TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron
Pepperdine University School of Law

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Kamin Presents The Under-Appreciated Potential And Misunderstood Failings Of Tax Incentives Today At Georgetown

Kamin (2015)David Kamin (NYU) presents Getting Americans to Save: The Under-Appreciated Potential and Misunderstood Failings of Tax Incentives at Georgetown today as part of its Tax Law and Public Finance Workshop Series hosted by John Brooks and Itai Grinberg:

Americans under-save, and one of the primary systems for getting them to save more—a system of tax-preferred retirement accounts—is fundamentally broken, according to much of the recent literature. This system of 401(k)s, Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs), and other tax-preferenced accounts cost the government about $80 billion per year relative to a pure income tax system,  and influential new research derides tax incentives like these as a rather expensive mistake, at least as a way of increasing saving.  However, that literature is wrong—or at least it is wrong in the way it has confidently condemned these accounts as necessarily failing to achieve the desired end of increasing saving. Tax incentives have other serious shortcomings, as this article explains, but they can in fact increase saving.

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March 15, 2016 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 14, 2016

Osofsky Presents Simplexity Today At UC-Irvine

Osofsky (2016)Leigh Osofsky (Miami) presents Simplexity (with Joshua Blank (NYU)) at UC-Irvine today as part of its Tax Law and Policy Colloquium Series hosted by Omri Marian:

In recent years, federal government agencies have increasingly attempted to use plain language in written communications with the public. The Plain Writing Act of 2010, for instance, requires agencies to incorporate “clear and simple” explanations of rules and regulations into their official publications. In the tax context, as part of its “customer service” mission, the Internal Revenue Service bears a “duty to explain” the tax law to hundreds of millions of taxpayers who file tax returns each year. Proponents of the plain language movement have heralded this form of communication as leading to simplicity in tax compliance, more equitable access to federal programs and increased open government.

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March 14, 2016 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Gutman Delivers Lecture On Why A VAT Is The Path To Real Business Tax Reform Today At Temple

GutmanHarry L. Gutman delivers the 2016 Fogel Lecture on Why a VAT Is the Path to Real Business Tax Reform at Temple today:

Legislators face significant challenges in enacting meaningful business tax reform. For at least the last five years the multi-national business community has urged reform; prominent scholars have produced serious policy analyses; and politicians have talked endlessly about the need to reform business taxation. Yet nothing has occurred and the likelihood is that nothing significant will occur this year-- except for more rhetoric. Mr. Gutman will offer his thoughts on what has happened and why, and make the case for a national consumption tax, in the form of a value added tax (VAT), as the best way to fund needed changes to a system of business income taxation that is utterly broken.

March 14, 2016 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Mason Presents Citizenship Taxation Today At Duke

Mason (2015)Ruth Mason (Virginia) presents Citizenship Taxation, 88 S. Cal. L. Rev. ___ (2015), at Duke today as part of its Tax Policy Workshop Series hosted by Lawrence Zelenak:

The United States is the only country that taxes its citizens’ worldwide income, even when those citizens live indefinitely abroad. This Article critically evaluates the traditional equity, efficiency, and administrability arguments for taxing nonresident citizens. It also raises new arguments against citizenship taxation, including that it puts the United States at a disadvantage when competing with other countries for highly skilled migrants. 

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March 10, 2016 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Davis Presents The Role Of Tax Law In Constructing Citizenship Today At Northwestern

DavisTessa R. Davis (South Carolina) presents Of Tax Crimes and "Bad Citizens": The Role of Tax Law in Constructing Citizenship at Northwestern today as part of its Advanced Topics in Taxation  Workshop Series hosted by Herbert Beller, Charlotte CraneDavid Cameron, Philip Postlewaite, Jeffrey Sheffield, and Robert Wootton:

Scholarship on the role citizenship should play in taxation frequently focuses on the appropriate regimes of international and domestic tax governing citizens and noncitizens, addressing whether residence or citizenship-based taxation is more equitable and administrable. These questions, while important, only partially address the connections between citizenship and taxation. The recent Supreme Court decision in Kawashima v. Holder makes evident the breadth of this gap in the literature.

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March 10, 2016 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Bank Presents Executive Pay: What Worked? Today At Colorado

Bank (2016)Steven Bank (UCLA) presents Executive Pay: What Worked? (with Brian R. Cheffins (Cambridge) & Harwell Wells (Temple)) at Colorado today as part of its Tax Policy Colloquium Series hosted by David Hasen and Sloan Speck:

CEO pay is a controversial issue in America but there was a time, often overlooked today, when chief executives were not paid nearly as much as they are now. From 1940 to the mid-1970s executive pay was modest by today’s standards even though U.S. business was generally thriving. What worked to keep executive pay in check? Economist Thomas Piketty and others credit high marginal income tax rates, leading to calls for a return to a similar tax regime. This paper casts doubt on the impact tax had and also shows that neither the configuration of boards nor shareholder activism played a significant role in constraining executive pay.

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March 10, 2016 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Manhire Presents The Impact Of Unconscious Bias On Campus Climate Today At Texas A&M

ManhireJack Manhire (Texas A&M) presents The Impact of Unconscious Bias on Campus Climate at Texas A&M today as part of its Campus Climate Conference:

Unconscious bias is not necessarily a “bad thing.” Rather, it is a human cognitive reality that is indispensable for navigating our everyday lives. But unconscious bias can be very dangerous when it comes to people decisions in any organization, including institutions of higher education. This presentation clarifies what unconscious bias is cognitively, explains how it can manifest itself in a campus environment, and gives proven strategies to mitigate the negative effects of bias both structurally and in our personal interactions.

March 10, 2016 in Colloquia, Legal Education, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Seto Presents Preference-Shifting And The Nonfalsifiability Of Optimal Tax Theory Today At NYU

Seto (2014)Theodore Seto (Loyola-L.A.) presents Preference-Shifting and the Nonfalsifiability of Optimal Tax Theory at NYU today as part of its Tax Policy Colloquium Series hosted by Daniel Shaviro and Chris Sanchirico:

Optimal tax theory is based on a core factual assumption – that preferences reflect welfare. In practice, this assumption is neither tested nor questioned. Science requires falsifiability – of both theories and their factual predicates. That the core factual assumption upon which optimal tax theory is based is neither tested nor questioned is therefore problematic.

Advertising offers a useful context in which to think about the extent to which preferences do or do not reflect welfare. Some advertising conveys information. In the language of market theory, it remedies informational failures. To the extent it does so, market theory would not characterize it as changing preferences; market theory would rather characterize it as allowing pre-existing preferences to be satisfied more efficiently. Not all advertising, however, achieves its goals by conveying information.

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March 8, 2016 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 7, 2016

Aprill Presents The Section 527 Obstacle to Meaningful Section 501(c)(4) Regulation Today At Pepperdine

AprillEllen P. Aprill (Loyola-L.A.) presents The Section 527 Obstacle to Meaningful Section 501(c)(4) Regulation, 13 Pitt. Tax Rev. 43 (2015), at Pepperdine today as part of our Tax Policy Workshop Series funded in part by a generous gift from Scott Racine:

As is well known, on May 10, 2013, at a session of the American Bar Association Tax Section meeting in Washington, D.C., Lois Lerner, at the time the director of the Exempt Organization Division of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS or Service), apologized for IRS mishandling of applications by Tea Party groups for exemption as social welfare groups under section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code. A few days later, the Department of the Treasury (Treasury) Inspector General released a report (TIGTA Report) concluding that the “IRS used inappropriate criteria that identified for review Tea Party and other organizations applying for tax-exempt status based upon their names or policy positions instead of indications of potential political campaign intervention.”

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March 7, 2016 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Fleischer Presents Using An Accessions Tax To Combat Dynastic Wealth Transfers Today At UCLA

Perry Fleischer (2016)Miranda Perry Fleischer (San Diego) presents Divide and Conquer: Using an Accessions Tax to Combat Dynastic Wealth Transfers, 57 B.C. L. Rev. ___ (2016), at UCLA today as part of its Tax Policy and Public Finance Colloquium Series hosted by Jason Oh and Eric Zolt:

The current estate tax raises little revenue, yet is ill designed to further the social goals used to justify it. This Article takes one frequently mentioned goal — minimizing dynastic wealth transfers — and explores what insights focusing on that objective yields for the design of the transfer tax system. It starts from the premise that what renders dynastic wealth transfers problematic is that such transfers can bestow upon the recipient unearned political and economic power, which contravenes the democratic ideal that power should be earned, not inherit-ed. Under this view, the tax system should be concerned with neither the build-up of wealth per se nor transfers of wealth that are not large enough to bestow power upon the recipient. Instead, the tax system should be concerned only with transfers of wealth large enough to confer economic and political power on the recipient. The structure that best reflects this concern is a progressive cumulative accessions tax that focuses on the recipient, instead of an estate tax that focuses on the transferor. Each recipient should have an extremely high exemption amount, given that receiving a few hundred thousand or couple million dollars does not give one power. Lastly, there should be no generation-skipping penalty, because what matters is how many individuals have the ability to use the power accompanying the wealth.

Not So Fast: The Hidden Difficulties of Taxing Wealth:

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March 3, 2016 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Avi-Yonah Presents Evaluating BEPS Today At Duke

Avi-YonahReuven Avi-Yonah (Michigan) presents Evaluating BEPS (with Haiyan Xu (S.J.D. 2016, Michigan)) at Duke today as part of its Tax Policy Workshop Series hosted by Lawrence Zelenak:

Following the financial crisis and ensuing austerity, politicians discovered the problem of tax avoidance. In response, the OECD and G20 launched the Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) project in 2013, and this has in October, 2015 culminated with the release of a series of action steps that the OECD and G20 countries have undertaken to adopt. OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria has stated that "Base erosion and profit shifting affects all countries, not only economically, but also as a matter of trust. BEPS is depriving countries of precious resources to jump-start growth, tackle the effects of the global economic crisis and create more and better opportunities for all. But beyond this, BEPS has been also eroding the trust of citizens in the fairness of tax systems worldwide. The measures we are presenting today represent the most fundamental changes to international tax rules in almost a century: they will put an end to double non-taxation, facilitate a better alignment of taxation with economic activity and value creation, and when fully implemented, these measures will render BEPS-inspired tax planning structures ineffective".

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March 3, 2016 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Lodico Presents State Approaches to Incentivizing Conservation Easements Today At Colorado

Lodico2Isaac Lodico (Denver) presents State Approaches to Incentivizing Conservation Easements at Colorado today as part of its Tax Policy Colloquium Series hosted by David Hasen and Sloan Speck:

In order support the preservation of open space and historic properties, many states have adopted a range of laws that encourage contributions of charitable easements. These laws may be as simple as providing recognition of the conservation easement at law thereby preventing common-law doctrines from overriding the charitable interest. In these states, the tax benefit of the easement is generally limited to reduction the value of the property by the easement for purposes of the assessment of real property taxes. However, in Minnesota local assessors are generally prohibited from reducing the property value to reflect the restriction. Other systems offer state credits against tax, where the taxpayer is awarded a credit against tax equal to a percentage of the value of the contributed easement. Depending on the state, tax credits for charitable contributions of conservation easements may be transferable or refundable.

Given the range of state laws incentivizing conservation easements, the following questions arise:

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March 3, 2016 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Simkovic Presents The Knowledge Tax Today At Penn

Simkovic 2Michael Simkovic (Seton Hall) presents The Knowledge Tax, 82 U. Chi. L. Rev. 1981 (2015), at Pennsylvania today as part of its Center for Tax Law and Policy Seminar Series hosted by Chris Sanchirico and Reed Shuldiner: :

Labor economists struggle to explain why the rates of return to higher education have remained much higher than the rates of return to other investments. This article proposes a novel explanation: distortionary taxation.

Economic theory suggests that when investments that are substitutes for one another are taxed inconsistently, investors are less likely to choose the investment option that is taxed more heavily. Unfavorable tax treatment of higher education relative to other forms of investment could create an undersupply of educated labor. This distortion would reduce economic growth and social welfare.

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March 2, 2016 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Oei, Ring Present The Tax Lives Of Uber Drivers Today At Southern, British Columbia

Oei RingShuyi Oei (Tulane) and Diane Ring (Boston College) present The Tax Lives of Uber Drivers: Evidence from Internet Discussion Forums at different law schools today:  Shuyi at Southern University (as part of its Law & Society Faculty Forum) and Diane at University of British Columbia (as part of its Tax Law and Policy Workshop Series): 

In this Article, we investigate the tax issues and challenges facing Uber and Lyft drivers by studying their online interactions in three internet discussion forums: Reddit.com, Uberpeople.net, and Intuit TurboTax AnswerXchange. Using descriptive statistics and content analysis, we examine (1) the substantive tax concerns facing forum participants, (2) how taxes affect their driving and profitability decisions, and (3) the degree of user sophistication, accuracy of legal advising, and other cultural features of the forums.

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March 2, 2016 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Taylor Presents The U.S. Rules For Taxing Business Entities Today At Toronto

TaylorWillard Taylor (Sullivan & Cromwell, New York) presents Can We Clean This Up? A Brief Journey Through the U.S. Rules for Taxing Business Entities at Toronto today as part of its James Hausman Tax Law and Policy Workshop Series:

There is no question that the US Federal income tax rules for classifying business entities need repair. As set out above, repairs might address the impact of the growth of passthroughs on the corporate income tax, the disparate treatment for corporate income tax purposes of some REITs and publicly-traded passthroughs, whether it made sense to have one set of rules for non-publicly traded partnerships and S corporations, and the different treatment of foreign investors in stocks, securities and real estate. These are only a few of many issues.

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March 2, 2016 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Markle Presents The Effect Of Financial Constraints On The Income Shifting Of U.S. Multinationals Today At NYU

MarkleKevin Markle (Iowa) presents The Effect of Financial Constraints on the Income Shifting of U.S. Multinationals (with Scott D. Dyreng (Duke)) at NYU today as part of its Tax Policy Colloquium Series hosted by Daniel Shaviro and Chris Sanchirico:

When a U.S. multinational corporation shifts income from the U.S. to foreign jurisdictions, it incurs costs and reaps benefits. The benefits may be reduced if the shifted income must be returned to the U.S. as a dividend in the short term and face the same U.S. tax it would have if the income had not been shifted. Firms, then, have incentive to defer repatriation of earnings and to fund domestic cash needs with external financing. The cost of external financing, however, is increasing in financial constraints, leading to the prediction that constrained firms will be unable to defer repatriation and, therefore, will reap no benefits from shifting. Using a new methodology for measuring income shifting, we find, consistent with predictions, that financially constrained firms shift less income from the U.S. to foreign countries than their unconstrained peers.

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March 1, 2016 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Marian Presents The State Administration Of International Tax Avoidance Today At Georgetown

Marian (2016)Omri Marian (UC-Irvine) presents The State Administration of International Tax Avoidance at Georgetown today as part of its Tax Law and Public Finance Workshop Series hosted by John Brooks and Itai Grinberg::

This Article documents a process in which a national tax administration in one jurisdiction, is consciously and systematically assisting taxpayers to avoid taxes in other jurisdictions. The aiding tax administration collects a small amount tax from the aided taxpayers. Such tax is functionally structured as a fee paid for government-provided tax avoidance services. Such behavior can be easily copied (and probably is copied) by other tax administrations. The implications are profound. On the normative front, the findings should fundamentally change our understanding of the concept of international tax competition. Tax competition is generally understood to be the adoption of low tax rates in order to attract investments into the jurisdiction. Instead, this Article identifies an intentional “bagger thy neighbor” behavior, aimed at attracting revenue generated by successful investments in other jurisdictions, without attracting actual investments. The result is a distorted competitive environment, in which revenue is denied from jurisdictions the infrastructure and workforce of which support economically productive activity. On the practical front, the findings suggest that internationally coordinated efforts to combat tax avoidance are misaimed. Current efforts are largely aimed at curtailing aggressive taxpayer behavior. Instead, the Article proposes that the focus of such efforts should be curtailing certain rogue practices adopted by national tax administrations.

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March 1, 2016 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 26, 2016

Fleischer Presents The Hidden Difficulties Of Taxing Wealth Today At Boston College

Perry Fleischer (2016)Miranda Perry Fleischer (San Diego) presents Not So Fast: The Hidden Difficulties of Taxing Wealth at Boston College today as part of its Tax Policy Workshop Series hosted by James Repetti and Diane Ring:

As an antidote to increasing inequality, policymakers and academics frequently call for heavier taxes on the wealthy. To those outside the tax academy, proposals such as increasing marginal rates, implementing a wealth tax, or strengthening the estate tax likely sound like variations on the same theme. Many discussions of using the tax system to fight inequality therefore ignore differences among tax instruments. As this Essay shows, using the tax system to fight inequality requires careful consideration of both normative and practical concerns. Certain goals (for example, the concern that wealth concentrations harm the political and economic systems) suggest taxing wealth itself via an annual wealth tax as an ideal solution. Not only would such a tax be hobbled by administrative and valuation concerns, however, it is likely unconstitutional.

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February 26, 2016 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (5)

Walker Presents Understanding And Evaluating Performance-Based Executive Pay Today At Florida

Walker (2016)David Walker (Boston University) presents The Way We Pay Now: Understanding and Evaluating Performance-Based Executive Pay at Florida today as part of its Tax Colloquium Series hosted by Yariv Brauner:

Over the last ten years, performance-based equity pay, and particularly performance shares, have displaced stock options as the primary instruments for compensating executives of large, public companies in the U.S. This article examines that transformation, analyzing the structure and incentive properties of these newly important instruments and evaluating the benefits and risks from an investor’s perspective. Notable observations include the following:

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February 26, 2016 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Blair-Stanek Presents Just Compensation As Transfer Prices Today At Duke

Blair-Stanek (2013)Andrew Blair-Stanek (Maryland) presents Just Compensation as Transfer Prices at Duke today as part of its Tax Policy Workshop Series hosted by Lawrence Zelenak:

Patents encourage innovation by allowing patentholders to charge higher prices, but these higher prices cause huge deadweight losses to society. Economists have long recognized that society could be made better off if the government used eminent domain to take widely used patents and dedicate them to the public domain, making them free for all to use. The formidable obstacle is determining an appropriate price, the “just compensation” required by the Fifth Amendment’s Takings Clause.

This Article identifies a novel but powerful solution: base the “just compensation” on the price the patentholder chose for transferring the patent to a tax-haven subsidiary. Most valuable patents are transferred to minimize taxes, and the tax-law standards for valuing such transfers closely match Takings Clause case law.

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February 25, 2016 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Stark Presents Regional Taxation And Regional Tax Base Sharing In State Tax Reform Today At UCLA

Stark (2014)Kirk Stark (UCLA) presents Regional Taxation and Regional Tax Base Sharing in State Tax Reform at UCLA today as part of its Tax Policy and Public Finance Colloquium Series hosted by Jason Oh and Eric Zolt:

This article describes and evaluates a specific subset of state tax reforms—i.e., those involving regional approaches to funding subnational public goods. Reforms examined include those where policymakers devise new multi-jurisdictional fiscal arrangements to address regional objectives that conventional local governments, by virtue of their more limited geographic scope, are unlikely to tackle. As used in this article, the term “region” refers to a geographic area (1) constituting less than the entire jurisdiction of a state, and (2) encompassing more than one local government jurisdiction. A “regional tax” is therefore any tax (fee, assessment, etc.…) limited in its application to a geographic area so defined. A closely related policy is “regional tax base sharing”—i.e., the imposition of a tax on a base that is shared among several local jurisdictions, with the proceeds distributed among those localities.

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February 25, 2016 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Hickman Presents Treasury's Retroactivity Today At Colorado

Hickman 2014 2Kristin Hickman (Minnesota) presents Treasury's Retroactivity at Colorado today as part of its Tax Policy Colloquium Series hosted by David Hasen and Sloan Speck:

In Bowen v. Georgetown University Hospital, the Supreme Court described retroactivity as "not favored in the law" and generally rejected allowing federal administrative agencies to adopt regulations "altering the past legal consequences of past actions."  Unlike most regulatory agencies, Treasury and the IRS are expressly authorized by Congress to adopt regulations with precisely such primary retroactive effect.  Specifically, IRC § 7805(b) grants Treasury and the IRS the power to backdate tax regulations under a variety of circumstances.  Preliminary analysis shows that Treasury and the IRS utilize this authority regularly with little judicial oversight for abuse of discretion. 

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February 25, 2016 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Markle Presents The Effect Of Financial Constraints On The Income Shifting Of U.S. Multinationals Today At Penn

MarkleKevin Markle (Iowa) presents The Effect of Financial Constraints on the Income Shifting of U.S. Multinationals (with Scott D. Dyreng (Duke)) at Pennsylvania today as part of its Center for Tax Law and Policy Seminar Series hosted by Chris Sanchirico and Reed Shuldiner:

When a U.S. multinational corporation shifts income from the U.S. to foreign jurisdictions, it incurs costs and reaps benefits. The benefits may be reduced if the shifted income must be returned to the U.S. as a dividend in the short term and face the same U.S. tax it would have if the income had not been shifted. Firms, then, have incentive to defer repatriation of earnings and to fund domestic cash needs with external financing. The cost of external financing, however, is increasing in financial constraints, leading to the prediction that constrained firms will be unable to defer repatriation and, therefore, will reap no benefits from shifting. Using a new methodology for measuring income shifting, we find, consistent with predictions, that financially constrained firms shift less income from the U.S. to foreign countries than their unconstrained peers.

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February 24, 2016 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Gamage Presents Tax Cannibalization And Fiscal Federalism Today At Georgetown

GamageDavid Gamage (UC-Berkeley) presents Tax Cannibalization and Fiscal Federalism in the United States (with Darien Shanske (UC-Davis)) at Georgetown today as part of its Tax Law and Public Finance Workshop Series hosted by John Brooks and Itai Grinberg:

The design of federal tax law strongly influences the tax policy choices of the individual U.S. states. This article argues that under the current structure of U.S. federal tax law these influences are often perverse. Specifically, the current structure of U.S. federal tax law incentivizes state governments to adopt tax policies that inflict costs on the federal government, at the expense of national welfare. We label this the “tax cannibalization” problem.

This article introduces the tax cannibalization problem to the legal literature for the first time.

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February 23, 2016 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Avi-Yonah Presents Evaluating BEPS Today At NYU

Avi-YonahReuven Avi-Yonah (Michigan) presents Evaluating BEPS (with Haiyan Xu (S.J.D. 2016, Michigan)) at NYU today as part of its Tax Policy Colloquium Series hosted by Daniel Shaviro and Chris Sanchirico:

Following the financial crisis and ensuing austerity, politicians discovered the problem of tax avoidance. In response, the OECD and G20 launched the Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) project in 2013, and this has in October, 2015 culminated with the release of a series of action steps that the OECD and G20 countries have undertaken to adopt. OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria has stated that "Base erosion and profit shifting affects all countries, not only economically, but also as a matter of trust. BEPS is depriving countries of precious resources to jump-start growth, tackle the effects of the global economic crisis and create more and better opportunities for all. But beyond this, BEPS has been also eroding the trust of citizens in the fairness of tax systems worldwide. The measures we are presenting today represent the most fundamental changes to international tax rules in almost a century: they will put an end to double non-taxation, facilitate a better alignment of taxation with economic activity and value creation, and when fully implemented, these measures will render BEPS-inspired tax planning structures ineffective".

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February 23, 2016 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 22, 2016

Brooks Presents Quasi-Public Spending Today At Pepperdine, UC-Irvine

Brooks (John)John R. Brooks (Georgetown) presents Quasi-Public Spending, 104 Geo. L.J. ___ (2016), today at Pepperdine (as part of our Tax Policy Workshop Series funded in part by a generous gift from Scott Racine) and UC-Irvine (as part of its Tax Law and Policy Colloquium Series hosted by Omri Marian):

The United States has increasingly designed certain public spending programs not as traditional tax-financed programs, but rather as mixtures of private expenditures, subsidies, and limited taxes. Thus part of what could have gone to the government as a tax is instead used to purchase the good or service directly, with only incremental taxes and subsidies to manage distributional goals. This Article terms this “quasi-public spending,” and argues that it is descriptive of our evolving approaches to both health care and higher education.

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February 22, 2016 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Shay Presents Inversions And Protecting A Legacy Corporate Tax Today At Minnesota

Shay (2014)Stephen E. Shay (Harvard) presents Inversions And Protecting a Legacy Corporate Tax today at Minnesota as part of its Perspectives on Taxation Lecture Series hosted by Kristin Hickman:

Tax-motivated corporate expatriations—so-called inversion transactions—are a hot topic in the world of corporate taxation. Congress has declined to respond to calls for legislative action. Treasury has stepped into the void with a pair of notices foreshadowing proposed regulations to be applied retroactively to the notice date. Mr. Shay’s presentation will cover:

  • the principal tax benefits companies seek when pursuing inversion transactions,
  • the Treasury Department's ability to respond using currently-effective regulations, and
  • available regulatory alternatives that could powerfully affect the incentive to expatriate

February 22, 2016 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Aprill Presents The Section 527 Obstacle to Meaningful Section 501(c)(4) Regulation Today At Northwestern

AprillEllen P. Aprill (Loyola-L.A.) presents The Section 527 Obstacle to Meaningful Section 501(c)(4) Regulation, 13 Pitt. Tax Rev. 43 (2015), at Northwestern today as part of its Advanced Topics in Taxation  Workshop Series hosted by Herbert Beller, Charlotte CraneDavid Cameron, Philip Postlewaite, Jeffrey Sheffield, and Robert Wootton:

As is well known, on May 10, 2013, at a session of the American Bar Association Tax Section meeting in Washington, D.C., Lois Lerner, at the time the director of the Exempt Organization Division of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS or Service), apologized for IRS mishandling of applications by Tea Party groups for exemption as social welfare groups under section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code. A few days later, the Department of the Treasury (Treasury) Inspector General released a report (TIGTA Report) concluding that the “IRS used inappropriate criteria that identified for review Tea Party and other organizations applying for tax-exempt status based upon their names or policy positions instead of indications of potential political campaign intervention.”

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February 18, 2016 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Lindert Presents Fiscal Redistribution In Latin America Since The 19th Century Today At UCLA

LindertPeter Lindert (UC-Davis) presents Economics Fiscal Redistribution in Latin America Since the Nineteenth Century (with Leticia Arroyo Abad (Middlebury College)) at UCLA today as part of its Tax Policy and Public Finance Colloquium Series hosted by Jason Oh and Eric Zolt:

This paper presents the first multi-country history of how Latin American government spending and taxes have reshaped the distribution of income in the long run. We combine our new historical time series for six countries with impressive recent studies of their fiscal redistribution patterns in the 21st century. The rising share of social spending has not been directed strongly toward the poor. The swings in fiscal redistribution in Chilean and Argentine history have been particularly dramatic. Latin America as a whole stands out as a region with a low rate of investment in education and infrastructure, redistributing away from future generations toward pensioners. Pension commitments have locked the region’s governments into prolonged pension deficits, a strong case of historical path dependence.

February 18, 2016 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Leff Presents Taxing Governmental Marijuana Sales Today At Indiana

LeffBenjamin Leff (American) presents Taxing Governmental Marijuana Sales at Indiana-Bloomington today as part of its Tax Policy Colloquium Series hosted by Leandra Lederman:

This Article is the first to address whether independent governmental affiliates that sell marijuana are exempt from federal income tax under section 115 of the Internal Revenue Code. In the first section, I discuss the three legal requirements for tax exemption under section 115, and how these three requirements are likely to apply to a public development authority like the Cannabis Corner. In the second section, I discuss whether a government affiliate that sold marijuana might be denied tax-exempt status even if it met all the requirements of section 115 under the so-called “public policy” or “illegality” doctrine. In both these sections, I argue that it should be relatively easy for a public development authority or other governmental affiliate to sell marijuana exempt from federal taxes.

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February 18, 2016 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Oei Presents The Tax Lives Of Uber Drivers Today At Duke

OeiShuyi Oei (Tulane) presents The Tax Lives of Uber Drivers: Evidence from Internet Discussion Forums (with Diane Ring (Boston College)) at Duke today as part of its Tax Policy Workshop Series hosted by Lawrence Zelenak:

In this Article, we investigate the tax issues and challenges facing Uber and Lyft drivers by studying their online interactions in three internet discussion forums: Reddit.com, Uberpeople.net, and Intuit TurboTax AnswerXchange. Using descriptive statistics and content analysis, we examine (1) the substantive tax concerns facing forum participants, (2) how taxes affect their driving and profitability decisions, and (3) the degree of user sophistication, accuracy of legal advising, and other cultural features of the forums.

We find that while forum participants displayed generally accurate understandings of tax filing and income inclusion obligations, their approaches to expenses and deductions were less accurate and more varied in sophistication and willingness to comply with tax law. Forum participants also frequently discussed whether driving was profitable and exhibited a range of awareness concerning how taxes affected profitability. Finally, while the forums contained a surprising degree of sophisticated and accurate tax and legal advice, they also contained many examples of inaccurate or confusing information. It is thus uncertain whether readers can successfully distinguish between accurate and inaccurate advice dispensed in the forums.

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February 18, 2016 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Lawsky Presents Definitional Scope In The Internal Revenue Code Today At Colorado

LawskySarah Lawsky (UC-Irvine) presents Definitional Scope in the Internal Revenue Code at Colorado today as part of its Tax Policy Colloquium Series hosted by David Hasen and Sloan Speck:

The Internal Revenue Code is notoriously complex, both substantively and structurally. This article examines one source of structural complexity in the Internal Revenue Code: dependency among sections that stems from defined terms. In particular, the article examines what it describes as the problem of “definitional scope”: when the structure of the Code leaves unclear to what a term refers. The article provides examples of problematic definitional scope and then suggests a general solution: that those who draft tax legislation should “formalize” the proposed statutory language—translate it into logical terms—prior to its enactment. To illustrate this proposal, the article provides formalizations of two provisions of the Internal Revenue Code.

February 18, 2016 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Raskolnikov Presents From Deterrence to Compliance: Legal Uncertainty Reexamined Today At Penn

Raskolnikov (2015)Alex Raskolnikov (Columbia) presents From Deterrence to Compliance: Legal Uncertainty Reexamined at Pennsylvania today as part of its Center for Tax Law and Policy Seminar Series hosted by Chris Sanchirico and Reed Shuldiner:

Law is imperfect. It is full of standards that are neither clear nor socially optimal. How do rational actors respond to these standards? How should we evaluate these responses? What happens when legal advisors tackle legal uncertainty? These questions have few answers in law and economics. This article investigates a model of rational decisionmaking under uncertain law from the perspective of legal compliance rather than optimal deterrence. It does so by combining economic analysis with a practical understanding of the market for legal advice. Some of the results are unsurprising from both theoretical and practical perspectives; others are unexpected.

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February 17, 2016 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 12, 2016

Lipman Presents De/reconstructing The Shared Responsibility Payment Under the Affordable Care Act At Utah

LipmanFrancine J. Lipman (UNLV) presented De/reconstructing the Shared Responsibility Payment Under the Affordable Care Act at Utah as part of its Faculty Workshop Series:

This paper first details and then revises the newly implemented penalty tax (the Shared Responsibility Payment or the “SRP”) under the Affordable Care Act. The SRP was designed by Congress to ensure that every American obtains minimum essential healthcare coverage so that comprehensive and affordable health care coverage can be achieved for all qualifying Americans. While the penalty tax was deemed constitutional by the United States Supreme Court, it is extremely complicated and has challenged many Americans especially lower-income individuals.

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February 12, 2016 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Williams Presents UK Consultation On Tax Deductibility Of Corporate Interest Expense Today At Georgetown

Mike Williams (Director, Business and International Tax, HM Treasury, United Kingdom) presents UK Consultation on Tax Deductibility of Corporate Interest Expense at Georgetown today as part of its Tax Law and Public Finance Workshop Series hosted by John Brooks and Itai Grinberg:

Most OECD countries allow interest expense to be deducted in calculating taxable business profit while having rules to protect their tax base from excessive or tax-driven interest deductions. These rules may operate on either a general or transactional basis. Many countries, such as Australia, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Spain, already have rules that provide a structural restriction on tax relief for interest expense. Others, such as the US, have put forward proposals that would bring their current rules in line with the approach recommended in the OECD report. The UK’s worldwide debt cap is a general rule which provides a back stop for excessive interest deductions but its other rules are essentially transactional. Under its transfer pricing rules the UK restricts tax relief for interest to the arm’s length amount but this restriction takes no account of whether the income and assets supporting that interest are taxable. Despite a number of targeted rules to supplement the arm’s length test, significant planning opportunities can arise from both external and intra-group interest expenses.

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February 11, 2016 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Schmalbeck Presents Churches And Political Speech: Considering A New Exempt Category For Churches Today At Duke

Schmalbeck (2016)Richard Schmalbeck (Duke) presents Churches and Political Speech: Considering a New Exempt Category for Churches at Duke today as part of its Tax Policy Workshop Series hosted by Lawrence Zelenak:

The U.S. tax law defining organizations that are eligible for treatment as charitable determines both the tax exemption of the organization and the deductibility for tax purposes of donations to the organization. Among the definitional conditions is an absolute ban on participation in political campaigns. While there are sound policy considerations supporting this ban on campaigning, it may operate to restrict inappropriately the expressive functions of some organizations. In particular, churches are organizations with unique interests in expression of their views. This paper offers and defends a simple solution to this situation by suggesting that churches be allowed to participate in campaigns, while denying deductions for contributions to churches.

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February 11, 2016 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Marian Presents The State Administration Of International Tax Avoidance Today At UCLA

Marian (2016)Omri Marian (UC-Irvine) presents The State Administration of International Tax Avoidance at UCLA today as part of its Tax Policy and Public Finance Colloquium Series hosted by Jason Oh and Eric Zolt:

This Article documents a process in which a national tax administration in one jurisdiction, is consciously and systematically assisting taxpayers to avoid taxes in other jurisdictions. The aiding tax administration collects a small amount tax from the aided taxpayers. Such tax is functionally structured as a fee paid for government-provided tax avoidance services. Such behavior can be easily copied (and probably is copied) by other tax administrations. The implications are profound. On the normative front, the findings should fundamentally change our understanding of the concept of international tax competition. Tax competition is generally understood to be the adoption of low tax rates in order to attract investments into the jurisdiction. Instead, this Article identifies an intentional “bagger thy neighbor” behavior, aimed at attracting revenue generated by successful investments in other jurisdictions, without attracting actual investments. The result is a distorted competitive environment, in which revenue is denied from jurisdictions the infrastructure and workforce of which support economically productive activity. On the practical front, the findings suggest that internationally coordinated efforts to combat tax avoidance are misaimed. Current efforts are largely aimed at curtailing aggressive taxpayer behavior. Instead, the Article proposes that the focus of such efforts should be curtailing certain rogue practices adopted by national tax administrations.

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February 11, 2016 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Hasen Presents Taxation And Innovation Today At Colorado

HasenDavid Hasen (Colorado) presents Taxation and Innovation at Colorado today as part of its Tax Policy Colloquium Series:

A number of tax rules have been enacted or proposed to promote innovation. The basic justification for these rules runs roughly as follows: innovative activity suffers from endemic market failure; market failure requires government regulation; tax rules are potential instruments of governmental regulation and therefore ought to be used to address the problem.

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February 11, 2016 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Marron Presents Should Governments Tax Unhealthy Foods And Drinks? Today At Penn

MarronDonald Marron (Urban Institute) presents Should Governments Tax Unhealthy Foods and Drinks? (with Maeve Gearing (Tax Policy Center) & John Iselin (Tax Policy Center)) at Pennsylvania today as part of its Center for Tax Law and Policy Seminar Series hosted by Chris Sanchirico and Reed Shuldiner:

What we eat and drink can cause obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and other conditions. In response, many governments have enacted or are considering taxes on unhealthy food and drinks. This report evaluates the rationale behind such taxes; reviews evidence on their effects; analyzes different ways of structuring them; draws lessons from taxes on tobacco, alcohol, and carbon emissions; and offers a framework for assessing their benefits and costs. Taxing can influence what people eat and drink, but it is not a silver bullet. Governments must balance potential health gains against taxes’ limits and costs.

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February 10, 2016 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Marron Presents Should Governments Tax Unhealthy Foods And Drinks? Today At NYU

MarronDonald Marron (Urban Institute) presents Should Governments Tax Unhealthy Foods and Drinks? (with Maeve Gearing (Tax Policy Center) & John Iselin (Tax Policy Center)) at NYU today as part of its Tax Policy Colloquium Series hosted by Daniel Shaviro and Chris Sanchirico:

What we eat and drink can cause obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and other conditions. In response, many governments have enacted or are considering taxes on unhealthy food and drinks. This report evaluates the rationale behind such taxes; reviews evidence on their effects; analyzes different ways of structuring them; draws lessons from taxes on tobacco, alcohol, and carbon emissions; and offers a framework for assessing their benefits and costs. Taxing can influence what people eat and drink, but it is not a silver bullet. Governments must balance potential health gains against taxes’ limits and costs.

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February 9, 2016 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

Lederman Presents IRS Reform: Politics As Usual? Today At Indiana-Indianapolis

Ledderman (2016)Leandra Lederman (Indiana-Bloomington) presents IRS Reform: Politics As Usual? at Indiana-Indianapolis today as part of its Faculty Workshop Series:

The IRS is still reeling from accusations that it “targeted” Tea Party and other tax-exempt organizations. Although multiple government investigations found no politically motivated behavior—only mismanagement—Congressional hearings were quite inflammatory. Congress recently followed up those hearings with a set of IRS reforms. Congress’s approach is reminiscent of the late 1990s, when highly publicized Congressional hearings regarding alleged abuses by the IRS resulted in a major IRS reform and restructuring, although the allegations subsequently were largely debunked. This Article argues that the recent allegations against the IRS also were overblown. It looks to the aftermath of the 1998 IRS reform, which included a major downturn in enforcement, for lessons for the present day. The Article concludes that Congress as a whole can do a better job of keeping politics from undermining tax administration.

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February 9, 2016 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Hines Presents High Tax Heresy Today At Georgetown

Hines (2016)James Hines, Jr. (Michigan) presents High Tax Heresy at Georgetown today as part of its Tax Law and Public Finance Workshop Series hosted by John Brooks and Itai Grinberg::

An efficient and equitable income tax offers exclusions, deductions and credits that narrow the tax base and thereby require higher tax rates than would be necessary with a broad based income tax. Base narrowing features can make the tax system more efficient by focusing collection on revenue sources that are little affected by taxation, and they can promote equity by tailoring tax obligations to individual circumstances and supporting tax rate progressivity. Economic theory does not say that an efficient and equitable income tax system has a broad base and a low rate, and in fact the theory has never said that. Experience with efforts to reduce tax rates and broaden tax bases is that reforms can easily become focused on low statutory tax rates, to the detriment of efficiency and equity.

February 9, 2016 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 8, 2016

Chodorow Presents Bitcoin, Foreign Currency, And The Case For Basis Pooling Today At Pepperdine

Chodorow (2014)Adam Chodorow (Arizona State) presents Bitcoin, Foreign Currency, and the Case for Basis Pooling at Pepperdine today as part of our Tax Policy Workshop Series.  The Pepperdine Tax Policy Workshop Series funded in part by a generous gift from Scott Racine:

The IRS recently dealt a blow to bitcoin enthusiasts by ruling that Bitcoin and other similar currencies should be treated as property – and not foreign currency – for income tax purposes. As a result, those who use bitcoin to purchase goods or services must report gain or loss on each transaction if the bitcoin has changed value between the time it was acquired and spent. The IRS’s decision seems correct as a matter of positive law, but laws can always be changed.

In this Article I consider whether bitcoin should be treated as a foreign currency for income tax purposes, which would permit bitcoin users to take advantage of the personal use exemption that applies to such currency. I conclude that it should not because the rationale for extending the personal use exemption to bitcoin is weak, at least from the government’s perspective. Moreover, expanding the definition of foreign currency could create significant line-drawing problems.

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February 8, 2016 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Hines Presents High Tax Heresy Today At Colorado

Hines (2016)James Hines, Jr. (Michigan) presents High Tax Heresy at Colorado today as part of its Tax Policy Colloquium Series hosted by David Hasen and Sloan Speck:

An efficient and equitable income tax offers exclusions, deductions and credits that narrow the tax base and thereby require higher tax rates than would be necessary with a broad based income tax. Base narrowing features can make the tax system more efficient by focusing collection on revenue sources that are little affected by taxation, and they can promote equity by tailoring tax obligations to individual circumstances and supporting tax rate progressivity. Economic theory does not say that an efficient and equitable income tax system has a broad base and a low rate, and in fact the theory has never said that. Experience with efforts to reduce tax rates and broaden tax bases is that reforms can easily become focused on low statutory tax rates, to the detriment of efficiency and equity.

February 4, 2016 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Gould Presents Tax Reform, Congress, And Politics Today At UCLA

GouldJames C. Gould (Ogilvy Government Relations, Washington, D.C.) presents Tax Reform, Congress, and Politics, 146 Tax Notes 983 (Feb. 23, 2015), at UCLA today as part of its Tax Policy and Public Finance Colloquium Series hosted by Jason Oh and Eric Zolt:

If anything is clear from both 1986 and the last quarter-century, it is that tax reform is little different from entitlement reform, military base closing, or any other legislation that would take federal benefits away from average voters or Main Street businesses. The country’s political system is not designed to curtail popular benefits, whether spending or tax benefits. The successful tax reform effort will be one designed to overcome the demosclerosis identified by Rauch two decades ago.

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February 4, 2016 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Mayer Presents Taxing Politics Today At Indiana

MayerLloyd Hitoshi Mayer (Notre Dame) presents Taxing Politics at Indiana today as part of its Tax Policy Colloquium hosted by Leandra Lederman:

This draft Article addresses two key questions relating to the interaction between federal tax law and political activity. First, is it advisable as a policy matter for Congress to use the tax law to regulate the flows of money in politics in furtherance of non-tax goals such as combatting corruption, promoting equality, and encouraging democratic participation? I answer this first question generally no, in significant part because the tax law and the IRS are poorly suited for this role and suffer significant collateral damage when their poor fit becomes evident, as the ongoing controversy over the IRS’ handling of exemption applications filed by Tea Party and other conservative groups reveals. Second, does tax law in its current form treat political activity properly based on longstanding tax policies relating to what constitutes income, what expenses should be deductible, what constitutes a taxable gift, and what characteristics organizations should have in order to qualify for tax exemption?

I answer this second question generally yes, but identify several areas where the tax law needs to be changed to achieve greater consistency with such policies, including with respect to reducing the amount of political activity that is deemed permissible for most types of tax-exempt organizations.

February 4, 2016 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Viard Presents Fundamental Tax Reform: A Comparison Of Three Options Today At Duke

Viard (2016)Alan Viard (American Enterprise Institute) presents Fundamental Tax Reform: A Comparison of Three Options at Duke today as part of its Tax Policy Workshop Series hosted by Lawrence Zelenak:

Three prominent tax reform options can significantly reduce the tax penalty on saving and investment while maintaining a progressive federal tax system: partially replacing the income tax system with a value added tax, fully replacing the income tax system with a Bradford X tax, or fully replacing it with a personal expenditure tax. This paper compares the options’ implications for economic growth, progressivity, transitional wealth effects, business taxation, public and private transfer payments, international transactions, and the non-business sector and the options’ political viability. The paper also outlines a hybrid option.

February 4, 2016 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Rees-Jones Presents Attention Variation And Welfare: A Tax Salience Experiment Today At Penn

Rees-JonesAlex Rees-Jones (Wharton) presents Attention Variation and Welfare: Theory and Evidence from a Tax Salience Experiment at Pennsylvania today as part of its Center for Tax Law and Policy Seminar Series hosted by Chris Sanchirico and Reed Shuldiner:

A rapidly growing literature shows that consumers can be inattentive to complex or notfully-salient financial incentives. This literature typically estimates “the average mistake,” and uses representative agent models to analyze the economic implications. This paper shows, theoretically and empirically, that accounting for heterogeneity in mistakes is crucial in positive and normative analysis. Focusing on consumer underreaction to not-fully-salient sales taxes, we show theoretically that 1) individual differences in underreaction generate inefficiency in the resulting allocation of the taxed good, 2) the variation of underreaction across the income distribution affects the regressivity of the tax burden, and 3) the variation of underreaction across different tax rates affects the distortions to demand resulting from tax changes. To empirically assess the importance of these issues, we implement an online shopping experiment in which 3000 consumers—matching the U.S. adult population on key demographics—purchase common household products, facing tax rates that vary in size and salience.

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February 3, 2016 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Phillips Presents A Performative Theory Of Tax Policy Today At Toronto

Phillips 2Lisa Phillips (Osgoode Hall) presents Registered Savings Plans and the Making of Middle Class Canada: A Performative Theory of Tax Policy at Toronto today as part of its James Hausman Tax Law and Policy Workshop Series:

Campaigning politicians and elected governments of all parties strive to position themselves as defenders of the middle class. This is to be expected given the large proportion of the Canadian population that self-­‐identifies as middle class.2 Since the term itself lacks precision, it is a claim that can accommodate a wide range of policy proposals. Tax policy serves as a prime vehicle for making this appeal to middle class voters. Undoubtedly, any tax reform proposal can be critically examined to evaluate its likely distributional impacts and how well these map onto specific definitions of the middle class. However this paper attempts a different project. Drawing on the ideas of Judith Butler I analyze instead how tax policy produces middle class identity, through the very process of claiming to advance middle class interests. My case study for this purpose is the rise of tax-­‐assisted savings plans as a prominent feature of Canadian personal tax policy over the two decades from 1995 to 2015. I suggest that the presentation, design and language of registered savings plans have shaped the content of middle class identity, including the behaviours, expectations and aspirations that condition membership in this identity group.

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February 3, 2016 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)