TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron
Pepperdine University School of Law

Saturday, December 31, 2016

This Week's Ten Most Popular TaxProf Blog Posts

Oregon Law Prof's Op-Ed:  Did Administration Fuel Outrage Over Prof's Halloween Costume Because She Was One Of Seven Faculty Who Complained To University About Performance Of Dean?

Oregon

Ofer Raban (Oregon), who was not one of the 23 law professors who signed a letter demanding that Nancy Shurtz resign her tenured faculty position for wearing blackface to a Halloween party in her home, has published an op-ed in The Oregonian, A Setback for Free Speech at University of Oregon:

Last week, the University of Oregon released and officially adopted a legal report regarding a law professor who donned a Halloween costume representing an African-American doctor. University leaders suspended the professor and commissioned the report from a Portland law firm, which worked under the "direction and guidance" of university lawyers.

The report recognized that the professor, who has a history of advocacy for minority rights, donned the costume at a party at her home in order to honor an African-American author and call attention to the scarcity of African-Americans in medical schools. The report also noted that she was genuinely shocked and surprised at the negative reactions to her costume, and promptly apologized.

But the report concluded that the costume constituted racial discrimination and harassment in violation of university rules. It goes on to claim that the professor's expression is not shielded by university rules protecting free speech and academic freedom, nor by the Constitution's freedom of speech.

This is a deeply flawed report, and the university has made a legal and moral mistake in adopting it.

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December 31, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (7)

Volokh:  The IRS May Not Deny Tax Exemptions To ‘Hate Groups’

Following up on my previous posts (links below):  Washington Post (The Volokh Conspiracy): No, The IRS May Not Deny Tax Exemptions on the Grounds That a Group Is a Supposed ‘Hate Group’, by Eugene Volokh (UCLA):

[T]he IRS can’t deny tax exemptions on the grounds that a group “hold[s] views that millions of Americans may find abhorrent” — or “espouse[s] values that are incompatible with most Americans” — whether those views are socialist, Islamist, pro-abortion, anti-abortion, pro-illegal-immigrant, anti-immigrant, pro-gay-rights, anti-gay-rights, white nationalist, black nationalist or anti-nationalist. It can’t deny exemptions to groups that engage in “hate speech” against blacks, gays, evangelical Christians or Donald Trump supporters, while allowing exemptions to groups that praise blacks, gays, evangelical Christians or Donald Trump supporters.

Indeed, the Supreme Court has made this clear: The government may not discriminate against groups based on the viewpoint of their speech. See Rosenberger v. Rector (1994) (discussing Regan v. Taxation With Representation (1983)). As the D.C. Circuit put it in Z Street v. Koskinen (2015) (itself a 501(c)(3) tax exemption case), “in administering the tax code, the IRS may not discriminate on the basis of viewpoint.”

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December 31, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (2)

IRS Cracks Down On Syndicated Conservation Easements

IRS Logo 2Notice 2017-10, 2017-4 I.R.B. 1 (Dec 23, 2016):

The Department of the Treasury (Treasury Department) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) are aware that some promoters are syndicating conservation easement transactions that purport to give investors the opportunity to obtain charitable contribution deductions in amounts that significantly exceed the amount invested. This notice alerts taxpayers and their representatives that the transaction described in section 2 of this notice is a tax avoidance transaction and identifies this transaction, and substantially similar transactions, as listed transactions for purposes of § 1.6011-4(b)(2) of the Income Tax Regulations (Regulations) and §§ 6111 and 6112 of the Internal Revenue Code (Code). This notice also alerts persons involved with these transactions that certain responsibilities may arise from their involvement.

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December 31, 2016 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1332:  The House GOP's Ridiculous Impeachment Crusade

IRS Logo 2MSNBC The MaddowBlog, Congress Holds IRS Impeachment Vote as Trump Eyes New Commissioner:

The 114th Congress is, mercifully, nearly over, but as we saw yesterday, lawmakers aren’t quite done considering ridiculous ideas. The Wall Street Journal reported:

The House of Representatives turned aside an attempt by conservative hard-liners to impeach IRS Commissioner John Koskinen for his handling of congressional investigations into the tax agency.

Instead, in a 342-72 vote, the House sent the issue back to the Judiciary Committee, which hasn’t held a formal impeachment hearing or voted on the matter.

The vote effectively ends the impeachment crusade, at least for a while. The House’s GOP majority could start the process anew next year, but there wouldn’t be any point. The fact that this even reached the House floor yesterday is something of an embarrassment. Circling back to our previous coverage, the IRS “scandal” was discredited years ago — Koskinen wasn’t even at the tax agency when the imaginary controversy unfolded — and as Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) documented in May, charges that Koskinen was part of some kind of after-the-fact cover-up don’t make any sense.

Koskinen took on the job of improving the IRS out of a sense of duty — the president asked this veteran public official to tackle a thankless task, and Koskinen reluctantly agreed. For his trouble, a sizable group of far-right House Republicans have tried to impeach him, for reasons even they have struggled to explain.

Of course, whether or not Congress approves, Koskinen won’t lead the IRS much longer. As the Journal’s article added, Koskinen, who’s now 77, “serves a fixed term that ends in November 2017. [Donald Trump] could force him out or could wait until the end of Mr. Koskinen’s term and appoint his successor, who must be confirmed by the Senate.”

And that raises some interesting possibilities. Politico reported a couple of weeks ago that Trump will be in a position to nominate Koskinen’s successor, and there’s nothing to stop the Republican president “from appointing an IRS chief who will go easy on him.” ...

Trump may soon name the head of an agency that’s examining whether Trump broke the law. What could possibly go wrong?

Postscript: One more relevant tidbit from the Politico piece: “The IRS also reviews the president’s and vice president’s returns each year, but those audits aren’t required by law, and Trump could stop them.”

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December 31, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Friday, December 30, 2016

Weekly Tax Highlight And Roundup

This week, Joe Kristan (CPA & Shareholder, Roth & Company (Des Moines, Iowa); Editor, Tax Update Blog) discusses how deductions of a zombie corporations eventually die. 

KristanCorporations may have an indefinite life, but not their deductions.

I’ll just keep that company around in case I need it for something. Sometimes clients who sell a business want to preserve the corporation that held the business. While there are occasionally reasons to do so — for example, to deal with potential liabilities — more often such zombie corporations become an annoyance, and clients dissolve them when they realize they have to pay annual state charter fees and tax return fees.

Other taxpayers have other ideas. A human relations consultant who lost his primary client kept his S corporation around for years after the revenue stopped coming in. While there was no revenue, there was no shortage of expenses. The taxpayer claimed a 2009 loss on his K-1 of $5,795 on revenue of zero. Without revenue, what kind of expenses would there be? This kind, according to Tax Court Judge Morrison:

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December 30, 2016 in New Cases, Tax, Weekly Tax Roundup | Permalink | Comments (0)

Weekly SSRN Tax Article Review And Roundup

This week, Daniel Hemel (Chicago) reviews a new paper by Eric J. Allen (Southern California) and Susan C. Morse (Texas), The Effective Income Tax Experience of U.S. and Non-U.S. Multinationals.

HemelAs our incoming President likes to remind us, the United States has the highest corporate tax rate in the world. Well, not quite the highest—the United Arab Emirates beats us with a 55% rate. But according to data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the U.S. corporate income tax rate is approximately 15 percentage points above the average among other OECD member countries.

Yet as readers of this blog no doubt know, statutory rates can be misleading measures of true tax burdens. In a newly posted paper, Eric Allen and Susan Morse seek to determine whether U.S. multinational corporations actually pay more than their foreign counterparts—and if so, how much more. Allen and Morse focus on multinational firms that have a “material U.S. presence” (e.g., more than a quarter of sales in the United States). Allen and Morse ask: Controlling for the location of sales (among other factors), what is the effect of having a non-U.S. parent on the multinational firm’s effective tax rate? They separately analyze firms in profit years and firms in loss years.

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December 30, 2016 in Scholarship, Tax, Weekly SSRN Roundup | Permalink | Comments (0)

Weekly Legal Education Roundup

Because the week between Christmas and New Years is typically slow for legal education news, I am going to discuss the best legal education articles for 2016.

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December 30, 2016 in Legal Education, Weekly Legal Education Roundup | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tax Policy In The Trump Administration

Judge Dismisses Claim That Arizona Summit Law School Fraudulently Inflated Incoming Students' GPAs, LSAT Scores

Arizona Summit Logo (2015)Following up on my previous post, Fired Employee Claims Arizona Summit Law School Inflated LSAT, Bar Passage Data:  National Law Journal, Fraud Claims Against Arizona Summit Law School Tossed:

A federal judge has dismissed fraud claims against Arizona Summit Law School brought by a former student and employee who alleged the school misrepresented incoming students' grades and Law School Admission Test scores.

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December 30, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

Hoopes, Robinson & Slemrod:  The Impact Of Public Tax-Return Disclosure

Jeffrey L. Hoopes (North Carolina), Leslie Robinson (Dartmouth) & Joel Slemrod (Michigan), The Impact of Public Tax-Return Disclosure:

We investigate the effect of public disclosure of information from corporate tax returns filed in Australia on consumers, investors, and the corporations themselves that were subject to disclosure. Supporters of more disclosure argue that increased transparency will improve tax compliance, while opponents argue that it will divulge sensitive information that is, in many cases, misunderstood. Our results show that large private companies are likely to experience consumer backlash and are also, perhaps as a consequence, more likely to act to avoid disclosure. We also fail to detect any material increase in tax payments, one objective of legislating the disclosure regime. Finally, we find that investors react negatively to anticipated and actual disclosure of tax information, most likely due to anticipated policy backlash than the revelation of negative tax information.

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December 30, 2016 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

During Sabbatical, UC-Berkeley Professor Rented Home On 'The Airbnb For Academics' To Visiting Professor, Who Used California Law To Squat In Home Without Paying Rent

UC Berkeley Primary Logo Berkeley BlueMother Jones, The Crazy Story of the Professor Who Came to Stay—And Wouldn't Leave:

It's not easy to evict someone in California. Usually that's a good thing.

AbelElizabeth Abel walked up to the front door of her house for the first time in four months and rang the bell. She'd just flown halfway around the world to drop in, unannounced, on the man who'd taken over her home.

When he came to the door, Abel says, the man didn't seem surprised to see her—or the police officer standing beside her. "Oh, hi," he said.

Abel peered behind him into her living room, which was practically empty. Most of her furniture was gone: a dining table and four chairs, two easy chairs, an antique piece. Her books and rugs were nowhere to be seen. Even the artwork had been taken off the walls.

As Abel walked around the place she'd called home for three decades, she had the distinct feeling that her life had been erased. In the family room, a small sofa, a table, and a television had been removed. Out on the back deck, the wooden table and benches were missing. The bedrooms were emptied out, her mattresses crammed into the office. Closets were sealed with blue painter's tape. She turned to the man, who had been renting her place for the past several months—without paying. "What is going on here?" she demanded. "What are you doing?

PeritzIn October 2015, as she was planning a semester-long research trip to Paris, Abel logged on to SabbaticalHomes.com to find someone to rent her house. The site bills itself as a sort of Airbnb for academics; its motto is "A place for minds on the move." Abel, an English professor at the University of California-Berkeley, quickly received a bunch of responses, the first of which came from a political scientist at Sarah Lawrence College named David Peritz. ...

Abel, now 71, didn't feel much of a connection with Peritz, two decades her junior. Still, she thought to herself, "Oh, come on. He's a professor." She found him polite and gracious, and she didn't bother asking for references, let alone do a background check. She didn't notice until much later that his personal checks lacked a home address. Why would she? That was precisely the point of Sabbatical Homes; unlike Craigslist or Airbnb, it was opening your home not to random people, but to colleagues. (As the site's founder put it in a press release, "There is an implicit degree of trust amongst academics.") When Abel discussed her would-be renter with her husband, a professor of molecular genetics and microbiology who spends most of the year at the University of Texas-Austin, she didn't mention any misgivings.

So in January 2016, Abel headed to the Latin Quarter to work on a new book on Virginia Woolf, and Peritz moved into her home.

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December 30, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (22)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1331:  Rep. Jim Jordan Offers Resolution To Impeach IRS Commissioner John Koskinen

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Editorial:  'Unconscionable' Leaders Hid Charlotte Law School's Problems To Keep Revenue Flowing; 'Catastrophic Fiasco May Destroy Lives Of Hundreds Of Innocent Students'

FCFollowing up on my previous posts (links below):  Charlotte Observer editorial, Charlotte School of Law Students Deserved Better:

Charlotte School of Law leaders have made some big mistakes, it seems. Unfortunately, the people paying for those mistakes are hundreds of innocent law school students.

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December 29, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (4)

Hills:  Taxes, Federalism, And The Christmas Story

MangerRick Hills (NYU), How Federalism Saved Baby Jesus:

There are plenty of reasons for a federalism-loving con law prof to like the Christmas stories in Luke and Matthew. Take, for instance, Joseph's returning to Bethlehem to be registered for taxation purposes: According to one strand of (albeit contested) Biblical scholarship, Luke was implicitly acknowledging a peculiarity of imperial fiscal policy whereby a taxpayer could choose to pay their taxes in either their place of current residence or their ancestral home where they owned real estate. In other words, the entire trek back to Bethlehem recorded by Luke 2:2 may have been an instance of taxpayer forum-shopping to reduce tax liability.

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December 29, 2016 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Marian:  Private Investment Funds, International Tax Avoidance, And Tax-Exempt Investors

Omri Marian (UC-Irvine), The Other Eighty Percent: Private Investment Funds, International Tax Avoidance, and Tax-Exempt Investors, 2016 BYU L. Rev. ___ :

The taxation of private equity managers’ share of funds’ profits—the twenty percent “carried interest”—received much attention in academic literature and popular discourse. Much has been said and written about the fact that fund managers’ profits are taxed at preferred rates. But what about the other eighty percent of funds’ profits? This Article theorizes that the bulk of such profits are never taxed. This is a result of a combination of three factors:

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December 29, 2016 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Northwestern Law Review Exclusive Submission Window

Northwestern

The Northwestern University Law Review has announced an exclusive submissions window:

We are accepting exclusive submissions for Volume 112 through January 28, 2017 11:59 PM Central Time. For all pieces submitted in accordance with the instructions outlined below, the Law Review guarantees Articles Board consideration and publication decision by February 17, 2017. Furthermore, articles receiving a publication offer via the exclusive submission track will be published in one of the first two Issues of Volume 112. 

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December 29, 2016 in Legal Education, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

SSRN Tax Professor Rankings

SSRN LogoSSRN has updated its monthly rankings of 750 American and international law school faculties and 3,000 law professors by (among other things) the number of paper downloads from the SSRN database.  Here is the new list (through December 1, 2016) of the Top 25 U.S. Tax Professors in two of the SSRN categories: all-time downloads and recent downloads (within the past 12 months):

 

 

All-Time

 

Recent

1

Reuven Avi-Yonah (Mich.)

61,433

Reuven Avi-Yonah (Mich.)

10,340

2

Michael Simkovic (S. Hall)

34,707

Lily Batchelder (NYU)

6477

3

Paul Caron (Pepperdine)

29,037

Michael Simkovic (S.Hall)

4927

4

D. Dharmapala (Chicago)

28,494

D. Dharmapala (Chicago)

3961

5

Louis Kaplow (Harvard)

26,971

Richard Ainsworth (BU)

2522

6

Vic Fleischer (San Diego)

23,210

Paul Caron (Pepperdine)

2433

7

James Hines (Michigan)

22,368

Ed Kleinbard (USC)

2389

8

Richard Kaplan (Illinois)

21,494

Dan Shaviro (NYU)

2249

9

Ted Seto (Loyola-L.A.)

21,486

William Byrnes (Texas A&M)

2180

10

Ed Kleinbard (USC)

21,459

Robert Sitkoff (Harvard)

2143

11

Katie Pratt (Loyola-L.A.)

19,544

Omri Marian (UC-Irvine)

1892

12

Richard Ainsworth (BU)

19,247

Louis Kaplow (Harvard)

1852

13

Robert Sitkoff (Harvard)

18,276

Jeff Kwall (Loyola-Chicago)

1820

14

Brad Borden (Broklyn)

17,641

David Weisbach (Chicago)

1776

15

Carter Bishop (Suffolk)

17,498

Steven Bank (UCLA)

1718

16

David Weisbach (Chicago)

17,420

Yariv Brauner (Florida)

1610

17

Chris Sanchirico (Penn)

17,052

Brad Borden (Brooklyn)

1568

18

Jen Kowal (Loyola-L.A.)

17,017

Vic Fleischer (San Diego)

1544

19

Francine Lipman (UNLV)

16,737

Christopher Hoyt (UMKC)

1531

20

Dan Shaviro (NYU)

16,452

Brian Galle (Georgetown)

1441

21

Bridget Crawford (Pace)

16,355

Bridget Crawford (Pace)

1440

22

Dennis Ventry (UC-Davis)

16,279

Richard Kaplan (Illinois)

1421

23

David Walker (Boston Univ.)

15,405

Katie Pratt (Loyola-L.A.)

1417

24

Steven Bank (UCLA)

14,250

Jordan Barry (San Diego)

1401

25

Gregg Polsky (Georgia)

13,378

Michael Graetz (Columbia)

1391

Note that this ranking includes full-time tax professors with at least one tax paper on SSRN, and all papers (including non-tax papers) by these tax professors are included in the SSRN data.

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December 29, 2016 in Legal Education, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Prof Rankings | Permalink | Comments (0)

WSJ:  IRS Steps Up Fight To Access Coinbase Data On Bitcoin Virtual Currency Transactions

CoinbaseWall Street Journal Law Blog: IRS Defends Effort to Examine Coinbase Records, by Jacob Gershman:

Coinbase customers have no legal basis to try to stop the IRS from collecting their digital currency transactions, according to government lawyers.

The agency’s argument laid out in a new court filing counters an effort by a Los Angeles class-action lawyer to quash the IRS’s sweeping summons on the leading bitcoin company.

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December 29, 2016 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tallahassee Crimes Of The Year: The Murder Of Dan Markel

Adelson FamilyTallahassee Democrat, 2016: The Year in Crime: Dan Markel:

Almost two years.

Many people questioned whether Dan Markel’s broad daylight murder would ever be solved. Others felt it was just a matter of time.

Each person has their story of that day.

Where they were. Who they were with. What they were doing. How they got there. Where they were going. What side of town? What city? That moment.

July 18, 2014.

What happened? ...

See our full coverage of the Dan Markel case.

Prior TaxProf Blog coverage:

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December 29, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1330:  House Republicans And Democrats Forge Rare Bipartisan Agreement To Block Impeachment Of IRS Commissioner

IRS Logo 2Breitbart News, House Republicans Join Democrats to Block Impeachment of IRS Commissioner:

In a rare moment of bipartisanship, House Republicans and House Democrats came together to block a privileged motion by members of the House Freedom Caucus aimed at forcing the whole House to vote on the impeachment of IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.

From the House floor, Rep. Jim Jordan (R.-Ohio), the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, forcefully called for the House to hold the commissioner accountable by passing House Resolution 828, calling for the impeachment of Koskinen for high crimes and misdemeanors.

As the Ohio congressman began to speak, House Democrats began to clamor in disapproval. Turning to his colleagues on the other side of the aisle, Jordan said: “You might want to listen to what we have to say first and then you can moan and groan.” ...

Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.) made the motion to table consideration of the bill, which would have effectively killed the bill, given that there are fewer than 10 business days left on the session’s calendar. That motion failed, 180-to-230.

Then, it was time for the Republicans to kill their own proposal. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Robert W. Goodlatte (R.-Va.) offered a motion to table to his committee, which passed 342-to-72.

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December 29, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Private Law Schools Increased Tuition 2.7% in 2016, Six Schools Top $60,000

Matt Leichter, 2016: Full-Time Private Law School Tuition Up 2.7 Percent:

Full-time tuition costs at private law schools rose an average 2.7 percent before adjusting for inflation. ...

Leichter 2

The chart depicts at least three straight years of top-heavy tuition increases: The more expensive law schools are becoming more expensive—4 percent more among the top 20 percent of law schools. Two years ago, Columbia Law School became the first to charge more than $60,000, and it now costs more than $65,000. This year six other law schools joined the 60k club: NYU, Cornell, Penn, Chicago, Harvard, and USC.

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December 28, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (8)

Clarke Reviews Zucman's The Hidden Wealth Of Nations: The Scourge of Tax Havens

HiddenConor Clarke (Ph.D. Candidate, Yale Law School), What Are Tax Havens and Why Are They Bad, 95 Tex. L. Rev. 59 (2016) (reviewing Gabriel Zucman, The Hidden Wealth of Nations: The Scourge of Tax Havens (University of Chicago Press, 2015)):

This essay reviews Gabriel Zucman's The Hidden Wealth of Nations: The Scourge of Tax Havens. Zucman's important new book brings clarity to a confusing subject -- but occasionally does so at the expense of nuance. My review has three goals. First, I summarize and appraise Zucman's central findings, and re-estimate his revenue-loss totals for the United States using tax-rate assumptions that I believe are more realistic. Second, I position Zucman's findings against the backdrop of the wider literatures on tax havens and inequality, and attempt to answer the two questions in this essay's title. Third, I comment on Zucman's call for a global registry covering the ownership of financial securities. I argue that such a proposal must contend with the fact that there is no international legal consensus on what constitutes ownership.

Prior reviews of The Hidden Wealth of Nations:

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December 28, 2016 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Drexel Freezes Faculty, Staff Staff Salaries Due To Decreased Enrollments

DrexelPhiladelphia Inquirer, With Revenue Down, Drexel "Withholds" Merit Raises:

Drexel University will withhold merit raises from faculty and staff this fiscal year as the school continues to adjust to less revenue as a result of an admissions strategy designed to attract fewer, but more serious and better qualified, applicants.

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December 28, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (3)

Popularity Of Donor-Advised Funds Soars With Bull Market And Looming Trump Tax Changes

DAFWall Street Journal Tax Report: Charity Accounts Become the Hot Holiday Must-Have: Rising Markets and Fears About Possible Tax Overhaul Fuel the Rush, by Laura Saunders:

American taxpayers are pouring money into charitable-giving accounts before year-end, prompted by rising markets and fears that a tax overhaul could trim the popular strategy of donation deductions.

At Schwab Charitable, the giving-fund associated with Charles Schwab Corp., donors put more than $693 million into new and existing giving accounts between Thanksgiving and Dec. 18, a 20% increase over the same period in 2015. Spokespeople for Vanguard Charitable, Fidelity Charitable, and National Philanthropic Trust said donations to their giving funds have recently jumped by double- or triple-digit percentages compared with last year, although they declined to provide dollar amounts.

The biggest drivers lately are proposals by President-elect Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress to limit the value of charitable deductions, either by lowering tax rates or cutting the deductible amount. In addition, markets rose to highs recently, and there are tax benefits for donating appreciated assets rather than cash.

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December 28, 2016 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

BigLaw Discriminates In Favor Of Upper Class Males Among High-Credentialed (Top 1%, Law Review) Applicants From Second Tier (Ranked 51-100) Law Schools In Granting Interviews For Summer Associate Positions

Harvard Business Review LogoFollowing up on my earlier posts:

Harvard Business Review: How Subtle Class Cues Can Backfire on Your Resume, by Lauren Rivera (Northwestern) & András Tilcsik (Toronto):

Every fall, tens of thousands of law students compete for a small number of coveted summer associateships at the country’s top law firms. The stakes are high: getting one of these rare internships virtually guarantees full-time employment after law school. The salaries are unbeatable, six-figure sums that catapult young students to the top 5% of household incomes nationally and are often quadruple of those offered in other sectors of legal practice. These jobs also open doors to even more lucrative employment in the private sector as well as prestigious judiciary and government roles. For these reasons, employment in top law firms has been called the legal profession’s 1%.

Now imagine four applicants, all of whom attend the same, selective second-tier law school. They all have phenomenal grade point averages, are on law review, and have identical, highly relevant work experiences. The only differences are whether they are male or female and if their extracurricular activities suggest they come from a higher-class or lower-class background. Who gets invited to interview?

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December 28, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (6)

NY Times Debate:  Should Prenups Cover Intellectual Property Rights?

NY Times Room for DebateNew York Times Room for Debate, Should Couples Get Prenups for Their Ideas?:

The number of 18- to 35-year-olds seeking prenups is on the rise nationwide, but many millennials are more interested in protecting intellectual property — such as films, songs, software and even apps that haven’t been built yet — than cash. What does this shift mean for marriage and divorce?

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December 28, 2016 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Merritt:  If Women Dominate Men In College Diplomas, Why Not JDs?

Bloomberg Law op-ed: If Women Dominate Men in Diplomas, Why Not JDs?, by Deborah Jones Merritt (Ohio State):

This year women claimed just over half the seats at ABA-accredited law schools. That’s a first: women neared the 50% mark in 2015, but didn’t cross it until this year. The milestone is memorable, but why was it such a long time coming?

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December 28, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (12)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1329:  Did The IRS's Targeting Of Conservative Groups Lead It To Grant Tax-Exempt Status To 'Hate Groups'?

IRS Logo 2Chronicle of Philanthropy, Dozens of ‘Hate Groups’ Have Charity Status, Chronicle Study Finds:

The federal government has granted tax-exempt status to more than 60 controversial nonprofits branded by critics as "hate groups," including anti-immigrant and anti-gay-rights organizations, white nationalists, and Holocaust deniers, according to a Chronicle of Philanthropy analysis.

The issue is a thorny one for the Internal Revenue Service, which must balance First Amendment rights against concerns that it is essentially granting government subsidies to groups holding views that millions of Americans may find abhorrent. Complicating matters, the IRS is already under fire from critics who say the agency has discriminated against conservative political organizations. ...

Still shaken by the revelation that agency leaders had singled out conservative advocacy groups’ applications for tax-exempt status for extra scrutiny, the IRS has little incentive to investigate organizations based on the content of their messages.

The Surly Subgroup:  White Nationalists Groups are Charitable? Apparently so According to IRS, by Phillip Hackney (LSU):

How do [hate groups] qualify [for tax exempt status]? ... There are two answers. ...

Reason 2: The IRS is afraid. This seems like a reasonable argument after all the Tea Party difficulties that the IRS experienced, BUT . . . the IRS has denied other controversial groups tax exemption who are ostensibly educating as well. See: Principle Voices of Polygamy private letter ruling where the IRS denied a group advocating for polygamy on the basis that what it violated public policy by advocating for something that is illegal. The point is that the IRS went after an advocacy group in 2013. With that said, the Tea Party controversy occurred in 2013 and so maybe this is a reason it would not go after such groups now.

Salon, White Nationalists Have Raised Millions Thanks to Tax-Exempt Charities:

Some tax experts said the IRS is still feeling the sting from conservative critics over its 2013 concession that it unfairly gave extra scrutiny to tea party groups seeking tax exemptions. “I don’t think they’re feeling very brave right now,” said Ellen Aprill, a tax law professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.

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December 28, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Solicitation For Article:  The Top 10 Legal Education Stories Of 2016

Top 10 (2014)For many years, I have published on TaxProf Blog as a New Year's tradition an article on "The Top 10 Tax Stories of [Year]," consisting of contributions by (with attribution to) the individual tax professor authors. In light of the wrenching changes taking place in legal education, I would like to inaugurate a new tradition of an article on "The Top 10 Legal Education Stories of 2016." If you are a law professor and would like to be featured in this article, please send me a contribution of a few sentences (or more) on one (or more) of what you think were the most significant legal education stories of the year. I will knit the best contributions together, with attribution to each of the authors, and publish the article on TaxProf Blog on Tuesday morning, January 3.

Please email your contribution(s) to me by noon on Saturday, December 31.

December 27, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

NY Times:  Family Cemeteries Bind Generations, For Remembrance And Tax Reasons

HeintzNew York Times Wealth Matters:  Family Cemeteries Bind Generations, for Remembrance and Tax Reasons, by Paul Sullivan:

As much as their personal relationships, it is the family cemetery that binds the descendants — not merely to honor and remember their forebears but also for tax reasons. ... Family cemeteries, a relic of another age, continue to bind relatives in ways that today’s wealthy might wish for. ... Some cemeteries have also become the connective tissue for families of far more modest means.

Part of this results from rules of the Internal Revenue Service, which grants nonprofit status to these cemeteries under section 501(c)13 of the Internal Revenue Code. The rules require families to maintain a detailed list of all descendants eligible to be buried there. ...

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December 27, 2016 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

A Plan To Make Students Great Again:  Replace Loans With Income Shares, Force Colleges To Spend 5% Of Their Endowments Each Year

Trump (President Elect)New York Times op-ed: To Boost the Economy, Help Students First, by Sheila C. Bair (President, Washington College):

Donald J. Trump has made bold and provocative campaign promises on taxes, trade, immigration and infrastructure. These pledges are all in service of bolstering our economic future. While we hope these initiatives will help our economic prospects, there is one important measure missing from the debate. And it could have an even more immediate and direct impact on economic growth: student debt relief.

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December 27, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (30)

The Role Of State Estate And Inheritance Taxes After Repeal Of The Federal Estate Tax

Institute  on Taxation and Economic Policy, State Estate and Inheritance Taxes:

For much of the last century, estate and inheritance taxes have played an important role in fostering strong communities by promoting equality of opportunity and helping states adequately fund public services. While many of the taxes levied by state and local governments fall most heavily on low-income families, only the very wealthy pay estate and inheritance taxes.

Changes in the federal estate tax in recent years, however, caused states to reevaluate the structure of their estate and inheritance taxes. Unfortunately, the trend of late among states has tended toward weakening or completely eliminating them.

ITEP

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December 27, 2016 in Tax, Think Tank Reports | Permalink | Comments (1)

Chronicle:  The IRS Has Granted Tax-Exempt Status To More Than 60 'Hate Groups'

IRS Logo 2Chronicle of Philanthropy, Dozens of ‘Hate Groups’ Have Charity Status, Chronicle Study Finds:

The federal government has granted tax-exempt status to more than 60 controversial nonprofits branded by critics as "hate groups," including anti-immigrant and anti-gay-rights organizations, white nationalists, and Holocaust deniers, according to a Chronicle of Philanthropy analysis.

The issue is a thorny one for the Internal Revenue Service, which must balance First Amendment rights against concerns that it is essentially granting government subsidies to groups holding views that millions of Americans may find abhorrent. Complicating matters, the IRS is already under fire from critics who say the agency has discriminated against conservative political organizations.

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December 27, 2016 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (5)

Volokh:  Punishment Of Tax Prof Nancy Shurtz Means The End Of Free Speech At The University of Oregon

Shurtz

Following up on my previous posts (links below);  Washington Post (The Volokh Conspiracy): At the University of Oregon, No More Free Speech for Professors on Subjects Such as Race, Religion, Sexual Orientation, by Eugene Volokh (UCLA):

Last week, the University of Oregon made clear to its faculty: If you say things about race, sexual orientation, sex, religion and so on that enough people find offensive, you could get suspended (and, following the logic of the analysis) even fired. This can happen even to tenured faculty members; even more clearly, it can happen to anyone else. It’s not limited to personal insults. It’s not limited to deliberate racism or bigotry. ...

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December 27, 2016 in Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (4)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1328:  House's Referral Back To Judiciary Committee Is Likely To Kill Koskinen Impeachment

IRS Logo 2Forbes: House Says No To Renewed Efforts To Impeach IRS Commissioner, by Kelly Phillips Erb:

A motion to table the measure failed while a motion to simply refer the matter back to the Judiciary Committee passed with a 342-72 vote. The final tally showed 166 Republicans joining 176 Democrats to vote yes, 72 Republicans voting no, and 19 members who did not vote. You can see how your Representative voted here.

If that sounds like progress, it's not: it's a step backward. Earlier this year, the House sidestepped a similar resolution introduced by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) to move impeachment proceedings forward; yet another resolution from the fall of 2015 also failed

Since impeachment is a legal proceeding, while anyone can make a motion to start the process, the Judiciary Committee determines whether there are sufficient grounds for impeachment. With respect to this matter, Judiciary Chair Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) scheduled hearings to investigate the matter: the third was held in September. Following those hearings, the Judiciary Committee did not bring a resolution or recommendation to the floor, and there is no reason to believe that the result will be any different this time.

In fact, this week, Goodlatte indicated that there were differences of opinion in the House regarding the measure to impeach Koskinen. The House would need a majority of votes to impeach the Commissioner and move the measure to the Senate. All 183 Democrats in the House are expected to vote against impeachment, and a number of Republicans will likely follow suit.

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December 27, 2016 in Congressional News, IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

TaxProf Blog Holiday Weekend Roundup

Monday, December 26, 2016

This Week's Ten Most Popular TaxProf Blog Posts

More On The July 2016 California Bar Exam

California (2016)Continuing my coverage of the July 2016 California bar exam (links below):

David Frakt, Some Thoughts on the California Bar Exam:

2.  LSAT scores matter — if you look at the pass rates, with a couple of notable exceptions, they track the selectivity of the school in terms of LSAT scores and UGPA of the entering class of 2013.  In the chart below, I compare the LSAT profiles of the entering class of 2013 with the pass rate on the July 2016 bar. ...  17 of 21 schools had a bar pass ranking within 2 places of their LSAT rank. Only one school noticeably outperformed its predictors, Cal Western, which outperformed four law schools with higher LSAT scores. Three law schools noticeably underperformed, UC Hastings, which was surpassed by five law schools with students with weaker entrance credentials, and San Francisco and Chapman which were outperformed by three schools with lower LSATs.

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December 26, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Top 5 Tax Paper Downloads

SSRN LogoThere is quite a bit 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 #1, #4, and #5:

  1. [306 Downloads]  Problems with Destination-Based Corporate Taxes and the Ryan Blueprint, by Reuven S. Avi-Yonah (Michigan; moving to UC-Irvine) & Kimberly A. Clausing (Reed College)
  2. [298 Downloads]  IRS Issues Final and Temporary Debt-Equity Regulations Under Section 385, by David S. Miller (Proskauer, New York) & Janicelynn Asamoto Park (Proskauer, New York)
  3. [195 Downloads]  Were Trump's Fake Losses Legal as Tax Deductions?, by Calvin H. Johnson (Texas)
  4. [193 Downloads]  Apple State Aid Ruling: A Wrong Way to Enforce the Benefits Principle?, by Reuven S. Avi-Yonah (Michigan; moving to UC-Irvine) & Gianluca Mazzoni (S.J.D. 2017, Michigan)
  5. [174 Downloads]  Is Something Rotten in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg?, by Omri Marian (UC-Irvine)

December 26, 2016 in Scholarship, Tax, Top 5 Downloads | Permalink | Comments (0)

Donald Trump Vows To Close His Charitable Foundation, Democrats Say It Isn't Enough

Trump (President Elect)Washington Post:  Donald Trump Plans to Shut Down His Charitable Foundation, Which Has Been Under Scrutiny for Months, by Mark Berman & David A. Fahrenthold:

President-elect Donald Trump said he plans to shut down his charitable foundation, a decision that comes after repeated controversies over how it collected and disbursed funds. In a statement Saturday, Trump offered no timeline for when his foundation would close down, but said he had directed his attorney to take the steps needed to close the charity.

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December 26, 2016 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Blackman:  University of Oregon's Punishment Of Tax Prof Nancy Schurtz For Wearing Blackface To Halloween Party In Her Home Is 'Dangerous And Wrong'

Shurtz

Josh Blackman (South Texas), The University of Oregon Ducks the First Amendment:

On Thursday, I blogged about the dangerous precedents set by the University of Oregon’s decision that it could punish a professor for wearing black face at a Halloween party. In this post, I will discuss how the University’s report completely ignores precedents that are directly on point. This decision is not only dangerous, but is wrong.

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December 26, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (2)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1327:  Delay In Koskinen Impeachment Is Discordant Note In Kumbaya Between Trump And GOP Congress

IRS Logo 2Washington Post, It’s Mostly Kumbaya So Far for Trump and GOP in Congress:

President-elect Donald Trump is signaling a cease-fire in his battle with the Republican leadership in Congress, which he repeatedly skewered during his election-season attacks on the Washington establishment.

Trump has, by all accounts, patched up his once-turbulent relationship with House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.). To fill top jobs in his administration, Trump has chosen five sitting lawmakers, as well as the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). And he has passed up opportunities to meddle in congressional business in ways that might have pleased his populist base but frustrated Republican leaders.

The detente in Trump’s war on GOP leaders reflects the unifying power of victory, the moderating influence of Vice President-elect Mike Pence and incoming White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, and, most of all, a shared desire to make good on years of Republican campaign promises. ...

But it is clear that the members of Trump’s inner circle often are not on the same page, which could spell trouble for his legislative agenda.

For instance, members of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus claimed to have Trump’s backing when they defied Ryan and launched an early-December bid to impeach Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen.

Priebus intervened in an attempt to halt a floor vote, as reported by Politico, but conservatives forced one anyway. The Freedom Caucus was emboldened — and encouraged behind the scenes — by Bannon, whose former website, Breitbart News, wrote favorably about it, and by Bossie, who supported the impeachment push as president of Citizens United. Impeachment was effectively buried in the end, handing GOP leaders the win.

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December 26, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, December 25, 2016

A Hallelujah Christmas

In Hoc Anno Domini

The Wall Street Journal has published this wonderful editorial each Christmas since 1949, In Hoc Anno Domini:

When Saul of Tarsus set out on his journey to Damascus the whole of the known world lay in bondage. There was one state, and it was Rome. There was one master for it all, and he was Tiberius Caesar.

Everywhere there was civil order, for the arm of the Roman law was long. Everywhere there was stability, in government and in society, for the centurions saw that it was so.

But everywhere there was something else, too. There was oppression -- for those who were not the friends of Tiberius Caesar. There was the tax gatherer to take the grain from the fields and the flax from the spindle to feed the legions or to fill the hungry treasury from which divine Caesar gave largess to the people. There was the impressor to find recruits for the circuses. There were executioners to quiet those whom the Emperor proscribed. What was a man for but to serve Caesar?

There was the persecution of men who dared think differently, who heard strange voices or read strange manuscripts. There was enslavement of men whose tribes came not from Rome, disdain for those who did not have the familiar visage. And most of all, there was everywhere a contempt for human life. What, to the strong, was one man more or less in a crowded world?

Then, of a sudden, there was a light in the world, and a man from Galilee saying, Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's.

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December 25, 2016 in Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tax Prof Op-Ed:  How An Atheist Celebrates Christmas — 'True Believers Owe Jesus A Profound Spiritual Debt; We All Owe Him A Profound Intellectual Debt'

Cockfield (2016)The Globe and Mail Op-Ed: How An Atheist Celebrates Christmas, by Arthur Cockfield (Queen's University Faculty of Law):

As an atheist, I have to admit that I have not always had a stellar relationship with Jesus. Still, as much of the world sets to celebrate his alleged birth on Dec. 25, I will also reflect on this icon and the lasting and positive impression he’s had on my heritage and value system.

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December 25, 2016 in Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

NY Times Op-Ed:  Why It’s Not Wrong To Wish Muslims Merry Christmas

Islamic JesusNew York Times op-ed:  Why It’s Not Wrong to Wish Muslims Merry Christmas, by Mustafa Akyol (Author, The Islamic Jesus: How the King of the Jews Became a Prophet of the Muslims):

Billions of Christians around the world are excited to celebrate Christmas this weekend. Those in the world’s second-largest religious community, Muslims, don’t share quite the same excitement. In a few Muslim-majority countries, like Saudi Arabia, Brunei and Somalia, Christmas celebrations are banned. In Turkey, my country, they are not illegal, but some Islamist groups still organize annual protests against Christmas trees and Santa Claus costumes, which they consider Western impositions.

Meanwhile, many other Muslims around the world are rightly respectful to their Christian neighbors and even share in their holy day. They include the owners of a Turkish restaurant in London that decided to offer a free Christmas meal to the homeless and the elderly, and a Muslim businessman in Baghdad who erected a Christmas tree in solidarity with Christians persecuted by the self-declared Islamic State.

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December 25, 2016 in Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

WSJ Op-Ed:   Why This Rabbi Loves Christmas

Wall Street Journal op-ed: Why This Rabbi Loves Christmas: Christians and Jews Await the Messiah. The Only Debate Is If He’s Been Here Before, by Rabbi Michael Gotlieb (Santa Monica, CA):

Christmas fascinates me. I’m drawn to its history, its color, its atmosphere, its music. And, of course, I’m drawn to the fact that Jesus was a Jew. He was born a Jew, lived as a Jew and died a Jew. If for nothing else, I can appreciate Christmas as the celebration of one Jew’s epic birthday.

The 20th century philosopher and theologian Martin Buber would often begin lectures to ecumenical gatherings by stating that a key difference separating Jews and Christians is whether Jesus was the messiah. Christians believe he was, and they are awaiting his return. Jews believe that the messiah hasn’t yet come. His suggestion: Let’s all pray for the messiah—Christians and Jews alike. When he arrives, we’ll ask if he’s been here before.

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December 25, 2016 in Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1326: Only 72 House Republicans Voted Against Delay In Impeachment Of IRS Commissioner

IRS Logo 2Atlanta Journal Constitution, House Refuses to Move Forward on Impeachment of IRS Chief:

A last minute effort in Congress to push for an impeachment vote against the head of the Internal Revenue Service fell far short of the votes needed for victory, leaving more conservative Republicans fuming about the message and the lack of support to further investigate the Obama Administration’s Tea Party targeting scandal.

Republicans led by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) argued IRS Commissioner John Koskinen had deliberately refused to turn over documents to Congress, accusing him of actively impeding the Congressional investigation into the targeting of more conservative groups by the tax agency.

“Koskinen has gotten away with stonewalling Congress, obstructing justice, breaching public trust,” Jordan said. “It’s time Congress held him accountable.” ...

The final roll call though was not close, as the House voted 342-72 to send the matter to the Judiciary Committee, where it may simply die a quiet death. ... Here are the 72 Republicans who voted against delay on the IRS impeachment resolution:

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December 25, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, December 24, 2016

'Twas The Night Before Christmas (Legal Edition)

Twas 6

Check out the original and legal versions of the classic poem, 'Twas the Night Before Christmas [click on chart to enlarge]:

Twas_the_night_before_christmas_pag

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December 24, 2016 in Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)