TaxProf Blog

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

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

What Motivates Faculty To Teach Well?

Inside Higher Ed, What Motivates Good Teaching?:

[M]any professors do teach well, and a new study [Faculty Members’ Motivation For Teaching and Best Practices] explores what motivates them to do so. More precisely, the study’s authors wanted to test a model of faculty motivation for teaching as a predictor of using best teaching practices. ...

As it turns out, certain factors predict professors’ intrinsic and “identified” motivation for teaching (the latter form meaning doing something because it's seen as important), in support of the authors’ conceptual model. And those kinds of “autonomous” motivations in turn predict greater use of proven, effective teaching methods — namely instructional clarity and higher-order, reflective and integrative, and collaborative learning.

“Simply put, faculty who teach because they enjoy and value it tend to teach in the most effective ways,” said Robert H. Stupnisky, the study’s lead author and an associate professor of education and human development at the University of North Dakota.

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April 10, 2018 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Leviner Presents Public Opinion And Tax Justice Today At Sapir School of Law

Leviner (2018)Sagit Leviner (Ono Academic College, Israel) presents In the Eye of the Beholder: Public Opinion on Tax Justice at Sapir School of Law today as part of its Faculty Seminar Series:

The tax system is one of the most influential of civic institutions of our time. Taxes often detract at least one third of our income and they present an immediate and consequential effect with respect to a broad array of actions we make daily, when we choose to get married, have kids, go to college, or buy a loaf of bread. And, even though tax cuts and reforms are accordingly appealing to many people, it is worth taking time to ponder over the consequences of such cuts and reforms. This essay addresses the issue of fairness in taxation and how the tax system is perceived desirable not from a purely academic or theoretical perspective, but rather from a public opinion prism.

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April 10, 2018 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Abreu & Greenstein: Rebranding Tax/Increasing Diversity

Alice Abreu (Temple) & Richard Greenstein (Temple), Rebranding Tax/Increasing Diversity, 96 Denv. L. Rev. ___ (2018):

Tax gets a bad rap. It is generally thought to be coercive, burdensome, complicated, unpleasant, and boring. The annual ritual of filing tax returns underscores the taking aspect of taxation by reminding even those who receive refunds that money has been taken from them. This view of tax—that it is about taking—is not only inaccurate and incomplete, but it may have had two related, significant, deleterious, but unexamined effects. Viewing the tax system only as an instrument of taking may contribute to the creation of a tax bar that is more white and less diverse than the bar in general, and that may, in turn, contribute to the existence of a tax system that disproportionately favors the relatively non-diverse population of taxpayers at the top of the income distribution. This Article examines the first of these effects. We attempt to answer to a question that has gone unasked for far too long: Why is the tax bar so white?

AG2

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April 10, 2018 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Pepperdine Seeks To Hire An Assistant Dean For Career Development

Pepperdine Law School (2017) (Logo)Pepperdine Law School Seeks To Hire An Assistant Dean For Career Development:

Pepperdine School of Law in Malibu, California, is seeking an enthusiastic and motivated candidate for an Assistant Dean for Career Development position.  If you are at Pepperdine Law, you are at a place where:

  • Dean Caron and the entire administrative leadership team are highly supportive of the law school's career services programs and efforts;
  • The university and the law school encourages and supports entrepreneurship, vision, and a can-do attitude on the part of its administration, faculty, and staff;
  • The law school's recruiting program results and employment outcomes are on the rise — the new Assistant Dean will be joining and leading a team that is already successful and looking to build upon its positive trajectory;  
  • The Career Development Office is staffed with a close-knit, passionate, committed, professional, collegial, and supportive team of career counselors and recruiting and administrative professionals who work constantly to deliver, and also to enhance, the office's services for students and alumni;  
  • And last but certainly not least . . . The law school's location in beautiful Malibu, at the base of the Santa Monica Mountains and overlooking the Pacific Ocean, provides a wonderful backdrop to our daily work environment.

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April 10, 2018 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

ABA Considers Tossing LSAT Requirement, Disagreement Ensues

GRELSAT2Following up on my previous posts (links below):  Law.com, ABA Considers Tossing LSAT Requirement, Disagreement Ensues:

The debate over the GRE in law school admissions is headed to Washington this week.

The American Bar Association is holding a public hearing April 12 on a proposed change to its law school standards that would drop the requirement that schools use the Law School Admission Test when selecting students.

Proponents and opponents of the change have already laid out their arguments in written comments submitted before the hearing, and the legal academy appears markedly split on the issue. Unsurprisingly, the organizations behind both standardized tests are at odds over whether the ABA’s Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar should eliminate the LSAT rule.

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April 10, 2018 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (2)

Hackney: Subsidizing The Heavenly Chorus — Labor Unions And Tax Exemption

Philip Hackney (LSU), Subsidizing the Heavenly Chorus: Labor Unions and Tax Exemption, 91 St. John's L. Rev. 315 (2017):

Labor Unions are nonprofit organizations that provide laborers a voice before their employer and before governments. They are classic interest groups. United States federal tax policy exempts labor unions from the income tax, but effectively prohibits labor union members from deducting union dues from the individual income tax. Because these two policies directly impact the political voice of laborers, I consider primarily the value of political fairness in evaluating these tax policies rather than the typical tax critique of economic fairness or efficiency. I apply a model that presumes our democracy should aim for one person, one political voice. For the model, political voice means the ability of citizens to participate in setting and discussing the political agenda and to vote on any final decision. In a modern democratic state, citizens largely depend upon organized interest groups to fulfill this role of political voice. In the Article, I demonstrate that tax policy applicable to labor unions likely modestly harms political voice equality.

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April 10, 2018 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 9, 2018

Scharff Presents Green Fees: Pricing Externalities Under State Law Today At UC-Irvine

Scharff (2017)Erin Scharff (Arizona State) presents Green Fees: The Challenge of Pricing Externalities under State Law at UC-Irvine today as part of its Tax Law and Policy Colloquium Series hosted by Omri Marian:

Policymakers at the state and local level are increasingly interested in using market-based pricing mechanisms as regulatory tools. At the state level, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Washington have recently considered state-level carbon pricing, while California is moving forward with its own cap-and-trade program. At the local level, municipal governments are increasingly turning to stormwater remediation fees to pay for the treatment of municipal runoff required by the Clean Water Act. And Philadelphia, Berkeley, and Seattle all recently joined Chicago and impose a soda tax on high-caloric beverages.

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April 9, 2018 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Brooks: Don’t Let The GOP Dismantle Obama’s Student Loan Reforms

New York Times op-ed:  Don’t Let the G.O.P. Dismantle Obama’s Student Loan Reforms, by John R. Brooks (Georgetown):

One of the most important — but least known — achievements of the Obama administration was the expansion of the income-driven repaymentprogram for federal student loans. The program aims to make student loan payments affordable for everyone, regardless of their income. But Republicans, in their endless quest to undo everything Mr. Obama did, are now trying to dismantle the program under the guise of reform, citing misleading claims of high costs and low effectiveness. In fact, the program’s costs are low, and the student loan system as a whole is financially self-sustaining. More important, we should be increasing investment in higher education and support for students, not the reverse.

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April 9, 2018 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Kaplow And Shavell And The Priority Of Income Taxation And Transfer

David Blankfein-Tabachnick (Michigan State) & Kevin A. Kordana (Virginia), Kaplow and Shavell and the Priority of Income Taxation and Transfer, 69 Hastings L.J. 1 (2017):

This Article rejects a central claim of taxation and private law theory, namely, Kaplow and Shavell’s prominent thesis that egalitarian social goals are most efficiently achieved through income taxation and transfer, as opposed to egalitarian alterations in private law rules. Kaplow and Shavell compare the efficiency of rules of tort to rules of tax and transfer in meeting egalitarian goals, concluding that taxation and transfer is always more efficient than other private law legal rules. We argue that Kaplow and Shavell reach this conclusion only through inattention to the body of private law that informs the very basis of their discussion: underlying property entitlements. This Article contends that Kaplow and Shavell’s comparison of rules of taxation to rules of tort fails to take proper account of the powerful role that (re)assigning underlying property entitlements plays in achieving egalitarian goals, even at the level of formal theory.

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April 9, 2018 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Jukin’ The Stats: The Gaming Of Law School Rankings And How To Stop It

U.S. News 2019Darren Bush (Houston) & Jessica Peterson (Durham Jones & Pinegar, Salt Lake City), Jukin’ the Stats: The Gaming of Law School Rankings and How to Stop It, 45 Conn. L. Rev. 1235 (2013):

“Jukin' the stats” means manipulating pertinent information to advance one's position. In the case of law schools, manipulation of law school rankings, put forth by U.S. News and World Report, potentially enables the school to gain advantage relative to competitors. This Article describes the U.S. News Law School rankings methodology followed by prospective law students everywhere. The Article then discusses how law schools manipulate their data submissions in order to change their relative rankings. The Article also describes the inability of the stakeholders in the rankings process to obtain adequate recourse for rankings manipulation, and the lack of incentive U.S. News possesses to strongly police data submissions.

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April 9, 2018 in Law School Rankings, Legal Education, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Simkovic: U.S. News And Pepperdine — There But For The Grace Of God Go We All

U.S. News 2019Following up on my previous posts (links below):  Michael Simkovic (USC), U.S. News.com and Pepperdine: There But For The Grace Of God Go We All:

Pepperdine’s law school recently made an error when submitting enrollment data to U.S. News.com.  Pepperdine contacted U.S. News promptly after uncovering the error and submitted corrected data in time for U.S. News to use the corrected data in its ranking.  Although the erroneous data was more positive than the corrected data, no reasons have been given to believe that Pepperdine intentionally sought to deceive U.S. News. 

I know and respect Paul Caron, the current Dean of Pepperdine.  While we don’t always agree on technical or political issues, the notion that he would intentionally commit fraud—and then immediately correct his error—is outlandish.  (In the interest of disclosure, Leiter Reports joined a network of legal education blogs that Paul organized, but Leiter Reports and Caron’s blog, TaxProf, often compete and advance different perspectives.  I have vocally criticized some of the research covered on TaxProf blog.).

Nevertheless, U.S. News punished Pepperdine by making it an “unranked” law school this year.  Those who are not familiar with the reasons for this move in the rakings might mistakenly believe that Pepperdine fell outside the top 100.  According to analyses by Bill Henderson and Andy Morriss, if not for the penalty imposed by U.S. News, in all likelihood Pepperdine’s rank this year would have risen from 72 to between 64 and 62. ...

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April 9, 2018 in Law School Rankings, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Lesson From The Tax Court: One Year At A Time

Tax Court (2017)

Last week the Tax Court issued 19 opinions, including one articulate opinion on Collection Due Process that teaches an interesting, albeit esoteric, lesson about the bulk-processing nature of tax administration.  I will save that case, Scott T. Blackburn, v. Commissioner, 150 T.C. No. 9, for another week, or perhaps our colleagues over at Procedurally Taxing will blog it.

In today’s post I want to look at two of last week’s opinions that I think teach a more basic lesson about the important way in which each tax year is separate from all others.  The two cases are: (1) Shane Havener and Amy E. Costa v. Commissioner, T.C. Sum. Op. 2018-17 (Apr. 4, 2018); and (2) Gary K. Sherman and Gwendolyn L. Sherman v. Commissioner, T.C. Sum. Op. 2018-15 (Apr. 2, 2018). 

Notice that both of these are what are called “Summary” Opinions.  That means the taxpayer in each one elected the small case procedures allowed by IRC §7463 and implemented by Tax Court Rules 170 et. seq.  As most readers no doubt know, the upside of that election is relaxed procedural rules (notably rules of evidence) and the downside is that the loser may not appeal to a higher court.  The idea is that these are cases where the dispute between the taxpayer and the IRS is really one about factual matters and not about the law. That is why when you access these cases through the Tax Court website, the website pops up the following message in all-caps: “Pursuant To Internal Revenue Code Section 7463(b), This Opinion May Not Be Treated As Precedent For Any Other Case.” 

The very reason why these cases make for lousy precedent, however, is why they often make for good lessons about basic tax concepts.  The lesson I see in these two cases is about the appropriate accounting period, a particularly timely lesson this week since April 16th (the deadline for filing returns this year since April 15th falls on a Sunday) is right around the proverbial corner. 

To economists, the most accurate accounting period is one’s lifetime.  That is, the best measure of income is what happens over our lifetime.  But because governments need revenue sooner, because not all taxpayers die (think corporations), and because even if tax revenue would even out in the long, long, long run, the transition costs to a lifetime accounting period would be untenable, Congress created a yearly accounting period for income tax (and shorter accounting periods for excise taxes such as the employment tax). 

That yearly period ends on December 31st for most of us mere mortals.  The yearly questions we ask are “how much income did I have during the last year?” and “what expenditures did I make that I can deduct from the income I made?”  The point of today's lesson is that we must ask those questions every year and just because we get a wrong answer in one year does not entitle us to continue using that wrong answer in later years. 

More below the fold.

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April 9, 2018 in Bryan Camp, New Cases, Tax, Tax Practice And Procedure | Permalink | Comments (4)

The Rule Of Law Is Not A Rule Of Law: Thoughts On Solum And Meyer

Pardon me while I diverge from the topic of legal education to talk about something abstract like "the rule of law," provoked by recent work of two of my favorite legal educators.  

Solum-lawrence_1On April 4, Larry Solum (Georgetown) delivered the Regula Lecture at the University of Akron on "Surprising Originalism", which you can watch here.  I am always interested in what Larry has to say, first, because we share some common interests in language and philosophy, and, second, because he delivers it so well.  If I can summarize his point quickly, it is that (1) sensible originalism is possible if we look not at the founders' intentions, but what the words of the constitutional text actually meant at the time they were uttered; and (2) that originalism in constitutional interpretation is preferable to alternatives like the "living constitution" because the former is more likely to preserve the rule of law - that is, as a restraint on rule by pure power and might.  Larry's particular contribution is the application of the work of the philosopher of language H.P. Grice to the constitutional text - looking not merely at the semantics of the sentences as written, but at their pragmatics as well.  At the time they were written, what did they say but, more importantly, what did they implicate to the public that would have read or heard the words?

I am not a constitutional scholar, but I have my own reasons for being interested in Grice.  Robin Bradley Kar and Margaret Radin have just placed the first Harvard Law Review article on contract law in over ten years.  They use Grice's principles to argue that extensive boilerplate and click-throughs in consumer and other contracts ought not to be considered part of the parties' actual agreement.  I wrote a response, not necessarily disagreeing with the policy issues regarding boilerplate, but taking issue with, among other things, the references to Grice.

I didn't take issue with Larry Solum's point (1) above, at least in terms of thinking about constitutional meaning as guided by Grice.  What I wondered about, as I listened to his lecture, was the move in point (2) - that hewing to a philosophy of constitutional originalism was central to the rule of law.  What went through my head was a line I have used before: "the rule of law is not a rule of law."

1864So I was delighted to see that Linda Meyer (Quinnipiac) happens to have just posted an essay that expands far more eloquently on that thought.  It is not a direct response to Larry Solum's argument; I'm the one making that connection!  Her essay is Sisyphus and the Clockmaker: Two Views of the Rule of Law in Keally McBride's 'Mr. Mothercountry: The Man Who Made the Rule of Law.'  You can see from the abstract why it caught my eye:

This essay is an engagement with Keally McBride's excellent book, "Mr. Mothercountry: The Man Who Made the Rule of Law," and argues that the rule of law is not a law of rules, but a culture of self-restraint and humility.

Some comments below the break.

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April 9, 2018 in Books, Jeff Lipshaw, Legal Education, Miscellaneous, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (1)

TaxProf Blog Weekend Roundup

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Chicago-Kent Is 18th Law School To Accept GRE For Admissions

LSAT GREChicago-Kent College of Law Now Accepting GRE Scores From Law School Applicants:

Effective immediately, Chicago-Kent College of Law will accept scores from the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), as well as from the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), from applicants seeking admission for the upcoming academic year.

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April 8, 2018 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Zelinsky: The Church Of The Holy Sepulchre And Jerusalem’s Property Tax

Exterior Dome of Church of the Holy SepulchreOxford University Press Blog:  The Church of the Holy Sepulchre and Jerusalem’s Property Tax, by Edward Zelinsky (Cardozo):

When is a property tax dispute between a church and a municipality an international controversy? When the church is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the municipality is the city of Jerusalem.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is one of the holiest sites in Christianity. The Church takes its name from what is traditionally believed to be the tomb of Jesus located within the Church. For many Christian pilgrims coming to the Holy Land, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is the highlight of their pilgrimages.

Israeli municipalities levy a property tax known as the arnona. Jerusalem exempts churches in general from this property tax and the religious buildings of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in particular. Besides these holy sites, the Church also owns extensive commercial real estate. This real estate investment is the source of the current controversy.

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April 8, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Lawyer Is America's Loneliest Profession

Harvard Business Review LogoHarvard Business Review, America’s Loneliest Workers:

For our survey of 1,624 full-time employees, all participants in a longitudinal study of 4,000 American workers, our goals were two-fold: First, to identify those employees most at risk for feeling lonely at work; and second, to identify key drivers that maximize the benefits of increased social cohesion among employees. Participants provided details on the degrees of loneliness and social support they experienced on a daily basis, both in and out of the workplace.

Our analysis found distinct groups at both ends of the loneliness spectrum: the who’s who of loneliness, so to speak, as well as their more fortunate counterparts, the “unlonely.” Our data also yielded concrete insights for ways to tackle workplace loneliness that end up helping both your employees — and your company’s bottom line. ...

In a breakdown of loneliness and social support rates by profession, legal practice was the loneliest kind of work, followed by engineering and science. This is perhaps not surprising, given the known high prevalence of depression among lawyers. At the other end of the spectrum were occupations involving high degrees of social interaction: social work, marketing, and sales. ...

The solitude of the ivory tower seems to be a real phenomenon, as well. Graduate degree holders in our sample reported higher levels of loneliness and less workplace support than respondents who had only completed undergraduate or high school degrees. Professional degrees (law and medical degrees) were the loneliest by far, scoring 25% lonelier than bachelor’s degrees, and 20% lonelier than PhDs. ...

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April 8, 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 #1:

  1. [644 Downloads]   Evaluating the New US Pass-Through Rules, by Dan Shaviro (NYU)
  2. [522 Downloads]  Choice-of-Entity Decisions Under the New Tax Act, by Brad Borden (Brooklyn)
  3. [340 Downloads]  The Elephant Always Forgets: U.S. Tax Reform and the WTO, by Reuven Avi-Yonah (Michigan) & Martin Vallespinos (S.J.D. 2018, Michigan)
  4. [291 Downloads]  Explaining Choice-of-Entity Decisions by Silicon Valley Start-Ups, by Gregg Polsky (Georgia)
  5. [275 Downloads]  The Impact of the 2017 Act's Tax Rate Changes on Choice of Entity, by Jim Repetti (Boston College)

April 8, 2018 in Scholarship, Tax, Top 5 Downloads | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, April 7, 2018

This Week's Ten Most Popular TaxProf Blog Posts

Abreu: Tax 2018 — Requiem For Ability To Pay

Alice Abreu (Temple), Tax 2018: Requiem for Ability to Pay, 52 Loyola L.A. L. Rev. ___ (2018):

This is not just another tax reform piece. Although the tax system changed at midnight on New Year’s eve, 2017, in the flurry of activity to understand the new legislation and its effects, almost no attention has been paid to analyzing whether the income tax system has been transformed in any fundamental way. But transformed, it has been.

The new legislation, informally known as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, (or “TCJA”), transforms the income tax system in at least four fundamental ways, significantly undermining one of the bedrock principles of our tax system — horizontal equity — and ignoring ability to pay.

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April 7, 2018 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Virginia Is First U.S. Team To Win International Tax Moot Court

UVAUVA Becomes First U.S. Team To Take All at International Tax Law Moot Court:

University of Virginia School of Law students won the International and European Tax Moot Court in Belgium last week, becoming the first U.S team to earn that honor in the competition’s almost 15-year history.

Christina McLeod, Phil Ogea, David Rubin and Julia Wynn comprised the winning squad, with student Brandon Dubov serving as team coach and Professor Ruth Mason acting as faculty adviser.

It was only the second year that UVA Law has fielded a team.

“Our students left for Brussels resolved to win, and that’s exactly what they did,” Mason said. “In two short years our students have made Virginia a force to be reckoned with in this competition.”

This year, UVA Law students pleaded against teams from India, Luxembourg, Belgium and Germany before meeting students from National University of Kyiv-Mohyla, Ukraine, in the final round.

The students participated in the moot as part of Mason’s International Tax Practicum class. Fellow tax faculty members Michael DoranAndrew Hayashi and Ethan Yale also helped prepare the students through mooting.

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April 7, 2018 in Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

A Value-Added Ranking Of Law Schools

U.S. News 2019CJ Ryan (American Bar Foundation), A Value-Added Ranking of Law Schools:

Before and since the first publication of the U.S. News & World Report (hereinafter “U.S. News”) rankings of law schools, legal education has been characterized by competition. As the first mover in the rankings of law schools, the U.S. News’ rankings have changed the landscape of legal education. Not only do law students to measure the worth of law schools based on these rankings, but law schools are reactive to the categories favored by these rankings’ methodology in order to bolster their position relative to their peers. This fixation on one ranking may foment the progress of legal education toward providing quantifiable value to current and prospective students.

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April 7, 2018 in Law School Rankings, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (2)

Friday, April 6, 2018

Satterthwaite Presents Entrepreneurs' Legal Status Choices and the C Corporation Penalty Today At Florida

SatterthwaiteEmily Satterthwaite (Toronto) presents Entrepreneurs' Legal Status Choices and the C Corporation Penalty at Florida today as part of its Graduate Tax Speaker Series:

Foundational to the American Dream is the ability to easily and rapidly start a new business. Over the past quarter century, the introduction of the limited liability company (LLC) has dramatically shifted the choice-of-legal-status calculus, and in its wake a consensus against the use of traditional C corporations by non-venture-backed start-ups has emerged.  The C corporation, scholars argue, has fatal drawbacks: tax disadvantages as well as governance inflexibility.  Due to historically limited sources of data, there has been little empirical research on choice-of-entity generally and none that explores the anti-C corporation thesis in particular.  Do C corporations under-perform as compared to similarly-situated businesses with alternative legal statuses?  This paper exploits a large panel dataset that contains legal status, owner, business, financing, and other firm-specific information collected from an eight-year panel survey of nearly five thousand enterprises that were formed in 2004.  The paper presents four main results. 

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April 6, 2018 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Weekly SSRN Tax Article Review And Roundup: Eyal-Cohen Reviews Satterthwaite's Smallness And The Value-Added Tax

This week, Mirit Eyal-Cohen (Alabama) reviews a new article by Emily Ann Satterthwaite (Toronto), On the Threshold: Smallness and the Value-Added Tax, 9 Colum. J. Tax L. ___ (2018) (also reviewed by Erin Scharff (Arizona State) here):

Mirit-Cohen (2018)In her article, Satterthwaite puts a powerful spotlight on the role of fairness in value-added taxation (“VAT”), which has gained much global traction and become one of the most dominant revenue instruments across the world. The VAT has been adopted by over 150 countries that comprise about 75% of the world’s population, and accounts for more than 20% of worldwide tax revenue raised. Satterthwaite utilizes this increasing global interest in the VAT as well as the growing appreciation of entrepreneurship and small businesses to address optimal VAT base and design issues. 

This Article examines one of the most important features of the VAT to small business and entrepreneurs—the exemption for businesses that meet the definition of a “small supplier.” Such exemptions relieve firms under a certain size (usually annual revenues) from the need to to register for and charge VAT at the point of sale. But what is the optimal VAT registration threshold? Satterthwaite begins to answer this question by exploring the economic literature that supports placing a higher floor and exempting a larger number of firms for efficiency reasons.

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April 6, 2018 in Scholarship, Tax, Weekly SSRN Roundup | Permalink | Comments (0)

Weekly Legal Education Roundup

Tax Policy In The Trump Administration

NY Times: The Contentious GRE v. LSAT Debate

GRELSAT2New York Times, Law Schools Debate a Contentious Testing Alternative:

[A]n upheaval of sorts [is] going on at most law schools around the country, which have faced plummeting enrollment for several years. Although they are beginning to recover, the fallow period led them to explore ways to find new pools of potential students.

One of the solutions, many decided, was to make a change in admission requirements. They would no longer rely solely on the Law School Admission Test, or LSAT, which has been considered the surest predictor of how a student will fare in coursework. As an alternative, they would consider performance on the Graduate Record Exam. Accepting it could allow many more students to get into law school, proponents of the change said.

One test versus another might seem like a less than radical reason for debate.

But some defenders of the traditional test say the change amounts to a dangerous lowering of standards and could allow too many students to enroll in law school who would be unable to pass the lawyer licensing exam.

Many deans, however, want to rid themselves of some constraints on their admissions policies. They seek more flexibility to admit candidates they think are promising but who do not necessarily fit a conventional profile.

A showdown of sorts is set for later this month when the American Bar Association’s accrediting body plans to hold a public hearing where both sides can air their views. ...

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April 6, 2018 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Corporate Philanthropy As A Tool For Political Influence

Marianne Bertrand (Chicago), Matilde Bombardini (British Columbia), Raymond J. Fisman (Boston University) & Francesco Trebbi (British Columbia), Tax-Exempt Lobbying: Corporate Philanthropy as a Tool for Political Influence:

We explore the role of charitable giving as a means of political influence, a channel that has been heretofore unexplored in the political economy literature. For philanthropic foundations associated with Fortune 500 and S&P500 corporations, we show that grants given to charitable organizations located in a congressional district increase when its representative obtains seats on committees that are of policy relevance to the firm associated with the foundation. This pattern parallels that of publicly disclosed Political Action Committee (PAC) spending. As further evidence on firms’ political motivations for charitable giving, we show that a member of Congress’s departure leads to a short-term decline in charitable giving to his district, and we again observe similar patterns in PAC spending. Charities directly linked to politicians through personal financial disclosure forms filed in accordance to Ethics in Government Act requirements exhibit similar patterns of political dependence. Our analysis suggests that firms deploy their charitable foundations as a form of tax-exempt influence seeking. Based on a straightforward model of political influence, our estimates imply that 7.1 percent of total U.S. corporate charitable giving is politically motivated, an amount that is economically significant: it is 280 percent larger than annual PAC contributions and about 40 percent of total federal lobbying expenditures. Given the lack of formal electoral or regulatory disclosure requirements, charitable giving may be a form of political influence that goes mostly undetected by voters and shareholders, and which is directly subsidized by taxpayers.

New York Times, Charitable Giving by Corporations Is Also About Getting, a New Study Finds:

Just months before the midterm congressional elections, a group of economists have published an analysis of how corporate America is spreading its philanthropic wealth.

Sifting through the donations to charity from 1998 to 2015 by foundations set up by the largest companies in the United States — those in the Fortune 500 or the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index — [the professors] detected a pattern of contributions to 1,087 charities linked to 451 members of Congress.

Turns out that the spending is a little more self-serving than companies would have us believe. Some of the charitable giving looks a lot like corporate lobbying. Because companies get a break for such giving, it amounts to political spending at taxpayers’ expense. “Firms deploy their charitable foundations as a form of tax-exempt influence seeking,” the researchers write.

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April 6, 2018 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Pace Law Dean David Yassky Steps Down Amid Faculty Discontent

Pace Logo (2018)New York Law Journal, Pace Law Dean David Yassky Steps Down Amid Faculty Discontent:

David Yassky, dean of Pace University’s Elisabeth Haub School of Law, is relinquishing the position at the end of the semester after clashing repeatedly with the faculty.

Horace Anderson Jr., associate dean for academic affairs and a professor of law at the school, will take over as interim dean while the law school seeks to fill the vacancy.

In an exclusive interview with the New York Law Journal, Yassky said he has been discussing the transition back to teaching with university president Marvin Krislov for the past several months. But he evaded questions on whether the move was voluntary. He did say that a new dean is good for the law school “because for the next phase it would be good to have someone who doesn’t have all the baggage.”

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April 6, 2018 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

UNC Female Professors' Concentration On Service Could Prove Detrimental To Their Salaries

The Daily Tar Heel, Female Professors' Concentration on Service Could Prove Detrimental to Their Salaries:

Female professors at UNC on average made $0.85 per dollar paid to their male counterparts in 2016, according to provisionary data archived by the Chronicle of Higher Education.

The highest echelon of academic rank is the position of full professor. At UNC, the average salary for male full professors was $158,715 in 2016, the most recent year for which full data is available. Meanwhile, the average salary for female full professors, who are outnumbered over 2:1 by male full professors, was $138,429. ...

UNC

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April 6, 2018 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (2)

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Zolt Presents Tax Treaties And Developing Countries Post-BEPS Today At Duke

Zolt (2014)Eric M. Zolt (UCLA) presents Tax Treaties and Developing Countries: A Better Deal Post-BEPS? at Duke today as part of its Tax Policy Workshop Series hosted by Lawrence Zelenak:

Developing countries face tough choices about whether to enter into bilateral tax treaties with developed countries. Several benefits flow from entering into tax treaties. These include increased foreign direct and portfolio investments that may result if tax treaties reduce double taxation, create greater tax certainty for investors, and provide for a dispute resolution mechanism for tax controversies. But there are real costs for developing countries in entering into tax treaties with developed countries. Treaty provisions invariably result in developing countries yielding taxing rights with respect to economic activity taking place in their country.

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April 5, 2018 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Burman Presents The Rising Tide Wage Credit Today At Indiana

Burman (2016)Len Burman (Syracuse & Tax Policy Center) presents The Rising Tide Wage Credit at Indiana today as part of its Tax Policy Colloquium Series hosted by Leandra Lederman:

The main factor depressing wages for low- and middle-skilled workers is technology. While technology once made workers more productive and boosted wages and employment, technology increasingly substitutes for workers. It is one reason manufacturing employment in the U.S. has plummeted even as production of manufactured goods has soared.

The failure of the market to broadly share the gains from economic growth calls for an intervention. This paper proposes something new ... : a wage tax credit of 100 percent of the first $10,000 of earnings financed by a broad-based dedicated value-added tax (VAT) of about 8 percent. The wage credit would grow over time with VAT revenues, so low- and middle-income workers would share in the gains from economic growth. I call the new wage supplement the Rising Tide Wage Credit (RTWC), evoking John F. Kennedy’s assertion that “A rising tide lifts all boats.” The RTWC would restore the connection between economic growth and the rewards to work. It would be a new kind of social insurance program—designed to ensure that workers at all income levels benefit from economic growth rather than just the highest earners, thus reversing the decades-long trend of wage stagnation. 

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April 5, 2018 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Blair-Stanek: Crises And Tax

Andrew Blair-Stanek (Maryland), Crises and Tax, 67 Duke L.J. 1155 (2017):

How can law best mitigate harm from crises like storms, epidemics, and financial meltdowns? This Article uses the law-and-economics framework of property rules and liability rules to analyze crisis responses across multiple areas of law, focusing particularly on the Internal Revenue Service’s numerous actions to battle the 2008-09 financial crisis.

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

Prof Wins Another Round In Lawsuits Claiming Texas Tech Retaliated Against Him For His Opposition To Tenure

WWFollowing up on my previous post, Chaired Professor Wages Court Battle Against Tenure:  Inside Higher Ed, Texas Tech Professor Who Says University Punished Him For Opposing Tenure Can Take Case To Trial:

In another legal win for the Texas Tech University professor who hates tenure, a Texas appeals court green-lit his state-level suit against the institution this week for trial. The decision, written by Justice James T. Campbell, reverses a lower court’s dismissal of James Wetherbe’s retaliation case against Texas Tech. “Because we find Wetherbe alleged his challenged speech on tenure touched on a matter of public concern and because we ascribe no merit to appellees’ responsive arguments, we sustain Wetherbe’s issue,” the decision says.

Wetherbe, Richard Schulze Distinguished Professor of Business, has long been a critic of the tenure system, especially in business schools, on the grounds that it can limit innovation. He’s shared his opinions on campus and off, including in high-profile op-eds.

Saying that he lost out on professional opportunities because of his public comments and op-eds against tenure, Wetherbe sued Texas Tech for retaliation in a federal court in 2012. That suit was dismissed in 2014 on the grounds that Wetherbe's comments against tenure through 2012 weren't substantive enough to back up the retaliation claims. But a second suit alleging continued retaliation was revived last year by a federal appeals court, based on a decision similar in its logic to Campbell’s.

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April 5, 2018 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (4)

Students Rate Male Professors More Highly Than Female Professors, Even When They Teach Identical Courses

Inside Higher Ed, Study Says Students Rate Men More Highly Than Women Even When They Are Teaching Identical Courses:

A new study in PS: Political Science [Gender Bias in Student Evaluations] combines elements of prior research on gender bias in student evaluations of teaching, or SETs, and arrives at a serious conclusion: institutions using these evaluations in tenure, compensation and other personnel decisions may be engaging in gender discrimination.

“Our analysis of comments in both formal student evaluations and informal online ratings indicates that students do evaluate their professors differently based on whether they are women or men,” the study says. “Students tend to comment on a woman’s appearance and personality far more often than a man’s. Women are referred to as ‘teacher’ [as opposed to professor] more often than men, which indicates that students generally may have less professional respect for their female professors.”

Table 1

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April 5, 2018 in Legal Education, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (9)

Tax Law Quirk Could Help Apple And Microsoft Lower Their Bills

Bloomberg, Tax Law Quirk Could Help Apple and Microsoft Lower Their Bills:

The Internal Revenue Service is providing some relief for companies facing looming tax bills after they stockpiled trillions of dollars offshore free of U.S. income tax.

A timing quirk in the tax overhaul seemed to give companies such as Apple, Microsoft and Cisco — all of which began their fiscal years before Jan. 1 — the chance to reduce the foreign cash they’ll accumulate this year and lower their taxes. A press release issued by the IRS on Monday indicates that “if done in the ordinary course of business,” the move won’t be considered as tax avoidance, according to Stephen Shay, a tax and business law professor at Harvard Law School.

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April 5, 2018 in IRS News, Tax, Tax Policy in the Trump Administration | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Economist: Why Are Law Schools Accepting The GRE?

GREThe Economist, Why Are Law Schools Accepting the GRE?:

[17] law schools [ArizonaBrooklyn, BYU, Cardozo, Columbia, Florida State, George Washington, Georgetown, Harvard, Hawaii, John Marshall, Northwestern, Pace, St. John's, Texas A&M, Wake Forest, and Washington University] have announced that they will allow applicants to submit the GRE as an alternative to the LSAT. The number continues to climb.

Part of the appeal of the GRE is its accessibility. The GRE is offered almost every day of the year at more than 1,000 testing centers across the country. The test is computer-delivered, and students can view their preliminary scores immediately upon completion. By contrast, the paper-based LSAT is offered just four times per year; scores take three to four weeks to arrive.

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April 5, 2018 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

Buchanan: What Will Republicans Do When Their Tax Cuts Fail?

NewsweekNewsweek:  What Will Republicans Do When Their Tax Cuts Fail?, by Neil H. Buchanan (George Washington):

The Republicans passed their regressive tax bill last year in the face of widespread public opposition, with defections by House members from suburban districts and a rushed legislative process that made a mockery of the idea of deliberative government.  Even so, they managed to deliver all of their votes in the Senate, including the self-styled deficit hawks who made a big show of concern before caving to party orthodoxy.

And despite their most fervent wishes and a brief blip in the polls, the new tax law is still not popular.  As I described in companion columns on Verdict and Dorf on Law last week, the public has very good reasons for hating a law that was very clearly designed to worsen already historic levels of inequality.  To their credit, people are not being bought off with a few extra dollars in take-home pay.

In spite of this, will Republicans convince themselves to try to pass another round of tax cuts? And if they do, how will they justify further cuts when the current round of cuts fails?

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April 5, 2018 in Tax, Tax Policy in the Trump Administration | Permalink | Comments (3)

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Taite Presents Making Tax Policy Great Again: America You’ve Been Trumped Today At Boston College

TaitePhyllis Taite (Florida A&M) presents Making Tax Policy Great Again: America You’ve Been Trumped at Boston College today as part of its Tax Policy Workshop Series hosted by Jim Repetti, Shu-Yi Oei, and Diane Ring:

In December 2017, President Donald Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) claiming it as the largest tax cuts in history. While the proponents of the TCJA claim this legislation provides tax breaks that benefit everyone, there are economic consequences that disproportionately benefit the wealthy to the detriment of the masses. Tax policy should benefit the majority of Americans, not just the elite. If we truly want to make tax policy great again, then we should go back to the very beginning when the tax base was primarily the responsibility of the wealthiest Americans.

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April 4, 2018 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

13th Annual International Conference On Tax Administration: Tax System Integrity In A Digital Age

ATax (2015)The 13th Annual International Conference on Tax Administration kicks off today on Tax System Integrity in a Digital Age at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. 

Nina Olson (National Taxpayer Advocate) delivers the keynote address on Some Observations on Tax Administration and the Digital Revolution.

Kristin Hickman (Minnesota) presents Restoring the Lost Anti-Injunction Act, 103 Va. L. Rev. 1683 (2017):

Should Treasury regulations and IRS guidance documents be eligible for pre-enforcement judicial review? The D.C. Circuit’s 2015 decision in Florida Bankers Association v. Treasury puts its interpretation of the Anti-Injunction Act at odds with both general administrative law norms in favor of pre-enforcement review of final agency action and also the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the nearly identical Tax Injunction Act. A 2017 federal district court decision in Chamber of Commerce v. Internal Revenue Service, appealable to the Fifth Circuit, interprets the Anti-Injunction Act differently and could lead to a circuit split regarding pre-enforcement judicial review of Treasury regulations and IRS guidance documents.

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April 4, 2018 in Conferences, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

WSJ: Crack And Pack — How Companies Are Mastering The New Tax Code

WSJWall Street Journal, Crack and Pack: How Companies Are Mastering the New Tax Code:

Dallas attorney Garry Davis plans to break up his immigration-law practice. One firm will have all the lawyers. The other will record the profits.

It’s just one of many strategies businesses are exploring as they pore over the biggest rewrite of U.S. tax rules in decades. Mr. Davis’s approach, which some have dubbed “crack and pack,” seeks to get around a provision denying high-earning lawyers, doctors and other professionals a tax break available to plumbing contractors, restaurateurs and architects.

By separating the lawyers from other parts of the business, he hopes to lower the business’s overall tax bill while changing little in his day-to-day operations.

Long before most clarifying regulations have been issued, the new law has led to a burst of activity in tax circles as lawyers, accountants and businesses look for ways around some of the proposals meant to pinch them—and for ways to extend the reach of new tax breaks. For owners of closely held businesses, that can mean splitting operations apart, reclassifying them and re-categorizing their activities, all in an effort to get as much of their income taxed at the new low rates as possible.

The legislation contains more uncertainties than usual for a tax overhaul because of the speed of its drafting, which left little opportunity for the public and congressional scrutiny that often identifies confusion in bills. The recent omnibus spending bill shut down one loophole, involving farm products sold to cooperatives, while lawmakers and regulators say they are collecting feedback as they consider future changes.

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April 4, 2018 in Tax, Tax Policy in the Trump Administration | Permalink | Comments (0)

NY Times: White House Turf Battle Threatens To Delay Tax Law Rollout

New York Times, White House Turf Battle Threatens to Delay Tax Law Rollout:

A power struggle between two of President Trump’s top cabinet members threatens to delay implementation of the new tax law and could give lobbyists and political hands in the White House greater ability to shape critical decisions about which types of businesses benefit from the law.

The White House’s Office of Management and Budget, headed by Mick Mulvaney, and the Treasury Department, run by Steven Mnuchin, are at odds over whether to end Treasury’s traditional independence in writing tax regulations and to give the budget office more oversight of those rules. If an agreement is not reached soon, the president may have to weigh in and make the decision himself.

The debate is more than just a West Wing turf war. How it plays out could affect several big decisions that will define the breadth and scope of the new tax law, including whether small businesses like veterinary clinics and dentists may claim a new 20 percent tax deduction, and to what degree multinational corporations such as Microsoft and Eli Lilly will be hit with a new minimum tax on the profits they earn overseas.

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April 4, 2018 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Pepperdine And U.S. News: A Problem Of Unregulated Monopoly?

U.S. News 2019Following up on my previous posts:

Above the Law:  Pepperdine And U.S. News: A Problem Of Unregulated Monopoly?, by LawProfBlawg (anonymous prof at Top 100 school) & TempDean (anonymous prof and current or former interim dean at Top 100 school):

U.S. News ought to have a leniency program to report innocent violations.

Many law schools have been accused of what one of my symposium speakers has called “jukin’ the stats.”  That is, some schools in the past have taken to lying about their data in order to manipulate their position in the all-important law school rankings game.  That is not cool.

However, that isn’t what happened at Pepperdine.  Pepperdine made an innocent mistake, took immediate steps to correct it, and then faced a draconian penalty for its honestly.  That is the topic of today’s post: What should U.S. News have done? ...

There are two issues at stake.  Unless we want to grant U.S. News investigative powers akin to the FBI or B613 (see Scandal), there must be some incentives for law schools to correct their honest mistakes and self-report rather than deliberately cheat, bury the bodies, and hope no disgruntled ex-employees drop a dime on them to U.S. News and the ABA.  Second, there needs to be some way to distinguish the honest mistake from a deliberate obstruction of ranking justice. ...

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April 4, 2018 in Law School Rankings, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (3)

The Tax Lawyer Publishes New Issue

Susan Dynarski (Michigan Econ Prof) Accuses Kevin Hassett (Chair, White House Council Of Economic Advisers) Of Plagiarizing Her Work In WSJ Op-Ed

Inside Higher Ed, Prominent Scholar Accuses Trump Economist Of Plagiarism:

In a series of tweets Wednesday night, Susan Dynarski, an economist and professor at the University of Michigan, accused Kevin Hassett, the chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, of in a 2007 column presenting her proposal to streamline the federal student aid system as his own without citing her or her graduate student co-author.

Dynarsky Tweet

A council official contested Dynarski's account. ...

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April 4, 2018 in Legal Education, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Robinson: The Folly Of Conflating The Power To Fine With The Power To Tax

Mildred Robinson (Virginia), The Folly of Conflating the Power to Fine with the Power to Tax, 62 Vill. L. Rev. 925 (2017):

As citizens, we expect the police “to protect and to serve.” So how does a police force become revenue collector instead of protector? On the local level, we “purchase” through taxes police and fire protection as well as a myriad of other services. This article, an expansion of remarks made during the October 2016 Shachoy Symposium — Exploring Police Accountability in America — at the Villanova University School of Law, examines how reliance on traffic fines for general budgetary purposes became a matter of general practice in Ferguson and many other towns and cities. It ultimately serves as a reminder that there are very sound economic and civic reasons to rely upon “taxes [as] the price we pay for a civilized society?”

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April 4, 2018 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

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

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 NYU today as part of its Tax Policy Colloquium Series hosted by Lily Batchelder and Daniel Shaviro:

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 3, 2018 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

NYU Tax Law Review Publishes New Issue

NYU Law (2016)The Tax Law Review has published a new issue (Vol. 70, No. 4 (Summer 2017)):

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April 3, 2018 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Stanford Study: Race And Gender Bias In Online Courses

Stanford 2Inside Higher Education, Race and Gender Bias in Online Courses:

Many proponents of online education have speculated that the digital learning environment might be a meritocracy, where students are judged not on their race or gender, but on the comments they post.

A study [Bias in Online Classes: Evidence from a Field Experiment] being released today by the Center for Education Policy Analysis at Stanford University, however, finds that bias appears to be strong in online course discussions.

The study found that instructors are 94 percent more likely to respond to discussion forum posts by white male students than by other students. The authors write that they believe their work is the first to demonstrate with a large pool that the sort of bias that concerns many educators in face-to-face instruction is also present in online education.

Figure 1

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April 3, 2018 in Legal Education, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Registration Is Open For NTA's 48th Annual Spring Symposium

National Tax Association (2016)Registration is now open for the National Tax Association's 48th Annual Spring Symposium on May 17-18, 2018 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.:

The symposium will examine the overhaul of the corporate and individual income tax systems undertaken by Congress at the end of 2017. Sessions will focus on the consequences of changes to the taxation of multinational enterprises, pass-through businesses, and individual taxpayers. Individual sessions will also address issues of tax planning and compliance, health care reform, and the impact on and responses of state and local governments.

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April 3, 2018 in Conferences, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)