TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Monday, April 23, 2018

Michelle Layser To Join Illinois Tax Faculty

LayserMichelle D. Layser (Research Fellow and Adjunct Professor of Law, Georgetown) has accepted a tenure-track tax position at Illinois, beginning in August 2018:

Professor Layser is currently a Research Fellow at Georgetown University Law Center, where she teaches a course on social justice and taxation. Professor Layser's legal scholarship focuses on the intersection of tax law and social policy, touching on such diverse issues as housing and segregation, unequal taxation of same-sex families, the potential role of non-profits in supporting news production, and tax incentives for investment in clean energy technologies. Her most recent paper is forthcoming in 2018 in the Indiana Law Journal (How Federal Tax Law Rewards Housing Segregation). She has also published three articles in the flagship law reviews at Missouri (Improving Tax Incentives for Wind Energy Production: The Case for a Refundable Production Tax Credit), Utah (The Quest to Save Journalism: A Legal Analysis of New Models for Newspapers from Nonprofit Tax-Exempt Organizations to L3Cs), and Hawaii (Tax Justice and Same-Sex Domestic Partner Health Benefits: An Analysis of the Tax Equity for Health Plan Beneficiaries Act).

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April 23, 2018 in Tax, Tax Prof Moves | Permalink | Comments (0)

Howard Leads HBCUs In Law School Grads’ Bar Exam Performance

HBCUWashington Informer, Howard U. Leads HBCUs in Law School Grads’ Bar Exam Performance:

Howard University School of Law’s Class of 2017 led in the percentage of law students at historically Black colleges and universities who passed a bar examination in their first attempt, according to recently released data from the American Bar Association.

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April 23, 2018 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Elkins Presents The Myth Of Corporate Tax Residence Today In China

Elkins (2015)David Elkins (Netanya) presents The Myth of Corporate Tax Residence today at the Academy of International Strategy and Law of Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China:

The issue of corporate residence has recently attracted a great deal of attention in both the popular press and in academic discourse, primarily because of the phenomenon of corporate inversions. The consensus among commentators is that the root of the problem is a flawed definition of corporate residence, and they have therefore proposed replacing the current definition, which relies upon place of incorporation, with another that relies upon control and management, home office, customer base, source of income, or the residence of shareholders.

The thesis of this article is that the concept of tax residence is inapplicable to corporations. Residence in tax law delineates the boundaries of distributive justice, and whereas corporations cannot be parties to a scheme of distributive justice, corporate residence is a misnomer. The incongruity of corporate residence along with the fact that residence is a fundamental concept in international taxation is one reason that the current international tax regime has proven unviable.

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April 23, 2018 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Alexander Hamilton To Receive Posthumous Honorary Degree From Albany Law School

Hamilton (2018)Press Release:

Albany Law School is proud to confer two honorary degrees this year at its 167th Commencement on May 18, 2018. Receiving honorary degrees will be ... and Alexander Hamilton, posthumously, one of the nation's founders. Douglas Hamilton, Hamilton's 5th great-grandson, will accept the degree. ...

Dean Ouellette added, "Alexander Hamilton's ties to the Albany area are significant. Hamilton studied law and practiced law in Albany.  He wrote Federalist #1 while traveling between Albany and New York City.  By conferring this degree, we are acknowledging his impact on the Capital Region and New York's legal community." ...

Alexander Hamilton
Alexander Hamilton was an immigrant, the nation's first Secretary of the Treasury, author of a large portion of the Federalist Papers, and a Colonel to George Washington in the Revolutionary War.

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April 23, 2018 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Lesson From The Tax Court: It's Still An Adversarial Process

Tax Court (2017)Several features of the Tax Court make it a unique institution in U.S. law.  For example, no other court has (or needs) the Golsen rule. Here’s a post where I explain why.  And no other federal court uses the Tax Court’s quasi-en banc process. Kandyce Korotky over at Procedurally Taxing has a nice post here describing how that process sometimes produces opinions where more judges join the concurrence than the opinion of the Court.

But the Tax Court still hews to that greatest feature of the U.S. legal tradition: the adversarial process, where each side takes responsibility for presenting its own case and the Court simply judges between the cases presented. That is the lesson I see in last week’s decision in Aaron Keith Nicholson v. Commissioner, T.C. Summary Opinion 2018-24 where the taxpayer was representing himself and the IRS was represented by not one but FIVE attorneys of record. Really. I think the case should have been a lesson about the hobby loss rules, but it turns into a lesson that tax litigation rests on an adversarial process where the parties’ concessions, no matter how lame they appear, will bind them.   This is true even in the small case procedure. Here, it benefitted the taxpayer.

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April 23, 2018 in Bryan Camp, New Cases, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wendi Adelson's Billionaire Boss Says Prosecutors Have Concluded She Had Nothing To Do With Dan Markel's Murder

AdelsonPolitico, Billionaire Immigration Crusader: Employee Innocent in Murder-For-Hire Plot:

Mike Fernandez, a Florida billionaire and former GOP megadonor who crusades for the rights of undocumented immigrants, is rising to the defense of the woman who heads his immigration-reform group by saying she had “nothing to do” with a sensational murder-for-hire plot that killed her ex-husband.

Fernandez emailed his statement of support for Wendi Adelson after NBC’s “Dateline” last week devoted a two-hour investigative special to the Tallahassee murder of her ex, Florida State University law professor Dan Markel, amid a bitter divorce and court fight over their two young boys in 2014.

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April 23, 2018 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1813: Did The IRS Buy Off The Tea-Party?

NorCal (2018)Stu Bassin (Former Tax Partner, Baker & Hostetler, Washington, D.C.; Former Senior Litigation Counsel, U.S. Department of Justice Tax Division), Did the IRS Just Buy Off the Tea-Party?:

You may have missed the small item in the tax press describing the latest embarrassment for the Service arising out of the agency’s handling of applications for tax exempt status submitted by “tea party” organizations. The taxpayers, their supporters in the press, and many in Congress have long contended that the IRS action was politically motivated and evidence of an agency running amok. Meanwhile, the Service bungled its response, adding fuel to the fire. While public discussion of the scandal has subsided in recent months, we learned last week that the Government had settled a class action brought by the Tea-Party organizations with a $3.5 million payment from the Treasury. NorCal Tea Party Patriots v. Internal Revenue Service, No. 13-cv-00341 (Order of April 4, 2018).

For any of you who do not know remember the back story, the underlying dispute began nearly a decade ago with filing of a spate of applications for tax-exempt status by organizations with political agendas, including many organizations associated with the Tea Party movement. The applications attempted to skirt the prohibition against political activities by tax-exempt organizations, although the political focus of the applicants was readily apparent. The exempt organizations specialists within the Service’s National Office, headed by Lois Lerner, eventually transferred the applications to a small office in the Cincinnati Service Center, where they largely languished in inaction. The motive for the Service’s action is a subject of dispute—many have contended that the Service was implementing the political agenda of the Obama administration. The official explanation of what happened provided by senior Service officials kept changing, Ms. Lerner refused to testify at Congressional hearings, the Service “lost” the data from Ms. Lerner’s computer, and IRS Commissioner Koskinen’s appearances before congressional committees only added to fears of political wrongdoing. Years later, several senior Service officials have left office with their reputations damaged, the public standing of the Service has declined even further following congressional hearings, and many of the complaining organizations have quietly received tax-exempt status.

Naturally, the scandal generated a substantial amount of litigation, little of which has gone well for the Government. The Nor-Cal case was brought as a class-action by one of the disappointed applicants for tax-exempt status. According to the plaintiffs, the Service gave increased scrutiny to applications submitted by the taxpayer and other politically conservative groups, delayed action on some of the applications and, in some cases, requested additional and unnecessary information from the applicants to delay review of their applications. Substantively, the plaintiffs’ legal claims asserted violations of the First Amendment and the Section 6103 prohibition against disclosure of taxpayer return information. ...

The settlement is remarkable in part because the taxpayers’ claims appear to have had massive legal and factual holes, even accepting the taxpayers’ allegations regarding the Service’s mis-handling of their exemption applications. ...

Under the circumstances, the Government’s willingness to settle the case by paying damages to the class is remarkable. This blogger’s experience has been that the procedures employed by the Government for reviewing settlement proposals of tax cases involving multi-million dollar payouts from the Treasury would have required formal written review by several officials in the Justice Department’s Tax Division, including the Acting Assistant General. Several Service employees would also have reviewed the proposal, with formal written approval given by someone acting on behalf of the current Acting Chief Counsel. Depending upon application of some nuances in the procedures governing settlements, a review by the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation may have been required under Section 6405.

So, this blogger asks: What induced these officials to approve the settlement and the multi-million dollar payout? Did the Government’s evaluation of the litigating hazards (likelihood of success multiplied by potential damage award) justify a payment of $3.5 million to the class? Or, was the payment justified by other considerations (e.g., a desire to buy a quiet resolution to embarrassing litigation)? And, if so, is that a proper reason for the government to pay litigants? As much of that process was conducted internally within the government and is privileged, we will all be left to ponder the possibilities.

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April 23, 2018 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

TaxProf Blog Weekend Roundup

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Brunson: God And The IRS — Accommodating Religious Practice In U.S. Tax Law

BrunsonSamuel D. Brunson (Loyola-Chicago), God and the IRS: Accommodating Religious Practice in United States Tax Law (Cambridge University Press 2018):

Seventy-five percent of Americans claim religious affiliation, which can impact their taxpaying responsibilities. In this illuminating book, Samuel D. Brunson describes the many problems and breakdowns that can occur when tax meets religion in the United States, and shows how the US government has too often responded to these issues in an unprincipled, ad hoc manner. God and the IRS offers a better framework to understand tax and religion. It should be read by scholars of religion and the law, policymakers, and individuals interested in understanding the implications of taxation on their religious practices.

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April 22, 2018 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

When Is A Church Not A Church For Tax Purposes?

New York Times op-ed:  When Is a Church Not a Church?, by Katherine Stewart:

Now that tax day is upon us, consider that through the miracle of tax breaks some of your tax dollars will effectively be going to support groups that finance campaigns against same-sex marriage and gun safety. A number of these groups are also entitled to raise money from other sources for political purposes, without filing the disclosures that are required of other individuals and entities. Why? They’ve got God on their side.

Last fall, for example, according to forms filed with the Internal Revenue Service, Focus on the Family, a conservative Christian organization that promotes socially conservative views on matters of public and family policy, declared itself a church.

Focus on the Family doesn’t have a congregation, doesn’t host weddings or funerals and doesn’t hold services. What it does do, with its nearly $90 million annual budget, is deliver radio and other programming that is often political to an estimated audience of 38 million listeners in the United States and beyond. It has funded ads against state legislators who support bills intended to prevent discrimination against L.G.B.T. people and it leads programs to combat what it calls “gay activism” in public schools.

Why would such a group want to call itself a church? Short answer: money. Churches can raise tax-deductible contributions more easily, and with fewer restrictions, than other nonprofits can. They also enjoy additional tax shelters, such as property tax exemptions for clergy members — or was that conservative radio personalities? ...

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April 22, 2018 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Is Catholic University’s Devotion To Its Faith Scaring Off Students?

Catholic 2Chronicle of Higher Education, Is Catholic U.’s Chaste Brand Scaring Off Students?:

A cost-cutting proposal at Catholic University of America, where administrators are seeking to close a $3.5-million operational deficit through layoffs and buyouts of 35 faculty members, has divided the campus and provoked a broader discussion about whether the institution has overplayed its religiosity to the detriment of student recruitment.

It is self-evident that Catholic University, a 131-year old institution founded by American bishops and considered the national university of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States, is inextricably linked to Catholicism. But at a time when many students of traditional college age have eschewed organized religion and come to question the church’s social teachings, Catholic University finds itself in an intensifying dialogue that pits the university’s core identity against market imperatives.

This is not a new debate for Catholic or for religiously affiliated institutions in general. Such colleges have long wrestled with how best to preserve their deepest values while still attracting students who want a vibrant social life and a collegiate experience that is more spiritual than it is strictly religious.

Yet, Catholic University, based in Washington, D.C., is at a particularly critical moment.

The visceral threat of faculty job losses has invited emotional exchanges about whether the bishops’ university — whose leaders have waded into today’s culture wars and tried to discourage college kids from having sex — has scared off some of the very prospective students that it needs most. Changes at the university, which in recent years has done away with co-ed dorms and promoted itself as a cultivator of "Catholic minds," are now being scrutinized by campus critics as the unforced errors of an administration in need of a course correction.

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April 22, 2018 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Top Five New Tax Papers

SSRN LogoThere is a bit of movement in this week's list of the Top 5 Recent Tax Paper Downloads, with a new paper debuting on the list at #5:

  1. [778 Downloads]   Evaluating the New US Pass-Through Rules, by Dan Shaviro (NYU)
  2. [331 Downloads]  Taxing Income Where Value Is Created, by Allison Christians (McGill) & Laurens van Apeldoorn (Leiden)
  3. [326 Downloads]  The Impact of the 2017 Act's Tax Rate Changes on Choice of Entity, by Jim Repetti (Boston College)
  4. [312 Downloads]  Explaining Choice-of-Entity Decisions by Silicon Valley Start-Ups, by Gregg Polsky (Georgia)
  5. [298 Downloads]  Taxation of Investments in Bitcoins and Other Virtual Currencies: International Trends and the Brazilian Approach, by Flavio Rubinstein (Fundação Getúlio Vargas) & Gustavo Gonçalves Vettori (University of São Paulo)

April 22, 2018 in Scholarship, Tax, Top 5 Downloads | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, April 21, 2018

This Week's Ten Most Popular TaxProf Blog Posts

Barbara Bush: The Power And Grace Of A Mother’s Love

BushNew York Times op-ed:  For Mrs. Bush, by James McBride (NYU):

Mommy’s children were black. Mrs. Bush’s were not. Neither cared about that. They were, ultimately, mothers.

I’ve thought a lot about that since Mrs. Bush died. About that common ground. And about where we all live now.

I do not know enough about American politics to venture informed opinions about power, other than I wake up every day since the last presidential election feeling as if I’m living a nightmare. But Mrs. Bush was beyond politics. She represented a far greater power. She represented the power and grace of a mother’s love.

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April 21, 2018 in Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

100% Of First-Time Takers From Shuttered Charlotte Law School Failed February NC Bar Exam

Charlotte Logo (2016)Charlotte Observer, Last Class of Charlotte School of Law Faces Bleak Reality After Bar Exam Results:

A chaotic year at Charlotte School of Law has given way to a disastrous performance by its graduates on the most recent bar examination, according to newly released state figures. Eleven recent alumni of the defunct school took the test for the first time in February. All failed.

Among the Charlotte Law graduates who had taken the test before, eight out of 73 passed the most recent exam. Combined, that gives Charlotte Law an overall passing rate of 9.5 percent — by far the lowest of the state's seven law schools.

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April 21, 2018 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

Zelinsky: New Section 4968 And Taxing All Charitable Endowments

Edward A. Zelinsky (Cardozo), Section 4968 and Taxing All Charitable Endowments: A Critique and Proposal, 38 Va. Tax Rev. ___ (2018):

Section 4968, recently added to the Internal Revenue Code,imposes a tax on the investment incomes of some college and university endowments. Critics of Section 4968 disparage this new tax as selectively targeting what are widely perceived as wealthy, politically liberal institutions such as Harvard, Yale,Princeton, M.I.T. and Stanford.

There is a strong tax policy argument for taxing the net investment incomes of all charitable endowments including donor-advised funds, community foundations, all educational endowments,and foundations supporting hospitals, museums and other eleemosynary institutions.

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April 21, 2018 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 20, 2018

ABA Releases Class Of 2017 Employment Data: FT-LT Bar Passage Required/JD Advantage Jobs Increased To 75.3% (From 72.6%), Due To 6% Decline In Class Size

Press Release, ABA Legal Education Section Releases Employment Data for Graduating Law Class of 2017:

Employment data for the graduating law class of 2017 as reported by American Bar Association-approved law schools to the ABA Section on Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar is now publicly available.  

The aggregate national data on law graduate employment outcome for the class of 2017 and individual schools' post-graduate employment figures can be found online. An online table also provides select national side-by-side comparisons between the classes of 2017 and 2016.

The aggregated school data shows that 75.3 percent of the 2017 graduates of the 204 law schools approved by the ABA to offer the J.D. degree were employed in full-time long-term Bar Passage Required or J.D. Advantage jobs roughly 10 months after graduation. That compares to 72.6 percent of the graduates reporting similar full-time long-term jobs last year.


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April 20, 2018 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

Weekly SSRN Tax Article Review And Roundup: Stevenson Reviews Sugin's Competitive Philanthropy

This week, Ariel Jurow Stevenson (NYU; moving to San Diego) reviews a new work by Linda Sugin (Fordham), Competitive Philanthropy: Charitable Naming Rights, Inequality, and Social Norms, 79 Ohio St. L. J. __ (2018).

StevensonDespite decades of research, experts have not reached a firm conclusion regarding whether and how much the charitable deduction increases giving. As Linda Sugin convincingly argues in her recent article, this uncertainty should not counsel towards abandoning the deduction, but rather embracing it for the key social functions it performs. Shifting the focus away from economic factors, Sugin explains that the charitable deduction is important for signaling the value of communal support and deconcentrating wealth at the top of the income distribution. Sugin’s article offers a timely and vital critique of the charitable deduction literature’s overly narrow focus on economic analysis, and suggests a novel policy solution directed at today’s pressing social problems.

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April 20, 2018 in Scholarship, Tax, Weekly SSRN Roundup | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tax Policy In The Trump Administration

Desai: Tax Reform, Round One

Mihir A. Desai (Harvard), Tax Reform, Round One:

The Trump Administration's successful efforts at tax legislation stand out as the primary achievement of its first year. But the hurried, largely furtive drafting, and rush to passage at the end of 2017, have helped obscure the new tax regime’s real impact. Much of the reporting and debate has focused on the politicking that went into passing the bill, and the purported effect on the federal budget deficit. That has diverted attention from the true significance of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA). Instead of simply changing rates and addressing loopholes, the TCJA represents a structural change to the income tax and, consequently, will lead to major changes in behavior. Teasing out those details reveals that the new law is likely to generate different incentives for economic growth than commonly claimed, unwanted complexities that invite still further gaming of the tax code (which the reforms themselves were intended to minimize), and larger deficits than forecast. If the past is a guide, and we can hope it is, the TCJA will be a precursor to further reforms that correct these shortcomings and address important distributional and fiscal concerns.

In the context of other legislation during the past 40 years, the magnitude of this tax reform is unremarkable when framed relative to gross domestic product. Indeed, the 1981 tax bill reduced federal revenue by an amount equaling more than twice the share of the estimated reduction in the Trump edition. But no reform during the last four decades approximates the scope and depth of the TCJA’s changes to the overall structure of the tax system.

Harvard 1

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April 20, 2018 in Tax, Tax Policy in the Trump Administration | Permalink | Comments (0)

February Bar Exam Performance Hits Record Low, February Bar Exam Performance Hits Record Low:

A decline in the average MBE score from the February 2018 bar exam does not bode well for pass rates, which are beginning to trickle out.

Performance of law graduates taking the attorney licensing test in February has hit the lowest point in more than a decade, while scores for those taking the exam during the more popular July session have been on the upswing.

According to the National Conference of Bar Examiners, the average score on February’s Multistate Bar Exam—the 200 multiple-choice question portion of the test used by all jurisdictions—fell 1.3 points from the previous year, to 132.8. That’s the lowest average in more than 10 years, and marks the fourth straight year that the February average declined.

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April 20, 2018 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tax Day In The Age Of Trump: Read Thoreau

HDTNew York Times op-ed:  It’s Tax Day. Don’t Forget to Read Thoreau., by Sarah Vowell:

Henry David Thoreau delivered a lecture on “resistance to civil government” that would acquire the post-mortem title “Civil Disobedience.” He wonders: “How does it become a man to behave toward this American government today? I answer, that he cannot without disgrace be associated with it.” ...

[F]or six years Thoreau did not pay his taxes. He asks, “When I meet a government which says to me, ‘Your money or your life,’ why should I be in haste to give it my money?” And so he went to jail — for a single night. “For some one” — probably his aunt — “interfered, and paid that tax.”

Rereading “Civil Disobedience” annually, around tax time, is on the same to-do list as sending forms to my accountant and gathering the wadded-up receipts that suggest that my job is not writing but drinking tea in airports. Because the point of Thoreau’s admitted “harsh and stubborn and unconciliatory” rant is worth remembering at least once a year: Our money makes us complicit. You and I paid for the rope at Abu Ghraib just as our forebears footed the bill for Gen. Winfield Scott and Capt. Robert E. Lee to dock at Veracruz in 1847 and follow the trail blazed by Hernán Cortés to storm Mexico City because the guy in the White House really needed Utah.

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April 20, 2018 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Second Law Prof Whistleblower Suit Against InfiLaw Unsealed

Arizona Summit Logo (2015), Second Law Prof Whistleblower Suit Against InfiLaw Unsealed:

A newly unsealed whistleblower lawsuit filed by two former professors at Arizona Summit Law School alleges that the school and its owner, InfiLaw Corp., violated federal student loan rules in order to collect more than $533 million in government-backed financial aid from 2012 to 2015.

The qui tam suit, which the plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed in February and the court unsealed March 26, is the second whistleblower suit brought by faculty from an InfiLaw school to be made public. Another case focusing on InfiLaw’s now defunct Charlotte School of Law makes similar claims to the Arizona suit, and is still pending. Arizona Summit and InfiLaw’s Florida Coastal School of Law are for-profit institutions, as was Charlotte.

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April 20, 2018 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tax Development Journal Publishes New Issue

TDJ4The Tax Development Journal of California State University, Northridge (a double-blind, peer-reviewed journal), has published Volume 8 (Spring 2018):

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April 20, 2018 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Weekly Legal Education Roundup

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Proposed Student Loan Cap Could Cause 20-30 Law Schools To Close Within Five Years

National Law Journal, Proposed Student Loan Cap Could Devastate Law Schools:

A bill wending its way through Congress would cap graduate federal student loans and drive many law students into the private loan market, potentially forcing between 20 and 30 law schools to close within five years.

That’s the dire prediction offered to a group of legal educators by Chris Chapman, president of AccessLex Institute, a former private student loan provider and nonprofit organization that now advocates for greater access to law school. Chapman’s warning cast a pall over the Summit on the Future of Legal Education and Entry to the Profession, where law deans, professors and other interested parties assembled last week at Florida International University College of Law for two days to contemplate how to address legal education’s myriad woes. ...

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April 19, 2018 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (9)

Columbia Journal Of Tax Law Publishes New Tax Matters: The U.S. And The WTO

Columbia Journal of Tax Law LogoThe Columbia Journal of Tax Law has published a new issue of its Tax Matters feature, with short pieces by tax practitioners responding to a specific cutting-edge tax law issue posed by a tax academic.
Reuven S. Avi-Yonah (Michigan), Does the United States Still Care About Complying With Its WTO Obligations?, 9 Colum. J. Tax L. Tax Matters 12 (2018):

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April 19, 2018 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Conservative Law Prof Heckled by CUNY Protestors

CUNYNational Law Journal, Conservative Law Prof Heckled by CUNY Protestors Warns of Troubling Trend:

[O]n March 29, students at the City University of New York School of Law held protest signs and heckled Josh Blackman, a professor at South Texas College of Law Houston, who had been invited by the campus chapter of the Federalist Society to talk about free speech.

Blackman, who is right of center and has defended the legality of some of President Donald Trump’s actions, went public last week with his experience at the school, posting a video that showed him navigating a protestor-packed corridor and struggling to deliver his remarks over the interjections of students standing inches away. The signs called Blackman a white supremacist, oppressor, and racist, among other things. (The student protesters appear to have taken particular issue with Blackman’s support of Trump’s decision to rescind the Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals program on the grounds that its creation was unlawful. Blackman said during his remarks that he supports the DREAM Act.) The protesters left the room after 10 minutes, but Blackman scrapped his prepared remarks and instead took questions from students.

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April 19, 2018 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (4)

Camp: A New In Camera Review Requirement For Summons Proceedings?

Bryan Camp (Texas Tech), A New in Camera Review Requirement for Summons Proceedings?, 158 Tax Notes 1201 (Feb. 26, 2018):

This paper looks at what appears to be an emerging trend in tax summons enforcement: that district courts actually review documents for which the summoned party claims a privilege. In December 2017 the Ninth Circuit seemingly joined the Second Circuit and the D.C. Circuit in finding that a district court's failure to review documents in camera was an abuse of discretion.

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April 19, 2018 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Phil Hackney Leaves LSU For Pittsburgh

HackneyPhilip Hackney, James E. and Betty M. Phillips Professor of Law at LSU, will join the Pittsburgh tax faculty in Fall 2018:

Phil Hackney joins Pitt Law from the Louisiana State University’s Paul M. Hebert Law Center, where he has been a member of the faculty since 2011. Hackney’s scholarship focuses on the law that governs the nonprofit tax-exempt sector of the economy, such as charities, social welfare organizations, labor unions, and trade associations. In addition to his scholarly work, he has been published in the Washington PostThe New Republic, and Salon. He is frequently quoted in the press as a national expert on nonprofit organizations.

Hackney is deeply engaged in law reform efforts. He served as a member of the Advisory Committee to the Independent Sector to update its Ethics and Principles of Good Governance for Nonprofit Organizations in 2014. In Louisiana, he served as a member of the Louisiana Tax Institute, a state board created to aid the state in improving its tax system. He also served as a member of the Corporations Committee of the Louisiana Law Institute to revise the limited liability company statute of Louisiana. He is an author of a treatise on Limited Liability Companies in Louisiana.

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April 19, 2018 in Legal Education, Tax, Tax Prof Moves | Permalink | Comments (1)

When Can A University Read Faculty Email?

Gmail (2014)Inside Higher Ed, Who’s Reading Your Email?:

In 2016, two faculty members at the University of Rochester filed a sexual harassment complaint against their colleague T. Florian Jaeger.

The two faculty members, Richard Aslin and Jessica Cantlon, said they were whistle-blowers, acting to protect their students from a potentially predatory professor. They expected support from their institution, but, they said, they didn't get it.

After insisting that the university’s two internal investigations into Jaeger (which both found no evidence of wrongdoing) had been flawed, Aslin and Cantlon said the university administration turned on them. Both faculty members had their university email accounts searched by administrators in an apparent attempt to find information that might be used to discredit them, they said.

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April 19, 2018 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (2)

Today Is Tax Freedom Day — Earlier In LA, TN, AL & OK, Later In NY, NJ, CT & IL

Tax Foundation, Tax Freedom Day 2018 is April 19th:

  • Tax Freedom Day is a significant date for taxpayers and lawmakers because it represents how long Americans as a whole have to work in order to pay the nation’s tax burden.
  • This year, Tax Freedom Day falls on April 19, 109 days into 2018.
  • Tax Freedom Day will be three days earlier than it was in 2017, in large part due to the recent federal tax law, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which significantly lowered federal individual and corporate income taxes.
  • In 2018, Americans will pay $3.4 trillion in federal taxes and $1.8 trillion in state and local taxes, for a total bill of $5.2 trillion, or 30 percent of the nation’s income.
  • Americans will collectively spend more on taxes in 2018 than they will on food, clothing, and housing combined.
  • If you include annual federal borrowing, which represents future taxes owed, Tax Freedom Day would occur 17 days later, on May 6th.

Tax Freedom Day

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Tax Foundation Figures Do Not Represent Typical Households’ Tax Burdens:

The Tax Foundation released its annual “Tax Freedom Day” report today that, once again, can leave a strikingly misleading impression of tax burdens — showing an average federal tax rate across the United States that’s likely higher than the tax rate that 80 percent of U.S. households actually pay.

To project the day when “the nation as a whole has earned enough money to pay its total tax bill for the year,” the Tax Foundation calculates the average tax rate by measuring tax revenues as a share of the economy (similar to estimates of total revenues as a share of gross domestic product, or GDP).

In a progressive tax system like that of the United States, only upper-income households on average pay federal tax at rates that are equal to or above federal revenues as a share of the economy.  Estimates from the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center (TPC) show that low- and middle-income households (about 80 percent of all households) will pay a smaller share of their income in federal taxes this year than the Tax Foundation’s average tax rate.

The Tax Foundation acknowledges this issue in a methodology paper addressing its calculation of Tax Freedom Day, noting that its estimates reflect the “average tax burden for the economy as a whole, rather than for specific subgroups of taxpayers.” Consequently, those who report on Tax Freedom Day as if it represents the day until which the typical American must work to pay his or her taxes are misinterpreting these figures and inadvertently fostering misimpressions about the taxes that most Americans pay.

Moreover, the Tax Foundation suggests that people spend part of the year working for the government and part of it working for themselves, becoming “free” only when they get to work for themselves.  In reality, taxes pay for services that benefit us every day and are central to our idea of freedom.  Few Americans would likely feel more “free” if Tax Freedom Day came earlier in the year because the federal government stopped providing for national security, maintaining infrastructure, conducting food safety inspections, or testing prescription drugs.

Finally, the report’s estimates of state and local tax burdens suffer from a number of serious methodological flaws (see box below).

April 19, 2018 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Uber Driver Tried To Abduct Law Prof Nancy Leong On Way To Airport

LeongABA Journal, Law Professor Says Uber Driver Tried to Abduct Her on Ride to the Airport:

A law professor said an Uber driver tried to take her to a hotel against her will on her way to the airport. 

Nancy Leong, a professor at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, described Tuesday’s incident through a series of posts on her Twitter account and called on Uber to take action. USA Today, the Huffington Post and Denver7 also have stories.

Leong said the driver exited the highway saying he was going to take her to a hotel. According to her tweets, when the car stopped at a red light at the bottom of a highway ramp, she started screaming “let me out of the fucking car” and pounded on the windows. The driver did not unlock the doors until nearby construction workers noticed her. She got out 

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April 19, 2018 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (2)

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Florida Tax Review Publishes New Issue

Florida Tax Review (2018)The Florida Tax Review has published Vol. 21, No. 1:

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April 18, 2018 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Columbia Journal Of Tax Law Publishes New Tax Matters: Charitable Contributions And State Tax Credits

Columbia Journal of Tax Law LogoThe Columbia Journal of Tax Law has published a new issue of its Tax Matters feature, with short pieces by tax practitioners responding to a specific cutting-edge tax law issue posed by a tax academic.
Kirk J. Stark (UCLA), The Tax Treatment of Charitable Contributions & State Tax Credits, 9 Colum. J. Tax L. Tax Matters 1 (2018):

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April 18, 2018 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Los Angeles Law Firms After The Financial Crisis

L.A.James Park (Lowell Milken Institute for Business Law and Policy, UCLA), Law Firms in Los Angeles After the Financial Crisis (Mar. 2018):

  • While the L.A. legal market has recovered from the economic slide of 2008, large L.A.-based firms now have 20 percent fewer lawyers here than they did in 2008.
  • Since 2008, several firms based in other major cities have opened in Los Angeles or increased the number of lawyers here. Overall, these firms have about 1,000 more lawyers in Los Angeles than they did in 2008.
  • Los Angeles firms have increased leverage by significantly reducing their associate-to-partner ratios.
  • Firms with their largest offices in Los Angeles have seen substantial increases in profits per partner and revenue per lawyer in the last decade.


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April 18, 2018 in Legal Education, Think Tank Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

IRS Website Crashes On Tax Day; Millions Of Last-Minute Filers Told 'Come Back On Dec. 31, 9999'

IRSNew York Times, I.R.S. Website Crashes on Tax Day as Millions Tried to File Returns:

Millions of taxpayers who waited until Tuesday to file their 2017 tax returns and make payments through the Internal Revenue Service’s website were thwarted by a systemwide computer failure that advised last-minute filers to “come back on Dec. 31, 9999.”

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April 18, 2018 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Sugin: Competitive Philanthropy — Charitable Naming Rights, Inequality, And Social Norms

Linda Sugin (Fordham), Competitive Philanthropy: Charitable Naming Rights, Inequality, and Social Norms, 79 Ohio St. L. J. ___ (2018):

Income inequality today is at a high not seen since the 1920s, and one way the very richest display their wealth is through charitable giving. Gifts in excess of $100 million are no longer rare, and in return for their mega-gifts, the biggest donors get their names on buildings, an astonishingly valuable benefit that the tax law ignores. The law makes no distinction between a gift of $100 and a gift of $100 million.

This Article argues that the tax law of charity should focus on the very rich and harness the culture of philanthropy among the elite. The law should encourage and celebrate what this Article calls “competitive philanthropy,” which defines philanthropic success as inspiring others to exceed your generosity. To promote competitive philanthropy, this Article proposes a legal regime that includes both more and less generous elements for donors than current law. It introduces a hierarchy of gift restrictions that calibrates the charitable deduction to reflect the burdens that restrictions impose on charities, disfavoring perpetuity and mission-diverting restrictions. It recommends eschewing the standard donor-centered perspective of the tax law to consider the perspective of charities.

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April 18, 2018 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Columbia Journal Of Tax Law Publishes New Tax Matters: Tax Treatment Of A Marijuana Business

Columbia Journal of Tax Law LogoThe Columbia Journal of Tax Law has published a new issue of its Tax Matters feature, with short pieces by tax practitioners responding to a specific cutting-edge tax law issue posed by a tax academic.
Douglas A. Kahn (Michigan), The Tax Treatment of a Marijuana Business, 8 Colum. J. Tax L. Tax Matters 23 (2017):

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April 18, 2018 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Diamond: BLS Data Show Lawyer Employment, Incomes Continue To Rise

BLS (2015)Stephen F. Diamond (Santa Clara), Good News For Lawyers From the BLS: Incomes and Employment Up Yet Again:

Continuing a decades old trend, employment of lawyers increased yet again from May, 2016 to May, 2017, in the latest data released March 30, 2018, by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. (The data exludes partners, who are not defined as “employees,” and may also exclude some solo practitioners.) Nationally, there were 628,370 people employed by lawyers as of May, 2017 compared to 619,530 a year earlier, representing an increase (net of retirements, deaths, and changes of employment) of 8,840 lawyers. ...

Incomes were up, yet again, as in every year but one over the last two decades. The mean wage as of 2017 was $141,890 and the median was $119,250. This compares to $139,880 and $118,160 for the prior year. The increase of approximately 1.4% was in line with inflation. ...

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April 18, 2018 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

Hemel & Herzig: Scott Pruitt’s Travel Could Leave Him With A Big Tax Bill

Washington Post op-ed:  Scott Pruitt’s Travel Could Leave Him With a Big Tax Bill, by Daniel Hemel (Chicago) & David Herzig (Valparaiso):

Scott Pruitt could be in tax trouble on top of his ethical and political problems.

The embattled administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency has reportedly spent nearly $3 million on security and travel since taking office in February 2017. That sum apparently includes the cost of a security detail that accompanied Pruitt and his family on a vacation to Disneyland and the Rose Bowl this winter.

Pruitt might owe federal and D.C. taxes on a large chunk of that money.

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April 18, 2018 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Satterthwaite Presents Electing Into A Value-Added Tax Today At NYU

SatterthwaiteEmily Satterthwaite (Toronto) presents Electing into a Value-Added Tax: Evidence from Ontario Micro-Entrepreneurs at NYU today as part of its Tax Policy Colloquium Series hosted by Lily Batchelder and Daniel Shaviro:

Across countries, value-added tax (VAT) statutes typically recognize the disproportionate burden of VAT compliance for smaller firms by exempting “small suppliers” (defined as businesses with annual revenues less than a specified registration threshold) from the obligation to register for, collect, and remit VAT on their sales.  But most input-credit-style VATs also offer small suppliers a curious choice: they can elect into the VAT by voluntarily registering.  Because VAT paid on inputs is refundable for registered firms, small suppliers have stronger incentives to voluntarily register as they (1) purchase more of their inputs from registered firms (the “input channel”) or (2) sell more of their output to registered firms (the “customer channel”).  In theory, these “formality chain effects” can improve the efficiency of a VAT.  In practice, however, many VATs feature registration thresholds that are far lower in dollar terms than recommended by economists.  Where a registration threshold is very low, might microenterprises’ high VAT compliance costs weaken their incentives to voluntarily register, thereby undermining the policy rationale for offering the election?  This paper uses qualitative and quantitative research methods to explore the relevance of the formality chain effect theory in the context of a low registration threshold.

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April 17, 2018 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Mehrotra Presents T.S. Adams And The Beginning Of The Value-Added Tax Today At Georgetown

Mehrotra (2017)Ajay Mehrotra (American Bar Foundation & Northwestern) presents Economic Expertise, Democratic Constraints, and the Historical Irony of U.S. Tax Policy: Thomas S. Adams and the Beginnings of the Value-Added Tax at Georgetown today as part of its Tax Law and Public Finance Workshop Series hosted by Lilian Faulhaber and Itai Grinberg:

I have recently embarked upon a new long-term research project (The VAT Laggard: A Comparative History of U.S. Resistance to the Value-added Tax), which explores why the United States remains the only advanced, industrialized nation that continues to resist the global spread of the value-added tax (VAT). The first part of this comparative-history project examines the 1920s intellectual beginnings of the VAT in the United States.

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April 17, 2018 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

ABA Committee Proposes Eliminating The LSAT Requirement For Law School Admissions, LSAT's Grip on Law Schools Loosens With ABA's Latest Move:

The American Bar Association’s longstanding requirement that law schools use the LSAT in admissions looks to be on the way out.

An ABA committee on April 13 recommended axing the accreditation standard mandating that schools use a standardized test in admissions. That move would eliminate the LSAT’s status as the only test specifically allowed by the ABA.

That change, should it be approved by the ABA’s Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar and the ABA’s House of Delegates later this year, would pave the way for schools nationwide to use the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) and other alternative tests. Thus far, 17 law schools are accepting or have said they soon will accept the GRE alongside the LSAT. But other campuses have been awaiting a decision from the ABA to clarify whether the GRE is allowed under its accreditation standards.

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April 17, 2018 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

John Oliver: Corporate Taxes

The Five Types of Professors: Which One Are You?

Chronicle of Higher Education, The 5 Types of Professors: Which One Are You?:

Efforts to dictate or even describe the work habits of professors are often controversial. They also have a blind spot: Such exercises often fail to account for the different roles that faculty members fill.

That observation led a team of researchers from the Center for Postsecondary Research, at Indiana University at Bloomington, to examine the time that professors devote to the key components of professorial work: teaching, research, and service.

The report, Faculty Types and Effective Teaching: A Cautionary Exploration of How Faculty Spend their Time, maps out five core types of faculty members based on the relative amounts of time they spend on those three core areas of work. It captures a more nuanced view of faculty roles than job titles provide.


Here’s what the researchers found about the five types:

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April 17, 2018 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Columbia Journal Of Tax Law Publishes New Issue

Columbia Journal of Tax Law LogoThe Columbia Journal of Tax Law has published Vol. 9, No. 2:

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April 17, 2018 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

More Evidence That Student Evaluations Are Biased Against Women

Following up on last week's post, Students Rate Male Professors More Highly Than Female Professors:  Daily Tar Heel, NC State Research Shows Male Professors Receive Higher Ratings Than Female:


For professors, student evaluations are used to assist decisions on promotions, raises and tenure. But research from North Carolina State University shows that the evaluations a professor receives are linked to their gender, with male professors receiving higher and more favorable ratings than female professors [What’s in a Name: Exposing Gender Bias in Student Ratings of Teaching].

In 2014, researchers at N.C. State used online courses, where an instructor’s gender could be hidden, to test this gender bias. Four sections of an online class were taught by two instructors: a female instructor and a male instructor. Each taught two sections, using their true identity for one and adopting a name of the opposite gender for the other.

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April 17, 2018 in Legal Education, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (4)

Christian Who Cites Opposition To Abortion For Not Paying Taxes Wins Round 1 In Federal District Court

The Oregonian, Man Who Cites Opposition to Abortion For Not Paying Taxes Wins Round 1 in Court:

A federal judge has dismissed a felony tax evasion charge against a man who describes himself as a Christian who refuses to give money to the government to support abortion.

U.S. District Judge Michael W. Mosman ruled that the government's indictment failed to provide any evidence that Michael Bowman tried to conceal or mislead government officials by simply cashing his checks and keeping a low bank balance so tax collectors couldn't garnish his account to pay taxes.

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April 17, 2018 in New Cases, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

Monday, April 16, 2018

Ariel Stevenson, NYU VAP, To Join San Diego Tax Faculty

StevensonAriel Jurow Stevenson (Acting Assistant Professor of Tax Law, NYU) has accepted a tenure-track position at San Diego, beginning in August 2018.

  • JD 2014, Yale
  • MSc (Economic Development) 2008, London School of Economics and Political Science
  • BA (Economics & International Development Studies) 2007, UCLA

Before joining NYU, Ariel received a Skadden Fellowship to work at Bet Tzedek Legal Services in Los Angeles, where she founded and directed a program that provides tax legal services to low-income and immigrant workers. She represented low-income clients in state and federal tax controversies, and regularly served as an advisor on tax issues for public interest attorneys throughout California.

Ariel's publications include:

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April 16, 2018 in Legal Education, Tax, Tax Prof Moves | Permalink | Comments (0)