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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Faculty Fathers: Toward a New Ideal in the Research University

Faculty FathersMargaret W. Sallee (SUNY-Buffalo), Faculty Fathers: Toward a New Ideal in the Research University (SUNY Press, 2014):

For the past two decades, colleges and universities have focused significant attention on helping female faculty balance work and family by implementing a series of family-friendly policies. Although most policies were targeted at men and women alike, women were intended as the primary targets and recipients. This groundbreaking book makes clear that including faculty fathers in institutional efforts is necessary for campuses to attain gender equity. Based on interviews with seventy faculty fathers at four research universities around the United States, this book explores the challenges faculty fathers—from assistant professors to endowed chairs—face in finding a work/life balance. Margaret W. Sallee shows how universities frequently punish men who want to be involved fathers and suggests that cultural change is necessary—not only to help men who wish to take a greater role with their children, but also to help women and spouses who are expected to do the same.

(Hat Tip: Inside Higher Ed.)

December 16, 2014 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Witte: From Critical Legal Studies to Christian Legal Studies

Law Bible 4John Witte Jr. (Emory), Foreword: From Critical Legal Studies to Christian Legal Studies, in Law and the Bible: Justice, Mercy and Legal Institutions (Robert Cochran & David VanDrunen, eds.  2013):

This text reflects briefly on the precocious rise of Christian legal studies in North American and European law schools, and the past, present, and potential role of Scripture and the Christian tradition in shaping modern understandings of public, private, penal, and procedural law.

December 14, 2014 in Book Club, Legal Education, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Geier Publishes Free Income Tax Textbook

CALIDeborah H. Geier (Cleveland State) has published a free eLangdell textbook, U.S. Federal Income Taxation of Individuals (CALI 2014):

As one, lone law professor, I have little direct ability to reduce tuition costs for my students. When writing this textbook, however, I decided to decline expressions of interest from the legacy legal publishers in favor of making this textbook available as a free download over the internet (in ePub format for iPads, Mobi format for Kindles, and pdf format for laptops), with an at-cost, print-on-demand alternative for those who like a hard copy. Fortunately, eLangdell (a division of CALI, the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction) has been an ideal partner in this regard.

In addition to eliminating (or lowering) student cost, this mode of publication will permit me to quickly and fully update the book each December, incorporating expiring provisions, inflation adjustments for the coming calendar year, new Treasury Regulations, etc., in time for use in the spring semester, an approach that avoids cumbersome new editions or annual supplements. This publication method also makes the textbook suitable for use as a free study aid for students whose professors adopt another textbook, as this textbook walks the student through the law with many more fact patterns and examples than do many other textbooks. While this practice adds length, I believe that it also makes the book more helpful to students in confronting what can be daunting material. Finally, having the textbook easily accessible to foreign students enrolled in a course examining the U.S. Federal income taxation of individuals is important to me, and having the textbook available as a free internet download succeeds well in that regard.

A Teacher’s Manual is available for professors who adopt the book (or parts of it) for use in their course.

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December 11, 2014 in Book Club, Tax, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (2)

Friday, December 5, 2014

Newsweek Names Kleinbard's We Are Better Than This One of the Top Books of 2014

We Are Better Than This (2014)Newsweek,  Our Favorite Books of 2014: Newsweek Staff Picks:

We Are Better Than This: How Government Should Spend Our Money by Edward D. Kleinbard (Oxford University Press)

Americans feel the pain of an income tax system that raises twice as much as it actually does because of hidden spending through tax favors. This masterpiece on how we tax ourselves, and how Congress spends our money, explains why the mostly lightly taxed modern country feels so heavily burdened while offering workable solutions.

Drawing on insights from Adam Smith’s The Theory of Moral Sentiments, lawyer Edward D. Kleinbard shows how applying ancient financial and moral principles would make America happier, healthier and wealthier. Kleinbard spent two decades designing sophisticated tax avoidance strategies for rich clients before becoming a law school professor on a mission to expose the tax system’s flaws.

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December 5, 2014 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Barton: The Decline and Rebirth of the Legal Profession

GlassBenjamin H. Barton (Tennessee), Glass Half Full The Decline and Rebirth of the Legal Profession (Oxford University Press, 2014):

The hits keep coming for the American legal profession. Law schools are churning out too many graduates, depressing wages, and constricting the hiring market. Big Law firms are crumbling, as the relentless pursuit of profits corrodes their core business model. Modern technology can now handle routine legal tasks like drafting incorporation papers and wills, reducing the need to hire lawyers; tort reform and other regulations on litigation have had the same effect. As in all areas of today's economy, there are some big winners; the rest struggle to find work, or decide to leave the field altogether, which leaves fewer options for consumers who cannot afford to pay for Big Law.

It would be easy to look at these enormous challenges and see only a bleak future, but Ben Barton instead sees cause for optimism. Taking the long view, from the legal Wild West of the mid-nineteenth century to the post-lawyer bubble society of the future, he offers a close analysis of the legal market to predict how lawyerly creativity and entrepreneurialism can save the profession.

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December 5, 2014 in Book Club, Legal Education, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Wheels Are Falling Off the Wagon at the IRS

WheelsMichael Gregory, The Wheels Are Falling Off the Wagon at the IRS: An Open Letter to Patriotic Americans Concerned with the Federal Tax System (2014) (free download):

The IRS is falling apart. If the IRS falls apart the funding arm of the U.S. Government falls apart. If the U.S. Government falls apart what is next for the U.S.?

As a former IRS insider Mike Gregory shares insights from more than 30 years working with IRS employees as well as with taxpayers and practitioners.

This book describes how honest law-abiding taxpayers are now being seriously harmed while cyber-thieves steal from taxpayers and criminals promote illegal schemes that are not being prosecuted.

Mike argues that unless this situation is reversed immediately, the trust of the American people could be permanently broken. Once trust is broken our country could go the way of Greece with harsh economic consequences. This book is a candid tell-all and a call to action for the Congress to fully fund the IRS.

(Hat Tip: Mike Talbert.)

December 4, 2014 in Book Club, IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Casting Call: Love, Sex and the IRS

Love 2Backstage, Casting Notice:  Love, Sex and the IRS:

Company
The Norris Theatre

Production Description
Palos Verdes Performing Arts is casting Love, Sex and The IRS.

Rehearsal and Production Dates & Locations
Rehearsal for Love, Sex and The IRS begins Jan. 5, 2015; runs Jan. 23-Feb. 8, 2015 at the Norris Theatre in Rolling Hills Estate, CA.

Compensation & Union Contract Details
Pays $510/wk. min. Equity Guest Artist Tier 3 Contract.

Seeking Talent
Select a role below for more information and submission instructions.

December 2, 2014 in Book Club, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Moneyball for Government

MoneyballMoneyball for Government (Jim Nussle & Peter Orszag, eds.) (Nov. 10, 2014) (website):

Data and evidence don’t lie—but for too long, our policy makers haven’t paid them nearly enough attention. In this refreshing collaboration, an all-star team of leaders and thinkers from across the political spectrum lays out an exciting and achievable vision for the country — one where policy makers base decisions not on politics or expedience, but on the hard evidence of what really works. For anyone who believes that government must do better for America’s children and their families, Moneyball for Government is a home run.

The Atlantic:  Can Government Play Moneyball, by John Bridgeland & Peter Orszag:

Based on our rough calculations, less than $1 out of every $100 of government spending is backed by even the most basic evidence that the money is being spent wisely. As former officials in the administrations of Barack Obama (Peter Orszag) and George W. Bush (John Bridgeland), we were flabbergasted by how blindly the federal government spends. In other types of American enterprise, spending decisions are usually quite sophisticated, and are rapidly becoming more so: baseball’s transformation into “moneyball” is one example. But the federal government—where spending decisions are largely based on good intentions, inertia, hunches, partisan politics, and personal relationships—has missed this wave. ...

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November 29, 2014 in Book Club, Tax | Permalink | Comments (10)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

USC Book Panel Discussion on Kleinbard's We Are Better Than This

Kleinbard Flyer

Prior TaxProf Blog coverage:

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November 22, 2014 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 17, 2014

Dietsch Presents Catching Capital: The Ethics of Tax Competition Today at McGill

DietschPeter Dietsch (Université de Montréal) presents Catching Capital: The Ethics of Tax Competition (Oxford University Press) at McGill today as part of its Spiegel Sohmer Tax Policy Colloquium Series hosted by Allison Christians and Daniel Weinstock:

When individuals stash away their wealth in offshore bank accounts and multinational corporations shift their profits or their actual production to low-tax jurisdictions, this undermines the fiscal autonomy of political communities and contributes to rising inequalities in income and wealth. These practices are fuelled by tax competition, with countries strategically designing fiscal policy to attract capital from abroad.

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November 17, 2014 in Book Club, Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Kleinbard Presents We Are Better Than This: How Government Should Spend Our Money at Loyola Marymount

We Are Better Than This (2014)Edward Kleinbard (USC) presents We Are Better Than This: How Government Should Spend Our Money (Oxford University Press, 2014) at Loyola Marymount tomorrow as part of its Center for Accounting Ethics, Governance, and the Public Interest Speaker Series:

We Are Better Than This fundamentally reframes budget debates in the United States. Author Edward D. Kleinbard explains how the public's preoccupation with tax policy alone has obscured any understanding of government's ability to complement the private sector through investment and insurance programs that enhance the general welfare and prosperity of our society at large.

He argues that when we choose how government should spend and tax, we open a window into our "fiscal soul," because those choices are the means by which we express the values we cherish and the regard in which we hold our fellow citizens. Though these values are being diminished by short-sighted decisions to starve government, strategic government spending can directly make citizens happier, healthier, and even wealthier.

Continue reading

November 17, 2014 in Book Club, Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (5)

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Steuerle Presents How to Restore Fiscal Freedom and Rescue Our Future Today at Columbia

DeadC. Eugene Steuerle (Urban Institute) presents Dead Men Ruling: How to Restore Fiscal Freedom and Rescue Our Future at Columbia today as part of its Tax Policy Colloquium Series hosted by Alex RaskolnikovDavid Schizer, and Wojciech Kopczuk:

Eugene Steuerle argues that these seemingly separable economic and political problems are actually symptoms of a common disease, one unique to our time. Unless that disease and the history of how it spread over time is understood, Steuerle says, it is easy for politicians and voters alike to fall prey to believing in simple but ineffective nostrums, hoping that a cure lies merely in switching political parties or reducing the deficit or protecting and expanding our favorite program.

Despite the despairing claims of many, Steuerle points out that we no more live in an age of austerity than did Americans at the turn into the twentieth century with the demise of the frontier. Conditions are ripe to advance opportunity in ways never before possible, including doing for children and the young in this century what the twentieth did for senior citizens, yet without abandoning those earlier gains. Recognizing this extraordinary but checked potential is also the secret to breaking the political logjam that —as Steuerle points out —was created largely by now dead (or retired) men.

November 11, 2014 in Book Club, Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The IRS and The Case of the Cockamamie Killer

CaseDavid M. Brown, The Case of the Cockamamie Killer (2011):

You can't avoid death and taxes. Or is that murder and taxes? That would depend on who is doing the collecting.

When a colleague is slain in cold blood, tough-guy word processor and private detective Chak Charon investigates—and soon finds himself out of a job, abducted from his apartment, and audited within an inch of his life. He takes refuge in a lower-Manhattan boarding house and proceeds to discover a dirty little secret: that the Internal Revenue Service is developing a computer virus designed to scavenge the private financial data of unsuspecting citizens. (Scratch that. Let's say that a "rogue IRS agent" is developing the virus. As we keep hearing in the news, it is extremely difficult for the IRS to know anything about what is happening inside the IRS.)

Meet the sullen fast-food clerk who has trouble filling special orders...the department supervisor whose every gesture is by-the-book...the socially-conscious housemates of Grubgeous Street...the sulky, seductive hustler...the other sulky, seductive hustler...the power-lusting bureaucrat...the software-slinging private eye who won't take "Get lost!" for an answer.

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November 5, 2014 in Book Club, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Understanding and Surviving Life with a Law Student

CompanionAndrew McClurg (Memphis), The ‘Companion Text’ to Law School: Understanding and Surviving Life with a Law Student (West 2011):

This book equips the loved ones of law students ; parents, partners, friends, and relatives ; with all the information they need to understand and survive their student's journey through the world of legal education. Written by an award-winning professor with experience teaching thousands of law students, The "Companion Text" explains the essentials of legal education, including the first-year curriculum, the Socratic Method of teaching, and the single-exam format. It also explores the psyches of law students, including things you should never say to them, their sources of stress, and how law school can change personalities. The book addresses the impact of law school on outside relationships and gives tips for navigating relationships with law students. Filled with comments, anecdotes, and insights from real law students and their loved ones.

Al Sturgeon (Pepperdine), Things to Never Say to a Law Student:

Professor Andrew McClurg has written an excellent book for the family and friends of law students and granted me permission to share excerpts with you from time to time.

  1. “Don’t Worry, You’ll Do Fine”
  2. “Maybe You Weren’t Meant to Be in Law School”
  3. “Remember, It’s Only a Test”
  4. “Is That the Best You Could Do?”
  5. “Do You Really Have to Work on That Tonight?”
  6. “What Kind of Lawyer Do You Want to Be?”
  7. “Do You Have a Job Yet?”
  8. “Have You Heard the One About the Lawyer, the Shark, and the Pornographer?”

November 5, 2014 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 3, 2014

Bankman & Shaviro: Piketty in America: A Tale of Two Literatures

PikettyJoseph Bankman (Stanford) & Daniel N. Shaviro (NYU), Piketty in America: A Tale of Two Literatures, 68 Tax L. Rev. ___ (2014):

Thomas Piketty’s widely-noted and bestselling book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, does much to advance our empirical understanding of rising high-end wealth concentration, which is one of the central issues of our time. But its theoretical approach and policy recommendations differ sharply from those that have been prevalent in recent decades in the Anglo-American academic tax policy literature. We adjudicate this “confrontation” (insofar as it is one), and find that each approach in some respects both undermines and enriches the other. We find that the optimal tax response to wealth concentration is significantly more complicated than Piketty’s analysis recognizes. This is particularly true in the United States, where rising high-end wealth concentration has been driven by heterogeneous human capital, and where Piketty’s proposed wealth tax would face a substantial risk of being held unconstitutional.

November 3, 2014 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Kleinbard Presents We Are Better Than This: How Government Should Spend Our Money Today at Columbia

We Are Better Than This (2014)Edward Kleinbard (USC) presents We Are Better Than This: How Government Should Spend Our Money (Oxford University Press, 2014) at Columbia today as part of its Tax Policy Colloquium Series hosted by Alex RaskolnikovDavid Schizer, and Wojciech Kopczuk:

We Are Better Than This fundamentally reframes budget debates in the United States. Author Edward D. Kleinbard explains how the public's preoccupation with tax policy alone has obscured any understanding of government's ability to complement the private sector through investment and insurance programs that enhance the general welfare and prosperity of our society at large.

He argues that when we choose how government should spend and tax, we open a window into our "fiscal soul," because those choices are the means by which we express the values we cherish and the regard in which we hold our fellow citizens. Though these values are being diminished by short-sighted decisions to starve government, strategic government spending can directly make citizens happier, healthier, and even wealthier.

Continue reading

October 28, 2014 in Book Club, Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 27, 2014

Avi-Yonah Reviews Kleinbard's We Are Better Than This

We Are Better Than ThisReuven S. Avi-Yonah (Michigan), Why Not Tax the Rich? (reviewing Edward D. Kleinbard (USC), We Are Better Than This: How Government Should Spend Our Money (Oxford University Press, 2014)):

Ed Kleinbard’s new book, We Are Better Than This: How Government SHould Spend Our Money (Oxford University Press, 2014), is a well-balanced and important contribution to the tax literature. Kleinbard convincingly sets out the case for addressing inequality not through taxation but rather through spending. While the emphasis on treating both sides of the federal budget ledger with equal respect is not new (Michael Graetz, for one, said it in the 1980s), Kleinbard updates the analysis and addresses it to a wider audience. Kleinbard’s book is also well positioned as an antidote to Thomas Piketty’s obsession with taxing the rich [Capital in the Twenty-First Century].

The problem with the book, however, is that its proposed solutions [restore the pre-2001 tax rates on the middle class and lift the cap on social security] are much too narrow. These have the virtue of being (perhaps) sellable on Capitol Hill, despite the bipartisan promise not to increase taxes on the middle class. But as a solution to our inequality problem they are woefully inadequate.

Update:  Dan Shaviro (NYU), Avi-Yonah Reviews Kleinbard

October 27, 2014 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 20, 2014

Call for Book Reviews: Journal of Legal Education

Journal of Legal Education (2014)The Journal of Legal Education has issued a call for book review essays and book review essay proposals:

The Journal of Legal Education, the official scholarly publication of the Association of American Law Schools, solicits submission of book review essays and book review essay proposals. The JLE believes that review essays constitute an important means of communicating scholarly ideas and are particularly well-suited to facilitating dialogue and engagement within and among the legal scholarly community. Accordingly, the JLE has adopted a policy of dedicating space in all of its print issues to the publication of timely reviews of books related to the law (broadly defined). 

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October 20, 2014 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, October 19, 2014

L.A. Times: Ed Kleinbard's We Are Better Than This Is 'Moral and Farsighted'

Los Angeles Times:  On Fiscal Policy, USC Professor's Viewpoint is Moral and Farsighted, by Michael Hiltzik:

We Are Better Than This (2014)The left sees me as a Wall Street Journal Satanist, and the right as a stealth Marxian bent on destroying free enterprise," Edward D. Kleinbard was saying.

The USC law professor was referring to the reactions elicited by his recent op-ed in the New York Times, in which he asserted that the solution to economic inequality in the U.S. was not to make the tax system more progressive — it's already "the most progressive in the developed world," he wrote — but to make it bigger.

As he explained when we met last week at USC's Gould School of Law, where he has taught tax law since 2009, that would render the entire fiscal system more progressive, because it would fund more spending. Government spending is always progressive, benefiting middle- and lower-income people more than the wealthy. So: If you want to reduce inequality, expanding government is more effective than merely increasing the relative burden on the rich.

One can see why left and right alike felt that their shibboleths were being skewered.

But Kleinbard's viewpoint is both moral and farsighted. It's also an important theme of his newly published book, We Are Better Than This: How Government Should Spend Our Money.

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October 19, 2014 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Hidden Sources of Law School Stress: Avoiding the Mistakes That Create Unhappy and Unprofessional Lawyers

HiddenLawrence Krieger (Florida State), The Hidden Sources of Law School Stress: Avoiding the Mistakes That Create Unhappy and Unprofessional Lawyers (Kindle 2014):

This brief book has been purchased for students by more than half the law schools in the United States, Canada, and Australia. It tells you why law school can be so stressful (p.s. -- it's not what you think!), and why it doesn’t have to be that way. The content combines the experience of generations of law students and lawyers, many law teachers, and 40 years of scientific research on what determines whether you will be happy, anxious, or depressed.

The author is a recognized expert in attorney and law student well-being. He recently completed the largest in-depth study of lawyer mental health to date, involving several thousand lawyers in four states.

October 7, 2014 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Rubin: Are Law Schools Failing?

FailingEdward Rubin (Vanderbilt), The Future and Legal Education: Are Law Schools Failing and, If So, How?, 39 Law & Soc. Inquiry 499 (2014):

In Failing Law Schools (2010), Brian Tamanaha recommends that law schools respond to the current economic crisis in the legal profession by reducing support for faculty research and developing two-year degree programs. But these ideas respond only to a short-term problem that will probably be solved by the closure of marginal institutions. The real challenge lies in the powerful long-term trends that animate social change, particularly the shift to a knowledge-based economy and the demand for social justice through expanded public services. These trends demand that law schools transform their educational programs to reflect the regulatory, transactional, and interdisciplinary nature of modern legal practice.

October 7, 2014 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (12)

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Larson: The Return of George Washington, 1783-1789

My friend and colleague Ed Larson has published his latest book, The Return of George Washington, 1783-1789 (2014):

ReturnPulitzer Prize-winning historian Edward J. Larson [Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate Over Science and Religion (2006)] recovers a crucially important—yet almost always overlooked—chapter of George Washington’s life, revealing how Washington saved the United States by coming out of retirement to lead the Constitutional Convention and serve as our first president.

After leading the Continental Army to victory in the Revolutionary War, George Washington shocked the world: he retired. In December 1783, General Washington, the most powerful man in the country, stepped down as Commander in Chief and returned to private life at Mount Vernon. Yet as Washington contentedly grew his estate, the fledgling American experiment floundered. Under the Articles of Confederation, the weak central government was unable to raise revenue to pay its debts or reach a consensus on national policy. The states bickered and grew apart. When a Constitutional Convention was established to address these problems, its chances of success were slim. Jefferson, Madison, and the other Founding Fathers realized that only one man could unite the fractious states: George Washington. Reluctant, but duty-bound, Washington rode to Philadelphia in the summer of 1787 to preside over the Convention.

Although Washington is often overlooked in most accounts of the period, this masterful new history from Pulitzer Prize-winner Edward J. Larson brilliantly uncovers Washington’s vital role in shaping the Convention—and shows how it was only with Washington’s support and his willingness to serve as President that the states were brought together and ratified the Constitution, thereby saving the country.

Wall Street Journal, George Washington’s Years of Retirement Shaped the Republic as Much as the Victories He Won on the Battlefield, by Richard Snow:

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October 5, 2014 in Book Club, Legal Education, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 3, 2014

4th Annual NYU/UCLA Tax Policy Symposium: Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century

NYU UCLAThe Fourth Annual NYU/UCLA Tax Policy Symposium on Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century takes place today at UCLA:

The day-long event will consist of five panels featuring leading scholars who will analyze the book from economic, legal, historical, political science and philosophical perspectives. Thomas Piketty will participate in the discussion and deliver responses to each of the papers presented.

  • Joseph Bankman (Stanford) & Daniel Shaviro (NYU), moderated by Eric Zolt (UCLA)
  • Gregory Clark (UC-Davis), moderated by Joshua Blank (NYU)
  • Wojciech Kopczuk (Columbia), moderated by David Kamin (NYU)
  • Suzanne Mettler (Cornell), moderated by Jason Oh (UCLA)
  • Liam Murphy (NYU), moderated by Kirk Stark (UCLA)

All papers will be published in the Tax Law Review in 2015.

October 3, 2014 in Book Club, Conferences, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 29, 2014

How to Build a Better Law Professor

National Law Journal Special Report, How to Build a Better Law Professor:

Book 2A good legal education offers more than an understanding of case law — it provides students with the real-world skills they need to succeed, an appreciation for the role of attorneys in society and the confidence to pursue their career goals. In this special report, we look at a new book [What the Best Law Professors Do (Harvard University Press, 2013)] that identifies the top law teachers in the country and spotlight how some of those honorees approach teaching.

Patti Alleva (North Dakota)
Rory Bahadur (Washburn)
Cary Bricker (McGeorge)
Roberto Corrada (Denver)
Bridget Crawford (Pace)

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September 29, 2014 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 26, 2014

Why is Thomas Piketty's 700-Page Book a Bestseller?

PikettyThe Guardian, Why is Thomas Piketty's 700-Page Book a Bestseller?:

Thomas Piketty is a French economist whose Capital in the Twenty-First Century has swept American discourse. Four experts – Brad DeLong, Tyler Cowen, Stephanie Kelton and Emanuel Derman – take on why that is.

There’s been a bizarre phenomenon this year: a young, little-known French economist has written a 700-page tome about economic inequality – dense with data, historical examples from France, and a few literary references to Jane Austen.

That’s not the strange part. This is: it’s a bestseller.

Somehow, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty has become a conversation piece among well-read people. Its graphic red-and-ivory cover is inescapable. Early in its launch, it hit No 1 on Amazon’s bestseller list and the paper version – a doorstop in punishing, heavy hardcover – sold out in major bookstores.

Piketty’s main argument is this: that invested capital – in the stock market, in real estate – will grow faster than income.

The implications of that are deep: to have invested capital, you must have money already. If you rely on income, as most people do, you will likely never catch up to the wealth of people who are already rich. The 1% and the 99% enshrined by Occupy are not an anomaly of our time, Piketty’s research suggests. It’s a structural feature of capitalism. Piketty’s work – which has been in progress for over a decade – is a natural pairing with the Occupy movement, which also questions the premises of capitalism.

You can see the appeal of such an argument, which has driven the book to become a cultural touchpoint. Seattle quoted Piketty in its minimum-wage law. The book has had so many reviews and articles that it’s possible for someone to feel as if they have read it even without cracking the cover.

Which raises the question: why this book? The themes that Piketty brings up have been enshrined in discussion about progressive economists for decades. No fewer than three Nobel Prize winners – Joseph Stiglitz, Paul Krugman and Robert Solow – have all devoted much of their careers to studying inequality. On Friday, 19 September, I moderated a panel at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth that included Solow as well as economists Brad DeLong, Tyler Cowen and Russ Roberts. For 90 minutes, they hammered out the implications of Piketty’s work -- and the discussion ended with much more to say.

Continue reading

September 26, 2014 in Book Club, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Johnston Reviews Kleinbard's We Are Better Than This

David Cay Johnston (Syracuse), Book Review: Edward D. Kleinbard, We Are Better Than This: How Government Should Spend Our Money (Oxford University Press, 2014), 144 Tax Notes 1465 (Sept. 22, 2014):

KleinbardWe Are Better Than This: How Government Should Spend Our Money (Oxford University Press, 2014) by Edward D. Kleinbard is a comprehensive, thoughtful, and informed volume on taxation and government spending.

This masterpiece of tax, fiscal, and economic policy is richly endowed with philosophical insights from Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments and holds the potential to change our often dogmatic and sometimes toxic public debate over how we tax ourselves and spend our tax dollars into a conversation about how to raise more money with less pain and spend in ways that will produce a happier America.

Kleinbard's book is especially useful in proposing a new way to measure capital incomes and a much smarter way to tax corporate profits. ...

The book challenges bedrock tax policy assumptions -- the marginal utility of income theory; the value of progressive taxation; the idea that regressive taxes are bad and should not be used to fund universal services like healthcare, education and infrastructure; the way we tax capital incomes, especially now that most businesses are pass-through entities, which he calls incoherent.

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September 24, 2014 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Public Finance Textbooks and the Excess Burdens of Taxation

Public FinanceCecil Bohanon, John Borowitz & James McClure (all of Ball State), Saying Too Little, Too Late: Public Finance Textbooks and the Excess Burdens of Taxation, 11 J. Econ. Watch 277 (2014):

Taxation has several significant excess burdens, including enforcement costs, compliance costs, and deadweight losses. Most estimates find that raising a dollar of tax revenue costs much more than a dollar. Unfortunately, commonly used public finance textbooks do not integrate these costs into discussions of public goods or cost-benefit analyses. Not including these costs means that the optimal levels of public goods will be overestimated. Textbooks say too little, too late about the excess burdens of taxation. They could easily introduce excess burdens early, represent them in public goods diagrams, and integrate them throughout public finance instruction.

September 18, 2014 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A Red Letter Day at Pepperdine

Red LetterAs I have blogged before, one of my favorite things about Pepperdine is the opportunity to meet some of the interesting people drawn to this place.  I had the privlege last night of hearing Tony Campolo deliver a public lecture, followed by a breakfast meeting this morning with Tony and fifty students, faculty, and staff to discuss his provocative book, Red Letter Revolution, co-authored with Shane Claiborne (whom I blogged about here):

For all the Christians facing conflict between Jesus’ words and their own lives, for all the non-Christians who feel they rarely see Jesus’ commands reflected in the choices of his followers, Red Letter Revolution is a blueprint for a new kind of Christianity, one consciously centered on the words of Jesus, the Bible’s “red letters.”

Framed as a captivating dialogue between Shane Claiborne, a progressive young evangelical, and Tony Campolo, a seasoned pastor and professor of sociology, Red Letter Revolution is a life-altering manifesto for skeptics and Christians alike. It is a call to a lifestyle that considers first and foremost Jesus’ explicit, liberating message of sacrificial love.

Shane and Tony candidly bring the words of Jesus to bear on contemporary issues of violence, community, Islam, hell, sexuality, civil disobedience, and twenty other critical topics for people of faith and conscience today. The resulting conversations reveal the striking truth that Christians guided unequivocally by the words of Jesus will frequently reach conclusions utterly contrary to those of mainstream evangelical Christianity.

September 17, 2014 in Book Club, Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 15, 2014

Understanding Thomas Piketty and His Critics

PikettyThe Heritage Foundation: Understanding Thomas Piketty and His Critics, by Curtis S. Dubay & Salim Furth:

Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century is a treatise on how wealth inequality evolves in capitalistic economies. Piketty uses data stretching back to the 18th century to describe the historical evolution of wealth and inequality, proposes a model that matches the data, and uses that model to predict rising wealth inequality in the 21st century. He recommends punitive taxes on high incomes and wealth to prevent the scenario that he predicts. However, the best critiques of Piketty have shown that most of the links in his argument are broken. Piketty’s model does not match his data as well as he claims. His prediction of permanently rising wealth inequality rests on two implausible modeling assumptions. And his recommendation of punitive taxes is based on the glib assumption that capital accumulation is unimportant for wage growth, an assumption at odds with the data and even with his own model. As a result, almost nothing in Capital in the Twenty-First Century can be applied usefully to policymaking.

Heritage

September 15, 2014 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Remus Reviews Rostain & Regan's Confidence Games

ConfidenceDana A. Renus (North Carolina), Confidence Breach: A Breakdown in Professional Self-Regulation, 92 Tex. L. 1599 (2014) (reviewing Tanina Rostain (Georgetown) & Milton C. Regan, Jr. (Georgetown), Confidence Games: Lawyers, Accountants, and the Tax Shelter Crisis (MIT Press, 2014)):

At the turn of the twenty-first century, lawyers at several of the country’s most prestigious law and accounting firms participated in a fraudulent tax shelter scandal that cost the U.S. Treasury billions of dollars. It was not the first time lawyers had participated in a high-profile corporate scandal, nor would it be the last. What was unique was the extent and nature of the lawyers’ involvement. As Mitt Regan and Tanina Rostain explain in their new book, Confidence Games: Lawyers, Accountants, and the Tax Shelter Industry, “[lawyers’] fingerprints were everywhere: on the shelters they designed, the promotional materials they prepared, the client pitches they made, and the opinion letters they drafted and signed.” The resulting scandal, the authors argue, “likely represents the most serious episode of lawyer wrongdoing in the history of the American bar.”

In Confidence Games, Regan and Rostain set out to explain how and why such widespread and pervasive wrongdoing occurred. They challenge the narratives that laid blame on a finite number of bad actors and seek to offer a more comprehensive account of the actors and events that gave rise to the scandal. One of their core insights is that a complete understanding must account for institutional factors and not just individual actors. The authors focus on three factors in particular—a lax regulatory environment, a competitive global economy, and intense organizational pressures within law and accounting firms. In exploring these related causes, Regan and Rostain offer valuable insights on how the structures and cultures of the implicated law and accounting firms undermined and distorted lawyers’ professional judgment. They conclude Confidence Games with promising proposals for improving the regulation of tax practice.

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September 11, 2014 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

It's Time to End the 'Philanthropic Gamesmanship' of Donor-Advised Funds

Following up on my previous posts (links below):  New York Review of Books, Stop the Misuse of Philanthropy!, by Lewis B. Cullman (Author, Can’t Take It With You—The Art of Making and Giving Money (2014)):

Can'tAt ninety-five, as a businessman and philanthropist, I want to call attention to little-known ploys in US philanthropy that rob our society of hundreds of millions of dollars earmarked for important charitable causes—leaving money stashed away in financial institutions and doing no good for anyone except money managers and other financial intermediaries.

In the past twenty years, I’ve given away close to $500 million of my own money. ... I saw how private foundations were able to take unfair advantages of the charitable deduction. ... But now I want to complain about a newer wrinkle that makes me even more indignant, one I deem “philanthropic gamesmanship.”

The more aggressive game in philanthropy I have in mind, one with a soothing but misleading name, is called Donor-Advised Funds (DAFs). Back in 1991, the Boston-based Fidelity Investments applied to the Brooklyn IRS and got a ruling that drastically changed the tax landscape governing charitable donations. Donors get the same tax benefits when they give to a DAF that they would get by contributing to a museum, soup kitchen, university, or any other federally accepted charity. But rather than having the gift made directly to a charity, the funds can simply sit in the account awaiting instructions from the donor. If the donor never gets around to making distributions, they stay in the account earning substantial fees for investment managers. Recently, mutual fund management companies such as Fidelity, Vanguard, and Charles Schwab have set up separate charity accounts to compete for funds.

These funds can provide such tax benefits because the donor must give up all legal control over his or her money when the transfer is made to a DAF. The control is transferred to the administrators of the DAF. ...

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September 10, 2014 in Book Club, Conferences, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Love Does

Love DoesOne of my favorite things about Pepperdine is the opportunity to meet some of the interesting people drawn to this place.  At last Wendesday's inaugural law school bible study, I met Bob Goff, an adjunct professor who is a legend on campus.  After meeting Bob, I bought and devoured his wonderful book, Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World:

As a college student he spent 16 days in the Pacific Ocean with five guys and a crate of canned meat. As a father he took his kids on a world tour to eat ice cream with heads of state. He made friends in Uganda, and they liked him so much he became the Ugandan consul. He pursued his wife for three years before she agreed to date him. His grades weren't good enough to get into law school, so he sat on a bench outside the Dean’s office for seven days until they finally let him enroll. 

Bob Goff has become something of a legend, and his friends consider him the world's best-kept secret. Those same friends have long insisted he write a book. What follows are paradigm shifts, musings, and stories from one of the world’s most delightfully engaging and winsome people. What fuels his impact? Love. But it's not the kind of love that stops at thoughts and feelings. Bob's love takes action. Bob believes Love Does.

When Love Does, life gets interesting. Each day turns into a hilarious, whimsical, meaningful chance that makes faith simple and real. Each chapter is a story that forms a book, a life. And this is one life you don't want to miss.

Light and fun, unique and profound, the lessons drawn from Bob's life and attitude just might inspire you to be secretly incredible, too.

I now have the title picked out for my first non-tax book:  Love Blogs.

August 31, 2014 in Book Club, Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, August 29, 2014

Mehrotra: The Intellectual Roots of An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution

Ajay K. Mehrotra (Indiana), Charles A. Beard & The Columbia School of Political Economy: Revisiting the Intellectual Roots of the Beardian Thesis, 29 Const. Comment. 475 (2014):

BeardA century after it was first published, Charles A. Beard’s An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution remains a significant and controversial part of constitutional scholarship and history. Just as Beard sought to historicize the Founders as they drafted and adopted the Constitution, this article attempts to historicize Beard as he researched and wrote his classic text on the Constitution. Because Beard was both a graduate student and professor at Columbia University before and while he researched and wrote his book, this article explores the particular influence that Columbia University’s institutional and intellectual climate may have had on Beard and the writing of An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution.

This article contends that Charles Beard was the product of a unique Columbia tradition of inductive, proto-institutionalist research in political economy – a tradition that at its core sought to meld serious political and historical scholarship with progressive social activism. Yet, in many ways, Columbia’s influence on Beard was more reinforcing than it was revolutionary. Columbia, in other words, facilitated an evolution rather than a dramatic transformation in Beard’s thinking. His time at Columbia provided him with new scholarly perspectives and research methods, but ultimately these new views heightened his innate tension between scholarly objectivity and political advocacy, between his belief in social scientific research and his desires for social democratic reform. In short, Beard’s time at Columbia, as both a student and junior scholar, refined his personal predilections and his early upbringing and education, rather than radically converting him into a new thinker and writer.

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August 29, 2014 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Dear Committee Members: A Novel

Slate Book Review:  Strongest Possible Endorsement: A Funny and Lacerating Novel of Academia Written in the Form of Letters of Recommendation:

Dear CommitteeI have been tasked with assessing Julie Schumacher’s Dear Committee Members, an epistolary novel consisting entirely of fictionalized letters of recommendation penned by professor Jason Fitger (failed novelist, failed husband, successful misanthrope). Although professor Fitger is—despite his correct opinions on the current state of the academic professions, and rare mitzvahs for his few remaining friends—an abhorrent human being, I cannot help but give this year in his life—which is narrated solely through his self-centered, off-topic, usually-counterproductive “endorsements” of colleagues, students, and friends—my strongest possible recommendation. 

Indeed, like his innumerable crotchety-white-male-academic protagonist predecessors (some of my favorites: Nabokov’s Humbert, Goethe’s Faust, Chabon’s Grady, Franzen’s Chip), Jason Fitger makes up in self-importance what he lacks in human contact with anyone who can stand him. “I’ll get around to my evaluation of Professor Ali,” Fitger explains in an alleged letter of support for a colleague’s tenure case. “But I have a few other things on my mind also, and it would be foolish of me, I think—it would be remiss—if I didn’t take this opportunity to address a few of them. After all, how often does a lowly professor of creative writing and English have the ear” of the associate vice provost? He then unleashes a tirade of grievances about the decrepit facilities and lackluster funding of his department, touching only briefly on his colleague’s many accomplishments. ...

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August 21, 2014 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 18, 2014

Ajay Mehrotra's Making the Modern American Fiscal State Wins 2014 U.S. Intellectual History Book Award

Ajay2014 Society for U.S. Intellectual History Book Award Winner:

We are pleased to announce our selection of Ajay K. Mehrotra’s Making the Modern American Fiscal State: Law, Politics, and the Rise of Progressive Taxation, 1877-1929 (Cambridge University Press, 2013) as this year’s winner of the S-USIH annual book award for 2014.

Mehrotra’s important and ambitious book chronicles the early 20th-century transformation in American tax policy and public finance. It analyzes the shift from the nineteenth-century “regime of indirect, hidden, partisan, and regressive taxes” to the “direct, transparent, professionally administered, and progressive tax system” we know today. A book on taxation may well seem a curious choice for an intellectual history prize, but we were struck by how successfully Mehrotra weaves together the intellectual, legal, administrative threads of his argument. Mehrotra takes ideas seriously. He traces legal and administrative change to a prior “conceptual revolution,” wrought primarily by a cohort of professionally trained intellectuals, including Henry Carter Adams, Richard Ely, and Edwin R.A. Seligman. And he shows how notions of economic justice, political obligation, ethical duty, and democratic reciprocity underwrote the new progressive conception of what Mehrotra aptly labels “fiscal citizenship.” He also shows what happened to those ideas as they traveled through a contested political process and were embodied in a complex administrative apparatus with paradoxical and often unintended consequences. Mehrotra’s book is thus a history of ideas in action. It makes a signal contribution to the field by demonstrating how even the most seemingly mundane features of our world have strikingly rich intellectual histories.

August 18, 2014 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Hit the Reset Button in Your Brain

New York Times Sunday Review:  Hit the Reset Button in Your Brain, by Daniel J. Levitin (McGill) (author, The Organized Mind (2014)):

Organized MindThis month, many Americans will take time off from work to go on vacation, catch up on household projects and simply be with family and friends. And many of us will feel guilty for doing so. We will worry about all of the emails piling up at work, and in many cases continue to compulsively check email during our precious time off.

But beware the false break. Make sure you have a real one. The summer vacation is more than a quaint tradition. Along with family time, mealtime and weekends, it is an important way that we can make the most of our beautiful brains. ...

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, there’s a reason: The processing capacity of the conscious mind is limited. This is a result of how the brain’s attentional system evolved. Our brains have two dominant modes of attention: the task-positive network and the task-negative network (they’re called networks because they comprise distributed networks of neurons, like electrical circuits within the brain). The task-positive network is active when you’re actively engaged in a task, focused on it, and undistracted; neuroscientists have taken to calling it the central executive. The task-negative network is active when your mind is wandering; this is the daydreaming mode. These two attentional networks operate like a seesaw in the brain: when one is active the other is not. ...

Every status update you read on Facebook, every tweet or text message you get from a friend, is competing for resources in your brain with important things like whether to put your savings in stocks or bonds, where you left your passport or how best to reconcile with a close friend you just had an argument with.

If you want to be more productive and creative, and to have more energy, the science dictates that you should partition your day into project periods. Your social networking should be done during a designated time, not as constant interruptions to your day.

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August 17, 2014 in Book Club, Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Taxpertise: Murder, Mayhem, Romance, Comedy and Tax Tips, For Artists Of All Kinds

Bonnie Lee (IRS Enrolled Agent), Taxpertise: A Novella For The Creative Mind -- Murder, Mayhem, Romance, Comedy and Tax Tips, For Artists Of All Kinds (2014):

TaxpertiseYou've heard of starving artists. Many of them are starving because they fork out too much money in taxes. And why does that happen? Because most artists hate numbers and consequently don't deal with them too well. I was asked to write a tax book specifically for artists but my first thought was, "Would anyone actually read it?" I pictured artists with insomnia purchasing this book as a sleep aid. Yet there is so much valuable information that can help whose who hate numbers and keep more dollars in their pockets that I was forced to rethink the approach so I can reach out and help them. And so I chose a format that would be entertaining: a Novella.

Kim Stillwell is a single, gorgeous, 34-year-old tax professional. When Luke Hunter, a rock musician, becomes a client, her heart goes into a spin! It's love at first sight, but she doesn't trust her feelings. While preparing his tax returns and organizing his home office, she remains professional, yet the romantic stirrings continue and seem to be reciprocated. Then the murder of Dominic Rodriguez, Luke's previous bookkeeper, throws their budding romance into mistrust and turmoil.

Follow their adventures and gain valuable knowledge through the tax tips offered at the end of each chapter. Even those have a humorous edge!

August 6, 2014 in Book Club, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 4, 2014

2015 Princeton Review's Best 379 Colleges

PrincetonThe Princeton Review today released The Best 379 Colleges -- 2015 Edition.  According to the press release, the book contains 62 rankings based on surveys completed by 130,000 students at the 379 schools (343 per school) (methodology here), including these categories:

  • Best (Bard) classroom experience
  • Best (Reed), worst (New Jersey Institute of Technology) professors
  • Most (U.S. Military Academy), least (McGill) accessible professors
  • Best (Bowdoin) quality of life
  • Most (Vanderbilt), least (Marywood) happy students
  • Students love (Claremont McKenna) their school
  • Most (Colgate), least (University of Dallas) beautiful campus
  • Best (Elon), worst (U.S. Merchant Marine Academy) run school
  • Most liberal (Sarah Lawrence), most conservative (Texas A&M) students
  • Most (BYU),  least (Vassar) religious
  • Students study the most (Harvey Mudd), least (North Dakota)
  • Most (Pomona), least (Spelman) financial aid
  • Most (Stanford), least (College of the Ozarks) LGBT-Friendly
  • Most (George Mason), least (Furman) race/class interaction
  • Best (Chicago), worst (Clarkson) library
  • Best (Virginia Tech), worst (U.S. Merchant Marine Academy) food
  • Best (Washington University), worst (U.S. Merchant Marine Academy) dorms
  • Biggest (Syracuse), least (BYU) party school
  • Most (Skidmore), least (U.S. Coast Guard Academy) marijuana on campus
  • Most (Iowa), least (BYU) hard liquor on campus
  • Most (Penn State), least (BYU) beer on campus

I am considering demanding a recount: Pepperdine is ranked as only the second most beautiful campus. Really?

Pepperdine Campus Photo

August 4, 2014 in Book Club, Law School Rankings, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (2)

Law: The Only Job With an Industry Devoted to Helping People Quit

The Atlantic:  The Only Job With an Industry Devoted to Helping People Quit, by Leigh McMullan Abramson:

Life After LawI went to law school because I didn’t know what to do after college and I'm bad at math. Law school seemed like a safe, respectable path and gave me an easy answer to what I was going to do with my life. And, as part of the millennial generation obsessed with test scores and academic achievement, I relished the spoils of a high LSAT score, admission to an Ivy League law school, and a job offer from a fancy corporate law firm.

I spent my first year as lawyer holed up in a conference room sorting piles of documents wearing rubber covers on my fingertips that looked like tiny condoms. Eventually, I was trusted with more substantive tasks, writing briefs and taking depositions. But I had no appetite for conflict and found it hard to care about the interests I was serving. I realized I had never seriously considered whether I was cut out to be a lawyer, much less a corporate litigator. After a few years, I just wanted out, but I had no idea where to begin.

I knew that I was not alone. Law-firm associate consistently ranks at the top of unhappy-professions lists and despite starting salaries of $160,000, law firms experience significant yearly associate attrition. What I didn’t realize was that the plight of burnt-out attorneys, particularly those at law firms, has recently spawned an industry of experts devoted to helping lawyers leave law. Attorneys now have their choice of specialized career counselors, blogs, books, and websites offering comfort and guidance to wannabe ex-Esqs.

“Law is the only career I know that has a sub-profession dedicated to helping people get out of it,” says Liz Brown, author of the help manual, Life After Law: Finding Work You Love with the J.D. You Have, published last year.

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August 4, 2014 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Rostain & Regan: The IRS Under Siege

ConfidenceTanina Rostain (Georgetown) & Milton C. Regan, Jr. (Georgetown), Confidence Games: Lawyers, Accountants, and the Tax Shelter Crisis (MIT Press, 2014):

Confidence Games provides an account of the wave of tax shelters that occurred at the turn of the twenty-first century. During this period, some of America’s most prominent law and accounting firms created and marketed products that enabled the very rich — including newly minted dot-com millionaires — to avoid paying their share of taxes by claiming benefits not recognized by law. These abusive tax shelters bore names like BOSS, BLIPS, and COBRA and were developed by such prestigious firms as KPMG, Ernst & Young, BDO Seidman, the now defunct Jenkens & Gilchrist and Brown & Wood, now merged into Sidley Austin. These shelters brought in hundreds of millions of dollars in fees from clients and deprived the U.S. Treasury of billions in revenue before the IRS and Justice Department stepped in with civil penalties and criminal prosecutions targeting the professionals and firms involved. As we suggest, the decade of tax shelter activity between the mid-1990s and mid-2000s is the most serious episode of professional misconduct in the history of the American bar.

Chapter 1, The IRS Under Siege, describes how an overstretched and under-resourced IRS came under attack in the late 1990’s by anti-tax and anti-government members of Congress.

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July 29, 2014 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 21, 2014

More Reviews of Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century

CapitalMore reviews of Thomas Piketty (Paris School of Economics), Capital in the Twenty-First Century (Harvard University Press, 2014):

July 21, 2014 in Book Club | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Piketty's Failure to Account for Tax Law Changes Makes His Wealth Inequality Claims Worthless

CapitalWall Street Journal op-ed:  Why Piketty's Wealth Data Are Worthless, by Alan Reynolds (Cato Institute):

No book on economics in recent times has received such a glowing initial reception as Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century (Harvard University Press, 2014). He remains a hero on the left, but the honeymoon may be drawing to a sour close as evidence mounts that his numbers don't add up.

Mr. Piketty's headline claim is that capitalism must result in wealth becoming increasingly concentrated in fewer hands to a "potentially terrifying" degree, on the grounds that the rate of return to capital exceeds the rate of economic growth. Is there any empirical evidence to back up this sweeping assertion? The data in his book—purporting to show a growing inequality of wealth in France, the U.K., Sweden and particularly the United States—have been challenged. And that's where the story gets interesting.

In late May, Financial Times economics editor Chris Giles published an essay that found numerous errors in Mr. Piketty's data. Mr. Piketty's online Response to FT was mostly about Europe, where the errors Mr. Giles caught seem minor. But what about the U.S.?

Mr. Piketty makes a startling statement: The data in his book should now be disregarded in favor of a March 2014 Power Point presentation, available online, by Mr. Piketty's protégé, Gabriel Zucman (at the London School of Economics) and his frequent co-author Emmanuel Saez (of the University of California, Berkeley). ...

Zucman-Saez concludes that there was a "large increase in the top 0.1% wealth share" since the 1986 Tax Reform, but "no increase below the top 0.1%." In other words, all of the increase in the wealth share of the top 1% is attributed to the top one-tenth of 1%—those with estimated wealth above $20 million. This is quite different from the graph in Mr. Piketty's book, which showed the wealth share of the top 1% (which begins at about $8 million, according to the Federal Reserve's Survey of Consumer Finances) in the U.S. falling from 31.4% in 1960 to 28.2% in 1970, then rising to about 33% since 1990.

In any event, the Zucman-Saez data are so misleading as to be worthless. They attempt to estimate top U.S. wealth shares on the basis of that portion of capital income reported on individual income tax returns—interest, dividends, rent and capital gains.

This won't work because federal tax laws in 1981, 1986, 1997 and 2003 momentously changed (1) the rules about which sorts of capital income have to be reported, (2) the tax incentives to report business income on individual rather than corporate tax forms, and (3) the tax incentives for high-income taxpayers to respond to lower tax rates on capital gains and dividends by realizing more capital gains and holding more dividend-paying stocks. ...

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July 12, 2014 in Book Club, Tax | Permalink | Comments (16)

Friday, July 11, 2014

Law Schools Peer Into The Abyss, But The ABA Blocks Serious Change

Forbes:  Law Schools Peer Into The Abyss But The American Bar Association Blocks Serious Change, by George Leef (Director of Research, John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy):

GatheringNot so long ago, law school was a growth industry, with new schools being created and enrollments going ever higher. No more. There has been a dramatic turn-around over the last ten years.

Enrollments of first-year students are back where they were 40 years ago. According to the Law School Admissions Council, in 2004, more than 100,000 students applied for law school, but in 2013, just 59,000 did. Some law schools have had to lay off faculty members and administrators. Four independent law schools have recently had their bonds downgraded to “junk” status by Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s, reflecting their questionable finances. ...

Law schools are not free to make many other changes that would do a lot more good, both for law students and for the clients they will eventually serve. That is because the accreditation standards imposed by the ABA require schools to operate in costly and inefficient ways.

Arguably the most vociferous critic of the ABA’s law school mandates is Larry Velvel, dean of the Massachusetts School of Law. In the short but impassioned book he wrote with Kurt Olson, The Gathering Peasants’ Revolt in American Legal Education, he made the case that law schools could train future lawyers at much lower cost if only the ABA would allow that.

Velvel and Olson write that the ABA’s policies are “designed to ensure continued and increasing economic and professional benefits for professors and deans.”

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July 11, 2014 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (7)

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

NY Times: The Self-Promotion Backlash

New York Times:  The Self-Promotion Backlash, by Anna North:

InvisiblesFrom “building your personal brand” to “stepping up your social media presence,” we’re constantly inundated with advice about how to promote ourselves. But some are saying that the pressure to self-promote could, ultimately, be hurting us.

In his recent book Invisibles: The Power of Anonymous Work in an Age of Relentless Self-Promotion, David Zweig profiles a group of people whose jobs are behind the scenes in some way (a guitar technician and a United Nations interpreter, for instance), and who derive satisfaction not from public recognition, but from the internal sense of a job well done. These “Invisibles,” as he calls them, are often extremely fulfilled in their careers, and they may have something to teach those of us who feel we have to constantly promote ourselves to succeed. He writes:

“We’ve been taught that the squeaky wheel gets the grease, that to not just get ahead, but to matter, to exist even, we must make ourselves seen and heard. But what if this is a vast myth?” ...

The Invisibles offer “an alternate path to success” — they got where they were not by courting attention, but by working quietly and extremely carefully toward something bigger than themselves. “The work they do is always in service of a larger endeavor,” he explained. And they show that at least for some people, “when you focus on excellence and good work, that actually does get recognized in the end.”

July 2, 2014 in Book Club, Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Monday, June 16, 2014

Reviews of Ajay Mehrotra's Law, Politics, and the Rise of Progressive Taxation

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Good Lawyer: Seeking Quality in the Practice of Law

Good LawyerDouglas Linder (UMKC) & Nancy Levit (UMKC), The Good Lawyer: Seeking Quality in the Practice of Law (Oxford University Press, 2014), reviewed by David Lat (Above the Law), Over a Third of All Law-School Graduates Can't Find Work Requiring Bar Passage. It's Worth Asking: What Does a Good Lawyer Look Like?, Wall Street Journal:

What does it mean to be a good lawyer? One is tempted to respond by quoting Justice Potter Stewart's famous quip about pornography: "I know it when I see it." But that wouldn't be terribly
illuminating, particularly during a period of such turmoil and transformation for the legal profession, with lawyers chasing after scarce jobs and firms fighting for limited clients. As Douglas Linder and Nancy Levit note in their new book, over a third of all law-school graduates cannot find work requiring bar passage, and median starting salaries for lawyers fell by 15% from 2009 to 2012.

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June 14, 2014 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Lempert Reviews Tamanaha's Failing Law Schools

FailingRichard O. Lempert (Michigan), Book Review, 43 Contemp. Sociology 269 (2014) (reviewing Brian Tamanaha (Washington U.), Failing Law Schools (University of Chicago Press, 2012)):

This review of Brian Tamanaha's Failing Law Schools argues that the book has considerable strengths and is a must read for anyone interested in contemporary legal education, but also has serious shortcomings and suggests reforms of questionable desirability. The burden of the review's argument is (1) Tamanaha's analysis is insufficiently sociological. Confounding cost-related problems facing law schools and peculiar to them with problems confronting higher education generally and hence unlikely to be correctable by law schools acting on their own. (2) It similarly ignores the degree to which changes in the law and the legal profession have placed new and costly demands on legal education. (3) Tamanaha's suggestion that legal education be reduced to 2 years to cut costs puts the cost horse before the educational cart and has little to commend it.

Other reviews of Failing Law Schools:

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June 5, 2014 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (2)

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Cheating: An Insider's Report on the Use of Race in Admissions at UCLA

CheatingTim Groseclose (UCLA, Department of Political Science), Cheating: An Insider's Report on the Use of Race in Admissions at UCLA (2014):

Because of California's Proposition 209, public universities such as UCLA cannot use race as a factor in admissions. However, as this book shows, UCLA gives significant preferences to African Americans, while it discriminates against Asians. The author, a professor of political science and economics at UCLA, documents what he witnessed as a member of UCLA's faculty oversight committee for admissions.

He also describes findings from a UCLA internal report as well as statistics from a large data set that he has posted online. All show that UCLA is breaking the law. The discrimination is not simply a byproduct of class-based preferences. For instance, for one aspect of the admissions process, a rich African American's chance of admission is almost double that of a poor Asian, even when the two applicants have identical grades, SAT scores, and other factors.

June 4, 2014 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (17)

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Pete Rose: A Tax Dilemma

RoseKostya Kennedy, Pete Rose: An American Dilemma 123 n.5 (2014):

Rose liked giving things to coaches, including, in 1978, Jeeps to nine Reds coaches and trainers, a gift with a value of more than $50,000 that he wrote off on his tax return, saying they were for “services rendered.” When the deduction was denied, Rose sued the IRS, claiming that the coaches were necessary to his success. He testified in court that given his approach to the game, he in particular required coaches and trainers to work long and off hours (early morning treatments, off-day batting practice etc.) He won the case mainly because the jury, as Rose’s lawyer Robert Pitcairn put it, regarded Rose as a “unique athlete.” Rose was delighted that the deduction was restored and made a point of saying publicly that he felt coaches and trainers were too often undervalued and underpaid.

(Hat Tip: Erik Jensen.)

June 3, 2014 in Book Club, Celebrity Tax Lore, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Thomas Piketty Responds to Financial Times Criticism: 'If Anything, My Book Underestimates the Rise in Wealth Inequality'

CapitalFollowing up on my previous posts on the new book by Thomas Piketty (Paris School of Economics), Capital in the Twenty-First Century (Harvard University Press, 2014):

Thomas Piketty (Paris School of Economics), Response to FT:

This is a response to the criticisms -- which I interpret as requests for additional information -- that were published in the Financial Times on May 23 2014. ...

I welcome all criticisms and I am very happy that this book contributes to stimulate a global debate about these important issues. My problem with the FT criticisms is twofold. First, I did not find the FT criticism particularly constructive. The FT suggests that I made mistakes and errors in my computations, which is simply wrong, as I show below. The corrections proposed by the FT to my series (and with which I disagree) are for the most part relatively minor, and do not affect the long run evolutions and my overall analysis, contrarily to what the FT suggests. Next, the FT corrections that are somewhat more important are based upon methodological choices that are quite debatable (to say the least). In particular, the FT simply chooses to ignore the Saez-Zucman 2014 study, which indicates a higher rise in top wealth shares in the United States during recent decades than what I report in my book (if anything, my book underestimates the rise in wealth inequality). Regarding Britain, the FT seems to put a lot of trust in self-reported wealth survey data that notoriously underestimates wealth inequality.

May 31, 2014 in Book Club, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)