TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Friday, October 19, 2007

Beck on The Failure of Innocent Spouse Reform

Richard C.E. Beck (New York Law School) has published The Failure of Innocent Spouse Reform, 51 N.Y.L. Sch. L. Rev. 928 (2007). Here is the Conclusion:

The [innocent psouse] rules can never provide a satisfactory solution to the inequities of [joint return liability]. In part this is because innocence is an irrational basis for relief and can never be made rigorous or consistent. But the primary reason is that [joint return liability] itself lacks any justification: Everyone deserves to be taxed only on her own income, and that means everyone deserves relief. There is no natural stopping point for relief, and therefore the present rules as well as any future ones are necessarily arbitrary.

One day [joint return liability] will have to be repealed because civilized society cannot tolerate forever the tax persecution of women. If the 1998 reforms have any value, it is perhaps that they may bring that day nearer. The extremely high cost of processing case-by-case the present avalanche of claims may shake the IRS out of its intransigence and force it to recalculate whether all this work and expense is really worth the ill-gotten gains. At a time when the “tax gap” is perceived to be widening, and tax morality falling, it is short-sighted policy at best to alienate taxpayers with glaringly unfair collection practices. [Joint return liability] should be repealed.

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