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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Wesley Snipes' Jury Concludes Second Day of Deliberations Without Reaching Verdict; YouTube Video Undercuts Star Prosecution Witness

Hassett Presents Taxes and Wages Today at NYU

Kevin Hassett (American Enterprise Institute) presents Taxes and Wages at NYU today as part of its Colloquium Series on Tax Policy and Public Finance.  Here is the abstract:

Using panel data for 72 countries and 22 years, we explore the link between taxes and manufacturing wages. We find, controlling for macroeconomic variables that have been found in the literature to influence wages, statistically significant evidence that wage rates are not responsive to median or average income tax rates. We find that wages are significantly responsive to corporate taxation, and that the responsiveness of wages to corporate taxation is larger in smaller countries. We also find that tax and wage characteristics of neighboring countries, whether geographic or economic, have a significant effect on domestic wages. These results are consistent with the frequently employed assumptions in the public finance literature that capital is highly mobile, but labor is not. Under these conditions labor will bear the burden of labor taxes, and bear or share the burden of capital taxes.

The co-convenors are Daniel Shaviro (NYU) & Kevin Hassett (American Enterprise Institute).

For a discussion of Kevin's paper, see Jane G. Gravelle & Thomas L. Hungerford, Corporate Tax Reform:  Issues for Congress (Congressional Research Service Report No. RL34229) (Oct. 31, 2007):

The analysis in this report suggests that many of the concerns expressed about the corporate tax are not supported by empirical data. Claims that behavioral responses could cause revenues to rise if rates were cut do not hold up on either a theoretical basis or an empirical basis. Studies that purport to show a revenue maximizing corporate tax rate of 30% (a rate lower than the current statutory tax rate) contain econometric errors that lead to biased and inconsistent results; when those problems are corrected the results disappear. Cross-country studies to provide direct evidence showing that the burden of the corporate tax actually falls on labor yield unreasonable results and prove to suffer from econometric flaws that also lead to a disappearance of the results when corrected. Similarly, claims that high U.S. tax rates will create problems for the United States in a global economy suffer from a misrepresentation of the U.S. tax rate compared to other countries and are less important when capital is imperfectly mobile, as it appears to be.

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January 31, 2008 in Colloquia | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tax Miscreant Roundup: Wesley Snipes & Stephen Yagman

Wesley Snipes:

Stephen Yagman:

January 31, 2008 in Celebrity Tax Lore | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Weisbach Presents Optimal Tax Theory and Individuals with Disabilities Today at Stanford

David A. Weisbach (Chicago) presents A Welfarist Approach to Disabilities at Stanford today as part of its John M. Olin Program in Law and Economics.  Here is the abstract:

This paper uses the tools of optimal tax theory to examine policy toward individuals with disabilities from a welfarist perspective. Policy toward the disabled depends on how a given disability affects welfare. Under reasonable assumptions, redistribution toward individuals with disabilities is desirable, but the extent and form depends on a variety of factors. If disabilities are observable, adjustments to the income tax schedule should be preferred. If disabilities are not observable, commodity taxes or in‐kind provision of certain goods (such as accommodations) may be desirable to solve screening problems. In this case, inefficient over‐supply of these goods is likely to be optimal. Finally, to the extent needs of the disabled are public goods, supply of such goods may be desirable (even if disabilities are observable).

January 31, 2008 in Colloquia | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

American Hosts Panel on Tax Law and Cultural Property

American University Washington College of law hosts a panel today on Tax Law and Cultural Property:

This program focuses on how the Art Advisory Panel, comprised of members of the art market, academic, and non‐profit sectors, functions within the IRS and the statutory scheme of the tax code.  Established in 1968, this group evaluates appraisals in excess of $20,000 that are produced for art, antiquities, and objects of cultural heritage being donated to charitable organizations and for which the donor seeks a tax benefit.

  • Karen Carolan, Chair of the Commissioner’s Art Advisory Panel at the IRS, and WCL student Jillianne Arguello, will talk about the Art Advisory Panel’s duties and objectives, its composition and the selection of its members, and its criteria and procedures for decision making.  In addition, these panelists will explore the nexus between the work of the Art Advisory Panel and the trade in antiquities and objects of ultural heritage.
  • Andrew Potts, a partner at Nixon Peabody, and Paul Edmondson, Vice President and General Counsel of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, look at how Federal and State historic preservation tax incentives function as tools for the restoration of historic propertie, and how historic preservation affects the generation of revenue.  Mr. Potts will use recent examples of his work involving the use of credits under § 47 and Mr. Edmondson will talk about incentives to further the preservation of the historic, built environment, such as historic preservation easements and the proposed Historic Homeowners Assistance Act.

The panel takes place from 4:00 p.m. – 6 p.m. at American University Washington College of Law,  4801 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Room 603, Washington, D.C.

January 31, 2008 in Colloquia | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Yale Presents Investment Risk and The Tax Benefit of Deferred Compensation Today at Florida State

Ethan Yale (Georgetown) presents Investment Risk and The Tax Benefit of Deferred Compensation at Florida State today as part of its Faculty Enrichment Series.  Here is the abstract:

Deferred compensation is thought to generate considerable tax savings compared to current compensation in certain circumstances. The standard model used to support this conclusion does not consider investment risk and therefore overstates the tax benefit of deferred compensation significantly. This paper describes three alternative, risk-neutral approaches to measuring the tax benefit of deferred compensation. Each of these approaches avoids misclassifying increases in expected value attributable to increases in investment risk as a tax preference.

Brian Galle (Florida State) is the host.

January 31, 2008 in Colloquia | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

McCluskey on Economic Inequality, Gender and Marriage Tax Reform

Martha T. McCluskey (SUNY-Buffalo) has posted Razing the Citizen: Economic Inequality, Gender and Marriage Tax Reform on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

This chapter links the failure of U.S. social citizenship ideals to a broader weakness in U.S. ideas citizenship. To better advance policies of economic equality, U.S. law and politics needs a stronger vision not just of economic equality, but of gender equality and of democracy in general. Feminist scholars have analyzed how ideas about gender help shape the common assumption that the costs of raising and sustaining capable, productive citizens are largely private family responsibilities. But ideas about gender also help to undermine egalitarian economic policy by subtly shaping a vision where civic virtue ironically includes the project of razing citizens: turning democratic citizens into pre-modern subordinates dependent on private power. I use the example of recent tax policy reforms focused on reducing the so-called marriage penalty to show how problematic ideas of gender, anti-citizenship, and economic inequality have become entangled and how these must be reconsidered together to promote a meaningful vision of equal citizenship.

January 31, 2008 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Same-Sex Couples Can File Joint Returns in Five States & D.C.

Interesting article on Kiplinger: Tax Savings for Domestic Partners: Five States and the District of Columbia Now Allow Same-Sex Couples to File Joint Returns, by Kevin McCormally:

In the be-careful-what-you-ask-for realm, many gay and lesbian couples around the country may be kicking themselves for their efforts to win the right to file joint state income tax returns with their partners.

Now that tax season is upon us, more and more couples are discovering what a mess it can be when the federal government and the states have starkly different rules. Here’s help to guide you through the latest tax maze.

In Massachusetts (where same-sex couples can marry) and in California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, New Jersey and Vermont (which recognize civil unions or registered domestic partners), qualifying couples can file joint state income tax returns. That's still verboten at the federal level. ...

For an idea of the kinds of mine fields you might have to traverse, consider:

  • Capital gains and losses. ...
  • Real estate losses. ...
  • Mortgage interest deduction. ...
  • Miscellaneous expenses. ...
  • Roth IRA. ...

January 31, 2008 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

DOJ Tax Division Seeks to Hire Civil Tax Litigators

The DOJ's Tax Division has asked me to post this:

The Tax Division of the U.S. Department of Justice has openings for civil litigators to represent the United States in a broad array of tax and tax-related matters in courts across the country. Tax Division trial attorneys are given a significant amount of responsibility and work in a collegial professional environment with the support of experienced litigators. We seek candidates who share a passion for litigation, are able to work both collaboratively and independently, and are willing to travel. For more information, please see our vacancy announcement.

January 31, 2008 in IRS News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Today Is EITC Awareness Day

Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson, Jr., U.S. Treasurer Anna Escobedo Cabral, Acting IRS Commissioner Linda Stiff, Senator Max Baucus, and Senator Charles Grassley are marking EITC Awareness Day today with this joint press conference.  For more information, see:

Update:

January 31, 2008 in IRS News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Christian Legal Scholarship

David A. Skee, Jr. (Penn) has posted two papers on Christian legal scholarship on SSRN:

The Paths of Christian Legal Scholarship:

The history of twentieth century Christian legal scholarship -- really, the absence of Christian legal scholarship in America's elite law schools -- can be told as a tale of two emblematic clashes: the first an intriguing historical footnote, the second a brief, explosive war of words. In the first, a tort action in Nebraska circa 1890, William Jennings Bryan and Roscoe Pound served as opposing counsel; the second was a war of words in the 1940s between a group of neo-Thomist scholars and defenders of Oliver Wendell Holmes. Using these two incidents to frame as a starting point, this essay briefly chronicles the disappearance of Christian legal scholarship from the elite law reviews for much of the twentieth century. In the past few years, however, there have been signs of a possible renaissance. The second half of the essay focuses on the signs of renewal. To organize the discussion, I address three very basic questions: What?, Who?, and How? - What are the most promising directions for Christian legal scholarship? Who is a Christian legal scholar? And how can Christian legal scholarship best be facilitated?

The Unbearable Lightness of Christian Legal Scholarship, 57 Emory L.J. ___ (2008):

When the ascendancy of a new movement leaves a visible a mark on American politics and law, its footprints ordinarily can be traced through the pages of America's law reviews. But the influence of evangelicals and other theologically conservative Christians has been quite different. Surveying the law review literature in the 1976, the year Newsweek proclaimed as the year of the evangelical, one would not find a single scholarly legal article outlining a Christian perspective on law or any particular legal issue. Even in the 1980s and 1990s, the literature remained remarkably thin. By the 1990s, distinctively Christian scholarship had finally begun to emerge in a few areas. But even today, the scope of Christian legal scholarship is shockingly narrow for so nationally influential a movement.

This Article argues that the strange trajectory of Christian legal scholarship can only be understood against the backdrop of the fraught relationship between religion and American higher education starting in the late nineteenth century. As the nation's modern research universities emerged in 1870s, leading reformers began to promote nonsectarian, scientific approaches to scholarship. These developments increasingly excluded religious perspectives. But the disdain did not run in one direction only. For much of the twentieth century, American evangelicals absented themselves from American public life. Theologically conservative Christians who remained in legal academia operated under cover, a stance reflected in the absence of Christian legal scholarship except on church-state issues, in the Catholic natural law tradition, and in a handful of other areas.

The first half of the Article is devoted to this historical exegesis and to a survey of current Christian legal scholarship. The Article then shifts from a critical to a more constructive mode, from telling to showing, as I attempt to illustrate what a normative, and then a descriptive, Christian legal scholarship might look like.

See also:

I have blogged the robust tax scholarship in recent years incorporating Judeo-Christian themes:

January 31, 2008 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Graetz Presents A Simple, Fair, and Competitive Tax Plan Today at Toronto

GraetzMichael J. Graetz (Yale) presents 100 Million Unnecessary Returns: A Simple, Fair, and Competitive Tax Plan for the United States (Yale Univ. Press, 2007) at the University of Toronto today as part of the James Hausman Tax Law and Policy Workshop Series.  Here is the publisher's description:

To most Americans, the United States tax code has become a vast and confounding puzzle. In 1940, the instructions to the form 1040 were about four pages long. Today they have ballooned to more than a hundred pages, and the form itself contains more than ten schedules and twenty worksheets. The complete tax code totals about 2.8 million words—about four times the length of War and Peace. In this intriguing book, Michael Graetz maintains that our tax code has become a tangle of loopholes, paperwork, and inconsistencies—a massive social program that fails tests of simplicity and fairness. More important, our tax system has failed to keep pace with the changing economy, creating burdens and wastes of resources that weigh our nation down.

Graetz offers a solution. Imagine a world in which most Americans pay no income tax at all, and those who do enjoy a far simpler tax process—all this without decreasing government revenues or removing key incentives for employer-sponsored health care plans and pensions. As Graetz adeptly and clearly describes, this world is within our grasp.

January 30, 2008 in Book Club, Colloquia | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Gerzog on The Strict Rules of Charitable Split Interest Gifts

Wendy Gerzog (Baltimore) has posted The Strict Rules of Charitable Split Interest Gifts, 118 Tax Notes 541 (1/28/08), on SSRN.   Here is the abstract:

When giving both to your family and to your charity, you must follow the rules carefully to qualify for a charitable deduction. The article discusses the recent Tamulis case [Estate of Tamulis v. Commissioner, 509 F.3d 343 (7th Cir. 2007), aff’g T.C. Memo. 2006-183], other split interest charitable deduction cases, and the doctrine of substantial compliance.

January 30, 2008 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Reaman Leaves IRS for Nixon Peabody

Susan P. Reaman, a thirty-year IRS veteran and most recently Branch Chief, Incentives Branch, IRS Office of Associate Chief Counsel, Passthroughs and Special Industries, has joined the Washington, D.C. office of Nixon Peabody as Counsel in the Syndication Group.  From the press release:

A recipient of numerous awards during her tenure at the IRS, Ms. Reaman has also testified before Congress on low-income housing tax credits. Ms. Reaman is a graduate of t he John Marshall Law School. She received her LL.M (Taxation) from Georgetown University Law Center and she earned a B.A. degree from the University of Detroit.

January 30, 2008 in IRS News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Newman Posts Tax Papers on SSRN

Joel S. Newman (Wake Forest) has posted several tax papers on SSRN:

January 30, 2008 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Law School Cannibalism

Brian Tamanaha (St. John's) has unearthed a wonderful 1927 speech at the AALS annual meeting by Thomas Reed Powell (Harvard), The Recruiting of Law Teachers, 13 A.B.A. J. 69 (Jan. 1927):

Robbing each other's hen-roosts is facilitated by the graduation in the salary scale from school to school and by these annual opportunities for getting acquainted. We can know a man by his larynx without waiting for the fruits from his fingers. Whatever the reason, most of our law schools now feed frequently on each other.

Such cannibalism is not of great importance to legal education as a whole. ... I hear of frequent attempted larcenies that have been frustrated notwithstanding the allurement of higher salaries. This competition of school with school may be bad for university budgets, but this has its brighter side....

On the whole it seems to me a good thing for legal education that teachers are not tethered too tightly....The school that loses a man it longs to keep is apt to take steps to make its post more attractive to others. Our law schools have grown in merit as their sister schools have grown in merit. The secure and satisfied school is in danger of stagnation.

January 30, 2008 in Law School | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tax Profs Debate Proper Tax Treatment of Furniture Giveaway to Red Sox Fans: Income or Purchase Price Reduction?

Red_soxOn Monday, I blogged the IRS's recent ruling concluding that customers who purchased furniture last spring and had their entire purchase price refunded after the Red Sox won the 2007 World Series did not have income and instead received a nontaxable reduction in the purchase price of the furniture.

Here is some commentary by Joel S. Newman (Wake Forest) and Brian Galle (Florida State) from the TaxProf Email Discussion Group (reprinted with permission):

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January 30, 2008 in Celebrity Tax Lore | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

The Two Sides of Law School

Check out this video on The Two Sides of Law School from a Utah law student:

January 30, 2008 in Law School | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The Case For Raising Taxes On Canada's Rich

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives haspublished Why Charity Isn't Enough: The Case For Raising Taxes On Canada's Rich.  From the press release:

Canada should raise federal personal income tax rates on the rich to close the growing income gap and to bring them more in line with those in the U.S., says a study released today by the Alternative Federal Budget project of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. The study, by economist Andrew Jackson, points out that Canada's top federal tax rate is considerably lower than the U.S.: The top U.S. tax rate is 35% on incomes over $326,000 and 33% on incomes over $150,000; Canada's top federal income tax rate is 29% on incomes of over $116,000.

January 30, 2008 in Think Tank Reports | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Kleinbard Presents Inside the JCT Revenue Estimating Process Today at NYSBA Annual Meeting

NYSBA Issues Tax Reports

What Would It Take For You To Go To Arizona State (#51) Rather Than Georgetown (#14)? 57% Say $100,000

A Pre-Law Discussion Board poll of Say You Get Into a U.S. News Top 14 Law School, How Much Would a Tier 2 Have to Pay You to Attend? (119 respondents):

  • 3.4%   Nothing (4 votes)
  • 3.4%   Half tuition scholarship (4)
  • 12.6% Full tuition scholarship (15)
  • 12.6% Full tuition plus room and board (15)
  • 10.9% Full tuition plus room and board plus $20,000 stipend (13)
  • 10.9% Full tuition plus room and board plus $50,000 "study grant" (13)
  • 16.8% Full tuition plus room and board plus $100,000 "study grant" (20)
  • 29.4% More than all of the above (35)

January 29, 2008 in Law School | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Bird & Zolt on Technology and Taxation in Developing Countries

Richard M. Bird (Toronto) & Eric M. Zolt (UCLA) have posted Technology and Taxation in Developing Countries: From Hand to Mouse on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

Tax systems in developing countries, like those in more developed countries, face both new challenges and new possibilities as a result of technological change. In developing countries, taxpayers and tax administrations must cope with more difficult environments with fewer resources. Some issues (such as privacy, the benefits and costs of public/private partnerships, and corruption) are common to both developing and developed countries, but differ in relative importance in particular countries. Other issues (such as how new technology may or should influence the way a country's tax system or particular taxes are designed and administered) may be more important in developing countries. This paper examines the issues facing developing countries from technological changes and provides some promising examples of technological innovation and application in tax administration and tax policy.

January 29, 2008 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Senate Holds Hearing Today on Shulman's Nomination to be IRS Commissioner

Becker & Posner on Why Are Tax Burdens So Different in Different Developed Countries?

Richard Posner and Gary Becker debate Why Are Tax Burdens So Different in Different Developed Countries?

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January 29, 2008 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Selling Shares in Tax Profs?

Interesting article in Slate: Bullpen Market: A Minor-League Pitcher Named Randy Newsom Is Selling Shares of His Future Earnings, by Josh Levin:

Yesterday, I bought a professional baseball player. It only took a minute. I surfed over to Real Sports Investments, clicked the "Buy Now" button, and purchased six shares of Randy Newsom. Along with my Slate colleagues John Swansburg and Dan Engber, I am now the proud owner of 0.0096 percent of a minor-league pitcher's future major-league earnings. Mr. Newsom, I wish you a long and prosperous career—emphasis on prosperous. If Newsom makes $1,000,000 over the course of his major-league career, the Slate investment group will take a loss, earning a piddling $96 on an initial investment of $143.82. If he makes $10 million, we'll get $960. And if he makes Barry Zito money? I won't be retiring early, but I'll be able to watch my baseball-playing property on some nice plasma TVs.

The idea of buying shares in athletes isn't new. Football Players Funds Management, a Portugal-based hedge fund, helps pro soccer teams buy the contracts of promising youngsters in exchange for a percentage of the players' future transfer fees. Top poker pros are often staked for tournaments by investors, and a golfer might get his start on tour with backing from a consortium of investors. There's already a popular fantasy site, ProTrade, where fans can buy and sell virtual shares in their favorite players. And last May, Michael Lewis wrote a convincing piece for Portfolio arguing that it won't be long before Americans will be able to invest in their favorite athletes. ...

Shareholders will be paid from after-tax earnings but before agent fees and other expenses. ...

Newsom ... see[s] his $50,000 windfall as a way to level the playing field against guys who don't have to worry about finances. He told me that he wants to invest the money he gets from investors back into his career by enrolling at Athletes' Performance, a training facility in Arizona.

For further details, see Cincinnati Enquirer and Freakonomics.

The tax consquences of the structure are explained on the RSI website:

Real Sports Investments LLC, is engaged in contracts with all of the professional athletes you will see on the websites: realsportscards.com or realsportsinvestments.com. RSI athletes will pay RSI an agreed upon amount equating to a percentage of the athlete’s future net major league earnings. When the athlete receives payment, RSI will receive payment. At that point, RSI will then pay the owners of that particular athlete’s shares. The owners will receive payment in the form of an increase to their RSI member’s account, or in the form of a check. Members agree and understand that this payment is considered taxable income, and will be taxed at the appropriate level for each individual owner. Owners understand and agree that they will receive gross payment in the form of gross dollars. Taxes will be taken out through federal tax withholdings, and it is up to the owner to understand their own tax situation as it applies to them. Owners also understand that capital gains taxes will apply to any shares that they sell for a higher price than they paid. Owners are responsible for documenting and paying their own capital gains tax.

Comments are open for a further discussion of the tax issues of this structure.  (Hat Tip: Samuel Hans & Robert Nassau.)

January 29, 2008 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tax Portions of President Bush's State of the Union Address Last Night

Bush_2Tax provisions in last night's State of the Union Address by President Bush:

In the long run, Americans can be confident about our economic growth. But in the short run, we can all see that growth is slowing. So last week, my Administration reached agreement with Speaker Pelosi and Republican Leader Boehner on a robust growth package that includes tax relief for individuals and families and incentives for business investment. The temptation will be to load up the bill. That would delay it or derail it, and neither option is acceptable. This is a good agreement that will keep our economy growing and our people working. And this Congress must pass it as soon as possible.

We have other work to do on taxes. Unless the Congress acts, most of the tax relief we have delivered over the past 7 years will be taken away. Some in Washington argue that letting tax relief expire is not a tax increase. Try explaining that to 116 million American taxpayers who would see their taxes rise by an average of $1,800. Others have said they would personally be happy to pay higher taxes. I welcome their enthusiasm, and I am pleased to report that the IRS accepts both checks and money orders.

Most Americans think their taxes are high enough. With all the other pressures on their finances, American families should not have to worry about the Federal Government taking a bigger bite out of their paychecks. There is only one way to eliminate this uncertainty: make the tax relief permanent. And Members of Congress should know: If any bill raising taxes reaches my desk, I will veto it.

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January 29, 2008 in Political News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Joint Tax Committee Unveils Upgraded Website

The Joint Committee on Taxation yesterday unveiled its re-designed website:

We have redesigned this site to offer more convenient access to our information, materials, and resources. Many new pages have been added to afford different paths and ways to logically access the material we offer on our web site. Comments are welcome (see Contact Us page).

Note that many of the older Committee documents on this site are old PDF images, and are therefore not currently full-text searchable. We will be converting these documents to full-text PDF files over a period of time. For the time being, only the titles of these old documents are indexed for search.

The Committee also announced JCT Expands Team of Top-Flight Tax Lawyers:

We are very pleased to announce that the Staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation will be augmented by the arrival of four top-flight lawyers at the beginning of 2008.

Continue reading

January 29, 2008 in Congressional News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

NY Times Returns to the Use of Clickers in Class

Clicker_2Regular readers of this blog know that I have taken a middle position in the classroom laptop wars, arguing that professors should neither allow untrammeled student use of laptops nor attempt to ban them.  Instead, I argue in Taking Back the Law School Classroom: Using Technology to Foster Active Student Learning, 54 J. Legal Educ. 551 (2004), that faculty should use technology in the form of clickers to re-engage their students.

Four years ago, the New York Times reported on my use of the clickers:  In Class, the Audience Weighs In, NY Times, Apr. 29, 2004.  The Times returned to the story yesterday in the high school and elementary school contexts in Students Click, and a Quiz Becomes a Game, by Winnie Hu:

The clickers are part of an increasingly popular technology known as an audience response system, which has been used for everything from surveying game show audiences to polling registered voters. That technology is now spreading to public and private schools across the country. ...

In a typical system, the clickers record data from individuals, and transmit that information, through wireless technology, to a computer program. The program can instantly display the results, tally them and present them in elaborate spreadsheets and eye-catching graphics like spaceships or “Jeopardy!”-style boards. It can track the percentage of correct answers received for each question as well as the participation rate among all users. ...

[A high school physics teacher] said that he was sold on the clickers because he could check on the progress of every student, not just the ones who frequently raised their hands and tended to dominate the discussions.

January 29, 2008 in Law School | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, January 28, 2008

Tax Deductible Girl Scout Cookies

Girl_scout_cookies From the Girl Scouts web site

Q: Is the purchase of Girl Scout Cookies tax-deductible?

A: No and Yes.

No, if the customer keeps the cookies. Individuals who buy Girl Scout Cookies and take the cookies home, or consume them, have purchased a product at a fair market value. For this reason, no part of the price of a box of Girl Scout Cookies used in this way is tax-deductible.

Yes, if the customer leaves the cookies with Girl Scouts. Many Girl Scouts ask customers to pay for one or more boxes of cookies for use in their community service project, for example, collecting for a food pantry. The customers not receiving any Girl Scout Cookies do not benefit directly from paying for them. Those individuals may treat the purchase price of the donated cookies as a charitable contribution.

(Hat Tip:  Don't Mess with Taxes.)

January 28, 2008 in Celebrity Tax Lore | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Babe Ruth's Nephew Convicted in IRS Tax Scam

George Herman Ruth, 54, the nephew and namesake of baseball Hall-of-Famer Babe Ruth, was convicted by a federal district court jury in New Jersey of scheming to defraud the IRS of $360,000 by preparing fictitious tax returns while already serving a prison sentence.  The jury found that Ruth and his co-defendant prepared false tax returns in their and others' names, including those of other inmates, used third parties to deposit the refunds into various bank accounts, and transferred the funds into their prison commissary accounts.

Update:  As several commenters and subsequent media reports pointed out, the initial media reports above accepted Mr. Ruth's claims that he was the nephew of Babe Ruth.  In fact, he is not.

January 28, 2008 in Celebrity Tax Lore | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

61st Annual USC Law Tax Institute Begins Today in L.A.

Usc_2The three-day 61st Annual USC Law Tax Institute kicks off today in Los Angeles.  Harry L. “Hank” Gutman, director of KMPG’s Tax Governance Institute, delivers the keynote address today on Legislative Preview:  Looking Ahead at Corporate Taxation in 2009-10.  Tax Prof speakers include:

  • Ellen P. Aprill (Loyola-L.A.), Key Tax Issues Across the Private Equity Lifecycle (Monday, 10:50 a.m.)
  • Jeffrey N. Pennell (Emory), Current Developments in Estate Planning (Wednesday, 9:00 a.m.)

For a list of all of the speakers and their topics, see the brochure.

January 28, 2008 in Conferences | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tax News Roundup

The Most Overrated Law Schools: A Student Perspective

A Pre-Law Discussion Board poll of the Most Overrated Law School Among the Top 14 in U.S. News & World Report (259 respondents):

  1. Penn: 19.3% (50 votes) (#6 in U.S. News)
  2. Cornell:  14.3% (37) (#13)
  3. Georgetown:  13.9% (36) (#14)
  4. Duke:  8.9% (23) (#10)
  5. Michigan:  8.5% (22) (#8)
  6. NYU:  7.7% (20) (#4)
  7. Harvard:  5.4% (14) (#2)
  8. Yale:  4.6% (12) (#1)
  9. Northwestern:  4.6% (12) (#12)
  10. UC-Berkeley:  4.2% (11) (#8)
  11. Chicago:  3.1% (8) (#6)
  12. Virginia:  2.7% (7) (#10)
  13. Columbia:  1.9% (5) (#5)
  14. Stanford:  0.8% (2) (#2)

(Hat Tip: Brian Leiter.)  In comparison, here are the latest SSRN Law School Rankings that encompass the Top 14 schools in U.S. News:

  1. Harvard (249,256 all-time downloads) (#1 in U.S. News)
  2. Chicago (208,371) (#6)
  3. Columbia (174,887) (#5)
  4. George Washington (174,468) (#22)
  5. Stanford (153,238) (#2)
  6. Texas (145,347) (#18)
  7. UCLA (141,274) (#15)
  8. Yale (129,622) (#1)
  9. Georgetown (129,622) (#14)
  10. Illinois (101,983) (#25)
  11. UC-Berkeley (96,714) (#8)
  12. USC (94,494) (#16)
  13. NYU (88,502) (#4)
  14. Vanderbilt (84,247) (#16)
  15. Penn (82,790) (#6)
  16. Minnesota (81,608) (#20)
  17. Duke (60,109) (#10)
  18. Michigan (57,392) (#8)
  19. George Mason (54,809) (#34)
  20. San Diego (53,409) (#85)
  21. Virginia (50,522) (#10)
  22. Northwestern (45,421) (#12)
  23. Boston University (44,319) (#20)
  24. Fordham (41,294) (#25)
  25. Florida State (40,983) (#53)
  26. Ohio State (40,411) (#31)
  27. Cardozo (37,709) (#52)
  28. Cornell (34,956) (#13)

Here are the U.S. News Top 14 law schools that are most overvalued in comparison to SSRN:

  • Cornell:  +15 (#13 in U.S. News, #28 in SSRN)
  • Virginia:  +11 (#10, #21)
  • Michigan:  +10 (#8, #18)
  • Northwestern:  +10 (#12, #22)
  • Penn:  +9 (#6, #15)
  • NYU:  +9 (#4, #13)
  • Duke:  +7 (#10, #17)
  • Yale:  +7 (#1, #8)

For more, including a chart on the 12 Most Overvalued and Undervalued Law Schools by U.S. News, see our article, Ranking Law Schools: Using SSRN to Measure Scholarly Performance, 81 Ind. L.J. 83, 124 (2006).

January 28, 2008 in Law School | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)

IRS: Furniture Giveaway to Red Sox Fans Tied to World Series Victory Treated as Purchase Price Reduction, Not Income

Red_soxI previously blogged (here and here) the tax consequences of the latest example of refunds tied to a local sports team's success:  Jordan's Furniture in Boston ran a "Monster" promotion promising that customers who purchased furniture between March 7 and April 16 would have their entire purchase price refunded if the Red Sox went on to win the 2007 World Series.  Jordan's initially took the position that any refund would be taxable to its customers:

Per IRS regulations, Rebate Claim Forms valued at $600 and above will be issued a 2007 1099 Form from Jordan’s Furniture and will be reported to the Internal Revenue Service.

But the Boston Globe later reported that Jordan's and its tax lawyers were trying to find a way to treat the refund as a purchase price rebate rather than as income, and the company changed its FAQ accordingly:

Is my rebate taxable? You are responsible for any federal, state and local taxes relating to your rebate. The Internal Revenue Service has ruled that rebates paid to retail customers generally are not included in gross income for federal income tax purposes, but instead reduce the tax basis of the property purchased. Because everyone’s tax situation is different, if you have any questions concerning your tax responsibilities, you should contact your personal tax advisor.

Will I get a Form 1099 concerning my rebate? Jordan’s does not intend to file Forms 1099 with respect to rebate payments unless it is required to do so by the Internal Revenue Service.

In a letter to its customers dated January 18, 2008, Jordan's announced that it has obtained a ruling from the IRS holding that the payments are to be treated as purchase price adjustments and not as income to customers:

As you may recall when you submitted your rebate form, we asked for your social security number in the event that Jordan's was required to issue an IRS Form 1099 for tax year 2007 reflecting the amount of your Monster Deal rebate. In order to clarify our reporting obligations, Jordan's requested and has now obtained a private letter ruling from the Internal Revenue Service.  We are very pleased to announce that the IRS has agreed with Jordan's position that Monster Deal rebates represent a reduction in the purchase price for Monster Deal merchandise, and has ruled that Jordan's in not required to report Monster Deal rebates on Forms 1099.  Since each Monster Deal rebate is treated as a purchase price reduction, the ruling also indicates that a rebate generally will not be includible in a customer's gross income for federal income tax purposes except to the extent that the customer has been entitled to a tax deduction or other tax benefit in connection with the Monster deal merchandise.

(Hat Tip: Eli Bortman.)

January 28, 2008 in Celebrity Tax Lore | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

The Role of Tax Blogs in Tax Administration

Interesting article in this week's Tax Notes, Tax Press Plays Crucial Role in IRS Communications Strategy, Korb Says, by Kristen A. Parillo, 118 Tax Notes 478 (1/28/08):

The tax press has played an increasingly important role in the IRS's communications strategy as the number and form of media outlets have proliferated over the last 25 to 35 years, IRS Chief Counsel Donald Korb said at a January 18 session of the American Bar Association Section of Taxation midyear meeting in Lake Las Vegas, Nev. Korb spoke at a panel on the role of blogging in the tax world [blogged here].

He asked the audience to think back to what it was like 35 years ago, when there was no Tax Notes and the Daily Tax Report was a different type of publication than it is today. "The tax press is really an important part of our business in a way that it wasn't, and what I've tried to do is take advantage of that in terms of tax administration," Korb said. "It's a very effective way for us to get our message out and get our spin on things." ...

Tax bloggers have gone a step beyond what traditional media can do and have "democratized" the way tax news and other information reach people who may not have had access to such information before the Internet age, Korb said. People no longer have to have subscriptions to tax law publications or be in Washington to get that information, he said. Tax blogs such as TaxProf Blog, which is run by Paul Caron, a University of Cincinnati College of Law professor, "are a great tool to get information out to a particular group," he said.

Korb wondered whether difficult tax policy problems that were being debated 25 to 35 years ago could have been resolved faster if tax blogs and other such forums had been around. Only certain people were aware of the issues at that time, Korb said, so there wasn't a broad public discussion as there is now. Korb also wondered to what extent judges read tax blogs and whether that affects their thinking.

January 28, 2008 in ABA Tax Section, IRS News, News, Scholarship, Tax Analysts | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (1)

The Effects of Taxes and Transfers on Income and Poverty in the U.S.

The U.S. Census Bureau has released The Effects of Taxes and Transfers on Income and Poverty in the United States: 2006.  Here is the abstract:

These estimates of income and poverty for various demographic groups use a series of alternative income definitions that take into account government taxes and transfers. These estimates show how income distributions change when the definition of income is varied to reflect the inclusion or exclusion of different components.

(Hat Tip:  Jon Forman.)

January 28, 2008 in Gov't Reports | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

TaxProf Blog Weekend Roundup

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Top 5 Tax Paper Downloads

There is a lot of movement in this week's list of the Top 5 Recent Tax Paper Downloads, with a new #1 paper and new papers debuting on the list at #3, #4, and #5:

1.  [169 Downloads]  The Carried Interest Controversy: Let's Not Get Carried Away, by Noel B. Cunningham (NYU) & Mitchell L. Engler (Cardozo)  [blogged here]

2.  [138 Downloads]  Taxation of US Tax-Exempt Entities' Offshore Hedge Fund Investments -- Application of the Section 514 Debt-Financed Rules to Leveraged Hedge Funds and Derivatives and the Case for Equalization, by Summer Ayers LePree (Holland & Knight, Miami)  [blogged here]

3.  [97 Downloads]  Income Effectively Connected with U.S. Trade or Business: A Survey and Appraisal, by Lawrence Lokken (Florida)  [blogged here]

4.  [93 Downloads]  Double Tax Treaties: An Introduction, by Reuven S. Avi-Yonah (Michigan)  [blogged here]

5.  [63 Downloads]  Conservation Easements: Perpetuity and Beyond, by Nancy A. McLaughlin (Utah)  [blogged here]

January 27, 2008 in Top 5 Downloads | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tax Court Accepts Doctor's Expert Testimony That Taxpayer Was "Pathological Gambler" in Face of IRS Objection Based on Wikipedia

The Tax Court last week found that a taxpayer had adequately substantiated $2.5 million in casino gambling losses over a three-year period.  Gagliardi v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 2008-10 (1/24/08).  The case is remarkable both for the sad picture it paints of a person addicted to gambling as well as for the Tax Court's acceptance of expert testimony that the taxpayer was a "pathological gambler," which the Service attempted to disprove via Wikipedia:

Mr. Gagliardi did not graduate from high school. ...  In 1989, Mr. Gagliardi purchased an 18-wheel truck and thereafter ran his own trucking business, called American Redball, as a sole proprietorship. ...

In 1991, Mr. Gagliardi won approximately $26,660,000 from the California lottery. Mr. Gagliardi elected to receive payment of the lottery proceeds in 20 annual payments of approximately $1,333,000 each ... At the time he won the lottery proceeds, Mr. Gagliardi was 29 years old, was married, and had two children. Since winning the lottery proceeds, Mr. Gagliardi has not been employed. ...

During 1994, Mr. Gagliardi and his wife divorced. Pursuant to the property settlement in the divorce decree, Mr. Gagliardi and his ex-wife evenly split the original annual lottery payment. Accordingly, after the divorce, Mr. Gagliardi's gross annual lottery payment was $666,500. After Mr. Gagliardi divorced, his two children lived with his ex-wife in Marin County, California. ...

In or around 1996, Mr. Gagliardi had a friend who was dying of cancer. In 1996, Mr. Gagliardi's friend asked Mr. Gagliardi to be his companion on a trip to one of the casinos owned and operated by California Indian tribes in San Diego County. Mr. Gagliardi gambled infrequently before winning the lottery. After the trip with his friend, Mr. Gagliardi started playing the slot machines at the casinos frequently and became a "pathological gambler". Since becoming a pathological gambler, Mr. Gagliardi has liquidated most of his investments and savings to gamble. ...

Mr. Gagliardi spent most of his waking hours at the casinos. He had no outside interests, and generally if he was not at the casinos he was at home. A typical day for Mr. Gagliardi generally consisted of waking up, showering, going to a 7-Eleven, getting coffee, going to the casinos, gambling, returning home, sleeping, waking up, and returning to the casino immediately thereafter. [Fn.4:  On the day of trial, Mr. Gagliardi was gambling at one of the casinos until 5 a.m. (trial started at approximately 9:30 a.m.) and in his testimony implied that he would return to the casinos to gamble after the trial was over.] Occasionally, Mr. Gagliardi spent up to 48 hours continuously in the casinos before returning home. Mr. Gagliardi spent an average of 20 days per month at the casinos (at least 209 days, 260 days, and 257 days during 1999, 2000, and 2001, respectively).

Continue reading

January 27, 2008 in New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Lipman Posts Three Tax Papers

Francine J. Lipman (Chapman) has posted three tax papers on SSRN:

January 27, 2008 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

OSJCL Amici: Views from the Field

My friend Doug Berman (Ohio State) of our hugely successful Sentencing Law & Policy Blog has launched a new website in conjunction with the Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law, OSJCL Amici:  Views from the Field:

[Views from the Field aspires to] help bridge divide between the academy and the practicing community by creating a venue for leading practitioners to engage [though short commentaries] with academics, students, the public, and others in the criminal law field.

For more details, see here.

January 27, 2008 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Bad Student Evaluations in Tax Courses

The following student evaluation at the University of Georgia has sparked a lot of commentary:

[Professor X] is a complete asshole. I hope he chokes on a dick, gets AIDS and dies. To hell with all gay teachers who are terrible with their jobs and try to fail students!"

The commentary has mainly concerned the appropriateness of the university's actions in sanctioning the student for, among other things, harassment in light of the professor's sexual orientation.  Dave Hoffman has taken a different tack and opened a Bad Student Evaluation Hall of Fame:

Now the first-amendment and privacy law implications of disciplining the student are outside of my area of expertise. ...  But the post does prompt me to put up a project I've been thinking about for a while: a hall of fame for bad student evaluations. The idea is for you folks (commentators!) to give examples of the most ridiculous, funny, and insightful negative evaluations you've gotten in courses you've taught.

Let's try a tax version -- the comments are open for you to share "the most ridiculous, funny, and insightful negative evaluations you've gotten" in your tax courses.

January 26, 2008 in Law School | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack (1)

Newman on Baseball Autographs and the Tax Law

Joel S. Newman (Wake Forest) has posted Baseball Autographs, 116 Tax Notes 1078 (2007), on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

The story of the major league baseball players who allegedly failed to report income from the sale of their autographs to the IRS. Players include Duke Snider, Willie McCovey, Darryl Strawberry, Mickey Mantle, Pete Rose, Barry Bonds, and most of the 1994 New York Mets. Joe DiMaggio was apparently meticulous about reporting autograph income, but not so careful about reporting income from other celebrity perks. The article addresses who earned how much income, who got caught, and what happened to them. It concludes with some speculation about the relevance of celebrity status to tax law enforcement.

January 26, 2008 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Forman Posts Two Papers on SSRN

Jonathan Barry Forman (Oklahoma) has posted two papers on SSRN:

January 26, 2008 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, January 25, 2008

Happy 175th Birthday, University of Cincinnati College of Law

Uc_building_2Happy 175th birthday to my school, the University of Cincinnati College of Law -- the fourth oldest continuously operating law school in the United States.  We are celebrating tonight with a gala dinner featuring John Grisham and Cris Collinsworth (Class of 1991) (see press report).  For more about the school, check out:

Update:  The local paper reports on the wonderful gala here.

January 25, 2008 in Law School | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

NLJ: A Tale of Two [Law School] Tiers

Tying together several recent posts (here, here, and here):  the National law Journal has released advance copies of two articles from next Monday's issue that highlight very different law school worlds:

Nlj_endowment

Donations to Law Schools Soaring; Top Schools Bolster Specialized Faculty, by Leigh Jones

Top law schools are reporting record-breaking donations that are helping to cover tuition costs, hire faculty and promote public interest programs. But in the world of fundraising, apparently it's never enough. Last year alone, Harvard brought in $48 million in cash. NYU raised about $42 million and Columbia raked in almost $24 million. ...

A look at some of the nation's elite law schools during the past five years shows huge amounts of money that they have wooed from alums and businesses. Rocketing costs, competition for top faculty and additional pressures to train practice-ready graduates will take every penny, according to most deans. But others question whether there is too much fat in the system. "Money is like fuel," said Columbia Dean [and Tax Prof] David Schizer. "A school can go higher and higher with more fuel." ...

In general, those schools and others have increased the numbers of specialized faculty, especially scholars with an international focus, and have boosted the number of scholarships available. They also have established legal clinics to provide students with practical experience and to help poor people in their communities who need legal help. In addition, more money has sparked a talent war among elite schools, with renowned professors hopscotching from Columbia to NYU to Harvard to Yale and back again, sometimes with attractive relocation packages.

All that money also likely has enabled those schools to remain at the top of the U.S. News & World Report rankings, the annual publication both revered and reviled by law schools.

Nlj_florida Facing State Cuts, Florida Law Schools Prepare to Hike Tuition, by Julie Kay:

Three of Florida's four public law schools, facing a massive $1 billion shortfall in the state budget, are planning on requesting 10% tuition hikes next year — the maximum amount allowed by law. Those tuition hikes are on top of increases this past year of between 5% and 10%. Only the new dean of 500-student Florida A&M University College of Law said he so far does not plan to seek a tuition increase. ...

"Like a lot of law schools, we're trying to avoid damage to the program by increasing tuition and fees where we can," said Donald J. Weidner, dean of 850-student Florida State. "I've been dean since 1991 and this is clearly the worst I've seen." ...

Florida public law schools are not alone in raising tuition. ... According to statistics from the ABA, tuition for public law schools rose an average of 8% in 2006, to an average amount of $13,107. ...

With the state and university finances starting to go south last year, Weidner made the decision to increase tuition by 10% this past year for entering students and by 5% for existing students. Even with the increases, the school faced a cut of $562,000 and had to slash part-time positions, cease printing brochures and ban faculty travel. ...

University of Florida, possibly the most established law school, which has a rich donor base and was able to sell naming rights to its school, has been able to "hold even," said dean Robert Jerry. University of Florida raised tuition by 10% across the board this year and plans to do so next year, too, he said. Jerry emphasized that even with these tuition hikes, Florida law schools are among the lowest in the nation. Tuition at the Florida law schools is roughly $10,000 a year for in-state students and $30,000 a year for nonresidents.

See also Local Lawyers Build Irvine Law School's Endowment, by Amanda Bronstad:

The University of California, Irvine Donald Bren School of Law has raised $23.5 million from individual donors, which include many local lawyers and law firms. UCI's law school plans to open its doors by fall 2009.

Two dozen donors have given financially to UC Irvine as of Jan. 15. The largest gift, at $20 million, came from billionaire and local philanthropist Donald Bren, the namesake of the school. ... Among the 13 donors that gave $100,000, all but one were lawyers or law firms.

January 25, 2008 in Law School | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tax Court Judge Wherry Speaks Today at Florida

Tax Court Judge Robert A. Wherry Jr. delivers a lecture at Florida today as part of its Graduate Tax Program Lecture Series.

January 25, 2008 in Law School | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

IRS Releases Guidance on Adequate Disclosure

The IRS today released an advance copy of Rev. Proc. 2008-14, 2008-7 I.R.B. ___ (2/19/08), which defines what constitutes adequate disclosure on a tax return to avoid the § 6662(d) substantial understatement of income penalty and the § 6694(a) preparer penalty appplicable to unreasonable positions. 

January 25, 2008 in IRS News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tax News Roundup