TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron
Pepperdine University School of Law

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

2016 Meta-Ranking Of Flagship U.S. Law Reviews

Bryce Clayton Newell (Tilburg University), 2016 Meta-Ranking of Flagship US Law Reviews:

I decided to create a meta-ranking of the possible contenders for gauging the relative importance of journals and offers: US News Overall Ranking (averaged from 2010-2017), US News Peer Reputation Ranking (also averaged from 2010-2017), W&L Combined Ranking (at default weighting; 2007-2014), and Google Scholar Metrics law journal rankings (averaging the h-index and h-median of each journal, as proposed here by Robert Anderson). I've ranked each journal within each ranking system, averaged these four ranks using a 25% weighting for each, and computed and ranked the final scores. I think this approach benefits from incorporating a couple different forms of impact evaluation (W&L + Google) while not disregarding the general sentiment that law school “prestige” (USN combined rank + peer reputation rank, each averaged over an 8-year period) is an important factor in law review placement decisions.

Here are the Top 25:

MetaRank

Journal

Change from USN Rank

MetaScore

Avg. USN Peer Rank

Avg. USN Overall Rank

W&L Rank

Google Rank

1

Harvard Law Review

1

1.5

1

2

2

1

2

The Yale Law Journal

-1

1.75

1

1

3

2

3

Stanford Law Review

0

2.75

3

3

1

4

4

Columbia Law Review

0

3.75

4

4

4

3

5

University of Pennsylvania Law Review

2

6.5

9

7

5

5

6

Michigan Law Review

4

8

8

10

8

6

7

California Law Review

1

9

7

8

12

9

8

New York University Law Review

-2

9.25

6

6

14

11

8

Virginia Law Review

1

9.25

9

9

9

10

10

The Georgetown Law Journal

4

9.75

13

14

6

6

11

Texas Law Review

4

12

15

15

10

8

12

University of Chicago L. Rev.

-7

12.75

5

5

25

16

12

Duke Law Journal

-1

12.75

11

11

16

13

14

Cornell Law Review

-1

13.25

12

13

15

13

15

UCLA Law Review

1

13.5

16

16

7

15

16

Northwestern University Law Review

-4

15.25

14

12

13

22

17

Minnesota Law Review

3

15.75

20

20

11

12

18

Vanderbilt Law Review

-1

17.5

17

17

20

16

19

Notre Dame Law Review

4

21.75

27

23

19

18

20

Iowa Law Review

5

22.5

27

25

18

20

21

Boston University Law Review

3

24.25

25

24

22

26

22

William and Mary Law Review

8

25.5

32

30

21

19

23

The George Washington L. Rev.

-2

26

23

21

29

31

23

North Carolina Law Review

11

26

21

34

28

21

25

Southern California Law Review

-7

26.5

19

18

32

37

26

Boston College Law Review

5

27.25

29

31

23

26

The big movers here (in this ranking versus the average US News Overall Rank from 2010-2017) seem to be (but there are quite a few others who moved around):

  • New York Law School moved up a whopping 38 places (to #99);
  • Vermont moved up 31 places (to #91);
  • UC Irvine dropped 30 places (to #59);
  • Akron moved up 28 places (to #99);
  • Albany moved up 27 places (to #96).

Journals like Fordham (#26, up 10 places), Hastings (#36, up 12 places), Cardozo (#42, up 18 places), American (#46, up 11 places), and Lewis and Clark (#53, up 23 places) that have been frequently referred to in Angsting Thread comments as “hitting above their weight” all also improved at least 10 places (as did Missouri, Connecticut, Denver, Brooklyn, Chicago-Kent, Seattle, Oregon, Buffalo, Santa Clara, Indy, DePaul, South Carolina, St. Louis, Hofstra, Marquette, and Howard). Other journals dropping 10 or more places include: Arkansas-Fay., Kentucky, Georgia State, Temple, SMU, Arizona State, Georgia, and Alabama.

Other sizable moves in the top 20:

Continue reading

April 5, 2016 in Law Review Rankings, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (9)

Retired U.S. Tax Court Judge Indicted For Tax Evasion While She Sat On The Court

U.S. Department of Justice Press Release, Former United States Tax Court Judge and Husband Indicted for Conspiracy to Commit Tax Evasion and Obstruction of an IRS Audit:

Diane Kroupa Filed Fraudulent Tax Returns While a Sitting U.S. Tax Court
Judge Kroupa and Her Husband Conspired to Evade More Than $400,000 in Federal Taxes

KroupaU.S. Attorney Andrew M. Luger for the District of Minnesota today announced a federal indictment charging Diane L. Kroupa, 60, and her husband, Robert E. Fackler, 62, with conspiring with each other to evade assessment of taxes. Each defendant is charged with conspiracy, tax evasion, making and subscribing false tax returns and obstruction of an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) audit. The defendants are expected to appear later this week in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

“The allegations in this indictment are deeply disturbing,” said U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger. “The tax laws of this county apply to everyone, and those of us appointed to federal positions must hold ourselves to an even higher standard.”

Continue reading

April 5, 2016 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Treasury Department Issues Third Batch Of Anti-Inversion Rules, Updated Framework For Business Tax Reform

IRS Building In Washington, D.C. Closed Today Due To Fire

IRS BuildingNPR, Fire Closes IRS Headquarters But Won't Affect Tax Return Processing:

A small fire forced the evacuation of the IRS headquarters in Washington, D.C., on Monday.

Spokesman Terry Lemons told The Associated Press that the fire started in the basement around 3:30 p.m., and created a lot of smoke — forcing the building to be evacuated. The Washington Post reports:

The building closed about 2:45 p.m. Monday, before the fire started, "due to electrical issues with the air-conditioning system," an IRS spokesman said. He said that about 2,000 people work there and that "a few hundred" were still in the building when the fire broke out.

There were no injuries and the cause is being investigated.

The building will be closed on Tuesday because it doesn't have full electricity.

The fire will not affect processing of tax returns, which is done elsewhere, officials told The Washington Post.

Continue reading

April 5, 2016 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1062

IRS Logo 2 One News Now, Media on IRS Scandal: 'We Know Nothing!':

There have been new developments in the IRS targeting scandal but if you watch the news on ABC, CBS or NBC, good luck hearing about it.

That's because it's been more than 500 days since the broadcast news networks covered the scandal.

According to a new study by Geoff Dickens, deputy research director at the Media Research Center, CBS and NBC last reported on the targeting of conservative groups by the IRS in October of 2014. ABC lagged way behind last covering it in May of that year, nearly 700 days ago.

"This is clearly abuse of power and they've stopped covering it," Dickens says of the networks.

Dickens points out that just last week a federal appeals court scolded the agency and ordered it to turn over a secret list of conservative groups they targeted so a class action suit could move forward. ... [T]here was no mention on the so-called "Big Three" networks.

Also unreported in recent months, Dickens notes, is the Justice Department ending its investigation without any criminal charges filed against Lois Lerner, whose emails show she called Republicans "evil and dishonest."

There was not even a news story – slanted or otherwise – when the U.S. House began procedures to impeach IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.

"It's really stunning," observes Dickens, who says the IRS scandal is worse than the Watergate scandal under Richard Nixon.

Continue reading

April 5, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Monday, April 4, 2016

Access Group Awards $335,000 In Legal Education Grants

Access GroupPress Release,  Access Group Center for Research & Policy Analysis Awards $335,000 in New Grants to Advance Legal Education:

Access Group’s Center for Research & Policy Analysis (the Center) announced today the award of $335,000 in new grants to advance legal education. The Center operates four grant programs to fund research and other projects related to legal education that focus on access, affordability and value. ...

  • A $138,000 grant to the Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education to analyze the law school admissions market. A set of regression models will be estimated for predicting the prices charged by law schools reporting data to the American Bar Association. Similarly, institutional characteristics such as LSAT scores, bar passage rates and employment outcomes will be mapped. The mapping will provide a first estimate of the kinds of changes a contracting market is likely to have on the future of legal education, including the impact on institutional diversity and enrollment prospects.

Continue reading

April 4, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Judge Posner Explains Why We Should 'Burn All Copies of the Bluebook'

Bluebook (20th edition)The Volokh Conspiracy:  Judge Richard Posner Explains Why We Should “Burn All Copies of the Bluebook”, by Ilya Somin (George Mason):

In a recent article in the ABA Journal, Judge Richard Posner – who is probably the nation’s most influential federal judge outside the Supreme Court – is quoted as saying that we should “burn all copies of the Bluebook,” the standard system of legal citation produced by a consortium of leading law reviews. ...

In general, I am strongly opposed to book burning of any kind. But in this case, I can only say, burn, baby, burn! Like Posner, I have long argued that the Bluebook and its hundreds of pages of useless, time-wasting rules should be abolished and replaced with a much simpler citation system, perhaps similar to those used in other academic fields. It would save lawyers, legal scholars, and law students enormous amounts of time and effort.

Judge Posner laid out his critique of the Bluebook in greater detail in this Yale Law Journal article. In my view, however, he was a little too generous to the Bluebook when he compared it to the pyramids of ancient Egypt. ...

Continue reading

April 4, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (4)

Panama Papers Expose How Politicians And Their Cronies Use Offshore Tax Havens

Shobe:  Supercharged IPOs, The Up-C, And Private Tax Benefits In Public Offerings

Gladriel Shobe (BYU), Supercharged IPOs, the Up-C, and Private Tax Benefits in Public Offerings, 88  U. Colo. L. Rev. ___ (2016):

The “supercharged IPO”, a new and increasingly popular financial transaction, has fundamentally changed the nature of IPOs for many companies. Traditionally, an IPO was a tax nonevent for the company and the owners, meaning it created no tax liability for either. Through creative and questionable tax planning, companies have found a way to do better than this by effectively generating a negative tax liability for the company and its owners. These transactions have received substantial attention from practicing lawyers, investment bankers, journalists, and even briefly caught the attention of Congress. Yet these transactions have attracted surprisingly little scrutiny from scholars, and the attention they have received has failed to consider the different types of supercharged IPOs, which is necessary for understanding why these transactions exist, why they have increased in popularity, and whether they are justified legally and normatively. This Article examines the costs and benefits of the different types of supercharged IPOs to show that some of these transactions have greater tax benefits than scholars have realized. It places a particular emphasis on the Up-C, a structure with the greatest tax benefits, which scholars have overlooked even though it is by far the most common, and increasingly popular, form of supercharged IPO. A closer examination of the Up-C, separate from other supercharged IPOs, reveals that this structure produces tax benefits that are not justified by the regulations that supposedly allow them.

Continue reading

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

Oei, Simkovic Debate The Knowledge Tax

Shu-Yi Oei (Tulane), Supply, Demand, and the Taxation of Knowledge, 82 U. Chi. L. Rev. Dialogue 268 (2016):

In The Knowledge Tax, 82 U. Chi. L. Rev. 1981 (2015), Professor Michael Simkovic tackles the question of why rates of return on higher education are higher than rates of return on other types of investments, such as equity and real estate. Dissatisfied with existing economic explanations, the additional account that he offers is distortionary taxation: specifically, we tax higher education less favorably than other investments, thereby driving down demand for higher education relative to alternatives, creating an undersupply of labor, and buttressing education’s rate of return. In this invited response essay, I explore some of the issues raised but left open by The Knowledge Tax. I largely accept the article’s factual premise — that pretax rates of return on higher education are higher than returns on equity — but question some aspects of the argument and develop other aspects. I make three basic points: First, it is not clear that higher education is, in fact, taxed less favorably than traditional investments. Second, the analysis rests on the assumption that higher education and capital investment are substitutes, but it is not clear the extent to which this is the case. Finally, to the extent that tax considerations play a role in the decisions of potential students, we need a more robust account of which tax incentives matter.

Michael Simkovic (Seton Hall), Taxes, Subsidies, and Knowledge: A Reply to Professor Oei, 82 U. Chi.. L. Rev. Dialogue ___ (2016):

Continue reading

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

Simkovic:  In Law Firms, Lawyers And Paralegals Prosper While Secretarial Jobs Disappear

NY Times Dealbook (2013)New York Times Deal Book:  Overall Stagnation in Legal Jobs Hides Underlying Shifts, by Michael Simkovic (Seton Hall):

Although about the same number of people work in law firms or in legal services today as a decade and a half ago, superficially static job aggregates mask substantial changes in employment patterns.

According to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, law firms employed about 90,000 more lawyers and about 80,000 more paralegals in 2014 than at the start of the survey in 2001. At the same time, law firms shed 180,000 to 190,000 legal secretaries, other legal support workers and their supervisors.

The pattern is the same for other occupations at law firms. Low-skilled jobs like bookkeepers, file clerks and in data entry are shrinking, while high-skilled jobs like professional workers, skilled managers and computer specialists are growing.

Lawyers account for less than half of the jobs in legal services. Like most businesses, law firms employ a large number of support personnel. Unfortunately, many commentators on the legal profession have overlooked the crucial distinctions between legal services employment, lawyers and law school graduates.

As a result, they have mischaracterized a decline in the fortunes for low-skilled support workers at a time of expanding opportunities for highly educated workers as stagnation for all. ...

Continue reading

April 4, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (7)

American University Law Profs Disgrace Themselves

WCLALMFollowing up on my previous post, 60 American Law Profs Condemn Anonymous Student For Posting 'All Lives Matter' On Prof's Door:  Power Line, American University Law Faculty Members Disgrace Themselves:

Recently, a student at American University Washington College of Law put a note on the door of a law professor stating “All Lives Matter.” This expression of what ought to be truism caused the AU law faculty to freak out.

Nearly sixty faculty members and staff signed a letter calling this an “incidence of intolerance.” A sounder position would hold that objecting to the statement “All Lives Matter” as a response to the statement “Black Lives Matter” smacks of intolerance because it places one racial group on a higher level than others. ...

Our friends Gail Heriot [San Diego] and Peter Kirsanow [Cleveland State] of the Civil Right Commission have sent a letter to the dean of AU law school about this matter. They state:

We write as two members of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and not on behalf of the Commission as a whole. And while we are required to begin our letters with the preceding sentence under the Commission’s rules, we would have preferred to open with: What is wrong with your faculty and staff members?

Continue reading

April 4, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (10)

The Day Free Speech Died At Harvard Law School

Harvard Law School Logo (2014)Observer:  The Day Free Speech Died at Harvard Law School, by Avrahm Berkowitz (J.D. 2016, Harvard):

Under the cloak of anonymity, 'Students For Inclusion' quickly devolved into a means of shaming behavior on campus.

Continue reading

April 4, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1061

IRS Logo 2 Nevada Las Vegas Review-Journal editorial,  IRS Foot-Dragging:

As Pepperdine University law professor and TaxProf Blog editor Paul Caron has been dutifully documenting, it has now been more than 1,050 days since word of a scandal broke involving the IRS’s systematic delaying and denying of nonprofit status to conservative political groups, in order to diminish their influence on the 2012 election.

In 2013, a conservative group called the NorCal Tea Party Patriots filed a class action lawsuit against the agency, requesting access to files the IRS kept on the targeted groups. The agency refused to hand them over and the Justice Department stonewalled on its investigation, arguing that the files are protected by Section 6103 of the U.S. code, which was intended to assure taxpayers that their returns would remain confidential.

But as the Wall Street Journal reported, while the IRS has repeatedly dragged its feet in responding to the request — and the media has pretty much buried the story — the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals thankfully tore into the agency’s obstructionist conduct last week, ruling that the IRS must turn over spreadsheets it created on the targeted groups. Judge Raymond Kethledge, writing on behalf of a unanimous three-judge panel, called the allegations against the IRS “substantial” and “among the most serious allegations a federal court can address.”

“The district court ordered production of those lists, and did so again over an IRS motion to reconsider,” he wrote. “Yet, almost a year later, the IRS still has not complied with the court’s orders.” ...

The IRS hiding behind taxpayer privacy concerns is ridiculous, and the Sixth Circuit should be applauded for its ruling. These conservative groups in question don’t mind if their information becomes public, and, in fact, the spreadsheets could be the linchpin to their case, proving the IRS was intentionally and illegally targeting groups based on their political beliefs.

As we’ve mentioned before, it’s important to remember why this scandal matters so much in the first place. This isn’t just executive branch employees running roughshod over Americans’ rights, which already happens too often to begin with. No, this is about our nation’s federal tax collection agency using taxpayer resources and its considerable powers to actively influence the outcome of national elections.

The IRS needs to meet that seven-day deadline — that’s this week — with no excuses, and with every piece of documentation the Sixth Circuit mandated. The Department of Justice also needs to move its investigation forward and hold the IRS accountable for its actions.

Furthermore, this issue is one among many proving that the IRS’s reach is far too extensive, to the point of being partisan, and that the tax code is far too onerous for American citizens. The Republican-led Congress needs to pass a massive tax reform bill and put it on the president’s desk.

Continue reading

April 4, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

TaxProf Blog Weekend Roundup

Sunday, April 3, 2016

89% Of Tax Executives Say Tax Reform Most Likely If Republicans Control Both House & Senate

Miller & Chevalier & National Foreign Trade Council, 2016 Tax Policy Forecast Survey:

As both the 114th Congress and President Barack Obama’s second term come to a close, respondents to the 10th Annual Miller & Chevalier/National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC) Tax Policy Forecast Survey expect 2016 to bring more conversation but little legislative action on tax policy. ...

Despite the increasing rhetoric, none of this year’s survey respondents believe tax reform will happen in 2016. An overwhelming number of respondents (82 percent) believe there will be no tax legislation at all this year. And, while believing that changes in government leadership should positively impact the likelihood of tax reform, respondents remain unsure whether tax reform will happen in the near future. Respondents are evenly divided as to whether tax reform will be enacted in 2017 or 2018, and almost 11 percent believe it will never happen.

Tax executives say divided government is one of the major impediments to enacting tax reform legislation. Nearly 90 percent believe that tax reform is most likely if Republicans control both the House and the Senate; just 7 percent think Democratic control of both houses of Congress would yield progress.

MC

Continue reading

April 3, 2016 in Political News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

Will TurboTax Boycott Lead To Free Government-Prepared Tax Returns?

TurboTax BoycottDylan Matthews (Vox), Why I'm Boycotting TurboTax This Year:

It's tax season again, and that means you're probably thinking about using TurboTax. You wouldn't be alone; Intuit, the company that sells TurboTax, claims the app has 31 million users. Its competitors did pretty well for themselves too, with H&R Block preparing more than 20 million returns last cycle and millions more using TaxAct and TaxSlayer.

Let me be blunt: You should not pay for TurboTax. If you want to use a free version of TurboTax or H&R Block at Home or TaxAct, go nuts. But for the love of God, don't give Intuit money

TurboTax is an evil, parasitic product that exists entirely because taxes are confusing and hard to file. Worse than that, Intuit is one of the loudest voices on Capitol Hill arguing against measures that make it easier to pay taxes. The Obama administration has argued for automatic tax filing, in which the IRS uses income information it already has to fill out your tax return for you. That would save millions of Americans considerable time and energy every year, but the idea has gone nowhere. The main reason? Lobbying from Intuit and H&R Block.

Don't give Intuit money. Don't give H&R Block money. To do so is to perpetuate the status quo in which you have to file your own taxes in the first place. The best way to escape this trap is for millions of taxpayers to start doing their own taxes in hopes of weakening Intuit and H&R Block and depriving them of money they could use to lobby against auto-filing. This requires privileging your own long-term interests ahead of your short-term ones; it's mildly annoying to do your taxes by hand for now, but in the long run, if the plan works, you won't have to do your own taxes at all. ...

Continue reading

April 3, 2016 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (5)

MBE Average Score Plummets To 33-Year Low; Declining LSAT Scores Of Current Law Students Portend Even Worse Bar Exam Carnage In 2016, 2017 & 2018

MBEABA Journal, Multistate Bar Exam Average Score Falls to 33-Year Low:

The mean scaled score on the February administration of the Multistate Bar Examination fell to 135, down 1.2 points from the previous year and the lowest average score on a February administration of the test since 1983.

The number of test-takers was up 4 percent from last year, from 22,396 in 2015 to 23,324 this year, according to Erica Moeser, president of the National Conference of Bar Examiners, which developed and scores the test. February scores are typically lower than July scores, Moeser said, because July test-takers tend to be first-time test takers, who generally score higher on the exam than repeat takers. ,,,

The July 2015 results were also down 1.6 points from the previous year, to 139.9, its lowest point since 1988.

Wall Street Journal, Bar Exam Scores Slip Even Further:

Disappointing but not a shock is how Ms. Moeser described the results. For a couple of years, she’s been warning — and arguing with some law schools — about the caliber of students they’re admitting.

She’s not the only one. Other legal education experts, pointing to an overall slide in LSAT scores of recent incoming classes, have projected weaker bar-exam performance.

Continue reading

April 3, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

The Top 5 Tax Paper Downloads

SSRN LogoThere is a bit of movement in this week's list of the Top 5 Recent Tax Paper Downloads, with a new #1 paper and other reshuffling of the order within the Top 5:

  1. [509 Downloads]  Lexisnexis® Guide to FATCA Compliance: Chapter 1, by Willliam Byrnes (Texas A&M) & Robert J. Munro (Texas A&M)
  2. [459 Downloads]  What Now? A Boomer's Baedeker for the Distribution Phase of Defined Contribution Retirement Plans, by Richard Kaplan (Illinois)
  3. [288 Downloads]  The Tax Lives of Uber Drivers: Evidence from Internet Discussion Forums, by Shu-Yi Oei (Tulane) & Diane M. Ring (Boston College)
  4. [227 Downloads]  Ownership of the Means of Production, by E. Glen Weyl (Chicago) & Anthony Lee Zhang (Stanford)
  5. [222 Downloads]  Taxing Wealth Seriously, by Edward J. McCaffery (USC)

April 3, 2016 in Scholarship, Tax, Top 5 Downloads | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1060

IRS Logo 2Stuart Bassin (Bassin Law Firm, Washington, D.C.; former Senior Litigation Counsel, U.S. Department of Justice Tax Division), Sixth Circuit Requires IRS to Disclose Return Information of Non-Parties in Tea Party Exempt Organization Litigation:

Last week, the Sixth Circuit rejected a government mandamus petition seeking to overturn a trial court discovery order requiring the Service to disclose the names of non-party organizations whose applications for tax exempt status were allegedly treated improperly because of the organization’s political views. In re United States; United States v. NorCal Tea Party Patriots, Case No. 15-3793 (March 22, 2016).

The underlying case arose out of allegations that the Service discriminated against conservative organizations in reviewing applications for tax-exempt status.  According to the plaintiffs, the Service gave increased scrutiny to some organizations in reviewing their applications and, in some cases, requested additional and unnecessary information from the applicants to delay review of their applications.  Substantively, the plaintiffs’ legal claims assert violations of the First Amendment and the Section 6103 prohibition against disclosure of taxpayer return information.  Earlier this year, the trial court certified the case as a class action, a development I discussed in an earlier post in Procedurally Taxing.

The dispute before the Court of Appeals involved a discovery order issued by the trial court requiring the Service to identify other taxpayers whose applications for exempt status received comparable scrutiny–information the taxpayers sought in hopes of identifying additional class action plaintiffs. The Service resisted, contending that the disclosure was barred by Section 6103. The district court, expressing exasperation with the Service’s interference with the case’s development, ordered production of the information, ruling that disclosure was authorized under Section 6103(h)(4)(B) because the information was reflected in a return “directly related to the resolution of an issue” in litigation. The Government then filed its petition for writ of mandamus.

The Court of Appeals ultimately affirmed the order allowing the discovery, taking several opportunities to criticize the Service’s actions and the Justice Department’s advocacy. ... [T]he tone of the opinion should be of great concern to the Government. Both the appellate panel and the trial court have made clear their impatience with, and distaste for, the Government’s procedural challenges to the taxpayer’s claims. Every indication is that the courts are willing to rule against the Government if the taxpayers’ assertions of disparate treatment are proven at trial, although it will be interesting to see what remedy will be allowed. The Government can continue fighting, but that seems to be an uphill battle and a battle which may produce further precedent that the Service will not like.

Continue reading

April 3, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

Saturday, April 2, 2016

This Week's Ten Most Popular TaxProf Blog Posts

19th Annual Critical Tax Theory Conference Concludes Today At Tulane

Tulane (2015)The 19th Annual Critical Tax Theory Conference concludes today at Tulane:

Panel #4:  Tax Expenditures, Social Insurance, and Younger Generations (Chair: Charlotte Crane (Northwestern))

  • Samuel Brunson (Loyola-Chicago) & David Herzig (Valparaiso), The Effect of Obergefell on the Tax Exemption of Churches and Religiously-Affiliated Organizations
  • Neil Buchanan (George Washington), Social Security, Inequality, and Younger Generations
  • Nancy Shurtz (Oregon), Rethinking the Taxable Unit: Why Dependency Trumps Marriage as the Preferred Reference Standard

Continue reading

April 2, 2016 in Conferences, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Kleinbard Presents Fiscal Policy In An Age Of Inequality Today At AAA Conference

Kleinbard (2015)Edward Kleinbard (USC) presents Fiscal Policy in an Age of Inequality at the American Accounting Association 2016 Conference and Doctoral/Early Scholar Consortium today in Orlando, Florida:

Federal budget deficits are always easy news fodder, and the Congressional Budget Office’s deficit projections for the next 10 years are uncomfortably high by most measures. Government today is operating in a budget deficit lull, but the pace of deficit growth is predicted to increase again after 2018, and under the CBO’s baseline assumptions are projected to reach 4.9 percent of GDP in 2026.

But deficit projections convey less information than is generally understood, both because the assumptions underlying the projections abstract from realistic outcomes in various respects, and because deficits themselves are the net of two numbers, government revenues and government expenses. Are taxes too low, or government spending too high? Or are both too low relative to our needs?

Continue reading

April 2, 2016 in Conferences, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Number Of LSAT Test-Takers Increased in 2015-16 For First Time In Six Years

After five consecutive years of declines in the number of LSAT test-takers, the LSAC reports that the number of LSAT test-takers in 2015-16 increased 4.1% over the prior year.

LSAT

Matt Leichter, LSAT Tea-Leaf Reading: February 2016 Edition:

Continue reading

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

The IRS Scandal, Day 1059

IRS Logo 2Politico, IRS v. House Republicans, Cont'd

There are several interesting nuggets in this WSJ piece about the continuing challenges the IRS faces, from the increasingly prevalent cybercrimes to the more mundane — like an aging workforce and an only temporary uptick in phone calls answered.

First, there’s no letup in the showdown between GOP lawmakers and the IRS commissioner they want to impeach, John Koskinen. House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah): “He’s earned no friends up here on Capitol Hill, because they haven’t solved the problems of targeting conservatives based on their political beliefs.” Koskinen: “I would challenge anybody to find any targeting of conservatives going on at this point.”

Wall Street Journal, Wait Times Are Down, But IRS Still Faces Serious Challenges:

[I]n 2013, the IRS disclosed it had given extra scrutiny to Tea Party groups seeking tax-exempt status. That revelation started a purge at the top levels of the agency and years of investigations.

A Senate report in 2015 found that IRS officials were “delinquent” in their treatment of Tea Party and other groups, resulting in heightened and inappropriate scrutiny, but Republicans and Democrats disagreed on whether IRS officials were motivated by their own political views.

House Republicans remain unsatisfied. They have turned their ire toward Mr. Koskinen because of the agency’s travails and contradictory statements as it tried to retrieve records for the investigations, such as the emails of Lois Lerner, former director of tax-exempt organizations at the IRS.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R., Utah), who sponsored an impeachment resolution against Mr. Koskinen that has more than 60 co-sponsors, said the IRS has bloated management and has failed to update aging technology.

“John Koskinen was hired to come clean up the mess and he made it worse, not better,” said Mr. Chaffetz, who is chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. “And he’s earned no friends up here on Capitol Hill, because they haven’t solved the problems of targeting conservatives based on their political beliefs.”

Mr. Koskinen on Thursday said the agency has implemented recommendations from its inspector general and the Senate Finance Committee, and that he has tried to build an ethos in the IRS that encourages employees to report problems and get them addressed quickly.

“I would challenge anybody to find any targeting of conservatives going on at this point,” he said, without saying “targeting” had happened before he started. “There have been significant changes and improvements, and I’m confident that that kind of situation isn’t going to happen again.”

So far, the impeachment effort hasn’t advanced and Republicans and Mr. Koskinen seem stuck with each other. His term expires in November 2017, and the next president will choose his successor.

Continue reading

April 2, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, April 1, 2016

19th Annual Critical Tax Theory Conference Kicks Off Today At Tulane

Tulane (2015)The 19th Annual Critical Tax Theory Conference kicks off today at Tulane:

Critical tax scholarship aims at looking beyond the language of the Code and regulations to examine what the tax law actually does. It has roots in critical legal studies generally, and therefore Critical tax scholars frequently ask why the tax laws are the way they are and what impact tax laws have on historically disempowered groups, such as people of color; women; lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered individuals; low-income and poor individuals; the disabled; and nontraditional families. But Critical tax scholarship is not limited either to those topics or to any particular methodology.

Critical tax scholarship shares the following goals: (1) to uncover bias in the tax laws; (2) to explore and expose how the tax laws both reflect and construct social meaning; and (3) to educate nontax scholars and lawyers about the interconnectedness of taxation, social justice, and progressive political movements. Critical tax scholars employ a variety of methods to achieve these goals such as bringing "outsider" perspectives to the study of tax law; using historical material, contemporary case studies, and personal or fictional narratives to illustrate the practical impact of the tax laws on individuals and groups; interpreting social science and economic data to show how the tax laws impact groups differently; and exploring the interconnectedness of tax laws with economic forces such as the labor market and international financial and political development.

Panel #1:  Tax Compliance and Tax Regime Design (Chair: Adam Rosenzweig (Washington University))

Continue reading

April 1, 2016 in Conferences, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Blank Presents The Timing Of Tax Transparency Today At Virginia

Blank (2016)Joshua Blank (NYU) presents The Timing of Tax Transparency, 90 S. Cal. L. Rev. ___ (2017), at Virginia today as part of its Faculty Workshop Series:

Fairness in the administration of the tax law is the subject of intense debate in the United States. As recent headlines reveal, the Internal Revenue Service has been accused of failing to enforce the tax law equitably in its review of tax-exempt status applications by political organizations, the international tax structures of multinational corporations, and the estate tax returns of millionaires, among other areas. Many have argued that greater “tax transparency” would better empower the public to hold the IRS accountable and the IRS to defend itself against accusations of malfeasance. Mandatory public disclosure of taxpayers’ tax return information is often proposed as a way to achieve greater tax transparency. Yet, in addition to concerns regarding exposure of personal and proprietary information, broad public disclosure measures pose potential threats to the taxing authority’s ability to enforce the tax law.

Continue reading

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

Drumbl Presents Poverty, Tax, And Noncompliance Today In Australia

DrumblMichelle Drumbl (Washington & Lee) presents Beyond Polemics: Poverty, Tax, and Noncompliance today at the 12th International Conference on Tax Administration (program) hosted by the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia:

The earned income tax credit (EITC) is the most significant earnings-based refundable credit in the U.S. tax system. Designed as an anti-poverty program, it is a social benefit administered by the Internal Revenue Service. The EITC reaches more than 27 million households annually. Studies show it has a positive impact upon the children whose families receive it. Despite its many positives, however, the EITC is a program that for years has been plagued by taxpayer noncompliance: the estimated rate of improper payments on EITC claims has ranged between 20 and 30%, totaling billions of dollars annually. Though it is believed that the majority of EITC noncompliance may be unintentional, public reports of misconduct and fraud add fuel to the political rhetoric about a revenue system in which nearly half of Americans pay no federal income tax.

This article unpacks the rhetoric. It describes why the term “improper payments” is not synonymous with fraud. It places EITC noncompliance within the broader context of the U.S. “tax gap” and examines what intentional EITC noncompliance has in common with sole proprietor noncompliance. It explores motivations for intentional EITC noncompliance and also examines the role of inadvertent error in the overclaim rate. It describes the ways in which self-prepared returns present wholly different challenges than those completed by paid preparers.

Continue reading

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

Weekly Tax Roundup

Weekly Legal Education Roundup

Weekly SSRN Tax Roundup

Pepperdine Symposium Today On The U.S. Vice Presidency

Great symposium today at Pepperdine on The U.S. Vice Presidency with several prominent speakers, including former Vice President Dick Cheney, former U.S. Attorney General Ed Meese, Illinois Dean Vik Amar, and Pepperdine's own former U.S. Ambassador Doug Kmiec and Pulitizer Prize-winning historian Ed Larson.  You can watch live here beginning at 9:00 a.m. PST. (Vice President Cheney is speaking from 9:15-10:15.)

Symposium

Throughout our history, the powers and responsibilities of the nation’s second highest office have evolved. Caustically described by its first occupant as “the most insignificant office” ever contrived, many vice presidents have now had a profound impact on their place and time. Yet from its original inception to the ratification of the Twelfth 12th Amendment and beyond, many questions continue to surround this office. What did the founders envision as the role of the vice president? What is its place in the constitutional framework of government? What were the special characteristics of notable vice presidents? What is the future of the vice presidency? Could the office serve as an important tool in ending government gridlock?

At this symposium, renowned legal scholars, practitioners, and politicians will explore important questions surrounding the vice presidency. As a special treat, the Honorable Richard Cheney, 46th Vice President of the United States, will join us for a lively discussion of these issues and other experiences from his time as Vice President.

April 1, 2016 in Conferences, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

President Obama To Teach Con Law Class At Penn Law School In Spring 2017

Obama PennThe Daily Pennsylvanian, President Obama to Teach a Class at Penn Law After Presidency:

President Barack Obama will be teaching constitutional law at Penn Law School in the Spring 2017 term upon leaving the White House.

“He wanted to take a break from politics,” an unnamed White House staff member said of his decision. “And he thought the relaxing atmosphere at Penn might be a nice break.”

Outgoing President Obama will spend the first few years commuting to Penn from Washington D.C. because he expects his current battle with the Senate to get Judge Merrick Garland confirmed to the Supreme Court to last several years beyond his presidency. His current battle for the Supreme Court will be the subject of his course at Penn, which will be called “Confirming Supreme Court Nominees: A Case Study.”

Continue reading

April 1, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (6)

Stanford Raises The Bar In College Admissions Arms Race: 0% Acceptance Rate

Stanford (2016)New York Times op-ed: College Admission Shocker!, by Frank Bruni:

Cementing its standing as the most selective institution of higher education in the country, Stanford University announced this week that it had once again received a record-setting number of applications and that its acceptance rate — which had dropped to a previously uncharted low of 5 percent last year — plummeted all the way to its inevitable conclusion of 0 percent.

With no one admitted to the class of 2020, Stanford is assured that no other school can match its desirability in the near future.

“We had exceptional applicants, yes, but not a single student we couldn’t live without,” said a Stanford administrator who requested anonymity. “In the stack of applications that I reviewed, I didn’t see any gold medalists from the last Olympics — Summer or Winter Games — and while there was a 17-year-old who’d performed surgery, it wasn’t open-heart or a transplant or anything like that. She’ll thrive at Yale.”

Continue reading

April 1, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (2)

New Form W-K9: Individual Pet Tax Return

Great April Fool's Prank On Professor

Economics Professor Stephen Barrows (Aquinas College) has a strict cell phone policy:  if a student's phone rings in class, the student must answer on the speaker.

April 1, 2016 in Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Subscribing To TaxProf Blog

SubscribeWe offer three ways to have TaxProf Blog content automatically delivered to your computer, tablet, or smart phone:

RSS Feeds:  You can subscribe to one of three different feeds to receive TaxProf Blog posts via your RSS reader:

Email:  You can subscribe to receive TaxProf Blog posts via email through one of three approaches:

  • FeedBlitz:  Enter your email address here to receive TaxProf Blog posts via email, delivered to you either daily, every 12 hours, every 8 hours, every 4 hours, or hourly (at your option).
  • TaxProf Blog Tax Email Service:  Email me to be added to my twice daily (during the week) and once daily (on the weekend) emails to the TaxProf Discussion Group with titles and links to recent TaxProf Blog posts on tax topics.
  • TaxProf Blog Legal Education Email Service:  Email me to be added to my email distribution list with titles and links to recent TaxProf Blog posts on legal education topics.

April 1, 2016 in About This Blog, Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Support TaxProf Blog By Shopping On Amazon

Amazon-associatesTaxProf Blog participates in the amazon.com affiliate program. You can help support TaxProf Blog at no cost to you by making purchases through Amazon links on the blog and through the "Shop Amazon" tab on the header at the top of the blog:

Header

and the search box in the right column of the blog:

Amazon Search

April 1, 2016 in About This Blog, Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1058

IRS Logo 2WisconsinWatchdog.com, John Doe Freedom Fighter Wins Big Victory Against the IRS:

The conservative activist who took on Wisconsin’s abusive John Doe investigation and won has been engaged in a similar epic struggle against the IRS.

Eric O’Keefe, director of Wisconsin Club for Growth, also serves as chairman of the board for Citizens for Self-Governance, the limited-government organization that is financially backing a class-action lawsuit by hundreds of tea party groups against the Internal Revenue Service.

The litigation alleges the Obama administration’s IRS targeted conservative groups for additional scrutiny, mainly under the regime of Lois Lerner, director of the IRS’s Exempt Organizations Unit.

Last week, more than 1,000 days after the lawsuit was filed, a three-judge panel of the Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, having lost patience with the government’s foot-dragging, ordered the IRS to turn over details on tax-exempt applicants. The IRS was given seven days to comply.

An attorney for the plaintiffs tells Wisconsin Watchdog that the IRS on Tuesday delivered a “large production” of documents and the law firm is now reviewing the materials. “We’re very pleased to have it. There is a lot of information in native file format,” said Eddie Greim, attorney for Graves Garrett LLC. “We hope to piece it all together and understand how the targeting scheme unfolded over time.” ...

[T]here were some eerie connections between the Wisconsin John Doe and the IRS initiative uncovered along the way.

“It was much like the John Doe spying operation,” O’Keefe said. “The department was overseen by Lois Lerner, a radical left-winger who met (GAB director) Kevin Kennedy when she worked at the FEC, the national speech regulator.”

As Wisconsin Watchdog’s investigation, Wisconsin’s Secret War, detailed, Lerner and Kennedy were close friends. Kennedy consulted with Lerner about the John Doe probe and asked how the IRS might get involved, according to emails obtained by Wisconsin Watchdog.

“This is a part of the national left attack using state power to stifle the political activities of patriotic Americans,” O’Keefe said of the IRS’ initiative. “It’s a horrendous abuse and they are using tactics with us similar to the ones that got them in trouble in the first place. They’re stonewalling, they’re not following the rules, and it leads us to believe that what they have is worse than what I suspect.”

A trial date is set for August 2017. “Believe it or not, that’s actually pretty fast for a federal court,” Greim said.

Continue reading

April 1, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

Thursday, March 31, 2016

George Mason Renames Law School The Antonin Scalia School Of Law For $30 Million

Goldin Presents Rethinking The Taxation Of Single Parents Today At Duke

GoldinJacob Goldin (Stanford) presents Beyond Head of Household: Rethinking the Taxation of Single Parents (with Zachary Liscow (Yale)) at Duke today as part of its Tax Policy Workshop Series hosted by Lawrence Zelenak:

Under current law, unmarried taxpayers with children can take advantage of the head of household filing status (HHFS) to reduce their federal income taxes. We argue that the design of the filing status is largely obsolete, geared toward alleviating a “marriage penalty” in the tax code that is much less important than when the filing status was first established. At the same time, the growth in the fraction of Americans raising children outside of traditional two-parent households has dramatically raised the cost of the filing status to the fisc.

In this article, we highlight two features of the design of HHFS that undermine its goal of providing support to single parent households.

Continue reading

March 31, 2016 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Bank Presents Executive Pay: What Worked? Today At UCLA

Bank (2016)Steven Bank (UCLA) presents Executive Pay: What Worked? (with Brian R. Cheffins (Cambridge) & Harwell Wells (Temple)) at UCLA today as part of its Tax Policy and Public Finance Colloquium Series hosted by Jason Oh and Eric Zolt: :

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

Continue reading

March 31, 2016 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

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

Raskolnikov (2015)Alex Raskolnikov (Columbia) presents From Deterrence to Compliance: Legal Uncertainty Reexamined at Colorado today as part of its Tax Policy Colloquium Series hosted by David Hasen and Sloan Speck:

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

Continue reading

March 31, 2016 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

O'Brien Presents The Relationship Between Taxation And Investment Agreements Today At British Columbia

O'BrienMartha O'Brien (University of Victoria, Faculty of Law) presents The Relationship Between Taxation and Investment Agreements at the University of British Columbia today as part of its Tax Law and Policy Workshop Series:

Canada has entered into numerous bilateral investment Treaties (BITs), and is in the process of ratifying both the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with the European Union and its 28 member states, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, with 11 other Pacific rim nations including Canada’s NAFTA partners. These international trade and investment agreements (IIAs) contain significant commitments to investors of national treatment, most-favoured nation treatment and fair and equitable treatment by the host state; they prohibit expropriation of investments and provide for investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) through arbitration. The implications of such commitments for the tax systems of the parties to these agreements means that issues of direct taxation are almost entirely carved-out of the investment agreement and are resolved under the relevant double taxation treaty or domestic tax law.

Continue reading

March 31, 2016 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

U.S. News:  Five Law School Pioneers

2017 U.S. News LogoU.S. News & World Report, Law Schools Innovate With Hands-On Learning: These Five Pioneers Are Among the Law Schools Overhauling Programs to Build in Extensive Hands-On Practice:

Law school continues to be more of a buyer's market than in years past, as many programs invent new ways to reel in applicants who've been wary of the poor job outlook and steep tuitions. The legal education community is still trying to regain its footing after the Great Recession forced firms to radically tighten their belts, shutting out many new grads and sending applications into a spiral.

Among the more unconventional curricular experiments law schools will keep an eye on are several new programs. ... Meanwhile, more established schools continue to recast their programs by condensing coursework, addressing tuition and adding intensive on-the-job training, perhaps the biggest trend of all. Here's a look at what's happening at a few of the pioneers. ...

Pepperdine University School of Law
Students in Pepperdine Law School's accelerated J.D. program get their experiential learning at a somewhat reduced cost by packing three years of law school into two. But most students who choose accelerated programs like Pepperdine's have already been out in the professional world and are willing to double down to get back to it sooner.

Continue reading

March 31, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

2016 Florida Tax Institute

Florida Tax InstituteThe two-day 2016 Florida Tax Institute (program), sponsored by the Florida Tax Education Foundation with all proceeds benefiting the University of Florida Graduate Tax Program, concludes today.  Tax Prof speakers include:

  • Karen Burke (Florida) & James Sowell (KPMG), Hot Asset Distributions and New Rules Under Section 751(b)
  • Sam Donaldson (Georgia State), Current Developments in the Transfer Tax Arena

Continue reading

March 31, 2016 in Conferences, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Conference On The Fate Of Scholarship In American Law Schools

FateBaltimore hosts a two-day conference beginning today on The Fate of Scholarship in American Law Schools:

The conference will reexamine first principles of legal scholarship – its value (to legal education, to the legal profession, to society) and its essential aspects – and will survey particular issues of contemporary concern, including emerging scholarly forms and technologies and the relationship among legal scholarship, journalism and new media.

The two-day conference will consist of themed plenary sessions, concurrent small-group sessions, opportunities to interact informally and a keynote address by Jack M. Balkin, Knight Professor of Constitutional Law and the First Amendment at Yale Law School.

Continue reading

March 31, 2016 in Conferences, Legal Education, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (1)

IRS Releases FY 2015 Data Book

IRS Data BookIR-2016-52 (Mar. 30, 2016), IRS Releases FY 2015 Data Book:

The Internal Revenue Service today released the 2015 IRS Data Book [individual tables], a snapshot of agency activities for the fiscal year.

The 2015 Data Book describes activities conducted by the IRS from Oct. 1, 2014, to Sept. 30, 2015 and includes information about returns filed, taxes collected, enforcement, taxpayer assistance and the IRS budget and workforce, among others. This edition also contains charts that show trends, such as the decline in the number of audits and the reduction in telephone and in-person tax assistance, but increases in the use of online resources and volunteer tax assistance.

Continue reading

March 31, 2016 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Hackers Breach Computer Systems At Cravath, Other BigLaw Firms

Diamond:  Lawyers Get A Raise

Stephen F. Diamond (Santa Clara), Lawyers Get a Raise:

One of the enduring myths about lawyers is that there is a deep incurable structural crisis in incomes and jobs for lawyers. In fact, lawyer incomes and the number of employed lawyers has increased steadily over the last twenty years.

Today the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported its latest data on employment and, once again, the number of lawyers employed* as well as lawyer incomes have increased. The BLS reports that the total number of lawyers employed as of May 2015 is 609,930 as compared to 603,310 in May 2014. The mean annual wage for lawyers has climbed from $133,470 to $136,260. The median has climbed from $114,970 to $115,820. ...

Continue reading

March 31, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (29)