TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron
Pepperdine University School of Law

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Capital Without Borders: Wealth Managers And The One Percent

CapitalFollowing up on my previous post, Inside The Secretive World Of Tax-Avoidance Experts:  Brooke Harrington (Copenhagen Business School),  Capital Without Borders: Wealth Managers and the One Percent (Harvard University Press Sept. 2016) (review here):

How do the one percent hold on to their wealth? And how do they keep getting richer, despite financial crises and the myriad of taxes on income, capital gains, and inheritance? Capital Without Borders takes a novel approach to these questions by looking at professionals who specialize in protecting the fortunes of the world’s richest people: wealth managers. Brooke Harrington spent nearly eight years studying this little-known group—including two years training to become a wealth manager herself. She then “followed the money” to the eighteen most popular tax havens in the world, interviewing practitioners to understand how they helped their high-net-worth clients avoid taxes, creditors, and disgruntled heirs—all while staying just within the letter of the law.

Capital Without Borders reveals how wealth managers use offshore banks, shell corporations, and trusts to shield billions in private wealth not only from taxation but from all manner of legal obligations. And it shows how practitioners justify their work, despite evidence that it erodes government authority and contributes to global inequality.

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September 15, 2016 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 12, 2016

JFK & Reagan Provide Path Toward Brighter Economic Future: Bipartisan Tax Cuts

JFKWall Street Journal op-ed: Return to JFK’s ‘Rising Tide’ Model: Kennedy and Reagan Both Spurred Growth Through Bipartisan Tax Cuts. That’s Just What Is Needed Now., by Lawrence Kudlow & Brian Domitrovic (co-authors, JFK and the Reagan Revolution: A Secret History of American Prosperity” (Sept. 6, 2016)):

since 2000, U.S. economic output has inched along at a rate of 1.8% a year, an astoundingly low number almost half of the long-term average of over 3%. This is not the way America is supposed to be. The United States has regularly achieved more than 3% economic growth as a matter of course, as it has led the global industrial and technological revolutions with millions of new jobs, entrepreneurial wonders and mass prosperity in tow.

The two greatest political figures in America since World War II staked their presidencies on economic growth: John F. Kennedy in the 1960s and Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. Kennedy was the pioneer. When Reagan rallied to the cause of growth 20 years later, he did so explicitly following Kennedy’s “a rising tide lifts all boats” model. ...

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September 12, 2016 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Perdue:  Law Schools, Universities, And The Challenge Of Moving A Graveyard

Rethinking 2Wendy Collins Perdue (Dean, Richmond), Law, Universities, and the Challenge of Moving a Graveyard, 50 U. Rich. L. Rev. Online 3 (2015) (reviewing Carel Stolker, Rethinking the Law School: Education, Research, Outreach and Governance (Cambridge University Press 2015)):

The last five years have been difficult ones for American legal education. With applications to law schools declining 40% nationally, many schools are struggling to maintain quality in the face of significant budgetary pressures. But one component of the legal-education world has been robust: there is a boom market in books, articles, reports, websites, and blogs filled with criticism and even anger at the current state of legal education. There are many villains in these narratives—greedy universities that suck resources, self-absorbed faculty who are indifferent to their students, and dishonest deans willing to misrepresent their current reality—and many victims—duped college graduates and lawyers leading miserable lives of tedium, long hours, and depression.

Against this dark narrative genre, Carel Stolker’s new book, Rethinking the Law School, stands in sharp contrast. Having been both a law school dean and university president at Leiden University in The Netherlands, Stolker brings the perspective of a dean who has sought to innovate, and of a university president who has dealt with the political, academic, financial, and managerial complications of a modern university. The book offers a broad look at legal education around the world, along with a thoughtful exposition of the challenges facing law schools and law deans. Stolker is no cheerleader for the current state of legal education, but recognizing that “the nature, content and quality of legal education is a subject that flares up frequently and dies down again,” he approaches the issues without the shrillness and anger that characterize some of the current commentary. He also leavens his realism with some welcomed humor, noting, for example that “changing a university is like moving a graveyard, you get no help from the people inside.” ...

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September 6, 2016 in Book Club, Legal Education, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 15, 2016

Twelve Tables Press And Carolina Academic Press Announce Publishing Alliance

12CAPPress Release,  Twelve Tables Press and Carolina Academic Press Announce Publishing Alliance

Twelve Tables Press today announced a publishing alliance with Carolina Academic Press. The new joint venture will provide all back-office fulfillment, editorial, sales, and marketing support to enable Twelve Tables Press to focus on its vision to chronicle the individuals behind the landmark decisions, capture the craft, scholarship and often sheer will needed to change and redefine American Law, jurisprudence and society..

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August 15, 2016 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

American Absurd

American 2The bad news:  the Internet was down on my six hour New York to Los Angeles flight yesterday.  The good news:  it gave me the chance to read Colorado Law Prof Pierre Schlag's new novel (American Absurd: A Work of Fiction) and article (The Law Review Article), brought to my attention by Jeff Lipshaw of our The Legal Whiteboard:

Mr. David Madden lives in L.A. He's an ordinary man. Every day, he gets up and drives to work. Only he never gets there. Instead, he drives from here to there, from Westwood to Santa Monica, Santa Monica to Venice . . . and so on. It seems he's always just going from point A to point B. Of course, driving from point A to point B--that's pretty much what people do in L.A.

But then one day a mishap occurs, a breakdown of sorts, on Santa Monica Boulevard. Soon the media takes notice, and overnight Mr. Madden is transformed into a pioneering cultural figure as his "A-to-B thing" goes viral and becomes the defining issue of our time. Questions are asked, solutions offered, and blame assigned as therapists, academics, police, and lawyers all get involved. Safe to say, no one escapes unscathed in this caustic, irreverent, and hilarious social satire.

Jeff writes:

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August 15, 2016 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Three Views Of The Academy: Legal Education And The Legal Profession In Transition

BooksBarbara Glesner Fines (UMKC), Three Views of the Academy: Legal Education and the Legal Profession in Transition, 51 Tulsa L. Rev. 487 (2016) (reviewing James E. Moliterno, The American Legal Profession in Crisis: Resistance and Responses to Change (Oxford University Press 2013), Deborah L. Rhode, Lawyers as Leaders (Oxford University Press 2013) & Robin L. West, Teaching Law: Justice, Politics, and the Demands of Professionalism (Cambridge University Press 2013)):

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August 11, 2016 in Book Club, Legal Education, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Baker Reviews Building On Best Practices to Transform Legal Education

Best PracticesJeffrey R. Baker (Pepperdine), Book Review, 65 J. Legal Educ. 988 (2016) (reviewing Building on Best Practices: Transforming Legal Education in a Changing World (Deborah Maranville (University of Washington), Lisa Radtke Bliss (Georgia State), Carolyn Wilkes Kaas (Quinnipiac) & Antoinette Sedillo López (New Mexico), eds., 2015):

Building on Best Practices is a worthy addition to the canon of literature on reforming legal education. Before the Great Recession, without today’s pressing economic incentives, law schools made uneven strides to incorporate lessons from MacCrate, Best Practices, and Carnegie. Today, compounding economic crises and escalating accreditation requirements make reform urgent, necessary, and inevitable.

To demonstrate that law schools can still add value to careers and society, legal educators must grapple with structural changes that affect every aspect of teaching, learning and researching. Building on Best Practices provides diverse expertise and useful guidance on approaching these challenges and on improving and expanding the enterprise of legal education.

August 9, 2016 in Book Club, Legal Education, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

What Every Law Student Really Needs To Know: An Introduction To The Study Of Law

ReallyJust in time for 1Ls starting classes in a few weeks, Tracey E. George (Vanderbilt) and Suzanna Sherry (Vanderbilt) have published the second edition of their wonderful book, What Every Law Student Really Needs to Know: An Introduction to the Study of Law (Wolters Kluwer 2016).  Tracey and Suzanna have posted a 12-page introduction to the book on SSRN:

Law school is an exciting and enriching experience but also an intimidating and difficult one for students. Students and professors want students to succeed. We have written this essay and a book in order to decrease students' anxiety and increase their chances of achieving academic success. We offer here a short introduction to how a new law student can succeed, taken from the Introduction and first chapter of the book. The full book serves as a law school success guide, featuring insight into how and why law school works the way it does and the tools and techniques to fully understand first-year substantive law. In addition to teaching techniques for getting the most out of reading and out of class, the book also conveys information about the American legal system and court structure, and about cross-cutting legal concepts such as burdens of proof and standards of review.

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August 2, 2016 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Are Big Law Firms Wrecking Capitalism?

ReichThe American Lawyer: Are Big Law Firms Wrecking Capitalism?:

Robert Reich's contribution to the inequality debate [Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few (2016)] is to show how clients of large law firms use their power 
to shape the "free market" that we unthinkingly accept as a state of nature. In Reich's universe, rules define the market, and states create the rules. More precisely, elite lawyers create the rules. They also game them.

Attorneys are ever on the march in "Saving Capitalism," and usually in military formation. "Battalions of high-priced law firms" and "a squadron of high-priced legal talent" obstruct prosecution. Competition is stifled by "armies," "fleets," a "phalanx" and (where's the thesaurus?) "armies" of lawyers. Reich's table of contents reads a bit like a first-year law school transcript. The ways to rig the free market fall under the headings of Property, Monopoly, Contract, Bankruptcy and 
Enforcement.

For a reader who knows where the bodies are buried, Reich's catalog of legal games may be taken as a between-the-lines indictment of The Am Law 100. ...

As a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, Reich envisions a future where robots displace most workers (including symbolic analysts). But with wise policy, a basic minimum income will allow us to devote our lives to art or ennobling hobbies—or to a job that expresses a deep personal commitment. Reich writes acidly that he's yet to meet bankers who see their job as a calling. He'd probably say the same for the lawyers who shuffle the bankers' papers. ...

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July 31, 2016 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Alstott:  Tax And … Housing Policy

EvictedAnne Alstott (Yale), Tax and … Housing Policy:

In his new book, Evicted, Harvard sociologist Matt Desmond recounts the human cost of the frequent evictions that disrupt life in poor communities. Desmond doesn’t focus on the role of the tax code in housing policy, but his work suggests directions for further thought. ...

We know that renters are second-class citizens in federal housing policy: taking into account tax expenditures and direct spending, the feds spend about $190 billion per year to subsidize housing, but as the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities demonstrates, the subsidies are poorly matched to housing need.

The upside-down distribution of federal housing subsidies isn’t news to tax folks, of course. Still, I think it’s worth looking beyond the home mortgage interest deduction and its glaring flaws. Instead, or addition, we might consider whether the federal government can — and should — redirect subsidy funds toward rental housing need and toward the goal of housing stability in particular.

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July 26, 2016 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 25, 2016

Social Media For Academics

Social Media for AcademicsMark Carrigan (University of Warwick), Social Media for Academics (Sage 2016):

Social media is an increasingly important part of academic life that can be a fantastic medium for promoting your work, networking with colleagues and for demonstrating impact. However, alongside the opportunities it also poses challenging questions about how to engage online, and how to represent yourself professionally.

This practical book provides clear guidance on effectively and intelligently using social media for academic purposes across disciplines, from publicising your work and building networks to engaging the public with your research.  It is supported by real life examples and underpinned by principles of good practice to ensure you have the skills to make the most of this exciting medium.

You’ll find advice on:

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July 25, 2016 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 18, 2016

Tax Prof Schadenfreude

What could be better for a law student than being on the same flight as your tax professor the day after your exam? Being on the same return flight:

Plane

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July 18, 2016 in Book Club, Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Alstott:  Raising The Retirement Age, Fairly

A New DealAnne Alstott (Yale), Raising the Retirement Age, Fairly (Chapters 6 & 7 in A New Deal for Old Age: Toward a Progressive Retirement (Harvard University Press, 2016)):

A growing chorus of policy analysts is calling for an increase in the Social Security retirement age. Even staunch defenders of Social Security have begun to concede that the retirement age of 66 is too low, in light of the increasing longevity, improving health, and expanding work options of older Americans. Still, some progressives worry that the only way to protect disadvantaged workers is to leave the early and full retirement ages as they are. The result is a debate that pits intergenerational fairness against intragenerational fairness: either we shortchange the young (by paying unneeded benefits to the old) or else we shortchange the disadvantaged (by raising the retirement age to levels that are unrealistic for low-earners).

We can solve the policy deadlock by reframing the question. Policy debates tend to focus on how high the retirement age should rise. But age is, more and more, a contingent category, with shifting physical and social meaning. Instead of beginning with chronological age, we can and should start with a deeper account of the objectives of retirement policy.

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July 5, 2016 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, July 4, 2016

Tax Like It Is July 4, 1776

1776Wall Street Journal op-ed:  What Life Was Like in 1776, by Thomas Fleming (Former President, Society of American Historians; Author, What America Was Really Like in 1776 (2012)):

Americans [in 1776] had the highest per capita income in the civilized world, paid the lowest taxes—and were determined to keep it that way. ...

In the northern colonies, according to historical research, the top 10% of the population owned about 45% of the wealth. In some parts of the South, 10% owned 75% of the wealth. But unlike most other countries, America in 1776 had a thriving middle class.

Tax Policy Blog:  Independence Day: Taxes Then and Now, by John Olson:

The history of taxation in the United States is a tumultuous one. Since our country’s founding, we have witnessed marginal tax rates on income ranging from zero to 94 percent, and federal revenues taking up less than 5 percent of our economy to more than 20 percent. With presidential candidates proposing more sweeping changes of their own, it seems the future of U.S. taxation will continue to be just as diverse. But what if we were to wind the clock back on our tax code? What was taxation like on the day a group of men in Philadelphia released a document that would change the world, 240 years ago?

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July 4, 2016 in Book Club, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The End Of Accounting

EndBaruch Lev (NYU) & Feng Gu (SUNY-Buffalo), The End of Accounting (Wiley, June 27, 2016) (WSJ excerpt):

The problem with reported earnings, and financial statements in general, is that they no longer reflect the realities of businesses. Instead, they follow an arcane set of accounting rules and regulations. An alternate reality which fails to illuminate essential factors that make an enterprise rise or fall, where, for example:

  • The most important, value-creating investments in patents, brands, IT and other intangibles are considered regular expenses, like salaries or rent, without future benefits.
  • Reported earnings are a mixed bag of long-term items (indicating sustained growth) and one-time, transitory gains/losses (restructuring costs, for example), having negligible effect on corporate value. ...
  • Nontraded assets/liabilities, like privately placed bonds, which have no market values are nevertheless required to be marked-to-market in the financial reports. This, of course, is an oxymoron. ...

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June 22, 2016 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (4)

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Graetz & Greenhouse:  The Burger Court And The Rise Of The Judicial Right

Burger CourtMichael J. Graetz (Columbia) & Linda Greenhouse (New York Times), The Burger Court and the Rise of the Judicial Right (June 7, 2016).  From Columbia Law School:

Early reviews are extolling the insights of The Burger Court and the Rise of the Judicial Right, the new book by Columbia Law School Professor Michael J. Graetz and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Linda Greenhouse. Graetz—the author of seven books, an eminent scholar and teacher, and a former official in the U.S. Treasury Department—is the Columbia Alumni Professor of Tax Law. He has argued before the Supreme Court. For nearly 30 years, Greenhouse covered the Supreme Court for The New York Times

The Burger Court and the Rise of the Judicial Right, published today by Simon & Schuster, challenges the accepted portrayal of the Supreme Court from 1969 to 1986 as pragmatic and accommodating, a moderate or transitional period when “nothing much happened.” On the contrary, explain Graetz and Greenhouse, American law moved to the right with President Richard Nixon’s four appointments to the Supreme Court, including Chief Justice Warren Burger. A new conservative majority reacted to the previously liberal Court under Chief Justice Earl Warren, curbing and rolling back landmark rulings on civil rights and civil liberties, while granting a First Amendment right to “commercial speech,” which would enable businesses to invoke the Constitution in opposition to government regulation. The Burger Court and the Rise of the Judicial Right shows how the Court reached its most lasting decisions, laying a legal foundation for the conservative Rehnquist and Roberts Courts. ...

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June 9, 2016 in Book Club, Legal Education, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Sunstein:  The World According to Star Wars—Lessons On Faith, Fathers & Feminism

SunsteinCass Sunstein (Harvard), The World According to Star Wars (May 31, 2016):

There’s Santa Claus, Shakespeare, Mickey Mouse, the Bible, and then there’s Star Wars. Nothing quite compares to sitting down with a young child and hearing the sound of John Williams’s score as those beloved golden letters fill the screen. In this fun, erudite, and often moving book, Cass R. Sunstein explores the lessons of Star Wars as they relate to childhood, fathers, the Dark Side, rebellion, and redemption. As it turns out, Star Wars also has a lot to teach us about constitutional law, economics, and political uprisings.

In rich detail, Sunstein tells the story of the films’ wildly unanticipated success and explores why some things succeed while others fail. Ultimately, Sunstein argues, Star Wars is about freedom of choice and our never-ending ability to make the right decision when the chips are down. Written with buoyant prose and considerable heart, The World According to Star Wars shines a bright new light on the most beloved story of our time.

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June 5, 2016 in Book Club, Legal Education, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

WSJ:  Estate Planning Expert Natalie Choate Reaches Age 70½, Offers IRA Withdrawal Advice

Wall Street Journal Tax Report:  When the IRA Expert Reaches Her Own Withdrawal Age: Natalie Choate Offers Tips for Taking Mandatory Withdrawals From IRAs, by Laura Saunders:

ChoateThe first U.S. baby boomers are turning 70 this year. For many, another landmark will soon follow: at 70½ they begin taking mandatory withdrawals from their individual retirement accounts.

Among those turning 70½ this year is Natalie Choate, a Harvard University-trained lawyer who literally wrote the book on IRAs and estate planning [Life and Death Planning for Retirement Benefits (7th ed. 2011]. She has spoken on the subject across the country, specializing in retirement-plan law since Congress established IRAs as part of a massive overhaul in 1974.

Ms. Choate, born in 1945, will soon publish her latest book, titled “70½”, as she is now facing her own required IRA payouts. In theory, Ms. Choate should have no problem.

But Ms. Choate is finding her withdrawals more complex than she expected. “Now I have sympathy for average people facing these decisions,” she says. ...

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May 31, 2016 in Book Club, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Curve: Life At Manhattan Law School

Curve 2Jeremy Blachman (J.D. 2005, Harvard; author, Anonymous Lawyer) & Cameron Stracher (J.D. 1987, Harvard; Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz, New York), The Curve (2016):

The students at Manhattan Law School, a decrepit institution on the edge of the toxic Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn, are geographically-challenged and mad as hell – in debt up to their eyeballs and fighting over the few legal jobs left for those who are far outside the Ivy League. Our hero, Adam Wright, is a newly minted professor with high hopes and low expectations. But nothing has prepared him for a classroom of digitally distracted students, a rebellion of grade grubbers, a Law Journal staff at the helm of a school-wide scam, and a corrupt administration that runs the school as if it were a personal ATM. Adam regrets leaving his lucrative corporate law firm for the wilds of academia, until he finds an ally in the brilliant and fetching Laura Stapleton, a colleague with her own troubling secrets.

Now the two professors may just have to save legal education ... or join their students in the unemployment line … or worse.

With its colorful cast of eccentrics and law school misfits, a satirical plot that – without too much of a stretch – could be ripped from the headlines, and a proven author duo who know this world and have six previous books between them, The Curve continues Ankerwycke’s trend of publishing high quality/highly readable legal fiction with an edge.

The Curve is a hugely entertaining and deeply felt novel that satirizes the current state of higher education and reads like a cross between Dangerous Minds and The Paper Chase.

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May 26, 2016 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (2)

Hemel Reviews Taxing The Rich: A History Of Fiscal Fairness In The United States And Europe

TaxingFollowing up on last week's postDaniel Hemel (Chicago), Taxation as Compensation (reviewing   Kenneth F. Scheve (Stanford) & David Stasavage (NYU), Taxing the Rich: A History of Fiscal Fairness in the United States and Europe (Princeton University Press, 2016)):

According to Scheve and Stasavage . . . , “the story of taxing the rich has more to do with politics” than with fiscal constraints . . . . For Scheve and Stasavage, “politics” specifically means rhetoric: their answer to the “why” question focuses on the types of tax fairness arguments that advocates for redistribution have employed. Scheve and Stasavage direct their attention (and ours) to three particular tax fairness claims. The first is what they call the “equal treatment” argument: “the fairest system involves equal treatment for all” (p. 6). The second is what they describe as “the ability to pay doctrine”: each additional dollar of taxation represents less of a sacrifice for someone earning $10 million a year than for someone earning $10,000, and so a progressive tax system imposes a roughly equal burden on the rich as on the poor even while the rich pay much more in dollar terms. The third type of argument is “compensatory”: “taxing the rich more heavily than the rest serves to correct or compensate for some other inequality in government action” (p. 5). According to Scheve and Stasavage, the last type of argument is the only one that historically has justified highly progressive rate structures. ...

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May 26, 2016 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Graetz:  Essays On International Taxation

GraetzMichael J. Graetz (Columbia), Follow the Money: Essays on International Taxation (Yale May 2016) (free download (PDF, EPUB (iPad, Noble), MOBI (Kindle)), book (amazon)):

Publicity about tax avoidance techniques of multinational corporations and wealthy individuals has moved discussion of international income taxation from the backrooms of law and accounting firms to the front pages of news organizations around the world. In the words of a top Australian tax official, international tax law has now become a topic of barbeque conversations. Public anger has, in turn, brought previously arcane issues of international taxation onto the agenda of heads of government around the world.

Despite all the attention, however, issues of international income taxation are often not well understood. In this collection of essays, written over the past two decades, renowned tax expert Michael J. Graetz reveals how current international tax policy came into place nearly a century ago, critiques the inadequate principles still being used to make international tax policy, identifies and dissects the most prevalent tax avoidance techniques, and offers important suggestions for reform. This book is indispensable for anyone interested in international income taxation.

Praise for Follow the Money:

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May 25, 2016 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Murphy Reviews Piketty's Capital In The Twenty-First Century

PikettyLiam Murphy (NYU), Why Does Inequality Matter?: Reflections on the Political Morality of Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century, 68 Tax L. Rev. 613 (2015):

In the Conclusion to Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Thomas Piketty issues a call for a political and historical economics. Like Marx and the political economists before him, Piketty is interested in how markets work because he is interested in the rights and wrongs of institutional, especially legal, design. His is book is guided by a clear sense that economic inequality, especially inequality of wealth, raises serious prima facie problems of social justice. This essay is a critical investigation into the political morality underlying Capital in the Twenty-First Century that unravels and evaluates the different ways in which economic inequality may or may not matter.

For my take, see Thomas Piketty and Inequality: Legal Causes and Tax Solutions, 64 Emory L.J. Online 2073 (2015).  Other reviews of Capital in the Twenty-First Century:

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May 18, 2016 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

Are We Ready To Raise Taxes On The Rich? History Says No.

Taxing the RichWashington Post op-ed:  Are We Ready to Raise Taxes on the Rich? History Says No., by Kenneth F. Scheve (Stanford) & David Stasavage (NYU):

Economic inequality is high and rising. At the same time, many governments are struggling to balance budgets while maintaining spending for popular programs.

That’s prompted some presidential candidates to argue it’s time to raise taxes on the rich. Bernie Sanders is leading the charge and would create a new top income tax rate of 54.2 percent, up from the current 39.6 percent. Hillary Clinton would institute the so-called “Buffett rule” to require individuals with adjusted gross incomes of more than $1 million to pay an effective rate of at least 30 percent, and she’d add a new 4 percent surcharge on anyone who pulls in $5 million or more.

As White House aspirants, other politicians and voters debate whether it’s time to once again soak the rich to spread their wealth around, it’s helpful to consider what prompted past governments — ours and others — to raise their taxes.

We investigated tax debates and policies in 20 countries from 1800 to the present for our new book, Taxing the Rich: A History of Fiscal Fairness in the United States and Europe [Princeton University Press, 2016] [blogged here]. Our research shows that it is changes in beliefs about fairness — and not economic inequality or the need for revenue alone — that have driven the major variations in taxes on high incomes and wealth over the past two centuries.

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May 18, 2016 in Book Club, Political News, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, May 15, 2016

When You Are Called To Your Life's Work

Oxford 4Wall Street Journal, When You’re Called to Your Life’s Work:

Callings come in many ways, some unexpected. ... A chance encounter with an elderly homeless man led physician Lara Weinstein to her work treating marginal populations. “It was almost like a transcendental experience,” says Dr. Weinstein, a family doctor in Philadelphia.

Such events are more prevalent than one might expect. A 2006 Gallup poll of 1,004 adults, the most recent it has done on the subject, found that 33% of Americans said the following statement “applies completely” to them: “I have had a profound religious experience or awakening that changed the direction of my life.”

The experiences vary. A revelation, directive or message comes unexpectedly. A series of unlikely synchronistic events occur. Some people sense a divine presence, and others feel deeply connected to something larger than themselves, be it nature or others around them, and pursue more altruistic work.

People of all ages and faiths, agnostics and atheists, have such experiences, yet they rarely talk about them. They’re concerned others will dismiss them as delusional or won’t take them seriously. Sometimes words fall short of conveying the intensity of what they felt.

Some scientists and scholars are beginning to pay attention, says Lisa Miller, director of clinical psychology at Columbia University and editor of The Oxford Handbook of Psychology and Spirituality, published in 2012, which includes chapters written by quantum physicists and other scientists.

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May 15, 2016 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Brooks:  The Moral Foundation Of 'Grit'

GritFollowing up on Tuesday's post on Angela Duckworth (University of Pennsylvania), Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance (May 3, 2016)):  New York Times:  Putting Grit in Its Place, by David Brooks:

We all know why it exists, but the grade-point average is one of the more destructive elements in American education.

Success is about being passionately good at one or two things, but students who want to get close to that 4.0 have to be prudentially balanced about every subject. In life we want independent thinking and risk-taking, but the G.P.A. system encourages students to be deferential and risk averse, giving their teachers what they want.

Creative people are good at asking new questions, but the G.P.A. rewards those who can answer other people’s questions. The modern economy rewards those who can think in ways computers can’t, but the G.P.A. rewards people who can grind away at mental tasks they find boring. People are happiest when motivated intrinsically, but the G.P.A. is the mother of all extrinsic motivations.

The G.P.A. ethos takes spirited children and pushes them to be hard working but complaisant. The G.P.A. mentality means tremendous emphasis has now been placed on grit, the ability to trudge through long stretches of difficulty. Influenced by this culture, schools across America are busy teaching their students to be gritty and to have “character” — by which they mean skills like self-discipline and resilience that contribute to career success.

Angela Duckworth of the University of Pennsylvania is the researcher most associated with the study and popularization of grit. And yet what I like about her new book, “Grit,” is the way she is pulling us away from the narrow, joyless intonations of that word, and pointing us beyond the way many schools are now teaching it. ...

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May 12, 2016 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Grit:  The Power Of Passion And Perseverance

GritFollowing up on last week's post, Grit and Legal Education:  Wall Street Journal, The Virtue of Hard Things (reviewing Angela Duckworth (University of Pennsylvania), Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance (May 3, 2016)):

Most people would think of John Irving as a gifted wordsmith. He is the author of best-selling novels celebrated for their Dickensian plots, including “The Cider House Rules” and “The World According to Garp.” But Mr. Irving has severe dyslexia, was a C-minus English student in high school and scored 475 out of 800 on the SAT verbal test. How, then, did he have such a remarkably successful career as a writer?

Angela Duckworth argues that the answer is “grit,” which she defines as a combination of passion and perseverance in the pursuit of a long-term goal. The author, a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania, has spent the past decade studying why some people have extraordinary success and others do not. “Grit” is a fascinating tour of the psychological research on success and also tells the stories of many gritty exemplars, from New Yorker cartoon editor Bob Mankoff, who submitted some 2,000 drawings to the magazine before one was accepted, to actor Will Smith, who explains his success as follows: “The only thing that I see that is distinctly different about me is: I’m not afraid to die on a treadmill. . . . If we get on the treadmill together, there’s two things: You’re getting off first, or I’m going to die.”

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May 10, 2016 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

Law Student Says He Was Almost Expelled From BYU For Writing Book In Favor Of Gay Marriage

BYU BookFollowing up on my previous posts:

Fusion, Law Student Says He Was Almost Expelled for Writing in Favor of Gay Marriage:

In the middle of his final year at Brigham Young University’s J. Reuben Clark Law School, Brad Levin finally finished a draft of what he hoped would be a game-changing book on the university owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints: Homosexuality: A Straight BYU Student’s Perspective. In the book, Levin laid out why same-sex marriage was not, according to his research, at odds with the church’s teachings. Proud of his work, he shared a few copies with friends for some feedback.

But when the feedback came, it wasn’t the kind he had been hoping for.

“I was basically threatened with removal from the university if I went forward and took a public stance in favor of gay marriage,” Levin, 33, told Fusion, citing conversations he said he had with senior school officials. “I was told that I had to change the contents of my book to be on the right side of the church.”

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May 10, 2016 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Alaska’s Folly:  Politicians Contemplate A State Income Tax

WealthWall Street Journal op-ed:  Alaska’s Folly: Politicians Contemplate a State Income Tax, by Stephen Moore (Heritage Foundation):

The first and only state to ever abolish an existing income tax was Alaska. It happened in 1980 when the oil boom in Prudhoe Bay and the construction of the Alaska pipeline brought gushers of windfall-drilling royalties and fees into the state coffers in Juneau.

The combination of high-paying energy jobs and the lure of no income tax made Alaska an economic dynamo and a net importer of people for most of three and a half decades. It is safe to say that few were moving to Alaska for the weather.

But the crash in oil prices to as low as $30 a barrel in January (it’s now about $40) has shrunk state revenues by two-thirds and left Alaska in a financial crisis. To fill the funding gap, Gov. Bill Walker, a left-leaning independent, wants major new taxes on the already-ailing energy industry and even worse: to revive the income tax.

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May 3, 2016 in Book Club, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 28, 2016

The U.S. News Law School Rankings:  Engines Of Anxiety

EnginesWendy Nelson Espeland (Northwestern) & Michael Sauder (Iowa), Engines of Anxiety: Academic Rankings, Reputation, and Accountability (Russell Sage Foundation 2016):

Students and the public routinely consult various published college rankings to assess the quality of colleges and universities and easily compare different schools. However, many institutions have responded to the rankings in ways that benefit neither the schools nor their students. In Engines of Anxiety, sociologists Wendy Espeland and Michael Sauder delve deep into the mechanisms of law school rankings, which have become a top priority within legal education. Based on a wealth of observational data and over 200 in-depth interviews with law students, university deans, and other administrators, they show how the scramble for high rankings has affected the missions and practices of many law schools.

Engines of Anxiety tracks how rankings, such as those published annually by the U.S. News & World Report, permeate every aspect of legal education, beginning with the admissions process. The authors find that prospective law students not only rely heavily on such rankings to evaluate school quality, but also internalize rankings as expressions of their own abilities and flaws. For example, they often view rejections from “first-tier” schools as a sign of personal failure. The rankings also affect the decisions of admissions officers, who try to balance admitting diverse classes with preserving the school’s ranking, which is dependent on factors such as the median LSAT score of the entering class. Espeland and Sauder find that law schools face pressure to admit applicants with high test scores over lower-scoring candidates who possess other favorable credentials.

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April 28, 2016 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Foundation Press Publishes Election Law Stories (36th Book in the Law Stories Series)

Election LawFoundation Press has published Election Law Stories (2016), by Joshua A. Douglas (Kentucky) & Eugene D. Mazo (Rutgers):

One of the most dynamic fields in the legal academy now has its own Stories book. This title offers a rich and detailed account of the most significant cases in election law, including the landmark decisions of Reynolds v. Sims, Bush v. Gore, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, and Shelby County v. Holder. The book relies on a unique encapsulated approach to storytelling, as each of its authors surveys an important doctrinal area in the field through the telling of his or her story. The volume’s thirteen cases concern the right to vote, redistricting and gerrymandering, campaign finance, and election administration. The book is suited for courses in the law of democracy at both the graduate and undergraduate levels.

The table of contents is here.  Other titles in the Law Stories Series (for which I serve as Series Editor) are:

April 27, 2016 in Book Club, Legal Education, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Simkovic: Law School Attendance, Happiness, And Success

GuidePaula Franzese (Seton Hall), A Short and Happy Guide to Being a Law Student (2014):

A Short & Happy Guide to Being a Law Student is a must-read whenever worry or doubt creep in. In this volume you will find essential wisdom for the study of law and life. Learn from the unprecedented ten-time recipient of the Professor of the Year award how to be your best in and out of class, how to prepare for exams, how to succeed on exams, how to put your best foot forward in a job interview, how to find teachers to inspire you, what to do in classes that leave you uninspired, how to cope with stress and how to create value in everything you do.

Michael Simkovic (Seton Hall), Book Encouraging Law Students to be Happy Is Latest Target for Scambloggers:

Paula’s well-intentioned book has rather bizarrely been attacked by scambloggers as “dehumanizing”, “vain”, “untrustworthy” and “insidious.” The scambloggers are not happy people, and reacted as if burned by Paula’s sunshine. They worry that Paula’s thesis implies that “their failure must be due to their unwillingness to think happy and thankful thoughts.”

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April 23, 2016 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (27)

Friday, April 22, 2016

The Slow Professor:  Resisting Higher Education's 'Corporatizing Culture Of Speed,' Or 'Self-Indulgent Tenured Faculty Privilege'?

SlowInside Higher Ed, 'The Slow Professor' (reviewing The Slow Professor: Challenging the Culture of Speed in the Academy (University of Toronto Press, Mar. 28, 2016), by Maggie Berg (Queen’s University) & Barbara K. Seeber (Brock University)) (interview):

New book argues that professors should actively resist the "culture of speed" in academe.

In 2013, the jobs website CareerCast named university professor the No. 1 least stressful job, unleashing a torrent of criticism that only grew after Forbes picked up the ranking. Professors -- those with tenure and without -- said the study ignored the changing dynamics of the university, namely the increasingly administrative nature of academic work, the emerging student-as-customer model, unrealistic research expectations and 24-7 contact with colleagues and students via email. Non-tenure-track professors also pointed out that they in many cases lack all job security.

CareerCast evidently learned something from the controversy -- its 2016 least stressful jobs list specifies tenured professor, at No. 3 -- but old notions about what it is to be a professor die hard. And the CareerCast study is just one example. From the running errands to social and family events, someone always seems to be wondering what it’s like to have summers off and “just think” for a living.

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April 22, 2016 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (2)

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

NYU Hosts Book Discussion Today With Anne Alstott On A New Deal For Old Age

AlstottNYU Law Tax Blog, A New Deal for Old Age: Book Discussion with Anne Alstott (today at 12:30 p.m.):

Please join us for a presentation by Anne Alstott, the Jacquin D. Bierman Professor in Taxation at Yale Law School, of her recently published book, A New Deal for Old Age: Toward a Progressive Retirement (Harvard University Press, 2016). ...

As America’s haves and have-nots drift further apart, rising inequality has undermined one of the nation’s proudest social achievements: the Social Security retirement system. Unprecedented changes in longevity, marriage, and the workplace have made the experience of old age increasingly unequal. For educated Americans, the traditional retirement age of 65 now represents late middle age. These lucky ones typically do not face serious impediments to employment or health until their mid-70s or even later. By contrast, many poorly educated earners confront obstacles of early disability, limited job opportunities, and unemployment before they reach age 65.

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April 20, 2016 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Clarke Reviews The Hidden Wealth of Nations

HiddenConor Clarke (Ph.D. Candidate, Yale Law School), What Are Tax Havens and Why Are They Bad, 94 Tex. L. Rev. ___ (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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April 20, 2016 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Making Better Use Of The First And Last Five Minutes Of Class

SmallJames Lang (Professor of English and Director of Center for Teaching Excellence, Assumption College; ), Small Changes in Teaching (March 2016):

The First Five Minutes of Class:

The opening five minutes offer us a rich opportunity to capture the attention of students and prepare them for learning. They walk into our classes trailing all of the distractions of their complex lives — the many wonders of their smartphones, the arguments with roommates, the question of what to have for lunch. Their bodies may be stuck in a room with us for the required time period, but their minds may be somewhere else entirely.

It seems clear, then, that we should start class with a deliberate effort to bring students’ focus to the subject at hand. Unfortunately, based on my many observations of faculty members in action, the first five minutes of a college class often get frittered away with logistical task. ...

I offer four quick suggestions for the first few minutes of class to focus the attention of students and prepare their brains for learning.

  1. Open with a question or two. ...
  2. What did we learn last time? ...
  3. Reactivate what they learned in previous courses. ...
  4. Write it down. ... Let a writing exercise help you bring focus and engagement to the opening of every class session. Build it into your routine. Class has begun: time to write, time to think.

In writing, as in learning, openings matter. Don’t fritter them away.

The Last Five Minutes of Class:

In my experience — having observed many dozens of college courses over the past two decades — most faculty members eye the final minutes of class as an opportunity to cram in eight more points before students exit, or to say three more things that just occurred to us about the day’s material, or to call out as many reminders as possible about upcoming deadlines, next week’s exam, or tomorrow’s homework.

At the same time, we complain when students start to pack their bags before class ends. But why should we be surprised by that reaction when our class slides messily to a conclusion? We’re still trying to teach while students’ minds — and sometimes their bodies — are headed out the door. We make little or no effort to put a clear stamp on the final minutes of class, which leads to students eyeing the clock and leaving according to the dictates of the minute hand rather than the logic of the class period. ... [L]et us turn to better ways we can make better use of the final five minutes in class.

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April 12, 2016 in Book Club, Legal Education, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, April 9, 2016

WSJ:  Taxation Without Exasperation—It's Time To Adopt Michael Graetz's 'Competitive Tax Plan'

100 2Wall Street Journal, Taxation Without Exasperation:

It doesn’t have to be this way. Raising revenue for the federal government doesn’t have to intrude so much into the lives of so many Americans. Nothing dictates our current system except habit, familiarity and vested interest.

It isn’t hard to imagine a system that would be less of an administrative hassle, less perverse in its incentives and less of an impediment to economic initiative and growth. We could move back to an income tax far more like that of 1913—one that imposes a tolerable burden on upper-middle-class families and the truly rich while leaving the rest of us completely untouched. ...

[A] new tax system that can increase economic freedom, raise just as much revenue as we do today, and foster higher wage and productivity growth is in our grasp. All we need to do is get over our irrational fear of the value-added tax, or VAT, a consumption tax on goods and services that is used by almost all of the world’s rich market democracies.

What would a better tax system look like? It turns out that Mr. Cruz has roughly the right idea. He has come out in favor of a growth-friendly tax on consumption that would allow us to rely less heavily on the income tax. Rather sneakily, he’s calling his consumption tax a “business flat tax,” but everyone knows that it’s a VAT.

The problem with Mr. Cruz’s plan, and it’s a big one, is that he doesn’t use the revenue from the VAT to remove the middle class from the income-tax rolls. He uses it to abolish payroll taxes, the corporate income tax, the estate and gift taxes, and, as if that weren’t enough, to radically reduce income taxes on the rich.

There is a more realistic reform plan out there, only it’s not from one of the presidential candidates. For almost two decades, Michael J. Graetz, a professor at Columbia Law School and one of the country’s leading experts on tax law, has been urging Americans to adopt a saner, more sensible tax system, which he calls the Competitive Tax Plan. The time has come for us to listen.

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April 9, 2016 in Book Club, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Academia Isn’t So Bad For Conservative Professors

Book CoverWashington Post op-ed:  Forget What the Right Says: Academia Isn’t So Bad for Conservative Professors, by Jon A. Shields (Claremont McKenna) & Joshua M. Dunn, Sr. (Colorado), coauthors, Passing on the Right: Conservative Professors in the Progressive University (Oxford University Press, March 2016):

As two conservative professors, we agree that right-wing faculty members and ideas are not always treated fairly on college campuses. But we also know that right-wing hand-wringing about higher education is overblown. After interviewing 153 conservative professors in the social sciences and humanities, we believe that conservatives survive and even thrive in one of America’s most progressive professions.

First, conservative professors are not helpless victims — they have become quite skilled at navigating the progressive university. About a third of the professors we interviewed said they concealed their politics prior to earning tenure. Of course, being in the closet is not easy. (One particularly distressed professor told us: “It is dangerous to even think [a conservative thought] when I’m on campus, because it might come out of my mouth.”) But it’s also a temporary hardship, since nearly all the conservatives whom we interviewed planned to emerge from the ivory tower’s shadows after gaining tenure. Once tenured, conservatives are free to express their politics and publish research that reflects right-wing interests and perspectives. As one put it to us: “I don’t mind causing trouble now.”

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March 13, 2016 in Book Club, Legal Education, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (5)

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

McCaffery:  The Meaning Of Capital In The Twenty-First Century

PikettyEdward J. McCaffery (USC), The Meaning of Capital in the Twenty-First Century:

America is on a path towards a level of both wealth and income inequality unparalleled in recorded history. Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century summarizes and conveys the work of Piketty and many co-authors, over many decades, looking at the structure of income and wealth inequality across many nations and centuries. This review essay builds on Piketty’s ambitions as well as his data, in order to put forth a better solution: one that accepts and even embraces the facts of unequal ownership of capital, but changes the social meaning of those facts to avoid the social harms that follow from unfettered private party capitalism. A progressive spending tax does not simply take capital away from the wealthy. It allows the rich to keep and manage their wealth, as they have shown the ability and temperament to do so. But it curtails their ability to spend their capital on themselves and their luxurious wants. The social distinction of holding wealth can continue; the progressive spending tax makes this state of affairs work to the common utility.

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March 9, 2016 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 29, 2016

Global Tax Fairness

GlobalGlobal Tax Fairness (Thomas Pogge (Yale) & Krishen Mehta (Tax Justice Network, eds.) (Oxford University Press, 2016):

This book addresses sixteen different reform proposals that are urgently needed to correct the fault lines in the international tax system as it exists today, and which deprive both developing and developed countries of critical tax resources. It offers clear and concrete ideas on how the reforms can be achieved and why they are important for a more just and equitable global system to prevail. The key to reducing the tax gap and consequent human rights deficit in poor countries is global financial transparency. Such transparency is essential to curbing illicit financial flows that drain less developed countries of capital and tax revenues, and are an impediment to sustainable development. A major break-through for financial transparency is now within reach. The policy reforms outlined in this book not only advance tax justice but also protect human rights by curtailing illegal activity and making available more resources for development. While the reforms are realistic they require both political and an informed and engaged civil society that can put pressure on governments and policy makers to act.

U.S. Tax Prof chapter authors include:

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February 29, 2016 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Manhire Presents Why Lawyers (And Law Professors) Eat Last: A Workshop On Selfless Service Today At Texas A&M

A&MFollowing up on my previous post, Law School Leadership In A Time Of CrisisJack Manhire (Texas A&M) presents Why Lawyers Eat Last: A Workshop on Selfless Service and Lawyers as Leaders at Texas A&M today as part of its Professionalism & Leadership Program:

As a lawyer you’ll always be a leader. In this workshop we’ll examine some of the servant leadership principals outlined by Simon Sinek in his book, Why Leaders Eat Last, followed by a vibrant discussion on what lessons we can glean from this perspective of leading by putting others first…both as attorneys and human beings.

Simon Sinek, Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t (2014):

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February 18, 2016 in Book Club, Colloquia, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (2)

Monday, February 8, 2016

Call for Contributions — Feminist Judgments: Rewritten Tax Opinions

FeministThe U.S. Feminist Judgments Project seeks contributors of rewritten judicial opinions and commentary on those opinions for an edited collection entitled Feminist Judgments: Rewritten Tax Opinions. This edited volume, to be published by Cambridge University Press, is part of a collaborative project among law professors and others to rewrite, from a feminist perspective, key judicial decisions. The initial volume, Feminist Judgments: Rewritten Opinions of the United States Supreme Court, edited by Kathryn M. Stanchi, Linda L. Berger, and Bridget J. Crawford, will be published in 2016 by Cambridge University Press. (That book’s Introduction and Table of Contents are available here.) Subsequent volumes in the series will focus on different courts or different subject matters. This call is for contributions to a volume of tax decisions rewritten from a feminist perspective. 

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February 8, 2016 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Marian Reviews The Hidden Wealth Of Nations

WealthOmri Marian (UC-Irvine), Tax Havens and the Rise on Inequality (reviewing Gabriel Zucman (UC-Berkeley), Hidden Wealth of Nations: The Scourge of Tax Havens (University of Chicago Press, 2015)):

Tax literature is bitterly divided on the role that tax havens play in global economy. The negative view of tax havens paints them as parasitic, poaching revenue from other jurisdictions. The positive view suggests that tax havens facilitate low-cost capital mobility, mitigating some of the distortive effects of taxation.

To date, this extensive scholarly debate has produced very little information on tax havens themselves. This is hardly surprising, since tax havens are well known to be secrecy jurisdictions. This aspect of tax havens forces scholars who write about them to resort to financial modeling or available country data – data which is rarely on point. Zucman’s book is a unique breed in this context. In order to address the role of tax havens in global economy, Zucman actually collects and interprets the necessary data. Zucman assesses the wealth held in tax havens based on a long lasting anomaly in public finance: that in the aggregate, more liabilities than assets are recorded on national balance sheets, as if a portion of global assets simply vanishes into thin air, or as Zucman put it: “were in part held by Mars.” Zucman meticulously collected macro-economic data of multiple jurisdictions, and discovered that roughly the same amount of assets missing from national balance sheets shows up as ownership interest in investment pooling vehicles (such as mutual funds) organized in tax havens.

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

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Gash:  Divine Collision

Cover 2Jim Gash (Pepperdine), Divine Collision (2016):

Los Angeles lawyer and law professor, Jim Gash, tells the amazing true story of how, after a series of God-orchestrated events, he finds himself in the heart of Africa defending a courageous Ugandan boy languishing in prison and wrongfully accused of two separate murders. Ultimately, their unlikely friendship and unrelenting persistence reforms Uganda's criminal justice system, leaving a lasting impact on hundreds of thousands of lives and unearthing a friendship that supersedes circumstance, culture and the walls we often hide behind.

The story is as emotional as it is thrilling, and it reads like a major film.  Publishers Weekly

With great courage and conviction, Jim Gash provides an extraordinary glimpse into the power of obedience, prayer, and hope in transforming not only one life-or even one community-but an entire justice system. Divine Collision speaks to what is at the heart of our Christian calling: Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow." (Isaiah 1:17).
Gary A. Haugen, President & CEO of International Justice Mission and author of The Locust Effect

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January 24, 2016 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Hemel Reviews The Hidden Wealth Of Nations

WealthDaniel Hemel (Chicago), What’s the Matter with Luxembourg? (reviewing Gabriel Zucman (UC-Berkeley), Hidden Wealth of Nations: The Scourge of Tax Havens (University of Chicago Press, 2015)):

The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is rarely the subject of international attention, much less the target of international opprobrium. With fewer than 600,000 inhabitants, it is less populous than the City of Milwaukee. With an area of under 1,000 square miles, it is smaller than the State of Rhode Island. Conquered twice by Germany and thrice by France, it is much more accustomed to the role of victim than villain. In the words of one New York Times writer, “Luxembourg is about as cuddly as countries come.”

But in the view of economist Gabriel Zucman, Luxembourg is the enfant terrible of the European Union. “If we wish to prevent the Irish and Cypriot catastrophes from happening again,” Zucman writes near the end of his new book, “it is essential that Luxembourg go backward” (p. 91). Back to where is not clear, but what is clear is that Zucman wants Luxembourg to change its ways. And if the tiny state refuses to cooperate, Zucman says, Luxembourg should be excluded from the EU and blockaded by its neighbors.

Why does Zucman place so much blame on little Luxembourg? The answer has to do with a statistical quirk—an inconsistency in international economic data. As Zucman notes, Luxembourg’s official statistics show that shares of mutual funds domiciled in the Grand Duchy are worth $3.5 trillion. But when Zucman looks at official data from other countries on their international investment positions, he can account for only $2 trillion of Luxembourgish mutual fund shares recorded as assets. To whom does the remaining $1.5 trillion belong? We don’t know. “This,” says Zucman, “is a big problem” (p. 38).

The big problem has a name: tax evasion. And thanks to Zucman, we can now have a better sense of just how big a problem it is. In 2014, according to Zucman, liabilities on national balance sheets exceeded assets by $6.1 trillion. In other words, $6.1 trillion of the world’s wealth has gone missing. Zucman hypothesizes that this missing $6.1 trillion has been stashed in offshore bank accounts, hiding out of tax authorities’ sight. And while we can’t be sure that’s the case, Zucman persuasively argues that the $6.1 trillion figure is “a reasonable estimate of the amount of offshore portfolios owned by households all over the world” (p. 39). ...

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January 19, 2016 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Tales Of Tax Reform

TalesJ. Roger Mentz (former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury (Tax Policy)), Tales of Tax Reform (2015):

Politicians of all stripes are calling for tax reform. It sounds great: lower the tax rates, get rid of all of the “special interest” provisions, make our tax law simple, fair and an engine for economic growth. Some pundits even suggest that tax reform is “low-hanging fruit” that can easily be accomplished. But is this so? How would we know whether it will be that easy and straightforward? One way of learning about what a legislative tax reform process would entail is to explore what happened in 1986, when fundamental tax reform was enacted by Congress and signed into law by President Reagan. This book investigates how this legislative success was accomplished, and what lessons can be learned for those government officials who seek to enact tax reform today. This book is written by J. Roger Mentz, the Treasury Department Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy from December 1985 through July 1987. Mr. Mentz was the point person for the Reagan Administration on tax reform, which was the number one legislative priority for President Reagan in his second Administration. These “tales” or stories describe what really happened in the tax reform legislative process and what elements would need to come together for a successful reformation of the Internal Revenue Code today.

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January 12, 2016 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Sunstein Reviews The Hidden Wealth Of Nations And The Price We Pay

New York Review of BooksThe New York Review of Books:  Parking the Big Money, by Cass Sunstein (Harvard) (reviewing Gabriel Zucman, The Hidden Wealth of Nations (University of Chicago Press, 2015) & The Price We Pay (film directed by Harold Crooks):

In some circles, “redistribution” of wealth has become a dirty word, and recent efforts to make the tax system more progressive have run into serious political resistance, above all from Republicans. But whatever your political party, you are unlikely to approve of the illegal use of tax havens. As it turns out, a lot of wealthy people in the United States, Europe, and elsewhere have been hiding money in foreign countries—above all, Switzerland, Luxembourg, and the Virgin Islands. As a result, they have been able to avoid paying taxes in their home countries. Until recently, however, officials have not known the magnitude of that problem.

But people are paying increasing attention to it. A vivid new documentary, The Price We Pay, connects tax havens, inequality, and insufficient regulation of financial transactions. The film makes a provocative argument that a new economic elite—wealthy managers and holders of capital—is now able to operate on a global scale, outside the constraints of any legal framework. In a particularly chilling moment, it shows one of the beneficiaries of the system cheerfully announcing on camera: “I don’t feel any remorse about not paying taxes. I think it’s a marvelous way in life.”

Gabriel Zucman, who teaches at the University of California at Berkeley, has two goals in his new book, The Hidden Wealth of Nations: to specify the costs of tax havens, and to figure out how to reduce those costs. While much of his analysis is technical, he writes with moral passion, even outrage; he sees tax havens as a “scourge.” His figures are arresting. About 8 percent of the world’s wealth, or $7.6 trillion, is held in tax havens. In 2015, Switzerland alone held $2.3 trillion in foreign wealth. As a result of fraud from unreported foreign accounts, governments around the world lose about $200 billion in tax revenue each year. Most of this amount comes from the evasion of taxes on investment income, but a significant chunk comes from fraud on inheritances. In the United States, the annual tax loss is $35 billion; in Europe, it is $78 billion. In African nations, it is $14 billion.

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January 6, 2016 in Book Club, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

NYU Tax Law Review Symposium:  Thomas Piketty's Capital In The Twenty-First Century

PikettySymposium on Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century, 68 Tax L. Rev. 443-647 (2015):

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January 5, 2016 in Book Club, Conferences, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Richard Posner:  How To Fix Law School

Divergent PathsSalon:  Here’s How We Fix Law School: This Is The Real-World Training Future Lawyers Need, by Richard Posner (Judge. U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit) (from Divergent Paths: The Academy and the Judiciary (Harvard University Press, 2016)):

The first year of law school, usually so different from the student’s previous educational experiences, is bound to make a lasting, indeed a lifelong, impression.The first-year program at most law schools is demanding, though less than it used to be; current tuition levels tend to induce law schools to treat students more as customers than as plebes. I felt changed after my first year (1959–1960) as a student at the Harvard Law School—I felt that I had become more intelligent.The basic training was in learning how to extract holdings from judicial opinions in common law fields and how to apply those holdings to novel factual situations—in other words how to determine the scope and meaning of a legal doctrine.The courses were very difficult because the legal vocabulary was unfamiliar; the professors asked incessant, difficult questions, usually cold calling; the casebooks had very little explanatory material; and we were told not to waste our time reading secondary materials—and most of us were docile and so obeyed.That first year of Harvard Law School was active learning at its best.

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January 5, 2016 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (11)

Friday, January 1, 2016

LexisNexis Sells Law School Publishing Business To Carolina Academic Press

LNCAPAs a LexixNexis author, I received the following email:  Law School Publishing News from LexisNexis Matthew Bender and Carolina Academic Press (posted with permission of LexisNexis):

Dear Author,

On December 31, LexisNexis® Matthew Bender® completed the sale of our law school publishing business to Carolina Academic Press. As part of this transaction, Matthew Bender® assigned all of the associated author agreements to Carolina Academic Press, and Carolina Academic Press agreed to assume all of the Matthew Bender obligations under such agreements. Therefore, Carolina Academic Press is now the publisher of your title(s).

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January 1, 2016 in Book Club, Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Teacher, Scholar, Mother: Re-Envisioning Motherhood In The Academy

YoungTeacher, Scholar, Mother: Re-Envisioning Motherhood in the Academy (Anna M. Young (Pacific Lutheran University), ed.) (2015) (Table of Contents):

Anna Young’s edited collection Teacher, Scholar, Mother offers an important examination into the challenges mother-scholars continue to face, yet the insights provided by the authors extend beyond academia. Covering topics as varied as breastfeeding choices to mediated representations of mothers, the eighteen chapters will be of interest to anyone who is interested in promoting the possibility of a more empowered motherhood. (Sara Hayden, University of Montana)

Teacher, Scholar, Mother is a conceptually rich and accessible interdisciplinary collection that vividly captures the unique challenges women face as they balance their diverse roles at different stages in their lives as mothers and academics. Young’s collection stands out from other works on motherhood and academic life in its reflective focus on how the experience of mothering brings new life and understanding to research in the arts, humanities, and sciences. (Anne T. Demo, Pennsylvania State University)

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December 23, 2015 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)