

Three tables presenting statistics for Filing Years 2003, 2004, and 2005 from Form 706-NA are now available. The tables include asset, deduction, and tax items detailed by tax status and size of gross estate.

August 30, 2006 in IRS News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

More on Murphy

Last week, a federal appeals court in Washington handed down an important decision relating to the definition of income for tax purposes. What is important about the decision is that it is the first in decades to say the Constitution itself limits what the government may tax. If upheld by the Supreme Court, it could significantly alter tax policy and possibly open the door to radical reform....

Tax experts immediately recognized the far-reaching implications of this decision for other areas of tax law. Tax protesters have long argued that the 16th Amendment does not grant the federal government the power to tax every single receipt that it deems to be income. Yet, in practice, that is what the IRS does. The problem is that the very concept of income has never been defined in the tax law. It is pretty much whatever the IRS says it is. Tax analysts generally use a definition devised by two economists, Robert Haig and Henry Simons, which says that income consists of consumption plus the change in net worth between two points in time. But the Haig-Simons definition goes far beyond that of the tax law....

Given the logic of the Murphy decision, it is quite possible that the risk-free, inflation-adjusted rate of interest could also be excluded from taxation on constitutional grounds. Following through on this logic consistently would revolutionize taxation and eventually lead to a pure consumption tax, which most modern economists favor. I’m not predicting the Supreme Court will follow this logic. But for tax analysts, it does represent the opening of an interesting possibility.

No man, it has often been said, is above the law. Now, thanks to three judges on the federal appeals bench in Washington, no tax is above the law either. The judges have ruled that compensatory damages awarded in a lawsuit don't count as "income" even under the expansive language of the 16th Amendment. As a result, the government's attempts to tax such monies are unconstitutional. The success of what was once considered a quixotic case is likely to spur other litigation trying to whittle away at other nooks and crannies of the tax code. All of which is to the good....

The ruling does, however, set a precedent because the judges have shown that the tax code isn't a creature unto itself. As much as Congress might prefer otherwise, taxation is subject to some constitutional limitations. One wonders from the reaction to this ruling whether some people have been in denial on this point. One former commissioner of internal revenue, Donald C. Alexander, told Bloomberg News that "Tax protesters will love it because it's what they've been arguing for years. They will claim this destroys the income tax. A case like this does serious damage to the system even though it involves one provision."

Our guess is that tax protesters are going to have a hard time using this ruling against the income tax, as the people spoke, for better or worse, when, in the 16th amendment, they delegated to Congress the "power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived." But the ruling underscores that the delegation is not unlimited; the Constitution still imposes limits on Congress's power to tax. This isn't a conservative issue, it's a constitutional issue. A judge appointed by President Clinton, after all, joined colleagues appointed by Presidents Reagan and George W.Bush on this ruling.

Some lawyers, including Donald Alexander, a former IRS commissioner, think the decision will be overturned. Meanwhile, the subject remains murky. "If Einstein was confused before Murphy, he'd be a whole lot more confused now," says Ms. Hevener of Baker & McKenzie.

The decision, while binding only on IRS cases involving taxpayers in D.C., is likely to have “immense implications” for many others around the nation who expect to receive damages for “nonphysical personal injuries” — or who have received damages in recent years, says Todd Kraft, a tax lawyer in Dallas at Meadows, Owens, Collier, Reed, Cousins & Blau.

Like a lot of the commentators, I am curious to see what tax protesters do with this opinion, especially the restoration-of-human-capital idea.....I think they're likely to be buoyed by a couple of lines in the opinion. I expect to see these quotes taken out of context in scores of protester filings in the near future: (1) "[W]e reject the Government's breathtakingly expansive claim of congressional power under the Sixteenth Amendment....The Sixteenth Amendment simply does not authorize the Congress to tax as 'incomes' every sort of revenue a taxpayer may receive." (page 15 of the pdf) (alterations mine) (2) "Broad though the power granted in the Sixteenth Amendment is, the Supreme Court, as Murphy points out, has long recognized 'the principle that a restoration of capital [i]s not income; hence it [falls] outside the definition of "income" upon which the law impose[s] a tax.'" (page 10 of the pdf) (alterations in the opinion) I expect these quotes, and other similar lines from the panel opinion, to join the pantheon of misapplied legal statements, such as the famous line in Flora v. United States that "[o]ur system of taxation is based upon voluntary assessment and payment, not upon distraint." 362 U.S. 145, 176 (1960) (Warren, C.J.).

August 30, 2006 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

Charitable Contributions from IRAs

Interesting article in today's Reuters:  Tax Break for Charitable Retirees, by Linda Stern:

Here's another limited-time offer from the U.S. government: For the next two years, some older taxpayers will be able to donate money to charity directly from their individual retirement accounts (IRAs). That's because of one small provision in the recently enacted pension legislation. It enables anyone 70-1/2 or older to use as much as $100,000 a year from their tax-deferred IRA for charitable gifts, without paying income taxes on the amount they use. They won't be able to take a tax deduction for the amount they contribute, but this can still be a pretty good deal for some charitably inclined savers.

August 30, 2006 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The Compliance Costs of Maintaining Tax Exempt Status

Ntj_logo_3Marsha Blumenthal (University of St. Thomas, Department of Economics) & Laura Kalambokidis (University of Minnesota, Department of Applied Economics) have published The Compliance Costs of Maintaining Tax Exempt Status, 59 Nat'l Tax J. 235 (2006).  Here is the abstract:

Under U.S. federal and state tax laws, qualifying non–profit organizations receive several kinds of tax benefits. However,the benefits come with compliance costs, as eligible organizations must first apply for them and then file the annual reports necessary to maintain them. We use a national survey to measure the latter, estimating them at $3.2 billion for 2000. Additional results are: (1) evidence of scale economies; (2) choosing to file the federal Form 990 (over the shorter Form 990–EZ) raises expenditures on professional advisors; and (3) using a consolidated reporting form or electronic filing reduces state costs.

August 30, 2006 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Mazza & Kaye on Restricting the Legislative Power to Tax in the United States

Stephen W. Mazza (Kansas) & Tracy A. Kaye (Seton Hall) have published Restricting the Legislative Power to Tax in the United States, 54 Am. J. Comp. L. 641 (2006).  Here is the Conclusion:

Upon close examination, many provisions of the U.S. Constitution could, theoretically, restrict the legislative power to tax. And taxpayers have, in fact, attempted to use almost every protection afforded by the Constitution to defeat tax legislation. These challenges, however, are rarely successful primarily because of the willingness of courts to defer to the legislature on tax issues. This has led to the observation that there may be two Constitutions, "one for taxes and one for all other matters."

August 30, 2006 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Shlaes on Murphy

Interesting article in today's Bloomberg:  Court Redefines Murphy's Law -- And Gets It Wrong, by Amity Shlaes:

Most of us have heard of Murphy's Law, which says that if something can go wrong, it will. Now, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington has given the axiom a literal meaning with a wrong decision called -- what else? -- Murphy....

Defining Income.  Tax protesters on the far right will love this one. If you have ever listened to their radio tax talk, you know they are constantly trying to narrow or annihilate the 16th Amendment. On the legal side, too, there is a basis for this opinion -- maybe. The 16th Amendment, ratified in 1913, says Congress may ``lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived.'' Ever since then, economists have been fighting about the definition of the concept of income. In Murphy's case, the judges decided that the award was given to her ``to make Murphy emotionally and reputationally `whole.''' The judges are saying that all Murphy got back was what she had had before she tangled with her employers.

Right, Left Attacks. This reasoning will appeal to legal experts across the political spectrum. We can speculate that Judge Douglas Ginsburg, the conservative who wrote the opinion, may have wanted to attack the income tax from the right, and found his vehicle in Murphy. Judge Judith Rogers, who signed off on the opinion, is an appointee of President Bill Clinton's. She may approve of the redistributive aspect of the opinion -- Democrats tend to believe redistribution is highly constitutional.

When you try applying Murphy to other areas, as the tax bloggers have been doing nonstop in the week or so since the Murphy finding, you run into trouble. Take the argument to its humorous extreme: Both windfall wealth and gambling proceeds are currently taxable. The Murphy principle suggests that they shouldn't be. Plaintiffs could argue that their casino winnings were only restoring to them the luck they were born with. There are also potential consequences for financial markets. As Paul Caron of the University of Cincinnati College of Law points out, "The buyer of a zero-coupon bond that does not pay interest currently is nevertheless taxed each year on the increased value of the bond as it nears maturity. Yet because such imputed interest was not considered income back in 1913, the Murphy court's approach could impose a constitutional barrier to taxing such items."

"Almost anything is up for grabs here,'' concludes Caron.

August 30, 2006 in New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

NY Times on Decline of Women Supreme Court Clerks

Interesting article in today's New York Times:  Women Suddenly Scarce Among Justices’ Clerks, by Linda Greenhouse:

Gender_1Everyone knows that with the retirement of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the number of female Supreme Court justices fell by half. The talk of the court this summer, with the arrival of the new crop of law clerks, is that the number of female clerks has fallen even more sharply.

Just under 50 percent of new law school graduates in 2005 were women. Yet women account for only 7 of the 37 law clerkships for the new term, the first time the number has been in the single digits since 1994, when there were 4,000 fewer women among the country’s new law school graduates than there are today.

Last year at this time, there were 14 female clerks.

(Hat Tip:  Ann Hubbard.)

August 30, 2006 in News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Galle on Interpretative Theory and Tax Shelter Regulation

Ssrn_113 GalleBrian Galle (Florida State) has posted Interpretative Theory and Tax Shelter Regulation, 26 Va. Tax Rev. ___ (2006), on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

This Article responds to an important recent essay in the Columbia Law Review by Marvin Chirelstein and Larry Zelenak. Chirelstein and Zelenak propose a dramatic change in tactics in the way that the government attempts to combat tax shelters - that is, efforts by corporations and high-earning individuals to avoid tax by clever manipulations of the technical terms of the Tax Code. For the past seventy years or so, the IRS has responded to these manipulations by urging courts to read the tax statutes purposively, rather than literally, and thus to deny favorable tax treatment to business transactions entered into with no real business purpose or economic substance. However, as textualism has grown in influence, the IRS's purposivist entreaties have diminished in effectiveness. Chirelstein and Zelenak propose to respond to this problem by doing away with the notion of business purpose and economic substance and instead enacting a pair of bright-line rules that would make rather more difficult some of the most popular shelters.

Continue reading

August 30, 2006 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

ABA Tax Section Offers Teleconference & Webcast Today on Ethical Issues in Property Taxes

Aba_tax_7 The ABA Tax Section is offering a teleconference and webcast today on Ethical Issues in Property Taxes from 1:00 - 2:30 p.m. EST:

This program, presented at the ABA/IPT Advanced Property Tax Seminar in March 2006, will discuss particular applications of the ABA Rules of Professional Conduct. The teleconference will also address the Institute for Professionals in Taxation Code of Ethics and Standards of Professional Conduct in selected settings of property taxation matters.

Faculty:

August 30, 2006 in ABA Tax Section, Conferences | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Podcast on Implications of Murphy

Ipod_9 Robert_wood_1Section 104 guru Robert W. Wood (Wood & Porter, San Francisco) has recorded a two-part podcast on the impact of last week's decision in Murphy v. United States, No. 03cv02414 (D.C. Cir. 8/22/06).  The podcast is available on The Settlement Channel:

Part one is approximately 15 minutes long and goes into the foundation of the case, why it was brought, the ruling and what some of the early fall out is in the legal and tax world. You can access it by clicking here. Part two is ... 22 minutes [and] goes into more detail about the case, but also discusses the immediate impact on several different groups, such as trial lawyers, employment lawyers, life insurance markets and structured settlement professionals. It also gives Rob's views on whether or not the case is likely to be appealed, the risks to the government and what various professionals need to consider now that the ruling is the law of the land for that particular district.

August 29, 2006 in New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Buffett's Tax-Unwise Giving

Interesting article in today's Washington Post:  A Donation Without Calculation, by Allan Sloan:

I'd like to revisit one of this summer's biggest financial stories: Warren Buffett's decision to donate $38 billion of his Berkshire Hathaway stock to charity, most of it to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. A fascinating aspect of this gift is that the folksy Buffett, usually a cold-eyed tax whiz, isn't being at all tax-efficient. He's saving a relative pittance in income taxes, he told me last week, and expects his estate to pay an eight-digit tax -- even though he'll have given all of his Berkshire stock away....

In 2008, he estimated, he'll save $500,000 to $1 million. Call it one-twentieth of 1 percent. "I can get the same benefit by donating $4 million" as by giving almost $2 billion, he said. His savings are so small (by billionaire standards) because he's donating so-called appreciated property -- stock worth more than he paid for it -- to private foundations. You can offset only 20 percent of your income with this kind of donation, as opposed to the 50 percent you can save by writing checks to public charities....

To be sure, Buffett is being tax-efficient by donating Berkshire stock on which he has huge gains and will pay no capital-gains tax. But anyone with paper profits on a stock portfolio can do this and get a bigger break than Buffett is getting. So if you want to go after Buffett for his tax opinions (which I share), go right ahead. But don't accuse him of giving away his fortune to duck taxes. At a rate of 0.05 percent, his tax savings aren't even a rounding error.

August 29, 2006 in News | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

The Implicit Tax on Work at Older Ages

Ntj_logo_3Barbara A. Butrica, Richard W. Johnson, Karen E. Smith & C. Eugene Steuerle (all of the Urban Institute) have published The Implicit Tax on Work at Older Ages, 59 Nat'l Tax J. 211 (2006).  Here is the abstract:

Encouraging work at older ages is a crucial policy goal for an aging society, but many features of the benefits and tax system discourage work. This study computes the implicit tax rate on work at older ages, broadly defined to include standard income and payroll taxes as well as changes in future Social Security benefits, employer–provided pension benefits, and health benefits associated with an additional year of employment. The results show that the implicit tax rate on work increases rapidly with age, rising from 14 percent at age 55 for a typical man to nearly 50 percent at age 70.

August 29, 2006 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

TIGTA Releases Report on Examination Procedures for Donations of Artwork

Tigta_1The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration has released A Formal Program to Identify Artwork Donations Reported on Tax Returns Is Not Necessary, but Examination Procedures Need to Be Strengthened:

This report presents the results of our review of the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) examination coverage of returns that report the value of transferred artwork. The overall objective of this review was to determine whether transferred artwork as reported on tax returns was properly identified and referred to the Office of Art Appraisal Services (AAS) for review by the Art Advisory Panel of the Commissioner of Internal Revenue (the Panel)[1] and whether the Panel’s appraisals were properly used in completing examinations of returns. The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance requested that the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration assess whether the IRS provides sufficient audit coverage of returns that involve a transfer of artwork and ensures appropriate cases are referred to the Panel.

August 29, 2006 in Gov't Reports | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Kaye on Tax Discrimination: A Comparative Analysis of U.S. and EU Approaches

KayeTracy A. Kaye (Seton Hall) has published Tax Discrimination: A Comparative Analysis of U.S. and EU Approaches, 7 Fla. Tax Rev. 47 (2005).  Here is the Conclusion:

The judgments of the European Court of Justice have caused some coordination of various individual and corporate tax laws through negative integration. Pure tax harmonization has not resulted, in that a finding of incompatibility of a tax law with a Treaty provision does not guarantee that all Member States will resolve the problem in the same way legislatively. Arguably, this judicial action was necessary during the infancy stage of the Internal Market. However, given the progress made towards the Internal Market, it is time for a more balanced approach that takes into account a Member State's need to finance its government. This could be accomplished through a more judicious use of the rule of reason, on occasion exercising, like the Supreme Court, an extra dose of judicial sympathy for the Member State's taxing power. Alternatively, a European scholar suggests reliance on Article 4 of the EC Treaty. Because this treaty provision obligates the Member States to avoid excessive public deficits, sound tax policies that combat anti-avoidance conduct would need to be accepted as justifications for infringements of the Treaty freedoms.

Continue reading

August 29, 2006 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

LexisNexis Publishes Employee Benefits Law, Third Book in Graduate Tax Series

Employee_benefits_book_1On behalf of LexisNexis and the Graduate Tax Series Board of Editors (Ellen Aprill (Loyola-L.A.), Elliott Manning (Miami), Philip Postlewaite (Northwestern) & David Richardson (Florida)), I am delighted to announced the publication of the third book in our Series, Employee Benefits Law:  Qualification Rules and ERISA Requirements, by Kathryn Kennedy (John Marshall) & Paul Shultz (Director, Employee Plans Rulings & Agreement, IRS).

The Graduate Tax Series is the first series of course materials designed for use in tax LL.M. programs. Like all books in the Series, Employee Benefits Law was designed from the ground-up with the needs of graduate tax faculty and students in mind:

  • More focus on Internal Revenue Code and regulations, less on case law
  • Analysis of complex, practice-oriented problems of increasing sophistication
  • Teacher’s manual with solutions to problems and other guidance
  • Web site with real-time digital supplementation for faculty (PowerPoint slides and discussion forum with authors) and students (full text of all cases and rulings)
  • On-line access to the comprehensive and current Code and regulations, designed to complement the book

Two other books in the Series also are available for adoption now:

  • Civil Tax Procedure, by David Richardson (Florida), Jerome Borison (Denver) & Steve Johnson (UNLV)
  • Federal Tax Accounting, by Michael B. Lang (Chapman), Elliott Manning (Miami) & Steven J. WIllis (Florida).

  The fourth book in the Series will be published shortly:

  • Partnership Taxation, by Richard Lipton (Baker & McKenzie, Chicago), Paul Carman (Chapman & Cutler, Chicago), Charles Fassler (Greenebaum, Doll & McDonald, Louisville) & Walter Schwidetzky (University of Baltimore School of Law)

Other forthcoming books in the Series are:

  • Bankruptcy Taxation, by Frances Hill (Miami) & William Lyons (Nebraska)
  • Federal Taxation of Property Transactions, by Elliott Manning (Miami) & David Cameron (Northwestern)
  • Tax Practice Ethics, by Linda Galler (Hofstra) & Michael Lang (Chapman)
  • U.S. International Taxation, by Philip Postlewaite (Northwestern), Samuel Donaldson (Washington) & Allison Christians (Wisconsin)

Other information:

August 29, 2006 in Book Club, Law School, Scholarship, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Txt Msg Tax = :-(

Interesting article on TCS Daily, Txt Msg Tax = :-(, by Constantin Gurdgiev:

In May, a senior centre-right French MEP named Alain Lamassoure suggested that the EU should levy a tax on text messages (SMS) and email messages to shore up the future financing of EU programs. The suggestion came at the joint European Parliament and national parliament conference on the future of Europe in Brussels and was later debated in the Committee on Budgets. It now appears increasingly likely that the proposal will be considered at the next committee meeting in September despite widespread opposition to the measure that eventually prompted even Lamassoure to distance himself it.

August 29, 2006 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tax Cut Revenue Rewards

Interesting op-ed in the Washington Times:  Tax Cut Revenue Rewards, by Richard W. Rahn (Center for Global Economic Growth, FreedomWorks Foundation):

Many in the Washington establishment were shocked Aug. 17, when the Congressional Budget Office reported a surge of "unanticipated tax receipts" that will sharply push down this year's deficit. Those who had been proclaiming the Bush tax rate cuts would result in a big reduction in tax revenues tried to hide their disappointment. It was tough being proved wrong again after having said the same thing when Ronald Reagan cut tax rates in the early 1980s.

We have now had three major experiments with tax rate reduction in the last half-century, and each time both economic growth and tax revenues have surged, despite the fears and cries of the anti-tax-cut crowd. How much more evidence will they need to understand the difference between tax rates and tax revenues? Most everyone, including most members of Congress, can understand that properly structured tax rate reduction, by decreasing the impediments to working, saving and investing, will lead to a higher rate of economic growth. Why then is it so difficult to understand that a bigger economic pie can lead to more tax revenue rather than less?

August 29, 2006 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, August 28, 2006

GAO Releases Report on Donor-Advised Funds and Supporting Organizations

ABA Forms Task Force to Take "Fresh Look" at Law School Accreditation Process

Aba_logo_1 The ABA Section of Legal Education and Admission to the Bar today charged an 11-person task force with taking a "fresh look" at the law school accreditation process:

You are asked to consider the relevant concepts and broad issues of accreditation. Your focus should be on what is a sound program of legal education and measure against that. I think the goal of accreditation should be to provide for a system based on standards which provide for the least possible amount of intrusion on the schools, recognize that one size does not fit all, and provide for maximum flexibility on the part of the schools. I would not want the Task Force to get bogged down in the details of the Standards or in drafting. Policy analysis and recommendations are what is desired.

I ask that you a) review the standards for accreditation used by other accrediting groups, b) determine what the Department of Education requires of accrediting bodies, and c) formulate an agenda which wil address those issues that raise concerns as to whether it is appropriate and necessary for our accreditation standards to prescribe conduct on the part of law schools which tend to limit innovation and impose requirements which are not basic to the goals of accreditation. It has been suggested that the standards should focus more on measurement and assessment of outputs and less on inputs.

In other words, you are asked to take a fresh look at accreditation from a policy perspective. Please provide status reports of your progress as you see fit and submit your report in time for the Council to consider it at its June 2007 meeting.

August 28, 2006 in Law School | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

Tax at the Emmy Awards

Emmy_1The IRS's new enforcement of the tax rules on Hollywood swag was a major topic of conversation at last night's Emmy awards:

Last night's most popular subject was the sumptuous gift bags given to Emmy presenters, valued at $30,000 or more, which the federal government now intends to tax as income.

    • Conan O'Brien: "The Bush administration keeps sticking it to the working man."
    • Greg Garcia:  "[I have] no opinion on [the tax treatment of the gift bags] whatsoever. I agree they should go to some sort of charitable organization."
    • Jeremy Irons:  "You shouldn't have to pay taxes on anything. That's my stand."
    • Jeremy Piven:  "I think the goody bags should be sent to New Orleans. Wouldn't that be great, don't tax them, just give it to them (people of New Orleans)."

For more, see:

Recent TaxProf Blog coverage:

August 28, 2006 in Celebrity Tax Lore | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

New Issue of Atax's eJournal of Tax Research

ContentsVolume 4, Issue 1 (August 2006) of the eJournal of Tax Research, published by Atax (Australian Taxation Studies Program), University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia, and edited by Binh Tran-Nam & Michael Walpole, is available (with a free subscription) on its web site with these articles:   

August 28, 2006 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Pfau on Comparing the Impacts of Social Security Benefit Reductions on the Income Distribution of the Elderly

Ntj_logo_3 Wade D. Pfau (National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies) has published Comparing the Impacts of Social Security Benefit Reductions on the Income Distribution of the Elderly, 59 Nat'l Tax J. 195 (2006).  Here is the abstract:

Benefit reductions will likely be a part of the eventual Social Security reform in the United States. This research attempts to quantify the intragenerational and intergenerational impacts of different benefit reduction proposals on the incomes of the elderly. Reforms include across–the-board benefit cuts, price indexing, and reductions to the cost–of–living adjustment. Restoring the projected 75–year balance for the Trust Fund through benefit reductions will significantly lower benefits, though the impacts vary by type of reform. Nonetheless, the savings for the Social Security Trust Fund will exceed the accompanying increases in the poverty gap, leaving room to provide minimal income guarantees.

August 28, 2006 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

In-Kind Guaranteed Payments

Fla_tax_rev The Florida Tax Review has published two articles on in-kind guaranteed payments:

August 28, 2006 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Dep't of Education Releases Student Financing of Undergraduate Education and Federal Education Tax Benefits

Education_1The Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics has released Student Financing of Undergraduate Education: 2003–04, With a Special Analysis of the Net Price of Attendance and Federal Education Tax Benefits.  Here is the abstract:

This report, based on data from the 2003-04 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS:04), provides detailed information about undergraduate tuition and total price of attendance at various types of institutions, the percentage of students receiving various types of financial aid, and the average amounts that they received. In 2003-04, three-quarters of all full-time undergraduates received some type of financial aid ($9,900 average). One-half took out student loans ($6,200 average), and 62 percent received grants ($5,600 average). Forty percent received both grants and loans (combined average $13,600). The average tuition and fees for full-time undergraduates in 2003-04 were $2,000 at public 2-year, $5,400 at public 4-year, and $18,400 at private not-for-profit 4-year institutions. About one-fourth of full-time undergraduates did not pay any tuition, because the entire tuition amount was covered by grants. Nearly one-half of full-time low-income dependent undergraduates had their entire tuition amount covered by grant aid. The total price of attendance (tuition plus room and board and other expenses) for full-time undergraduates in 2003-04 was $10,500 at public 2-year, $15,200 at public 4-year, and $28,300 at private not-for-profit 4-year institutions. After subtracting all financial aid (including loans), the average out-of-pocket net price of attendance for full-time low-income dependent undergraduates was $6,000 at public 2-year, $5,600 at public 4-year and $9,200 at private nonprofit 4-year institutions. In addition, this report presents estimates of the federal education tax benefits for students (Hope and Lifetime Learning tax credits, and tuition deductions): nearly one-half (49 percent) of all undergraduates or their parents had their taxes reduced by an average of $600 by claiming these benefits. Middle-income students were the most likely to receive these tax benefits. Among the families of upper-middle-income students, more than two-thirds (69 percent) received an average reduction in federal taxes of $1,100.

Press coverage:

Update:  Tax Policy Blog has more here.

August 28, 2006 in Gov't Reports | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Taxes Aren't Good Reason to Flee Britain

Interesting article today on The Guardian:  There Are Good Reasons to Leave Britain, But Tax Isn't One, by Max Hastings:

An astonishing number of us profess to think that we might live more happily somewhere else. A prominent weekend poll asserted that one in five British people is thinking of emigrating, because taxes are too high and our political leadership is allegedly bankrupt....

Taxation plays a part in some decisions to emigrate. However, weather, job opportunities and despair at high house prices and poor state schooling seem more significant. There are two other factors. Globalisation makes it easier than it has ever been to join another society. It is unnecessary to sever home and family ties, which are easily sustained through telephone, internet and cheap air fares. Meanwhile, a declining sense of national identity here in Britain causes the disgruntled to shrug: "It's not our country any more."

August 28, 2006 in News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Seto: Bank of America As an Alternative to Originalism in Murphy

Seto_2Theodore P. Seto (Loyola-L.A.) offers his views on Murphy v. United States, No. 03cv02414 (D.C. Cir. 8/22/06):

The single most problematic aspect of constitutionalizing the definition of income is that doing so threatens to deprive Congress of the flexibility needed to make a tax system work. Originalism, of Ginsburg's or any other stripe, can't provide that kind of flexibility. See, e.g., Seto, Originalism vs. Precedent: An Evolutionary Perspective, 38 Loy. L.A. L. Rev. 2001 (2005). An originalist approach to the Sixteenth Amendment would ultimately undermine the purposes of the amendment itself -- which may be Ginsburg's purpose in Murphy.

Continue reading

August 28, 2006 in New Cases, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

NY Times Criticizes Private Tax Collection & Estate Tax Auditor Cutbacks

Interesting New York Times editorial, Strange Priorities:

In coming weeks, the IRS plans to start siccing private debt collectors on people with up to $25,000 in unpaid income taxes — and laying off nearly half of the auditors who examine estate tax returns of the wealthiest taxpayers. Concern for appearances should, on its own, impel the agency to scuttle its plans. A perception of unfairness is bad for the tax system, and this pair of policies virtually screams “only little people pay taxes.” But appearances are not the only reason to rethink these initiatives.

Private tax collection costs more than it would cost to give the IRS the resources to pursue the debts. Federal budgeting oddities only make it seem less costly. Private collection also raises serious concerns about fraud and privacy. Mark Everson, the IRS commissioner, should fight hard for the resources the agency needs to do the job it clearly does best. Instead, he supports private collection, allowing the administration and Congress to indulge the fiction that they are saving money.

The rationale for laying off estate tax auditors is also unconvincing. To allay suspicions the cutbacks are a way to shield wealthy heirs from taxes, two Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee, John Lewis of Georgia and Earl Pomeroy of North Dakota, sent a letter recently to Mr. Everson, asking for facts and figures to justify the job cuts. Mr. Everson responded with a “trust me” letter.

(Hat Tip:  Ann Murphy & Richard Winchester.)

August 28, 2006 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

NYSBA on Prohibited Tax Shelter Activity Under § 4965

Nysba_logoThe New York State Bar Association Tax Section has sent a letter and report to the Treasury Department and IRS on Prohibited Tax Shelter Activity Under § 4965.  Here is the Summary:

This report is submitted in response to Notice 2006-65's request for comments on the new tax shelter provisions.... The first of this report gives an overview of the new law. The report then discusses the background leading up to the new law and what Congress intends to accomplish through the new provisions.  Next, the report discusses the anti-tax shelter provisions of pre-TIPRA law that continue to apply to tax exempts (that reduce the need, from a tax administration point of view, for an expansive reading of the new provisions), as well as some concerns of the tax-exempt community over an expansive interpretation of the law.  Finally, the report addresses specific questions and concerns and gives comments and recommendations on how the new law should be interpreted.  The Appendix to this report briefly summarizes certain listed transactions and other transactions involving exempt organizations which the IRS has determined are abusive.

August 28, 2006 in NYSBA Tax Section | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Top 5 Tax Paper Downloads

Ssrn_logo_85There is a bit of movement in this week's list of the Top 5 Recent Tax Paper Downloads on SSRN, with a new paper returning to the list at #1:      

1.  [261 Downloads]  Remapping the Charitable Deduction, by David Pozen (Yale J.D. 2007) [blogged here]

2.  [204 Downloads]  Family Limited Partnership Formation: Dueling Dicta, by Mitchell Gans (Hofstra) & Jonathan G. Blattmachr (Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy, New York)  [blogged here]

3.  [175 Downloads]  A New Model for Identifying Basis in Life Insurance Policies: Implementation and Deference, by Jay A. Soled (Rutgers Business School) & Mitchell Gans (Hofstra)  [blogged here]

4.  [130 Downloads]  Reforming the Taxation of Deferred Compensation, by Ethan Yale (Georgetown) & Gregg D. Polsky (Minnesota)  [blogged here]

5.  [76 Downloads]  Tax Expenditures, Principal Agent Problems, and Redundancy, by David A. Weisbach (Chicago)  [blogged here]

August 27, 2006 in Top 5 Downloads | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

How CBO Forecasts Income

Cbo_4_1The Congressional Budget Office has released How CBO Forecasts Income.  Here is part of the Preface:

The CBO's reports on the federal budget and the outlook for the overall economy give the Congress a baseline against which to measure the effects of proposed changes in spending and tax laws. To generate projections of the federal budget under current law, CBO must make projections of federal receipts as well as outlays. Federal receipts are determined largely by taxes collected on individual and business income, including the payroll taxes collected for Social Security and Medicare. This paper explains how CBO projects various categories of income. As with other CBO background papers, it is designed to make the agency’s analyses more transparent by explaining CBO’s methodologies and assumptions.

August 27, 2006 in Gov't Reports | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Feeder Law Schools for Supreme Court Clerkships

Leiter_logo_7At our Leiter's Law School Rankings site, Brian Leiter has updated his data on the law schools attended by Supreme Court clerks during the 1996-2006 Terms.  In all, thirty law schools had at least one graduate serve as a Supreme Court clerk during this period.  Here are the Top 10 feeder schools: 

  • 1. Harvard (95 clerks)
  • 2. Yale (70)
  • 3. Chicago (45)
  • 4. Columbia (27)
  • 5. Stanford (26)
  • 6. NYU (16)
  • 6. Virginia (16)
  • 8. Michigan (14)
  • 9. Berkeley (10)
  • 10. Texas (9)

Non-elite law schools (defined, for this purpose, as schools outside the U.S. News Top 25) with at least one Supreme Court clerk during this period:

  • BYU (3)
  • Georgia (2)
  • Illinois (2)
  • Kansas (2)
  • North Carolina (2)
  • Arizona (1)
  • Boston College (1)
  • Missouri-Columbia (1)
  • Ohio State (1)
  • Rutgers-Newark (1)

August 27, 2006 in Law School | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

WSJ: Estate Tax Plans Get Trickier

Interesting article in the Weekend Wall Street Journal:  Estate-Tax Plans Get Trickier, by Tara Siegel Bernard:

Despite a full-throttle effort, Congress has so far failed to kill the estate tax -- or even enact a compromise that would permanently reduce the hit. Though there's still time for a compromise deal, the tax is currently scheduled to disappear in 2010 and then bounce back again, at higher rates, in 2011. That's making it trickier than ever to formulate an estate-tax plan, which often includes buying a life-insurance policy. Such a policy often plays a central role in estate planning, whether it is used to pay off a big estate-tax bill after you die or to leave something to a child who didn't get a piece of the family business. Choosing the right policy is especially complicated, notably for families with more modest estates that may escape taxation depending on what Congress does. Another twist: Many states have begun imposing their own estate tax, making matters even more complicated.

August 27, 2006 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Raskolnikov on Crime and Punishment in Taxation

Raskolnikov_4Alex Raskolnikov (Columbia) has published Crime and Punishment in Taxation: Deceit, Deterrence, and the Self-Adjusting Penalty, 106 Colum. L. Rev. 569 (2006).  Here is the abstract:

Avoidance and evasion continue to frustrate the government's efforts to collect much needed tax revenues. This article articulates one of the reasons for this lack of success and proposes a new type of penalty that would strengthen tax enforcement while improving efficiency. The economic analysis of deterrence suggests that rational taxpayers choose among various avoidance or evasion strategies that are subject to identical statutory sanctions those that are more difficult for the government to find. I argue that many taxpayers do just that. Because probability of detection varies dramatically among different items on a tax return while nominal penalties do not take likelihood of detection into account, expected penalties for inconspicuous noncompliance are particularly low. Adjusting existing penalties will not solve the problem because what is (and is not) inconspicuous depends on a given tax return and, therefore, is not susceptible to the type of generalization on which the current penalties rely. I propose to complement the existing sanctions with a new penalty equal to a fraction of the legitimate subtraction item (such as a deduction, credit, or loss) reported on the same line of a return that contains the illegitimate one. With this penalty in place, the harder it is for the government to find a given avoidance transaction, the higher is the statutory sanction if the transaction is detected. The proposed penalty adjusts itself. As a result, the differences in expected penalties for many forms of avoidance and, to a lesser extent, evasion are reduced, the inefficient incentive to hide noncompliance is diminished, and the overall deterrence is improved.

August 27, 2006 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Spotlight_1_1

For over 30 years, the University of Florida Graduate Tax Program has been one of the nation's leading programs for the advanced study of tax law. Among the country's 30 graduate tax programs, Florida has by far the largest number of full-time faculty and is the only school to offer three advanced tax degrees:

 

Florida_2_1

Graduate tax students assist in the publication of the Florida Tax Review, one of the most prestigious peer-reviewed tax journals in the country.  In this 12-part series, TaxProf Blog will profile the Florida Graduate Tax Faculty.

Calfee_2 Dennis A. Calfee grew up in a small town in southeastern Washington State, Connell, where his father was the town’s sole pharmacist and sole Republican.  He picks up the story:

My interest in tax was first perked by Professor Daniel Brajcich and advanced by Professor Gary Randall at Gonzaga University. Both of these professors were superb classroom teachers and exemplary individuals both personally and professionally who had a positive influence on countless students, including yours truly. After a clerkship on the Washington State Court of Appeals and some time with Uncle Sam I decided to get a graduate degree in taxation. While working for the Old National Bank in their trust department during law school I relied heavily on two books: Federal Income Taxation of Estates and Beneficiaries, which had three co-authors two of whom were Professors at Florida:  Richard B. Stephens and James J. Freeland; and Federal Estate and Gift Taxation, which had three co-authors, two of whom again were Florida professors: Richard B. Stephens and Steven A. Lind.

Continue reading

August 26, 2006 in Tax Prof Spotlight | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Senate to Consider Tax Changes in Response to Option Backdating

Senate_24The Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing on September 6 to consider tax law changes in response to the flurry of stock option backdating investigations.  From the press release:

There have been a number of recent newspaper stories about corporate executives finding ways to compensate themselves to skirt the federal tax on compensation that is not performancebased. The most well-publicized of these methods is the backdating of stock options, in which executives wait until after the fact to pick a date for their stock options, then pick the low point of the stock during the year to maximize their profit. The tax code governs certain aspects of executive compensation and imposes a tax unless the pay (more than $1 million) is performance-based compensation. In response to the tax, there has been a big upswing in stock options to compensate corporate executives. In June, [the Senate Finance Committee] ... convened a hearing to explore various compliance concerns in the corporate tax arena and asked the Justice Department’s witness to explain the agency’s investigation of stock options backdating.

[The Committee will hold a hearing on September 6 on] . . . Executive Compensation: Backdating to the Future/Oversight of Current Issues Regarding Executive Compensation Including Backdating of Stock Options; and Tax Treatment of Executive Compensation, Retirement and Benefits.” The first panel will ... focus on the government’s response to stock options backdating and other issues regarding executive compensation, including 162(m) -- the million-dollar deduction rule – as well as transparency issues. The second panel will consist of academics and interested groups, giving additional perspective on backdating and 162(m) as well as providing an overview of executive compensation, retirement and benefits, and how they are treated under the tax code. Chairman Grassley is exploring the extent of abuse of executive compensation tax restrictions with an eye toward possible legislation.

Press coverage:

August 26, 2006 in Congressional News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

A 14-Year Old Girl in Today's World

Please indulge a proud father as I share the wonderful poem my 14-year old daughter read last night at our church's art show:

Dance of Love?

We dance under black blankets of sky

Hands on big hips full of potential

That bruise soft flesh

Far too close for comfort

And I know this is not my dream

We are a living in a fantasy

A lie all the same

Too caught up to notice just how far under I'm slipping

It's not like you care anyone

Don't we both know it's all a publicity stunt

Advertising the latest and greatest attraction

Though the script is flimsy,

The plot all-together see through

It deserves an Oscar just for the acting

Pretending is not something I or you will ever be new to

In cafeteria girls giggle over forget-me-nots, summer days and lazy boy dreams

Trying to forget the fact that boys with hungry eyes is not what they desire

They stare at us with hormone induced lust

Across miles of food-scattered floors

They still find a way to make me feel violated

Shorts that could have easily been found

In Chris Browns newest and nudist music video pique their interest

We like to pretend they stare at our eyes

Not our bodies with longing

But it is the hour glass figure

Not the contour of our smile

That gets them every time

Our passionate lip-lock is not really true love

But we make it all too easy for them

Our school has caught the love bug

Or so they say

The infectious disease of perfumed notes

And staying out far past curfew

I'm beginning to lose hope in the cure

I can't help but miss the days of wide-eyed smile and toothless grins

When I would chase boys across the playground with puckered up lips

It was a game then but now it's a battleground

Tactics and warfare to win over an unwilling heart

I am not some prize

I refuse to be won

I remember when holding hands seemed like enough of a scandal

And going way too far was not even a plausible option

So is this love?

They way he sticks his tongue down her throat

After she finishes HIS algebra homework

She longs for his affections

And he knows that all too well

Wondering why church on Sundays won't sooth that guilty conscience

It's not a quick fix

But don't we all wish it was

Her high heels click on the floor

Along with a perpetually receding hemline

And shirts that seem to shrink in the wash

She can tear at my soul for hours

But my solutions never seem realistic

But still I will dance with the new him in my life

To a song that he claims will belong to us forever

Although forever seems to depend on where I'll let his hands touch

Because charming personalities

Lose interest all too fast

In a quick pace world of physical attraction

I'm finding that the me in myself had no place

Pretending that it fills the empty chasm

Where the part of me that made me whole used to lie

Because I am hungry for more than just food

Stomach rumbling in discontent

But I will choose to ignore it

Because this is how I've been told it should be

Because this dance is my new always

August 26, 2006 in Miscellaneous | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

WSJ: The Taxman Goes to Church

Interesting article in the Wall Street Journal:  The Taxman Goes to Church: Why Is the IRS in the Business of Reading Sermons?:

The new crackdown, which the IRS calls the Political Activity Compliance Initiative, has so far put some 15,000 nonprofits--mostly churches--on notice that preaching politics puts them at risk of audits, fines or, in some cases, the loss of tax-exempt status. The IRS has also announced it will no longer wait for complaints to come in, but will instead take action "to prevent violations." It will be reviewing the content of sermons, it says, as well as the financial books of religious organizations. The free exercise of religion could now come with a hefty bill....

North Carolina Republican Rep. Walter Jones wants to get the IRS out of the business of policing religious speech. His proposed legislation to do just that has been stalled for six years, but he hopes that the federal agency's latest initiative--and the experience of Mr. Regas in Pasadena and thousands like him on both sides of the political spectrum--will break the political logjam. He told us that he considers efforts to control what is said from the pulpit to be "antidemocratic." Amen to that.

August 26, 2006 in News | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Kysar on The Political Economy of Sunset Provisions in the Tax Code

Rebecca M. Kysar (Cravath, Swaine & Moore, New York) has published The Sun Also Rises: The Political Economy of Sunset Provisions in the Tax Code, 40 Ga. L. Rev. 335 (2006).  Here is the abstract:

This Article provides an overview and critical analysis of sunset provisions in the tax code, and through examination of the political pressures that led to their striking transformation, also reveals disturbing points of vulnerability in the legislative process. It concludes that, contrary to one of the primary justifications for the enactment of sunset provisions - that these provisions reduce the influence exerted on lawmakers by interest groups - sunsets may instead further politicize the legislative process and, due to their mechanics, increase the likelihood of inefficient social outcomes. The history of sunset provisions in tax legislation also illuminates the complex, multidirectional, and often dramatic interaction between the budgetary process and other political ends. Additionally, it suggests that, when budgetary and tax legislative processes intersect, budgetary concerns supplant debate over and achievement of traditional tax policy goals.

Continue reading

August 26, 2006 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, August 25, 2006

Murphy: Wrong on Law, Right on Policy?

Stephen Cohen (Georgetown) previously argued in this space:

There may be doubtful authority to declare an income tax provision unconstitutional on policy grounds as did the D.C. Circuit in Murphy v. United States, No. 03cv02414 (D.C. Cir. 8/22/06). However, there is a strong argument that in principle, for policy reasons, the damages in Murphy should not constitute income. My co-author and I, Laura Sager of NYU, fleshed out that argument in Discrimination Against Damages for Unlawful Discrimination, 35 Harv. J. Legis. 447 (1998). Thus, the Murphy court may have been wrong on the law, but I think they are right on the policy issue.

Stephen has graciously agreed to share with the broader tax community the relevant portions of the article here.

August 25, 2006 in New Cases, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Stoker & Rich on Tax Incentives and Rebuilding the Gulf Coast after Katrina

Robert P. Stoker (George Washington University, School of Public Policy & Public Administration) & Michael J. Rich (Emory University, Department of Political Science & Director of Office of University-Community Partnerships) have posted Lessons and Limits: Tax Incentives and Rebuilding the Gulf Coast after Katrina on The Brookings Institution web site.  Here is the abstract:

In the wake of the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina, Congress enacted legislation creating Gulf Opportunity Zones (GO Zones) in localities in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi that suffered the most extensive storm damage. Special tax incentives created in these areas are designed to encourage investment, job creation, and economic growth. While many studies have been done to evaluate the effectiveness of federal and state tax-based efforts to redevelop distressed areas, none of the learning has been reflected in policy debates about the Katrina recovery effort. The evidence suggests that tax incentives alone are not enough—they work better when combined with good planning, local capacity-building, and good governance across sectors. This paper will summarize the purpose of the Gulf Opportunity Zone tax program and explain how this latest endeavor reflects the 25-year evolution of federal efforts to use tax incentives as a core tool for revitalizing distressed areas.

August 25, 2006 in Think Tank Reports | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Georgetown Publishes Symposium on DaimlerChrysler v. Cuno and the Constitutionality of State Tax Incentives for Economic Development