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Editor: Paul L. Caron
Pepperdine University School of Law

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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Taxing Global Digital Commerce

TaxingArthur J. Cockfield (Queen's University Faculty of Law), Walter Hellerstein (University of Georgia School of Law), Rebecca Millar (University of Sydney Faculty of Law) & Christophe Waerzeggers (IMF), Taxing Global Digital Commerce (Wolters Kluwer Law & Business (Sept. 23, 2013)):

The term e-commerce -- the use of computer networks to facilitate transactions involving the production, distribution, sale, and delivery of goods and services in the marketplace -- has grown from merely streamlining relations between consumer and business to a much more robust phenomenon embracing efficient business processes within a firm and between firms. Inevitably, the related taxation issues have grown too.

This latest edition of the preeminent text on the taxation of electronic transactions -- formerly titled Electronic Commerce and International Taxation (1999) and Electronic Commerce and Multijurisdictional Taxation (2001) -- revises, updates, and expands the book's coverage, reorganizes its presentation, and adds several new chapters. It includes a detailed and up-to-date analysis of VAT developments regarding e-commerce, and explores the implications of e-commerce for the US state and local sales and use tax regime. It discusses developments in Europe and the United States while enlarging its focus to include the tax treatment of e-commerce in China, India, Canada, Australia, and throughout the world. Analysing the practical tax consequences of e-commerce from a multijurisdictional and multitax perspective, the book offers in-depth treatment of such topics as the following:

  • how tax rules governing cross-border e-commerce are increasingly applied to all cross-border activities;
  • how tax rules and processes developed to confront challenges posed by e-commerce provoke optimal tax policy;
  • how technology enhances tax and cross-border information exchanges;
  • how technology lowers both compliance and enforcement costs;
  • consumption tax issues raised by cloud computing; and
  • different approaches to the legal design of VAT place of taxation rules, with examples.

This edition, while building on earlier editions' analysis of the relationship between traditional tax laws and the Internet, contains a more explicit and systematic consideration of e-commerce issues as well as the ongoing policy responses to them. Tax professionals and academics everywhere will welcome the giant step it takes towards the design of multijurisdictional tax regimes that are both conceptually sound and practical in implementation.

See here for Table of Contents, Preface, and Chapter 1.

October 22, 2013 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Simkovic & McIntyre Review Tamanaha's Failing Law Schools

FailingMichael Simkovic (Seton Hall Law School) & Frank McIntyre (Rutgers Business School), Populist Outrage, Reckless Empirics: A Review of Failing Law Schools (reviewing Brian Tamanaha (Washington U.), Failing Law Schools (University of Chicago Press, 2012)):

The authors of The Economic Value of a Law Degree ... focus[] on problems with empirical claims in Failing Law Schools regarding outcomes for law graduates and also regarding law faculty compensation. The review also discusses Professor Tamanaha's proposals for reform of legal education in light of economic theory and the empirical economics literature, and finds reasons to doubt that Tamanaha's proposed reforms will have the effects he predicts.

Other reviews of Failing Law Schools:

Continue reading

October 10, 2013 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Lobel: Aggressive Talent Wars Are Good for Cities

Harvard Business Review LogoHarvard Business Review:  Aggressive Talent Wars Are Good for Cities, by Orly Lobel (San Diego):

California is often ranked among the world’s most inventive regions. But most observers miss one of the major reasons why: the absence of non-compete agreements.

Barring non-competes is one of California longstanding strong talent mobility safeguards. Unlike most other states in the United States, but more like innovative Western European countries like Germany, the Netherlands, and Sweden, California has rules about allowing job mobility within markets. The California Business Code voids all non-competes agreements between businesses and their employees, while the California Labor Code restricts the ability of corporations to require their employees to pre-assign all inventions, even if unrelated to the job, during the course of employment.

California courts have been so adamant about enforcing the state’s prohibition of non-competes, they’ve held that companies who do not hire or promote talented employees who refuse to sign a non-compete (which would be void anyway if taken to court) are liable in tort and should be subject to punitive damages. They’ve even refused to enforce non-competes that were signed in other states, announcing them contrary to state policy.

Conversely, Boston’s Route 128 tech beltway has not flourished the way Silicon Valley has, in part because of restrictive non-compete agreements. Non-competes have contributed to the more rigid, vertically integrated, and prone to insourcing ethos of Boston’s high tech region.

California’s lack of non-compete agreements is the reason Marissa Mayer could assume the position of CEO at Yahoo! immediately upon leaving its direct competitor, Google. And, as it turns out, it’s the reason California’s cities are some of the most innovative in the world – and provides a model for fueling innovation and economic growth elsewhere.

Leaks 2Orly Lobel (San Diego), Talent Wants to Be Free: Why We Should Learn to Love Leaks, Raids, and Free Riding (Yale University Press, Sept. 30, 2013):

This timely book challenges conventional business wisdom about competition, secrecy, motivation, and creativity. Orly Lobel, an internationally acclaimed expert in the law and economics of human capital, warns that a set of counterproductive mentalities are stifling innovation in many regions and companies. Lobel asks how innovators, entrepreneurs, research teams, and every one of us who experiences the occasional spark of creativity can triumph in today’s innovation ecosystems. In every industry and every market, battles to recruit, retain, train, energize, and motivate the best people are fierce. From Facebook to Google, Coca-Cola to Intel, JetBlue to Mattel, Lobel uncovers specific factors that produce winners or losers in the talent wars. Combining original behavioral experiments with sharp observations of contemporary battles over ideas, secrets, and skill, Lobel identifies motivation, relationships, and mobility as the most important ingredients for successful innovation. Yet many companies embrace a control mentality—relying more on patents, copyright, branding, espionage, and aggressive restrictions of their own talent and secrets than on creative energies that are waiting to be unleashed. Lobel presents a set of positive changes in corporate strategies, industry norms, regional policies, and national laws that will incentivize talent flow, creativity, and growth. This vital and exciting reading reveals why everyone wins when talent is set free.

October 5, 2013 in Book Club, Legal Education, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Goldman: The Economics of Law Prof Ebook Publishing

EPubForbes:  Self-Publishing A Legal Casebook: An Ebook Success Story, by Eric Goldman (Santa Clara):

I co-authored a casebook on Advertising and Marketing Law with Prof. Rebecca Tushnet of Georgetown Law. Last July, we self-published the casebook as an ebook via Scribd and Gumroad. Drawing on the past 14 months of data, this post explains why I consider the self-publishing experiment a success.  ...

We decided to self-publish the book as a DRM-free PDF. We deliberately chose a low price of $10. For comparison, the typical traditionally-published casebook run $150-$200 and some other legal casebook ebooks are trying to establish a $30 price point. ...

In the past 14 months, we’ve sold 467 copies at Scribd and 58 at Gumroad, for a total sales volume of 525 copies and net royalties of over $4,100. Assuming a few more adoptions in Spring 2014, we will substantially exceed my expectations for the first two years.

Update:   ABA Journal, Self-Published $10 Law School Casebook a Good Deal for Buyer and Seller, Co-author Says

September 18, 2013 in Book Club, Legal Education, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 16, 2013

Buchanan: The Debt Ceiling Disasters

Buchanan 2Neil H. Buchanan (George Washington), The Debt Ceiling Disasters: How the Republicans Created an Unnecessary Constitutional Crisis and How the Democrats Can Fight Back (Carolina Academic Press, 2013):

In 2011, the new Republican majority in the House of Representatives embarked on a radical and dangerous path, threatening to refuse to increase the limit on federal debt. This new Republican strategy threatened to bring about the first federal default in the history of the United States – a default that would be caused not by economic necessity, but by political opportunism.

Because no one had ever threatened to force the federal government to default on its obligations, politicians and scholars found themselves in uncharted territory. Most commentary was superficial and ad hoc, failing to take seriously the profound legal and economic questions that the Republican strategy raised. Neil H. Buchanan, an economist and a tax law scholar, emerged as the only expert analyst who systematically engaged in depth with all of the issues surrounding the debt ceiling.

This book brings together Professor Buchanan’s accessible and lively analysis of the debt ceiling disasters as they have unfolded since 2011. He also provides an overview of where we now stand. He explains why the debt ceiling forces the President to choose between nothing but illegal and unconstitutional options. He shows that the President must obey the spending and taxing laws rather than the debt ceiling law, that novel strategies such as minting platinum coins are both illegal and dangerous, and that the only way to stop the debt ceiling disasters from continuing into the future is for the President to take a constitutional stand today.

September 16, 2013 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (4)

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Mehrotra: Law, Politics, and the Rise of Progressive Taxation

AjayAjay K. Mehrotra (Indiana), Making the Modern American Fiscal State: Law, Politics, and the Rise of Progressive Taxation, 1877-1929 (Cambridge University Press, 2013):

At the turn of the twentieth century, the U.S. system of public finance underwent a dramatic transformation. The late-nineteenth-century regime of indirect, hidden, partisan, and regressive taxes was eclipsed in the early twentieth century by a direct, transparent, professionally administered, and progressive tax system. This book uncovers the contested roots and paradoxical consequences of this fundamental shift in American tax law and policy. It argues that the move toward a regime of direct and graduated taxation marked the emergence of a new fiscal polity – a new form of statecraft that was guided not simply by the functional need for greater revenue but by broader social concerns about economic justice, civic identity, bureaucratic capacity, and public power. Between the end of Reconstruction and the onset of the Great Depression, the intellectual, legal, and administrative foundations of the modern fiscal state first took shape. This book explains how and why this new fiscal polity came to be. This paper contains the penultimate drafts of the introduction and conclusion of the author’s forthcoming book, Making the Modern American Fiscal State: Law, Politics, and the Rise of Progressive Taxation, 1877-1929 (Cambridge University Press, 2013).

September 12, 2013 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

How Money Walks

MoneyWalks-CoverTravis H. Brown, How Money Walks: How $2 Trillion Moved Between the States, and Why It Matters (2013):

Between 1995 and 2010, millions of Americans moved between the states, taking with them over $2 trillion in adjusted gross incomes. Two trillion dollars is equivalent to the GDP of California, the ninth largest in the world. It s a lot of money. Some states, like Florida, saw tremendous gains ($86.4 billion), while others, like New York, experienced massive losses ($58.6 billion). People moved, and they took their working wealth with them. The question is, why? Why did Americans move so much of their income from state to state? Which states benefited and which states suffered? And why does it matter?

Using official statistics from the IRS, How Money Walks explores the hows, whys, and impact of this massive movement of American working wealth. Consider these facts. Between 1995 and 2010:

  • The nine states with no personal income taxes gained $146.2 billion in working wealth
  • The nine states with the highest personal income tax rates lost $107.4 billion
  • The 10 states with the lowest per capita state-local tax burdens gained $69.9 billion
  • The 10 states with the highest per capita state-local tax burdens lost $139 billion Money and people moved from high-tax states to low-tax ones.

And the tax that seemed to matter the most? The personal income tax. The states with no income taxes gained the greatest wealth, while the states with the highest income taxes lost the most. Why does this matter? Because the robust presence of working wealth is the leading indicator of economic health. The states that gained working wealth are growing and thriving. The states that lost working wealth lost their most precious cargo their tax base and the consequences are dire: stagnation, deterioration, an economic death spiral as they continue to raise taxes and lose people, businesses, and working wealth. The numbers don't lie.

September 11, 2013 in Book Club, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

Monday, September 9, 2013

Beyond Economic Efficiency in United States Tax Law

Book CoverBeyond Economic Efficiency in United States Tax Law (Wolters Kluwer 2013) (David A. Brennen (Dean, Kentucky), Darryll K. Jones (Associate Dean, Florida A&M) & Karen B. Brown (George Washington), eds.):

This book is inspired primarily by two events that occurred over the past couple of decades. The first was the start of the Critical Tax Theory movement. The Critical Tax Theory movement began with a series of conferences initiated in 1995. The principal organizer of the first conference was Professor Nancy Staudt. The name ‘‘critical tax theory’’ was apt because the initial participants shared a common dissatisfaction with the traditional way of viewing tax law solely along an equity-efficiency axis, with a narrow construct of equity subordinated to notions of efficiency. The initial conferees presented papers that, without entirely eschewing the equity-efficiency dichotomy, analyzed tax law from perspectives explicitly acknowledging the influence of gender, race, sexual orientation and other social constructs. Except for a three-year break, tax scholars continue today to annually organize similar Critical Tax Theory conferences throughout the United States on or around April 15 - the traditional due date for individual tax returns in the United States. Although many of the papers presented at Critical Tax Theory conferences do not explicitly involve critical legal analysis of tax law, the impetus for the series of conferences was to inject critical legal studies principles into the study of tax law. Taxing America (NYU 1997), a collection of original essays authored by many who participated in the early Critical Tax Theory conferences, was an important milestone because it was the first effort to publish, in book form, a coherent volume of contributions to the Critical Tax Theory debate.

September 9, 2013 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, August 23, 2013

Why Teach?

Why TeachNew York Times:  How Four Years Can (and Should) Transform You Mark Edmundson’s Essays Ask, ‘Why Teach?’:

When young people starting their college careers ask me what they should look for when they get to campus, I tell them: find out who the great teachers are. It doesn’t matter much what the subject is. Find a real teacher, and you may open yourself to transformation — to discovering whom you might become. This can be the great gift of a liberal education.

Yes, I sometimes get puzzled looks. Or eye rolls.

If I meet any students heading to the University of Virginia, I will tell them to seek out Mark Edmundson, an English professor and the author of a new collection of essays called Why Teach? (2014). For Mr. Edmundson, teaching is a calling, an urgent endeavor in which the lives — he says the souls — of students are at stake.

Mr. Edmundson loves to teach, but he hates the conditions under which much teaching takes place today, even at an elite university like Virginia. These conditions — the consumer mentality of students and their families, the efforts of administrators to provide a full spa experience and the rush of faculty to escape from the classroom into esoteric research — make real teachers an endangered species in the academic ecosystem. In this context, Mr. Edmundson reminds us of the power strong teachers have to make students rethink who they are and whom they might become. This is what a real education is all about....

Mr. Edmundson worries that too many professors have lost the courage of their own passions, depriving their students of the fire of inspiration. Why teach? Because great professors can “crack the shell of convention,” shining a light on a life’s different prospects. They never aim at conversion, only at what Emerson called “aversion” — bucking conformity so as to discover possibility.

Despite the forces arrayed against them, in the next few weeks, students across the country will find their way to professors like Mr. Edmundson, teachers eager to continue the fight for real education. I wouldn’t bet against them.

August 23, 2013 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Foundation Press Publishes 2013 Supplement to Federal Wealth Transfer Taxation

2013 CB & SP Supplement CoverThe late Paul McDaniel (Florida), Jim Repetti (Boston College), and I have published a 2013 Supplement  (128 pages) to our two Federal Wealth Transfer Taxation (Foundation Press, 6th ed. 2009) books: our casebook and study problems book. Faculty, students, and other interested readers are welcome to download a free copy. Here is the Preface:

This supplement is designed to update our Casebook and accompanying Study problems book: Federal Wealth Transfer Taxation: Cases and Materials (6th ed. 2009), and Federal Wealth Transfer Taxation: Study Problems (6th ed. 2010). We hereby grant permission to users of Federal Wealth Transfer Taxation to distribute copies of this supplement to students, either in hard copy or in electronic form.

This supplement is current through August 1, 2013 and incorporates The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (Pub. L. No. 112-240, 126 Stat. 2313 (2013)) and The Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 (Pub. L. No. 111-312, 124 Stat. 3296 (2010)).

We also have published a 2013 Supplement (64 pages) to our teacher's manual accompanying our Federal Wealth Transfer Taxation casebook and study problems book. The 2013 Supplement provides detailed answers to the new and revised study problems, as well as commentary on new and revised material in the casebook. Faculty who would like a free copy of the 2013 Supplement to our Teacher's Manual can email Jim or me.

August 23, 2013 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Political Economy of Transnational Tax Reform

BookThe Political Economy of Transnational Tax Reform: The Shoup Mission to Japan in Historical Context (W. Elliot Brownlee et al., eds.) (Oxford University Press, July 2013):

This volume of essays explores the history of the U.S. tax mission to Japan during the occupation following World War II. Under General MacArthur, economist Carl S. Shoup led the mission with the charge of framing a tax system for Japan designed to strengthen democracy and accelerate economic recovery. The volume examines the sources, conduct, and effects of the mission and situates the mission within the history of international financial and fiscal reform. The book begins by establishing the context of progressive social investigations of taxation, including Shoup's earlier tax missions to France and Cuba. It then goes on to explore the Japanese background to the Shoup mission and the process by which American and Japanese tax experts shaped their recommendations. The book then assesses and explains the mission's accomplishments in the context of the political economies of the United States and Japan. It concludes by analyzing the global implications of the mission, which became iconic among international tax reformers.

Contributors: W. Elliot Brownlee, Ajay Mehrotra, Frances Lynch, Michael R. Adamson, Joseph J. Thorndike, Yasunori Fukagai, Laura Hein, Mark Metzler, Eisaku Ide, Ryo Muramatsu, Monica Prasad, Takatsugu Akaishi, Satoshi Sekiguchi, Martin Daunton

August 9, 2013 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, August 8, 2013

What the Best Law Teachers Do (Harvard University Press)

BestMichael Hunter Schwartz (Dean, Arkansas-Little Rock), Gerald F. Hess (Gonzaga) & Sophie M. Sparrow (New Hampshire), What the Best Law Teachers Do (Harvard University Press, Aug. 2013):

What makes a great law professor? The first study of its kind, What the Best Law Teachers Do identifies the methods, strategies, and personal traits of professors whose students achieve exceptional learning. This pioneering book will be of interest to any instructor seeking concrete, proven techniques for helping students succeed.

What the Best Law Teachers Do introduces readers to twenty-six professors from law schools across the United States. These instructors are renowned for their exacting standards: they set expectations high, while also making course requirements—and their belief that their students can meet them—clear from the outset. They demonstrate professional behavior and tell students to approach class as they would their future professional life: by being as prepared, polished, and gracious as possible. And they prepare themselves for class in depth, even when they have taught the course for years.

The best law professors understand that the little things matter. They start class on time and stay afterward to answer questions. They learn their students’ names and respond promptly to emails. These instructors are all tough—but they are also committed, creative, and compassionate mentors. With its close-to-the-ground accounts of exceptional educators in action, What the Best Law Teachers Do offers insights into effective pedagogy that transcend the boundaries of legal education.

Table of Contents:

  1. Introduction
  2. What Is Exceptional Learning in Law School?
  3. What Personal Qualities Do the Best Law Teachers Possess?
  4. How Do the Best Law Teachers Relate to Their Students?
  5. What Do the Best Law Teachers Expect from Their Students?
  6. How Do the Best Law Teachers Prepare to Teach?
  7. How Do the Best Law Teachers Engage Students in and out of the Classroom?
  8. How Do the Best Law Teachers Provide Feedback and Assess Students?
  9. What Lasting Lessons Do Students Take Away?
  10.  Suggestions for Using This Book

This book fills an enormous vacuum in law teaching literature. Based on painstaking, methodical, individual attention to 26 carefully-selected law professors from around the country, it presents cogent, inspiring, and concrete approaches to teaching and student–teacher relationships in the voices of the teachers and their students themselves.—Jean Koh Peters, Yale University

Reading this book is like sitting down and having extensive conversations with excellent teaching mentors. It is a wonderful addition to the professional mentorship that is so important yet often so lacking in faculty development.—Alison Grey Anderson, University of California, Los Angeles

Reviews:

August 8, 2013 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Larson: A Practitioner's Guide to Tax Evidence

LarsonJoni Larson (Professor of Law and Assistant Director, Graduate Tax Program, Thomas M. Cooley Law School), A Practitioner's Guide to Tax Evidence: A Primer on the Federal Rules of Evidence as Applied by Tax Court (ABA Press, 2013):

A must-read for anyone preparing for trial before the U.S. Tax Court, this new guide from the American Bar Association Section of Taxation takes the reader step-by-step through the Federal Rules of Evidence (FRE) as applied by the Tax Court. This compilation results in an easy-to-read collection of cases to support or guide a practitioner facing an evidentiary problem before the Tax Court. The condensed and well-organized sections allow one to easily spot a particular issue or the Evidentiary Rule at hand and to find the supporting cases, and the case discussions have sufficient detail to allow the reader to know whether to go and read the full case. The brief summary of requirements of the major rules presented along with dozens of practice pointers assist the practitioner in charting the proof necessary to succeed.

Professor Larson has done a great service for all Tax Court practitioners. Her book provides a detailed passage through the FRE as applied by the Tax Court. This compilation results in an easy-to-read collection of cases to support or guide a practitioner facing an evidentiary problem in a Tax Court case. ... Having a book that focuses on the Tax Court’s rulings regarding FRE issues greatly aids the bar of that Court. Professor Larson’s condensed and well-organized sections allow one to easily spot a particular issue or the Evidentiary Rule at hand and to find the supporting cases. The case discussions have sufficient detail to allow the reader to know whether to go and read the full case. The brief summary of requirements of the major rules assists the practitioner in charting the proof necessary to succeed. Overall, those practicing in the Tax Court owe a debt of gratitude to Professor Larson for her work to assist in preparing for trialT. Keith Fogg, Professor of Law and Director of the Federal Tax Clinic, Villanova Law School.

August 1, 2013 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Handbook of Research on Environmental Taxation

HandbookHandbook of Research on Environmental Taxation (Janet E. Milne (Vermont Law School) & Mikael Skou Andersen (Aarhus University (Denmark)), eds., Edward Elgar 2013):

The Handbook of Research on Environmental Taxation captures the state of the art of research on environmental taxation. Written by 36 specialists in environmental taxation from 16 countries, it takes an interdisciplinary and international approach, focusing on issues that are universal to using taxation to achieve environmental goals.

The Handbook explores the conceptual foundations of environmental taxation, essential elements for designing environmental tax measures, factors that influence the acceptance of environmental taxation, the variety of ways to implement environmental taxes, their environmental and economic impact and, finally, the larger question of the role of taxation among other policy approaches to environmental protection. Intermixing theory with case studies, the Handbook offers readers lessons that can be applied around the world. It identifies key bodies of research for people who are already working in the field or entering the field and highlights issues that call for more research in the future.

With systematic analysis of key issues in environmental taxation, this book will appeal to researchers, governments, think tanks, NGOs, and academics in law, economics, political science and public finance, as well as students specializing in environmental taxation and other market-based instruments.

July 18, 2013 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, July 12, 2013

Shaviro: Trade, Currency, and International Cooperation

JotwellDaniel N. Shaviro (NYU), Trade, Currency, and International Cooperation (Jotwell), reviewing Benn Steil (Council on Foreign Relations), The Battle of Bretton Woods: John Maynard Keynes, Harry Dexter White, and the Making of a New World Order (Princeton University Press, 2013):

It’s always nice when you can combine outside reading for fun with something that is educational and at least indirectly professionally relevant. Benn Steil’s economic and diplomatic history of the 1944 Bretton Woods conference, which established the post-World War II global framework for currency relationships and international trade (while also creating the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank) filled this niche for me during a quiet weekend. While the subject is not literally or directly related to taxation, it touches so closely on finance, macroeconomic policy, and international trade as to occupy a common universe with overlapping concerns.

July 12, 2013 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Book Symposium on Dan Shaviro's Fixing U.S. International Taxation at Hebrew University Law School

ShaviroDaniel N. Shaviro (NYU) participated in a symposium at Hebrew University Law School last week on his forthcoming book, Fixing U.S. International Taxation (Oxford University Press, 2014).  The commentators were Steve Shay (Harvard), Yariv Brauner (Florida), and Fadi Shaheen (Rutgers-Newark).  Here is a dscription of the book:

In today’s global economy, the U.S. international tax rules, which govern how we tax cross-border investment, are increasingly important. Nearly everyone agrees that the existing rules are terrible. Their defects largely reflect the difficulty that both U.S. policymakers and analysts have experienced in choosing between two sharply etched approaches, known in the literature as (1) worldwide or residence-based taxation of U.S. taxpayers, including resident companies, and (2) source-based or territorial taxation, also known as exemption as it involves exempting U.S. companies’ foreign source income (FSI).

Unfortunately, evaluation of these and other choices in international tax policy is impeded by the fact that the underlying literature, despite a more than fifty year history of frequently intensive academic study by exceptionally talented and knowledgeable economists and lawyers, at some point went badly off the rails. Its main terms of debate reflect crucial misunderstandings of key issues and distinctions, along with a misguided focus on concepts that verge on being completely unhelpful. A major rethinking is therefore needed, taking advantage of tools that are routinely used elsewhere in the public economics and tax policy literatures.

Among the common errors in existing literature that the book addresses are the following:

Continue reading

June 27, 2013 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The American Legal Profession in Crisis: Resistance and Responses to Change

MoliternoJames E. Moliterno (Washington & Lee), The American Legal Profession in Crisis: Resistance and Responses to Change (Oxford University Press, 2013):

  • Helps the reader understand the full range of the broad history of the legal profession
  • Focuses on and explains discrete historical periods and important crisis points in American legal history
  • Makes provocative recommendations and prescriptions for reform for the entire legal profession
  • Identifies the underlying causes of the legal profession's anachronism in response to change

For more, see:

June 25, 2013 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Father's Day

Dad Is FatJim Gaffigan, Dad Is Fat (2013):

In Dad is Fat, stand-up comedian Jim Gaffigan, who’s best known for his legendary riffs on Hot Pockets, bacon, manatees, and McDonald's, expresses all the joys and horrors of life with five young children—everything from cousins ("celebrities for little kids") to toddlers’ communication skills (“they always sound like they have traveled by horseback for hours to deliver important news”), to the eating habits of four year olds (“there is no difference between a four year old eating a taco and throwing a taco on the floor”). Reminiscent of Bill Cosby’s Fatherhood, Dad is Fat is sharply observed, explosively funny, and a cry for help from a man who has realized he and his wife are outnumbered in their own home.

Reviews:

Wall Street Journal op-ed:  'Always Be a Gentleman' and Other Fatherly Advice, by Fay Vincent:

My father was definitely old school. He rarely swore, drank only an occasional beer in the high summer heat, and generally lived the solid decent life of what he called "a gentleman." From him I learned the values of decency, honor and pride.

During his lifetime I occasionally felt he was totally behind the times with his regular injunctions that I do my best and honor the family name. Yet now I realize the value of his legacy, which is summed up in the following set of commandments:

  • Always be a gentleman
  • Always keep your shoes shined
  • Save your money
  • Any week in which you do not put some money aside for a rainy day is a wasted week
  • A car is the most expensive thing you can own
  • A pension is important
  • If your boss or employer is not making money on you, you will eventually lose your job
  • It is more important to be able to write and speak well than it is to be able to succeed in athletics
  • There is no such thing as an honest politician
  • Don't get old
  • The finest legacies are often not material things

June 16, 2013 in Book Club, Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, May 6, 2013

Epstein: There Is No Crisis in Big Law or Legal Education

The Lawyer BubbleRichard A. Epstein (NYU) reviews Steven J. Harper (Former Partner, Kirkland & Ellis; Adjunct Professor, Northwestern), The Lawyer Bubble (Basic Books, 2013):

Law schools are under siege. Applications have dropped to around 54,000 annually, from around 100,000 in 2004. First-year enrollment has slipped to under 40,000 students, from 50,000 in 2010. Jobs are scarce—especially for students coming from lower-tier law schools. The average annual tuition has risen to just over $40,000 per year, from about $23,000 in 2001. Average debt on graduation has followed suit, jumping to about $125,000 in 2011, from $70,000 in 2001. No wonder many experts expect perhaps a dozen schools to close their doors within a year while other schools slash their class size, faculty and staff to stay open.

Meanwhile "Big Law"—the largest 200 or so law firms, which serve elite corporate clients in major urban areas—are under stress. Firm size has topped out, and both partnership shares and entry salaries are treading water at best. Clients now scour bills and disallow certain fees. Alternative, transaction-based fee arrangements are now more common. Competition has replaced cushy long-term relationships.

Terrible news, for sure. But is the "Profession in Crisis," as the subtitle of Stephen J. Harper's "The Lawyer Bubble" has it? The answer is no. A bubble may have burst, but not for the high end of the profession or for the thousands of attorneys working in specialized niches. ...

[T]he author ignores the more salient fact that the vast majority of big firms have avoided this grisly fate. Mr. Harper never looks into how these savvy firms survive in a tough environment. They do so, in part, by avoiding overstaffing, by cutting bad clients and by paying premium wages to young associates—many of whom, debts paid, happily bail out for less stressful work as in-house counsel for companies or in the government and nonprofit sectors. Over all, the model proves stable: With Congress passing monstrosities like Dodd-Frank and the Affordable Care Act, top-flight legal talent is needed more than ever to guide well-heeled clients through the growing regulatory maze.

Ironically, Mr. Harper misses the most significant recent dislocation in the practice of law, which is at the consumer end of the market: the rise of low-cost online law firms like LegalZoom and RocketLawyer that aid clients in drafting standard partnerships, wills, leases and the like. These firms pose a mortal threat to sole practitioners, not to Big Law.

So what does the new legal environment mean for legal education? Mr. Harper thinks that law schools fail because their faculties won't sully their hands with people with "actual experience" but seek out people "who are good at big ideas." ... Mr. Harper charges that academics like me, who are obsessed with high theory, cause "institutional inertia" in law schools and prevent the sort of evolution necessary to gear students up for the 21st-century legal market. The author's recipe for change includes large doses of hands-on instruction on business relations and practice skills. But law schools can't just be "practical training" centers, as Mr. Harper would have them; they must make sure that their students grasp the fundamentals of legal theory and doctrine. Future lawyers must also be capable of connecting law with collateral disciplines ranging from corporate finance to game theory to cognitive psychology. ...

Mr. Harper's blunderbuss condemnation of most large firms and most law schools is off-target. By and large, they have proved resilient in a competitive legal climate.

WSJ Law Blog, Pricking the "Lawyer Bubble":

Mr. Harper told Law Blog by email that “despite Professor Epstein’s contrary assertion, my book doesn’t advocate that law schools abandon the ‘fundamentals of legal theory’ in favor of practical training.” And as to the question of Mr. Epstein’s experience, Mr. Harper stands by his description, saying, “The perspective of a retained expert for a client is much different from that of anyone who has worked inside a big firm.”

May 6, 2013 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Self-Congratulation and Faculty Scholarship

Paul Campos (Colorado), Self-Congratulation and Scholarship, 60 UCLA L. Rev. Disc. 214 (2013):

Brian Tamanaha’s Failing Law Schools argues that American law schools now cost far too much to attend, given long-term trends in the employment market for people with law degrees. ... Professor Jay Sterling Silver criticizes Tamanaha’s proposals. [The Case Against Tamanaha’s Motel 6 Model of Legal Education, 60 UCLA L. Rev. Disc. 52 (2012).] Silver believes the proposals will lead to a stratified hierarchy of law schools, with only a few elite institutions continuing to provide the high-quality pedagogical experience that Silver assumes everyone now enjoys by attending law schools accredited by the ABA. Silver argues that Tamanaha’s reforms would force the vast majority of law schools to provide their students a “cut-rate education,” much to the detriment of the students’ future clients.

Professor Silver’s response contains a number of unsubstantiated assertions. This Essay addresses three of them: the current cost of legal education is an accurate reflection of the real cost of producing adequately trained lawyers, the scholarship produced by tenured law faculty has enormously beneficial effects on the operation of the legal system, and Tamanaha’s reform proposals would stratify legal education. These claims illustrate how, in my view, the crisis of the American law school is in large part a product of the tendency of law school faculty to indulge in platitudinous self-congratulation.

1. Market Failures. ... Silver does not dispute Tamanaha’s diagnosis. Instead he recommends the budgetary equivalent of a couple of aspirin and some bed rest: Law schools must “tighten their belts, reduc[e] the size of incoming classes, cut[] administrative costs, and forgo[] hiring for a while,” rather than the more aggressive treatments Failing Law Schools advocates.

2. Tenured Faculty and Legal Scholarship. ... Silver argues that tenure and low teaching loads are necessary for the production of valuable legal scholarship. ... This argument makes several assumptions: (1) That the production of valuable critiques of the legal system is a common outcome of the current publication requirements for tenure-track faculty at American law schools; (2) That seriously suboptimal amounts of these valuable critiques of the legal system would be generated by law schools if Tamanaha’s reforms were adopted; and (3) That these valuable critiques of the legal system constitute an important practical counterweight to the invidious effect self-interested actors have on the legal system. These three assumptions strike me as, respectively, implausible, incredible, and utterly fantastic. ...

3. Two Tiers of Legal Education and the Socratic Method. Silver then turns from the more general, societal benefits of law review article publication to what he calls “the needs of students and clients.” Tamanaha’s suggested reforms would result, Silver says, in a stratified system of legal education with Ritz-Carlton law schools for a favored few and a Motel 6 education for their less privileged peers. ... [I]n the 1970s teaching loads for law faculty were much higher, salaries were much lower, law reviews were publishing approximately one-sixth as many articles as they do now, and not coincidentally tuition at private law schools was a quarter of what it is today in constant dollars, while resident tuition at almost all public law schools was essentially nominal. If Silver is to be believed, this state of affairs should have produced a generation of Motel 6–quality attorneys, while allowing the wielders of power to operate without facing the various trenchant critiques that otherwise would have been appearing in the nation’s law reviews. Again, does Silver or anyone else have any evidence that either the quality of legal education or the social value of legal scholarship are substantially higher than they were a generation ago?

Conclusion. I have gone to the trouble of critiquing Silver’s attempt to reply to Tama­naha’s criticisms of contemporary legal education because Silver’s essay displays the same characteristic weakness as American legal academic culture: a tendency to make bold assertions about the value of legal scholarship and the effectiveness of law school pedagogy, while at the same time providing no support for these assertions beyond a willingness to repeat self-congratulatory platitudes about who we are and what we do. Self-congratulatory platitudes, however, do not become true merely through constant repetition.

May 5, 2013 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, April 26, 2013

Goldberg: The Death of the Income Tax

DeathDaniel S. Goldberg (Maryland), The Death of the Income Tax:  A Progressive Consumption Tax and the Path to Fiscal Reform (Oxford University Press, 2013):

The Death of the Income Tax explains how the current income tax is needlessly complex, contains perverse incentives against saving and investment, fails to use modern technology to ease compliance and collection burdens, and is subject to micromanaging and mismanaging by Congress. Daniel Goldberg proposes that the solution to the problems of the current income tax is completely replacing it with a progressive consumption tax collected electronically at the point of sale.

  • takes a fresh look at what kind of tax system a 21st century nation should have and can achieve
  • offers to change the way every American will relate to his government by eliminating the annual tax return for many of them
  • proposes a transformational change in how the U.S. will be funded by taxation, which will have far-reaching ramifications

April 26, 2013 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Brauner & Stewart: Tax, Law and Development

TldTax, Law and Development (Yariv Brauner (Florida) & Miranda Stewart (Melbourne), eds.) (Edward Elgar  2013):

Comprising original essays written by top legal scholars, this innovative volume is the most comprehensive collection to date of independent academic work exploring the relationship between tax, law and development. Contributors cover a range of tax issues, drawing on economic, political, social, and institutional perspectives to offer a comprehensive view of how tax laws affect and are affected by human economic development.

Hailing from across the globe, contributors offer expert insight into tax issues in China, Brazil, South Africa, India, and other developing countries. Following a thorough examination of current policy approaches to tax problems in developing nations, the writers conclude that new solutions are needed, and outline a number of groundbreaking ideas and proposals designed to mitigate many of the problems associated with tax law and economic development.

Professors, students, and researchers with an interest in tax, law, development, and globalization will find much to admire in this critical and groundbreaking addition to the literature.

Foreword
Stephen E. Shay

PART I: INTRODUCTION: TAX REFORM AND FINANCING FOR DEVELOPMENT
1. Introduction: Tax, Law and Development
Yariv Brauner and Miranda Stewart

PART II: TAX COMPETITION AND TRAGIC CHOICES
2. The Future of Tax Incentives for Developing Countries
Yariv Brauner

3. The Tragic Choices of Tax Policy in a Globalized Economy
Tsilly Dagan

4. Economic Development and the Role of Tax in Southern Africa: The South African Headquarter Company Structure
Tracy Gutuza

5. Tax Sparing: A Reconsideration of the Reconsideration
Luís Eduardo Schoueri

PART III: IN SEARCH OF ‘SEARCHERS’ TO FIND UNIQUE SOLUTIONS TO COMMON TAX CHALLENGES
6. Is this a Pipe? Validity of a Tax Reform for a Developing Country
Ana Paula Dourado

7. The Place of Law in the Evolution of Chinese Fiscal Federalism
Wei Cui

8. The Globalization of Tax Expenditure Reporting: Transplanting Transparency in India and the Global South
Lisa Philipps

PART IV: TAX EQUITY, REDISTRIBUTION AND AID
9. Internation Equity and Human Development
Anthony C. Infanti

10. The Role of Developed World Tax Incentives in Microfinance
Charlene D. Luke

PART V: TAX COOPERATION
11. Geographical Boundaries of Tax Jurisdiction, Exclusive Allocation of Taxing Powers in Tax Treaties and Good Tax Governance in Relations with Developing Countries
Pasquale Pistone

12. Tax Activists and the Global Movement for Development through Transparency
Allison Christians

13. Global Tax Information Networks: Legitimacy in a Global Administrative State
Miranda Stewart

April 24, 2013 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, April 22, 2013

Rapoport Reviews Tamanaha's Failing Law Schools

Failing Nancy Rapoport (Interim Dean, UNLV), Book Review, 47 Law & Social Rev. 479 (2013) (reviewing Brian Tamanaha (Washington U.), Failing Law Schools (University of Chicago Press, 2012)):

This extremely short book review discusses why Tamanaha's book is a must-read for anyone in the legal education business, even if we don't always agree with what he's saying.

Other reviews of Failing Law Schools:

April 22, 2013 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Teaching Federal Income Tax

TeachingThe Institute for Law Teaching and Learning has made available for free on its website Teaching the Law School Curriculum (Steven Friedland & Gerald F. Hess, eds.) (Carolina Academic Press, 2004):

Teaching the Law School Curriculum draws upon the wisdom of hundreds of legal educators to provide ideas, materials, and alternatives for teaching a variety of law school courses. The book offers guidance for new and experienced law teachers to plan and deliver effective courses. ...

Chapter 10: Federal Income Tax

Approach

  • Teaching Tax through Stories – Paul L. Caron
  • Goals, Philosophy, and Coverage – Nancy Shurtz
  • Statutory Interpretation and the Development of a Civic Perspective – Kim Brooks
  • Problems, Previews, Participation, and Preparation – Leandra Lederman
  • Providing a Framework for Learning – Mary L. Heen
  • Statutory Analysis, Not Arithmetic – Eric Lustig
  • TaxProf: A Virtual Tax Community – Paul L. Caron

Material

  • Tax Case Limericks – Leandra Lederman
  • Tax Stories: An In-Depth Look at Ten Leading Federal Income Tax Cases – Paul L. Caron
  • Tax Returns, Casebooks, and Slides – Eric Lustig
  • Text and Handouts – Nancy Shurtz
  • General Outline of Federal Income Tax (Handout) – Leandra Lederman
  • Computing Taxable Gain (Handout) – Leandra Lederman
  • Introduction to Deductions Problems (Handout) – Leandra Lederman

Exercises

  • Introducing Statutory Interpretation with Song Lyrics – Kim Brooks

Brief Gems

  • Role-Playing – Nancy Shurtz
  • "Boot" – Leandra Lederman
  • Cartoons – Nancy Shurtz
  • IRC 212 Area Code – Leandra Lederman
  • Getting the Class Started and the Power of Bruce – Kim Brooks
  • "How Would the IRS Ever Know . . ." – Leandra Lederman

Feedback and Evaluation

  • Designing Writing Assignments and Exams Based on Course Objectives – Kim Brooks
  • The TaxProf Exam Bank: Practical Help for the Tax Professor – Paul L. Caron
  • Research Paper, Midterm, and Final Exam – Nancy Shurtz

April 17, 2013 in Book Club, Tax, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Horwitz: What Ails the Law Schools?

Paul Horwitz Horwitz(Alabama), What Ails the Law Schools?, 111 Mich. L. Rev. 955 (2013):

Everyone engaged in legal education and not utterly asleep agrees that there is a "law school crisis." Building on recent works by Brian Tamanaha [Failing Law Schools] and Walter Olson [Schools for Misrule: Legal Academia and an Overlawyered America], this paper discusses its causes and potential solutions, using a typical dichotomy in recent populist movements -- the "one percent" versus "99 percent" meme -- as a lens. It examines arguments that the problem is economic and that it is primarily cultural; although I conclude the problem is economic and structural far more than cultural, I also argue that one of Tamanaha's primary recommendations for reform -- that law schools ought to display more experimentation and institutional pluralism, and that ABA accreditation requirements ought to make this more possible -- goes some way toward addressing both diagnoses. The paper is more descriptive than prescriptive, although I offer some thoughts on solutions. I emphasize three things: 1) law schools would be better off focusing on regional than national markets, although the US News rankings make regionally oriented approaches more difficult; 2) a serious increase in meaningful faculty governance and involvement is needed; and 3) the role and needs of the client have been surprisingly marginal in recent discussions of law school reform. The client needs to be a prominent part of reform discussions, which suggests, contrary to some extant views, that curricular reform ought to continue to be part of the discussion along with economic and structural reform.

April 14, 2013 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, April 12, 2013

Zelenak Presents Learning to Love Form 1040 Today at Florida

LoveLawrence Zelenak (Duke) presents Learning to Love Form 1040: Two Cheers for the Return-Based Mass Income Tax (University of Chicago Press, 2013) today at the University of Florida College of Law Graduate Tax Program Tax Colloquium:

In Learning to Love Form 1040, Lawrence Zelenak argues that filing taxes can strengthen fiscal citizenship by prompting taxpayers to reflect on the contract they have with their government and the value—or perceived lack of value—they receive in exchange for their money. Zelenak traces the mass income tax to its origins as a means for raising revenue during World War II. Even then, debates raged over the merits of consumption-based versus income taxation, as well as whether taxes should be withheld from payroll or paid at the time of filing. The result is the income tax system we have today—a system whose maddening complexity, intended to accommodate citizens in widely different circumstances, threatens to outweigh any civic benefits.

If sitcoms and political cartoons are any indication, public understanding of the income tax is badly in need of a corrective. Zelenak clears up some of the most common misconceptions and closes with suggestions for how the current system could be substantially simplified to better serve its civic purpose.

April 12, 2013 in Book Club, Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Foundation Press Publishes Criminal Law Stories (35th Book in the Law Stories Series)

Criminal Law StoriesFoundation Press has published Criminal Law Stories (2013), by Donna K. Coker (Miami) & Robert Weisberg (Stanford):

This collection of case stories illustrates the balance, continuity, and evolution in substantive criminal law doctrine in light of the social and political contexts in which those doctrines are perennially tested. These stories focus on the pre-litigation behavior of defendants, raising important moral and cultural questions about human nature and human society and how social norms get translated into workable legal doctrines. They survey the typical variety of doctrines addressed in a standard criminal law course, elucidating the classic themes of common law jurisprudence.

Other titles in the Law Stories Series (for which I serve as Series Editor) are:

April 10, 2013 in Book Club, Legal Education, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 4, 2013

LexisNexis Publishes Estate and Gift Taxation

Estate & Gift TaxOn behalf of LexisNexis and the Graduate Tax Series Board of Editors (Ellen Aprill (Loyola-L.A.), Joshua Blank (NYU), Michael Friel (Florida), Philip Postlewaite (Northwestern), and Scott Schumaker (U. Washington)) I am delighted to announce the publication of Estate and Gift Taxation (2d ed. 2013), by Robert Danforth (Washington & Lee) & Brant Hellwig (Washington & Lee).

The  Graduate Tax Series is the first and only series of course materials designed for use in tax LL.M. programs. Like all books in the Series, Estate and Gift Taxation was designed from the ground-up with the needs of graduate tax faculty and students in mind:

  • More focus on Internal Revenue Code and regulations, less on case law
  • Analysis of complex, practice-oriented problems of increasing sophistication
  • Teacher’s manual with solutions to problems and other guidance
  • On-line access to the comprehensive and current Code and regulations, designed to complement the book

This new edition of Estate and Gift Taxation transitions from the temporary estate and gift tax regime that prevailed for the last decade by incorporating the provisions of the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 that places the federal wealth transfer tax regime on a permanent footing. In addition to noting these fundamental legislative changes, the book devotes additional coverage to a number of recent estate and gift taxation hot topics, including:

  • Defined value transfers and the increasing acceptance of this technique by courts;
  • Portability of the unified credit from a predeceasing spouse to a surviving spouse;
  • Availability of the gift tax annual exclusion for transfers of restricted beneficial interests in closely held entities; and
  • Recent cases examining challenges to the use of family limited partnerships as estate planning vehicles.

Like the first edition of Estate and Gift Taxation published in 2011, the second edition consists of discrete chapters addressing the estate and gift tax regime in a context specific manner (i.e., jointly held property; life insurance; powers of appointment; retained-interest transfers, etc.). Each chapter contains a narrative explanation of the material, with important cases typically summarized rather than reproduced in full. Each chapter closes with a problem set requiring students to apply the relevant doctrine in the context of realistic hypothetical examples. A common technique in the problems is to present students sample trust language and then to ask students to identify tax pitfalls and to suggest drafting solutions around them. The authors provide their suggested answers to the problems in the comprehensive Teacher's Manual for the second edition, which also will be available in July.

Ten other books in the Graduate Tax Series also are available for adoption:

Other information:

April 4, 2013 in Book Club, Legal Education, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, April 1, 2013

Zelenak: Learning to Love Form 1040

LoveLawrence Zelenak (Duke), Learning to Love Form 1040: Two Cheers for the Return-Based Mass Income Tax (University of Chicago Press, 2013):

In Learning to Love Form 1040, Lawrence Zelenak argues that filing taxes can strengthen fiscal citizenship by prompting taxpayers to reflect on the contract they have with their government and the value—or perceived lack of value—they receive in exchange for their money. Zelenak traces the mass income tax to its origins as a means for raising revenue during World War II. Even then, debates raged over the merits of consumption-based versus income taxation, as well as whether taxes should be withheld from payroll or paid at the time of filing. The result is the income tax system we have today—a system whose maddening complexity, intended to accommodate citizens in widely different circumstances, threatens to outweigh any civic benefits.

If sitcoms and political cartoons are any indication, public understanding of the income tax is badly in need of a corrective. Zelenak clears up some of the most common misconceptions and closes with suggestions for how the current system could be substantially simplified to better serve its civic purpose.

April 1, 2013 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 11, 2013

In the South and West, a Tax on Being Poor

Taxing the PoorKatherine S. Newman (Dean, School of Arts & Sciences, Johns Hopkins University) & Rourke O’Brien (Ph.D Student, Princeton University), Taxing the Poor Doing Damage to the Truly Disadvantaged (University of California Press, 2011):

This book looks at the way we tax the poor in the United States, particularly in the American South, where poor families are often subject to income taxes, and where regressive sales taxes apply even to food for home consumption. Katherine S. Newman and Rourke L. O’Brien argue that these policies contribute in unrecognized ways to poverty-related problems like obesity, early mortality, the high school dropout rates, teen pregnancy, and crime. They show how, decades before California’s passage of Proposition 13, many southern states implemented legislation that makes it almost impossible to raise property or corporate taxes, a pattern now growing in the western states. Taxing the Poor demonstrates how sales taxes intended to replace the missing revenue—taxes that at first glance appear fair—actually punish the poor and exacerbate the very conditions that drove them into poverty in the first place.

New York Times: In the South and West, a Tax on Being Poor, by Katherine S. Newman (Dean, School of Arts & Sciences, Johns Hopkins University):

While the federal government has largely stuck by the principle of progressive taxation, the states have gone their own ways: tax policy is particularly regressive in the South and West, and more progressive in the Northeast and Midwest. When it comes to state and local taxation, we are not one nation under God. In 2008, the difference between a working mother in Mississippi and one in Vermont — each with two dependent children, poverty-level wages and identical spending patterns — was $2,300.

These regional disparities go back to Reconstruction, when Southern Republicans increased property taxes on defeated white landowners and former slaveholders to pay for the first public services — education, hospitals, roads — ever provided to black citizens. After Reconstruction ended in 1877, conservative Democrats — popularly labeled “the Redeemers” — rolled taxes back to their prewar levels and inserted supermajority clauses into state constitutions to ensure it could never happen again. Property taxes were frozen; income taxes were held down; corporate taxes were almost nonexistent.

Practically the only tax that could rise was the one that hurt the poor the most: the sales tax. And rise it did, throughout the Deep South in the late 19th century, then spreading into the Carolinas, Georgia, Florida and the rest of the region in the 1960s and 1970s. Even liberal politicians weren’t able to buck the tide — just ask Bill Clinton, who as governor of Arkansas urgently sought new revenue to improve his state’s ailing schools and found the sales tax was the only politically viable option.

(Hat Tip: Francine Lipman.)

March 11, 2013 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Brooks: Obama Should Embrace Graetz's 100 Million Unnecessary Returns Tax Reform Plan

100 Million Unnecessary ReturnsNew York Times op-ed:  Our Second Adolescence, by David Brooks:

My main complaint with Obama is that he promised to move us beyond these stale debates, but he’s, instead, become a participant in them....My dream Obama would take advantage of the fact that only the president can fundamentally shift the terms. ... My dream Obama would abandon the big government versus small government argument. ... My dream Obama would nurture investment in three ways.

First, he would take spending that currently goes to the affluent elderly and redirect it to the young and the struggling. ...

Second, Obama could nurture investment by starting a debate on the sort of consumption tax plan Michael Graetz describes in his book 100 Million Unnecessary Returns: Enact a value-added tax, use money from that tax to finance an income tax exemption of $100,000, cut the corporate tax rate to 15%, replace the earned-income tax credit with payroll tax relief and debit cards. This is a heavy lift politically, but it achieves Obama’s fairness goals while boosting growth.

Third, Obama could talk obsessively about family structure and social repair. ...

My dream Obama wouldn’t be just one gladiator in the zero-sum budget wars. He’d transform the sequester fight by changing the categories that undergird it. He’d possess the primary ingredient of political greatness: imagination. The great presidents, like Teddy Roosevelt, see situations differently. They ask different questions. History pivots around their terms.

February 26, 2013 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, February 22, 2013

Call for Book Reviews: Michigan Law Review

Michigan The Michigan Law Review has asked me to post its solicitation of book reviews for its 2014 Survey of Books Related to the Law:

The Michigan Law Review publishes an Annual Survey of Books dedicated to book reviews. Book reviews are not included in any other issue of the Michigan Law Review. The Survey includes reviews of books published in the current year and the past two years. So, for example, the 2014 Survey, which will be published in April 2014, will include reviews of books published in 2012, 2013, and 2014.

The 2014 Survey of Books is currently accepting submissions for the 2014 Review. The Book Review Office welcomes unsolicited submissions. Proposal guidelines can be downloaded here. Manuscripts and draft sections to accompany the proposal are appreciated. Please note that all Book Review proposals, drafts, and manuscripts must be submitted via email to michlrev.ed.br@umich.edu. Decisions for the upcoming year's issue are generally made between March and May.

Please note that we require that finished drafts be no more than 8,500 words, including footnotes.

February 22, 2013 in Book Club, Legal Education, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Townsend: Federal Tax Crimes, 2013

Tax CrimesJohn A. Townsend (Houston), Federal Tax Crimes, 2013:

This is the 2013:01 edition of the Federal Tax Crimes book that I started many years ago for use in a Tax Fraud and Money Laundering course at the University of Houston Law School. With some colleagues, we substantially revised that earlier version into a separately targeted book, titled Tax Crimes published by LexisNexis. The full title of the LexisNexis book is John Townsend, Larry Campagna, Steve Johnson and Scott Schumacher, Tax Crimes (LexisNexis Graduate Tax Series 2008).

This pdf text offered here is a self-published version of my original text that I have kept up since publication of the LexisNexis book. The LexisNexis book is more suitable for students in a classroom setting and is targeted specifically for graduate tax students. This pdf book I make available here is not suitable for students in a class setting, but is more suitable for lawyers in practice, covering far more topics and with far more detail and footnotes that may be helpful to the busy practitioner. It cannot be used fruitfully for the target audience of the LexisNexis book.

February 13, 2013 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Brauner & Stewart: Tax, Law and Development

Yariv Brauner (Florida) & Miranda Stewart (Melbourne), Introduction, in Tax, Law and Development (Edward Elgar Apr. 2013):

This book is the first collection of independent legal scholarship exploring the relationship between tax, law and the quest for human development. While acknowledging fully the challenge of tax competition in a global economy, this book rejects calls to end taxation of mobile capital even if this may be perceived to be a theoretical economic inevitability due to the difficulty of collection in an uncooperative environment. New approaches to economic development suggest we must abandon – or significantly downplay – the dominant normative approaches to tax policy, replacing these with contextualized, diverse, partial and incremental tax law reform approaches that take seriously the legal, social and political context. The innovative scholars who contribute to this book examine the role of law in national and international tax regimes across a range of topical tax issues, from the perspective of countries including China, Brazil, South Africa, India and the United States. Chapters discuss the reform of tax laws that are central to economic globalization, including tax incentives for foreign direct investment, their relationship with tax treaties and other international tax law, the problem of how to address fundamental equity concerns, and institutions of budgeting, tax law making and administration in a global era.  

February 5, 2013 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Diamond Reviews Tamanaha's Failing Law Schools

FailingStephen F. Diamond (Santa Clara), The Future of the American Law School or, How the 'Crits' Led Brian Tamanaha Astray and His Failing Law Schools Fails (reviewing Brian Tamanaha (Washington U.), Failing Law Schools (University of Chicago Press, 2012)):

Debate over the impact of the economic crisis on the future of the American law school has reached an exceptional level of intensity. Brian Tamanaha’s short book, Failing Law Schools, serves as the manifesto for those who believe the law school must undergo radical restructuring and cost cutting. While there is room for disagreement with almost all aspects of the reform argument no critic of Tamanaha has attempted to place his critique in the context of his pre-existing scholarly work on the rule of law. This review essay argues that only an appreciation for the dual nature of the modern rule of law allows us to explain what is happening to the American law school and to see clearly the limitations of the critics’ arguments. The essay suggests that diversity within a tenure based academic model is a valuable characteristic of the current model that must be preserved.

Continue reading

January 29, 2013 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Cato Hosts Book Forum Today on Tamanaha's Failing Law Schools

FailingThe Cato Institute hosts a Book Forum today at noon EST (free live webcast here) on Brian Tamanaha (Washington U.), Failing Law Schools (University of Chicago Press, 2012)):

For decades, American law schools enjoyed one of the world’s great winning streaks. Amid swelling enrollments and what seemed an insatiable demand for new lawyers, they went on a spree of expansion; even as tuitions soared, the schools basked in an air of public-interest rectitude symbolized by Yale law dean Harold Koh’s description of his institution as a “Republic of Conscience.” Then came the Great Recession—and a great reckoning. New graduates were unable to find decently paying legal jobs even as they staggered under enormous debt burdens; it became impossible to ignore long-standing complaints from the world of legal practice that the law curriculum does not train students well in much of what lawyers do; and creative efforts to reduce the cost of law school were stymied by an accreditation process that closely constrains the format of legal education. In Failing Law Schools, one of the most talked-of books in years about higher education, Brian Tamanaha of Washington University has written a devastating critique of what went wrong with the American law school and what can be done to fix it. None of the key contributors to the problem—faculty self-interest, university administrators’ myopia, cartel-like accreditation—escape unscathed in his analysis.

Also appearing with author Brian Tamanaha:

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January 16, 2013 in Book Club, Conferences, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Unleashing Market Forces in Legal Education and the Legal Profession

Failing Deborah Jones Merritt (Ohio State) & Daniel C. MerrittUnleashing Market Forces in Legal Education and the Legal Profession, 26 Geo. J. Legal Ethics ___ (2013) (reviewing Brian Tamanaha (Washington U.), Failing Law Schools (University of Chicago Press, 2012)):

Brian Tamanaha has written a thoughtful critique of legal education; we agree with his assessment and many of his prescriptions. Tamanaha, however, does not press hard enough on a fundamental flaw that plagues both legal education and law practice: Our profession operates as a tournament guild. Law schools and established practitioners maintain a lengthy, stressful, and expensive series of competitions to separate winners from losers. A small number of lawyers reap most of the guild profits; others toil for much less reward or leave the profession.

Addressing this problem requires easing the market restraints that currently shield the legal profession. Ordinary fraud and consumer protection laws adequately protect clients; tighter constraints benefit established lawyers, while harming new lawyers and consumers. In this essay, we outline law’s status as a tournament guild, then suggest how market competition could address some of the problems identified by Tamanaha and other critics of legal education.

Other reviews of Failing Law Schools:

Continue reading

December 20, 2012 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Campbell Reviews Tamanaha's Failing Law Schools

FailingRay Campbell (Peking University School of Transnational Law), Law School Disruption, 26 Geo. J. Legal Ethics ___ (2013) (reviewing Brian Tamanaha (Washington U.), Failing Law Schools (University of Chicago Press, 2012)):

Parked at the crossroads of higher education and legal practice, U.S. law schools find their once serene setting to be under siege. The legal services industry faces a period of profound structural change with uncertain consequences for the traditional practice of law. Meanwhile, higher education wades through its own Slough of Despond, with its mission unclear and elite institutions spooked by disruptive change.

Just at this moment Brian Tamanaha has entered the scene with a book entitled Failing Law Schools. Tamanaha argues persuasively that law schools are in crisis, with costs so high and employment prospects so poor that most law schools now represent a bad investment for students. He tells how things came to this sad pass, with legal educator selfishness playing the leading role. He builds a compelling case.

Tamanaha falters when he attempts to present a path forward for law schools. In proposing changes for the future, he essentially seeks a return to a more affordable past. In the context of changes sweeping higher education and legal services, such a return may not be possible or desirable. Law schools that find themselves in a challenging situation will need to address -- and perhaps embrace -- radical change in order to chart a path forward.

Tamanaha’s failure to address the future flows from fundamental limitations in his approach. First, Tamanaha errs in treating law schools as a special case. The most severe ills afflicting law schools – the orientation towards benefiting faculty rather than serving students, a system-wide elevation of research over teaching, and soaring tuitions – appear in similar degree across the academic spectrum of modern U.S. universities. Second, Tamanaha also fails to engage with some of the most disruptive (and promising) changes coming to higher education, including eventually law schools. Effective online learning threatens to split the instruction aspect of higher education from the research and networking aspects, with enormous implications for educational finances as well as institutional missions. Tamanaha’s modest “back to the future” vision fails to engage with the ways these new developments create opportunities for schools to be better than they ever have been, at lower costs.

Tamanaha also fails to take into account the changing nature of the legal services market. He focuses on training traditional lawyers for traditional legal practice. Both at the high and low ends, however, change is coming to the legal services market, impacting both the demand for traditionally schooled lawyers and potentially creating demand for new kinds of service providers. Tamanaha’s prescription fails to address this systemic change, and as a result fails to look at how law schools might be best reconfigured to serve a society with changing needs. That said, Tamanaha has helped launch a discussion that needs to be had. No professor with a conscience can comfortably watch half his or her students spend three years of their youth and significant sums on a legal education only to find no jobs that justify the investment. For those schools not in the very upper tier of American legal education, something needs to change, and Tamanaha’s book helps structure the discussion of what that change should be.  

Other reviews of Failing Law Schools:

December 6, 2012 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, November 30, 2012

Schrag Reviews Tamanaha's Failing Law Schools

FailingPhilip G. Schrag (Georgetown), Failing Law Schools -- Brian Tamanaha's Misguided Missile, 26 Geo. J. Legal Ethics ___ (2013) (reviewing Brian Tamanaha (Washington U.), Failing Law Schools (University of Chicago Press, 2012)):

Professor Brian Tamanaha’s book, Failing Law Schools, usefully collects in one place the recent critiques of law schools for reacting excessively to U.S. News rankings, manipulating admissions data, spending excessive amounts of money to hire “star” professors and to circulate glossy brochures and magazines, and in some cases, falsifying graduates’ employment statistics. But Tamanaha’s main argument is that law school has become unaffordable for most applicants, because it will saddle them with debt that they cannot afford to repay on the incomes that they can reasonably expect. His thesis is based on a misunderstanding of student loan repayment methods. In particular, he erroneously assumes that the only proper way to repay student loans is through so-called “standard” repayment (over a ten year period). Actually, many law graduates will find typically law school debt manageable if they repay federal student loans through income-based repayment plans, particularly the new Pay As You Earn (PAYE) plan. Tamanaha disparages income-based repayment, however, because he incorrectly believes that total debt, rather than the ratio of current repayment obligations to current income, primarily determines a borrower’s credit-worthiness for mortgages and other large loans.

Based on his belief that law school is no longer affordable for most students, Tamanaha offers several radical proposals, such as amending accreditation standards to permit a two-tier system, in which only a few expensive law schools would continue as research institutions offering three-year degrees, while most would offer law degrees after two years of classroom study and a year of some sort of lightly-supervised apprenticeship. He would also do away with the standard that requires schools to put most faculty members on tenure tracks and to support faculty research. This review essay questions the need for those far-reaching changes in legal education and concludes with the suggestion that Tamanaha focus his considerable critical skills on the problems not of law students, but of lower-income clients who are unable to obtain the legal services that they need.

Other reviews of Failing Law Schools:

Update #1:   Brian Tamanaha (Washington U.), What's Wrong With Income Based Repayment In Legal Academia: A Response to Schrag:

Phil Schrag has written a strong critique of my analysis, which I encourage everyone interested in these issues to read. He criticizes me for directing a "nuclear weapon" at the structure of legal education, when "small arms fire, to curb a few evident abuses, would have been a more appropriate response." The Income Based Repayment program (IBR) solves the economic problems I identify, he argues. IBR allows graduates to make monthly loan payments based upon their income (10% of income above 150% of the poverty rate), and forgives the remaining balance after 20 years. In a section called "Sarah gets rich," Schrag shows that law graduates on IBR end up doing very well. He also argues that, contrary to concerns I expressed, their credit scores (FICO) will not be adversely affected by the fact that their loan balances will remain very large (and in many instances grow), because creditors will care only about their fixed and manageable low monthly payments. ...

Schrag makes a convincing case. The recently implemented version of IBR is far more generous than the formula in place when I wrote the book (15% of income above 150% of the poverty line, forgiveness after 25%). Under the previous program, a student on IBR would end up paying more each month and a much higher amount of interest on the loan before forgiveness. ...

That said, in my view IBR does not solve the basic underlying problem of the warped economics of legal education, but actually has the potential to make it worse. I will identify just two reasons to doubt Schrag's assertion that no big changes are necessary.

First, I find it alarming, not reassuring, to be told that IBR should be viewed as the "standard payment" for contemporary law grads. ... The second reason for concern is that the operation of IBR exacerbates the situation in several ways. ... Because monthly loan payments under the program are tied to salary, not to the amount owed, IBR renders the size of the debt irrelevant. ... Besides encouraging inefficient economic decisions by students, IBR will artificially keep alive law schools that should not exist. ... Finally, the fact that IBR makes the size of the debt irrelevant means that law schools can increase tuition without worrying about adverse consequences for our students. ... Law schools benefit from and are happy about these aspects of IBR. But legal educators should also consider whether they are good for our students and for society.

Update #2:  Paul Campos (Colorado), Sarah's Problem:

There are a whole lot of problems with Schrag's claim that IBR is a good thing for law students (let alone for the public as a whole, which of course is picking up this particular bill), but I'll leave those for another day. Here I'll stick to a much simpler and more fundamental point:

Sarah's real problem is that she's not getting a job, or if she does get a job it's not paying $60,000, or if it does pay $60,000 she's not going to be able to keep it.

Law professors tend to live in a bubble where they imagine that Sarah's hypothetical career path is a typical outcome for people who don't make the big bucks in Big Law.  That's why arguments about "affordability" end up assuming a series of can openers, consisting of solid salaries, career stability, and other features that have very little to do with what the large majority of current law graduates can realistically expect to obtain in return for taking out ever-more enormous piles of taxpayer-funded debt that will never be repaid.

November 30, 2012 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, November 12, 2012

Burman & Slemrod: Taxes in America -- What Everyone Needs to Know

Taxes in AmericaLeonard E. Burman (Syracuse) & Joel B. Slemrod (Michigan), Taxes in America: What Everyone Needs to Know (Oxford University Press, Nov. 22, 2012):

Despite their passion and fury, contemporary Americans are remarkably clueless about how their tax system works. But with heated debates over taxation now roiling Congress and the nation, an understanding of our tax system is of vital importance. Taxes in America, by preeminent tax scholars Leonard E. Burman and Joel Slemrod, offers a clear, concise explanation of how our tax system works, how it affects people and businesses, and how it might be improved. Accessibly written and organized in a clear, question-and-answer format, the book describes the intricacies of the modern tax system in an easy-to-grasp manner. Burman and Slemrod begin with the basic definitions of taxes and then delve into more complicated and indeed contentious concerns. They address such questions as how to recognize Fool's Gold tax reform plans. How much more tax could the IRS collect with better enforcement? How do tax burdens vary around the world? Why do corporations pay so little tax, even though they earn trillions of dollars every year? And what kind of tax system is most conducive to economic growth?

November 12, 2012 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, November 2, 2012

Bard Reviews Tamanaha's Failing Law Schools

FailingJennifer S. Bard (Associate Dean for Faculty Research and Development, Texas Tech) reviews Brian Tamanaha (Washington U.), Failing Law Schools (University of Chicago Press, 2012):

The usual practice of The Journal of Legal Medicine is to not go out of our way to review a book we do not think would be of interest to our readers. There are more good books published than any of us can read and we see no benefit of wasting our readers’ time with those we cannot endorse. However, Failing Law Schools ... is not just a book. It is a book which represents what has become a movement to blame the legal education system for the loss of legal jobs due to the crash of the United States. It also is a book which has become closely associated with an on-going series of articles in the popular press, most notably the New York Times, alleging that legal academics have acted in bad faith to preserve a broken system which rewards us at the expense of our students. It also is a book which cannot be ignored.

Law professors, lawyers and journalists across the country have reviewed the book and fall into two camps: those who find Tamanaha’s expose “courageous,” and those who vigorously object to his claims of intentional fraud. Moreover, reaction to the book has created what can only be described as a classic double bind. Those law professors who reject his premises have been called blinded by self-interest and therefore unreliable critics. One law professor reviewing the book describes Tamanaha as “a prosecutor arraying the evidence to prove intent [who] offers up a very compelling narrative that the dispassionate observer is likely to find convincing,” and warns that those professors who do not essentially confess their complicity will “by history at least” end up “look[ing] foolish.” Maybe so. But as a relative late-comer to legal academe who first spent 10 years practicing law in both the public and private sector, I think it is important to disentangle the criticism that legal academe does not adequately prepare students to practice law, from the accusation that this failure bears any relationship whatsoever to our graduates’ ability to find legal employment that pays enough to cover their educational debts. Because one thing has nothing to do with the other.

In reading and reviewing Failing Law Schools, I do not seek to criticize Professor Tamanaha’s skill as a writer or researcher, nor to suggest that he has no basis for the conclusions he has drawn here. But in the face of what no one can deny is a very different market for legal employment, I do want to challenge his conclusion that the solution going forward is to dismantle legal education in its current form and replace it with a form of structured apprenticeship, in which students are taught what they need to know by part-time instructors who, as practicing attorneys, can better prepare them for the career that lies ahead of them.

Other reviews of Failing Law Schools:

November 2, 2012 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

LexisNexis Publishes Federal Taxation of Property Transactions

FTPT2On behalf of LexisNexis and the Graduate Tax Series Board of Editors (Ellen Aprill (Loyola-L.A.), Elliott Manning (Miami), Philip Postlewaite (Northwestern) and David Richardson (Florida)), I am delighted to announce the publication of Federal Taxation of Property Transactions (2012), by Elliott Manning (Miami) and David Cameron (Northwestern).

The Graduate Tax Series is the first and only series of course materials designed for use in tax LL.M. programs. Like all books in the Series, Federal Taxation of Property Transactions was designed from the ground-up with the needs of graduate tax faculty and students in mind:

  • More focus on Internal Revenue Code and regulations, less on case law
  • Analysis of complex, practice-oriented problems of increasing sophistication
  • Teacher’s manual with solutions to problems and other guidance
  • On-line access to the comprehensive and current Code and regulations, designed to complement the book

Two significant complications affect the taxation of property transactions. The first complication is the special treatment of capital gains and losses. The second complication arises from the time value of money. This book aims to provide students with an appreciation for these two significant complexities through the descriptive materials and problems presented.

Chapter 1 introduces the concepts of basis and realization that are fundamental to the taxation of all transactions involving property. Chapter 2 follows with the effects of taxing gains and losses from capital assets differently from ordinary gains and losses. Chapter 3 deals with liabilities, which are essentially the opposite of assets or property, so that they can be considered negative property. Chapter 4 covers the rules applicable to the capitalization of costs incurred in the creation or acquisition of property and the recovery of those costs through a variety of expensing, amortization, and depreciation provisions. Chapter 5 covers non-recognition transactions (other than transfers involving partnerships, corporations or trusts) in which gain or loss is not recognized on disposition but is deferred through the mechanism of substituted basis. Chapter 6 deals with deferred compensation issues and other special problems arising in executive compensation arrangement using employer stock or stock options that reflect the lure of capital gain treatment. Chapter 7 covers the complexities that arise from the cliché that property is a bundle of rights, particularly when the ownership and long-term right to possession is divided under a lease or similar arrangement. Finally, Chapter 8 covers a number of special provisions that affect the deductibility of losses, including the wash sales rules, limitations on related party transactions, the at-risk and passive loss rules, and losses arising in certain leasing transactions.

Ten other books in the Series also are available for adoption:

Other information:

October 24, 2012 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Tax Policy Center Hosts Program Today on Federal Budget Politics and the Next President

Red Ink BookThe Tax Policy Center hosts a program today on Red Ink and Bad Blood: What Do Federal Budget Politics Mean for the Next President and You? (webcast here):

Fiscal cliff. Taxmaggedon. Debt default. The Great Recession. Political gridlock. Sequestration. The making -- or unmaking -- of the federal budget is at play with each of these. Making sense of it all is the focus of David Wessel’s new book, Red Ink: Inside the High Stakes Politics of the Federal Budget.

  • David Wessel (Economics Editor, The Wall Street Journal)
  • Alice Rivlin (Co-chair, Bipartisan Policy Center’s Debt Reduction Task Force)
  • Joseph Minarik (Senior Vice-President, Committee for Economic Development)
  • Eugene Steuerle (Co-founder, Tax Policy Center)

October 22, 2012 in Book Club, Books, Conferences, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Morriss Reviews Tamanaha's Failing Law Schools

FailingAndrew Morriss (Alabama) reviews Brian Tamanaha (Washington U.), Failing Law Schools (University of Chicago Press, 2012), in the Library of Law and Liberty:

Tamanaha ... has written a timely, thoughtful, and provocative book about the state of legal education. ... Tamanaha also writes extraordinarily clearly and precisely, and the book is a pleasure to read. The book is ultimately disappointing, however, because, despite a bold claim that talking honestly about the economics of the legal academy will “affront” his colleagues, Tamanaha ultimately pulls his punches both in describing the problems and suggesting solutions.  ... [T]he book falls short of its ambitious goals in several ways.

First, law schools are far from unique in being captured by the professors. Faculties have captured universities and colleges generally. ... There is a considerable literature on these larger trends in academia, but Tamanaha discusses almost none of it. Are law schools different in kind or merely in the size of the economic rents their faculties are able to extract? Given how widespread the discussion is now about a “higher education bubble”, it is important to know the extent to which law schools’ failures are unique to them or merely part of an overall problem in American higher education. ...

Second, Tamanaha identifies only part of the issues surrounding the U.S. News & World Report law school rankings. He correctly identifies a number of significant impacts the rankings have had, but then falls short in his analysis. ... “The rankings made us do it” for unethical behavior is as poor an excuse by those purporting to be educating future leaders of a self-regulating profession as “all my friends are snorting coke” is for a high school student caught by his parents with a backpack full of drugs. ...

Third, Failing Law Schools fails to address the full consequences of the capture. Tamanaha does a tremendous job illustrating how law professors have come to dominate the ABA’s Section on Legal Education. In particular, he gives a clear explanation of how the accreditation process has increased law professors’ salaries and improved their working conditions. But again, Tamanaha pulls his punches. Emory law professor George Shepherd has thoroughly documented how the ABA standards are not simply a means of feathering the nests of faculties but also are responsible for creating the problem of access to justice for the poor. ...

Fourth, Tamanaha is far too circumspect on the failings of legal scholarship. Although he notes that much legal scholarship is never cited, that law schools today do not value doctrinal analysis as much as they did in the past, and that many lawyers and judges do not find legal scholarship to be particularly useful, his conclusion is merely that “We must inquire whether it is appropriate that law students are forced to pay for the production of scholarship at current levels and to the same extent at law schools across the board. Not all law schools and not all law professors must be oriented toward research.” This is a weak conclusion that avoids the hard questions. ... Tamanaha offers no metric by which deans, university boards, or the legal community can choose how much or what kinds of legal scholarship is worth the cost. This is a fundamental question for the future of the legal academy, yet all Tamanaha provides is the obvious point that some legal scholarship is not worth the cost without offering a means by which to identify that which is worthwhile and that which is not. This was a major missed opportunity to start a dialogue on a critical point.

Failing Law Schools is an important book, one that raises more questions than it answers. Its greatest virtue is the concise, clear statement of the economic problem of legal education. Its greatest flaw is its failure to probe below the surface of the problem. Prof. Tamanaha is a worthy contributor to the debate over the future of legal education; and I hope he will continue to make contributions as the debate progresses.

Other reviews of Failing Law Schools:

October 17, 2012 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Brown: Implicit Bias and the Earned Income Tax Credit

ImplicitDorothy Brown (Emory), Implicit Bias and the Earned Income Tax Credit, in Implicit Racial Bias Across the Law (Justin D. Levinson (Hawaii) & Robert J. Smith (North Carolina), eds., Cambridge University Press 2012):

In President Obama’s January 2011 State of the Union Address, he called for simplifying the tax code. There is no better place to start than with the EITC. Yet implicit bias has largely gotten in the way of EITC simplification. Implicit bias allows members of Congress to make judgments based on the high error rates and conclude fraud and not complexity. Members of Congress see lazy, welfare cheats instead of the reality of hard working taxpayers struggling to make ends meet while trying their best to calculate their proper share of EITC benefits – or trusting tax return preparers to do it for them. The EITC lifts millions of Americans and their families out of poverty every year. Implicit bias has gotten in the way of simplification for far too long. America’s working poor deserve better. The time for change is now.

October 16, 2012 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, October 12, 2012

AEI Forum: The Redistribution Recession

MulliganThe American Enterprise Institute hosts a forum today on the new book by Casey B. Mulligan (University of Chicago, Department of Economics), The Redistribution Recession (Oxford University Press, Oct. 2012):

The social safety net became more generous under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, and as a result massively altered employment patterns in the labor market.

I have explained in previous posts how public moneys have recently been used to help the unemployed, the poor and the financially distressed endure the recession, but at the same time have dramatically eroded incentives for people to maintain their own living standards by seeking, accepting and retaining jobs, as well as incentives for employers to create jobs that are attractive to workers.

My forthcoming book The Redistribution Recession [Oxford University Press, Oct. 2012] (see the introductory chapter online) quantifies those incentives and their changes over time in terms of marginal tax rates, which refer to the extra taxes paid, and subsidies forgone, as a result of working, expressed as a ratio to the income from working. ...

At this AEI event, Mulligan will present the findings of his book, followed by comments from Robert Moffitt of Johns Hopkins University and an audience question-and-answer session. AEI’s Alan Viard will moderate.

October 12, 2012 in Book Club, Conferences, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Moore: Opportunity, Taxes, and Wealth in America

Who

Stephen Moore (Member, Wall Street Journal Editorial Board), Who's the Fairest of Them All?: The Truth About Opportunity, Taxes, and Wealth in America (Encounter Books, Oct. 9, 2012):

President Obama has declared that the standard by which all policies and policy outcomes are judged is fairness. He declared in 2011 that "we've sought to ensure that every citizen can count on some basic measure of security. We do this because we recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, any one of us, at any moment, might face hard times, might face bad luck, might face a crippling illness or a layoff." And that, he says, is why we have a social safety net. He says that returning to a standard of fairness where anyone can get ahead through hard work is the "issue of our time." And perhaps it is.

This book explores what it means for our economic system and our economic results to be "fair." Does it mean that everyone has a fair shot? Does it mean that everyone gets the same amount? Does it mean the government can assert the authority to forcibly take from the successful and give to the poor? Is government supposed to be Robin Hood determining who gets what? Or should the market decide that? The surprising answer: nations with free market systems that allow people to get ahead based on their own merit and achievement are the fairest of them all.

October 10, 2012 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Reforming Legal Education: Law Schools at the Crossroads

ReformReforming Legal Education: Law Schools at the Crossroads (David M. Moss (University of Connecticut, School of Education) & Debra Moss Curtis (Nova Southeastern University Law School), eds. 2012):

In today's volatile law school environment, curriculum reform has emerged as a significant focus. It is commonly understood that law schools effectively teach certain analytical skills, but are less successful in other areas, and often scramble to adapt to evolving aims. This book demonstrates how law schools are successfully reforming their curriculum -- and lays the framework to show how all schools of law can engage in a continuous reform model that proactively shapes our profession.

It is expected that faculty and professional staff engaged in legal education will utilize this book as a primary resource to guide their respective reform efforts. Each contributed chapter presents a case study of a data-driven curriculum reform effort. The initial chapters set the conceptual context for the book, while the final chapter offers summative recommendations for considering legal education reform as derived from the earlier case study chapters. This book adds significantly to the literature in legal education, as we gain first hand insight into evidence based reform for the legal education community.

The Table of Contents and Introduction are material is available on SSRN.

October 4, 2012 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Mulligan: The Redistribution Recession -- How Redistributive Policies Have Destroyed Jobs (Especially for Less-Skilled Workers)

MulliganNew York Times:  Labor-Market Scars Left by Redistributive Public Policy, by Casey B. Mulligan (University of Chicago, Department of Economics):

The social safety net became more generous under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, and as a result massively altered employment patterns in the labor market.

I have explained in previous posts how public moneys have recently been used to help the unemployed, the poor and the financially distressed endure the recession, but at the same time have dramatically eroded incentives for people to maintain their own living standards by seeking, accepting and retaining jobs, as well as incentives for employers to create jobs that are attractive to workers.

My forthcoming book The Redistribution Recession [Oxford University Press, Oct. 2012] (see the introductory chapter online) quantifies those incentives and their changes over time in terms of marginal tax rates, which refer to the extra taxes paid, and subsidies forgone, as a result of working, expressed as a ratio to the income from working. ...

The group-specific incentive changes are measured (most recently in my paper “Recent Marginal Labor Income Tax Rate Changes by Skill and Marital Status“) on the horizontal axis in the chart below as percentage changes in the share of what people keep from what they earn, net of taxes paid and subsidies forgone. ...

NY Times Chart
The fact that marginal tax rates rose so differently for various groups means not only that redistributive public policy depressed the labor market but has also sharply, and arbitrarily, altered the composition of the work force in the direction of people who are married and more skilled.

September 26, 2012 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Johnston: Fine Print: How Big Companies Use 'Plain English' to Rob You Blind

The Fine PrintDavid Cay Johnston, The Fine Print: How Big Companies Use "Plain English" to Rob You Blind (Portfolio Hardcover, Sept. 18, 2012):

"No other modern country gives corporations the unfettered power found in America to gouge cus­tomers, shortchange workers, and erect barriers to fair play. A big reason is that so little of the news ... addresses the private, government-approved mechanisms by which price gouging is employed to redistribute income upward."

You are being systematically exploited by powerful corporations every day. These companies squeeze their trusting customers for every last cent, risk their retirement funds, and endanger their lives. And they do it all legally. How? It’s all in the fine print.

David Cay Johnston, the bestselling author of Per­fectly Legal and Free Lunch, is famous for exposing the perfidies of our biggest institutions. Now he turns his attention to the ways huge corporations hide sneaky stipulations in just about every contract, often with government permission. ...

Johnston shares solutions you can use to fight back against the hundreds of obscure fees and taxes that line the pockets of big corporations, and to help end these devious practices once and for all.

September 20, 2012 in Book Club, Tax | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)