TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron
Pepperdine University School of Law

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Death Of Senate Finance Committee Republican Tax Staffer Jim Lyons (Age 43)

Senate Finance Committee tax counsel Jim Lyons died Thursday at the age of 43 after suffering cardiac arrest while playing in a charity basketball game at George Washington University.  Here is his professional CV:

  • J.D. (1999), Texas
  • Tax LL.M. (2000), NYU
  • Law Clerk (2000-01), W. Eugene Davis, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
  • Tax Associate (2001-04), Cleary, Gottleib, Steen & Hamilton, New York
  • Republican Tax Staff (2004-05), House Ways & Means Committee
  • Civil Trial Attorney (2005-08), U.S. Department of Justice Tax Division 
  • Republican Tax Staff (2008-16), Senate Finance Committee

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October 1, 2016 in Congressional News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

EEOC To Sue Denver Law School For Underpaying Female Faculty

Denver Logo (2015)Following up on my previous posts:

9 News, Professor: EEOC Will File Suit Against DU Over Equal Pay:

University of Denver Law Professor Lucy Marsh says the EEOC will file a lawsuit Friday against her employer over equal pay to women professors.

"It seems to me that what we've got is a pattern of a number of law school deans have been intentionally, knowingly, violating the law," Marsh said.

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October 1, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (8)

ABA Tax Section Fall CLE Meeting

ABA Tax Section Logo (2012)The ABA Tax Section concludes its three-day joint Fall CLE Meeting with the ABA Real Property, Trust and Estate Law Section today in Boston. The full program is here.  Tax Profs with speaking roles today include:

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October 1, 2016 in ABA Tax Section, Conferences, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1241

IRS Logo 2Judicial Watch Press Release, Democratic Senator Sought Justice Department and IRS Criminal Prosecutions of Conservatives in 2013:

Judicial Watch today released 72 pages of Department of Justice documents revealing email conversations between Department of Justice officials and the staff of Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) regarding the criminal prosecution of Tea Party groups for alleged violation of IRS rules.

The conversations were in preparation for a briefing by Justice Department officials for Sen. Whitehouse’s staff and for a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism hearing on April 9, 2013. ...

Judicial Watch obtained the documents through a federal court order in a Judicial Watch Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit (Judicial Watch v Department of Justice (No. 1:14-cv-01239)).

Later, at the Judiciary Subcommittee hearing, Sen. Whitehouse asked why the Department of Justice wasn’t prosecuting political groups on its own, independently of the IRS. ...

The newly released emails show that following the hearing, at the request of Justice Department lawyers, Sen. Whitehouse’s staff sent over examples of the organizations Whitehouse had in mind for prosecution. They included American Future Fund, Crossroads GPS, Americans for Responsible Leadership, Freedom Path, American is Not Stupid, Inc., RightChange.com II, and A Better America Now. All of these are conservative organizations.

The new emails also show collaboration in the Department of Justice with officials in the IRS in preparing for the hearing. The IRS sent a draft of its planned testimony for the hearing to the Justice Department.  Judicial Watch previously exposed a plan by the Obama IRS and Justice Department prosecutors to pursue criminal charges against the very Tea Party and anti-Obama groups that the IRS was targeting.

The Obama administration prosecution effort seemingly ended with the exposure of the IRS targeting in a May 2013 report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).  IRS official Lois Lerner did not reveal the targeting until just before the report’s release, in response to a planted question at an American Bar Association conference.

“The Obama IRS scandal includes abuse of power by Democrats in Congress who wanted to jail Obama’s political opponents to help secure Obama’s reelection,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.  “And Americans should know that the courts have recently concluded the Obama IRS abuses haven’t stopped – even as we approach another presidential election.”

A 2013 study by scholars from the American Enterprise Institute and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University found that, “had the Tea Party groups continued to grow at the pace seen in 2009 and 2010, and had their effect on the 2012 vote been similar to that seen in 2010, they would have brought the Republican Party as many as 5 – 8.5 million votes compared to Obama’s victory margin of 5 million.”

In March 2010, the IRS decided to single Tea Party groups out for special treatment when applying for tax-exempt status by flagging organizations with names containing “Tea Party,” “patriot,” or “9/12.” For the next two years, the IRS approved the applications of only four such groups, delaying all others while subjecting the applicants to highly intrusive, intimidating requests for information regarding their activities, membership, contacts, Facebook posts, and private thoughts.

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October 1, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (5)

Friday, September 30, 2016

Weekly SSRN Tax Article Review And Roundup

This week, David Gamage (UC-Berkeley) reviews a new paper on a topic of great concern to many law students:  Treasury Should Exclude Income from Discharge of Student Loans, by John R. Brooks (Georgetown), 152 Tax Notes 751 (Aug. 1, 2016).

Gamage (2016)As anyone who has taken the basic law school tax course should know, the doctrines surrounding discharge of indebtedness income are troubled and often incoherent.  I have found that law students are especially anxious about the possibility of having discharge of indebtedness income from the cancellation of student loans through the federal government’s Income-Based Repayment (IBR) and Pay as You Earn (PAYE) programs.  (Note to tax law professor readers: these topics make great vehicles for teaching discharge of indebtedness doctrines!)

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September 30, 2016 in Scholarship, Tax, Weekly SSRN Roundup | Permalink | Comments (2)

Mason Presents Citizenship Taxation Today At Florida

Mason (2015)Ruth Mason (Virginia) presents Citizenship Taxation, 89 S. Cal. L. Rev. 169 (2016), at Florida today as part of its Tax Policy Colloquium Series hosted by Yariv Brauner:

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

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September 30, 2016 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tax Profs Weigh In On The Trump Foundation's Tax Issues

Washington Post, How Donald Trump Retooled His Charity to Spend Other People’s Money:

Trump 2

New York Times op-ed: An Uncharitable Foundation, by Linda Sugin (Fordham):

In addition to being the Republican nominee for president, Donald J. Trump is president of the relatively small Donald J. Trump Foundation and chairman of the relatively large Trump Organization. Although the foundation is a charitable organization, it appears to have been used for less than charitable purposes.

According to exhaustive reporting by David A. Fahrenthold of The Washington Post, Mr. Trump may have used the foundation to pay expenses for his business, to buy himself gifts and to make a political contribution. These things are all clearly prohibited under both federal and state charities law. No competent lawyer would advise a charitable foundation that such payments were allowable, and only someone with no respect for charity would so flagrantly violate these basic rules. ...

Americans who give to, volunteer with, or depend on charities should know that politicking and self-dealing by charities are never acceptable. The candidate’s apparent disregard for the law does not bode well for a Trump administration.

Slate:  What Is the Trump Foundation? It’s Supposed To Be A Charity. It Looks A Lot More Like A Personal Piggy Bank, by Adam Chodorow (Arizona State) 

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September 30, 2016 in Political News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (8)

Weekly Legal Education Roundup

Kentucky Bar Passage Rates Crater: UK, Louisville Down 15%, 20% Since 2011

LogosInside Louisville, Bar Exam Pass Rates Decreasing in Kentucky, Following National Trend:

Kentucky joined a number of other states with disappointing results from this summer’s bar exams, as only 65 percent of those taking the state exam passed in July. The total pass rate of 69.9 percent from all winter and summer exams in 2016 marked a low point for Kentucky in the past decade, falling over 10 percentage points from its previous high in 2011.

The fall in pass rates over the last five years among first-time bar exam takers in Kentucky was even larger, with this year’s rate at the University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law and University of Kentucky College of Law decreasing by nearly 20 and 15 percentage points from their previous high marks in 2011, respectively.

The pass rate for first-time takers of the Kentucky bar exam was 86.3 percent in 2011, but has fallen each year since and reached 74.3 percent in 2016. UK’s law school graduates taking this exam for the first time in 2016 passed at a rate of 79.3 percent, which was only a slight decrease from the previous year, but nearly 15 percentage points lower than its 94.8 pass rate in 2011. UofL’s Brandeis graduates taking the exam for the first time this year passed at a rate of 71.2 percent — which is below the state average and a drop of 13.6 percentage points from 2015 and 19.5 points since 2011.

Northern Kentucky University’s Chase College of Law has far fewer graduates who take the Kentucky bar exam — many choose to take the Ohio bar exam — but their first-time takers passed at a rate of 79.6 percent in 2016, which was the highest in the state and a slight increase from 2011.

KY

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September 30, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

ABA Tax Section Fall CLE Meeting

ABA Tax Section Logo (2012)The ABA Tax Section continues its three-day joint Fall CLE Meeting with the ABA Real Property, Trust and Estate Law Section today in Boston. The full program is here.  Today's highlight is the joint program of the Teaching Taxation and State & Local Taxes sections on Out of Ferguson: Misdemeanors as Taxes and Municipal Courts as Tax Collectors:

The 2014 events in Ferguson, Missouri brought the operation of the municipal justice system in St. Louis County, Missouri into the public eye. Most of the 91 municipalities in St. Louis County have their own police force and municipal court. Increasingly, the police and municipal courts have been charged with a revenue raising function. City administrators have encouraged police to issue misdemeanor citations, primarily for traffic offenses including driving without insurance and failure to renew vehicle registration or the operator’s license. According to a Department of Justice Report on Ferguson, policing in Ferguson had come to serve primarily a revenue function, so that the police and courts became relatively little concerned with public safety in enforcing laws and more in generating revenue. This joint program will consider the impact of reclassifying these fines and penalties as taxes.

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September 30, 2016 in ABA Tax Section, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Hills:  UC-Berkeley Is Sacrificing Due Process In Re-Litigating The Sexual Harassment Allegations Against Former Dean Sujit Choudhry To Appease An Angry Mob

ChoudryFollowing up on my previous posts (links below): Rick Hills (NYU), Is Berkeley Sacrificing Due Process to Appease an Angry Mob? The Sexual Harassment Case Against Sujit Choudhry:

How much and what sort of process is due in university sexual harassment administrative proceedings? The question, once for me a relatively academic question, has become painfully personal after Sujit Choudhry [right], a personal friend and the former Dean of Berkeley, was accused by his former administrative assistant of sexually harassing her.

Five years ago, I criticized my friend Peter Berkowitz for insisting in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that criminal procedures – in particular, the “beyond-a-reasonable-doubt” (BARD) standard -- be imported wholesale into university hearings where accusations of sexual misconduct are being adjudicated. Without taking any position on the right standard of proof, I argued that one could not automatically assume that the BARD standard was appropriate for a university’s administrative hearing where the stakes are not personal liberty but rather suspension or expulsion. The justification for criminal trial procedures favoring the accused is that the social and moral costs of convicting one innocent person vastly outweighs the costs of letting a lot of guilty people go free (the exact ratio of false positives to false negatives being a conundrum in which 1L criminal law professors delight). The appropriate ratio of false negatives to false positives in the university setting is, to my mind, a closer call. Because the procedural norms for these university adjudications are both hotly contested and reasonably disputed, I urged that the U.S. Department of Education not prematurely centralize them with OCR guidance documents but instead allow universities to experiment with different procedures.

Peter has now trained his sights on one of those decentralized experiments – namely, University of California’s attempt to re-try an accusation of sexual harassment against former Berkeley Law Dean Sujit Choudhry for which Choudhry has already been charged, investigated, and punished. This time I have to agree with Peter as well as with Brian Leiter and Slate: This is a Dr. Frankenstein’s experiment gone horribly awry. As Choudhry’s complaint in federal court alleges, there is an egregious assault on procedural due process going on at U.C. Berkeley. After the jump, I will offer my reasons for believing that President Janet Napolitano, the President of the University of California, is abetting mob justice in urging a do-over.

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September 30, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (3)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1240

IRS Logo 2Letter To House Judiciary Committee Chair Bob Goodlatte and Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (Sept. 20, 2016):

As you know, certain Republican members of Congress have renewed their effort to impeach Commissioner Koskinen in recent weeks, and their core accusation is that Commissioner Koskinen ordered the destruction of documents to conceal them from congressional and law enforcement investigators. ...

The fundamental problem with this accusation is that there is no evidence to support it. To the contrary, this specific allegation has been investigated and debunked by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, which is led by J. Russell George, who formerly served as a Republican staff member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. 

On June 30, 2015, the Inspector General's office issued a Report of Investigation entitled "Exempt Organizations Data Loss" (#54-1406-008-I). According to this report, the Inspector General's staff interviewed 118 witnesses—far more than the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Ways and Means Committee, or the Judiciary Committee—and they reviewed emails from employees in Martinsburg, West Virginia, where two low-level employees recycled, or "degaussed," backup tapes that included emails from lois Lerner.

In its report last year, the Inpsector General's office concluded:  "No evidence was uncovered that any IRS employees had been directed to destroy or hide information from Congress, the DOJ, or TIGTA." ...

We urge all Members to consider the evidence that has been obtained and the conclusions that several previous investigations have made in this case after reviewing a much more substantial record. If the Judiciary Committee decides to continue down this path with additional hearings, then we suggest that you invite the Inspector General to testify about his findings and the extensive investigation his office has conducted on this matter.

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September 30, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Judge Denies Change Of Venue In Trial Of Markel's Alleged Hit Man; Defense Seeks Testimony Of Other Possible Perpetrators

Markel 2Tallahassee Democrat, Judge Denies Markel Suspect's Request for Change of Venue:

A Leon County judge denied a motion by one of the men charged in the shooting of Dan Markel to change the trial venue. Circuit Judge James Hankinson denied the motion by Luis Rivera's attorney Chuck Collins on Thursday, the day after it was filed.

Prosecutors also are trying to block the testimony of a convicted double murderer from Broward County, who has been transported to testify in Rivera's Oct. 24 trial. Imran Hussain, who was convicted of the 2001 murders of two shopkeepers the 41-year-old worked for, will be a witness in Rivera's trial. ... [I]n Wednesday court filings, Chief Assistant State Attorney Georgia Cappleman said Collins may try to introduce Hussain and two others listed as witnesses in court documents as the possible perpetrators in Markel’s July 18, 2014, shooting. ...

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September 29, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (6)

2017 Business Tax Climate: Chilliest in Blue States

Tax Foundation logoThe Tax Foundation has released the 2017 State Business Tax Climate Index, which ranks the fifty states according to five indices: corporate tax, individual income tax, sales tax, unemployment insurance tax, and property tax. Here are the ten states with the best and worst business tax climates:

1

Wyoming

41

Louisiana

2

South Dakota

42

Maryland

3

Alaska

43

Connecticut

4

Florida

44

Rhode Island

5

Nevada

45

Ohio

6

Montana

46

Minnesota

7

New Hampshire

47

District of Columbia

8

Indiana

48

California

9

Utah

49

New York

10

Oregon

50

New Jersey

Interestingly, nine of the ten of the states with the worst business tax climates voted for Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential election, and six of the ten states with the best business tax climates voted for Mitt Romney.

2017 Business Tax Climate

 

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September 29, 2016 in Tax, Think Tank Reports | Permalink | Comments (2)

John Marshall Is First Law School With Two Diversity Officials

John MarshallNational Jurist, John Marshall Law Adds Diversity Positions:

Two new leadership positions created this summer at The John Marshall Law School in Chicago are focused on diversity.

The school believes it could be the only law school with both a dedicated chief diversity officer and a faculty diversity officer. ... Arthur Acevedo, an associate professor, was named the new director of diversity and inclusion for faculty. ... Acevedo’s appointment comes on the heels of the appointment of Troy Riddle as the school’s chief diversity and inclusion officer.

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September 29, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (4)

IRS 'Wealth Squad' Targets The Top 1%

IRS Logo 2Bloomberg, You Do Not Want to Be On the Radar of the IRS Wealth Squad:

The very rich are different from you and me. They even have their own IRS audit squad.

Saturday marks the start of the fourth quarter, a time of financial reckoning, of crashing toward quotas and scrambling to reach year-end targets. Corporations and individuals alike rush to cut the income tax they'll need to pay next year. Some go too far (or just miss things, or misunderstand what and how they need to report). The IRS collected $6.3 billion last year assessing taxpayers for underreported income. Among them are the big fish, honored with the IRS equivalent of a SWAT team.

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September 29, 2016 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

University Of New Mexico Bar Pass Rate Drops 13 Percentage Points After Adoption Of UBE; Law School Urged To 'Refocus On Fundamentals'

UNM 2Albuquerque Journal editorial, Uniform Bar Exam Is Not the Problem, Is Law School?:

There are some advantages to taking a national test, especially in a professional field. You can see how you stack up against other test-takers across the country and, in the case of the Uniform Bar Examination, a passing score makes it easier to practice law in other states that give the same test instead of having to take another exam there.

This year, the University of New Mexico School of Law started giving the national exam, which is used in about half of U.S. states.

The results weren’t pretty. The number of students who passed the exam on their first try (68%) in July was down 13 percentage points compared to July 2015 (81%) [92% in 2012, 96% in 2009] on the old state exam. Those who failed were disproportionately minorities and women. None of the 14 Native American students who took the test passed.

New Mexico

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September 29, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (3)

The Best (Columbia, NYU) And Worst (Pace, Seton Hall, Hofstra) New York Law Schools For BigLaw Jobs

Above the Law, The Best (And Worst) New York Law Schools For Biglaw Jobs:

[O]ne tipster has gone through and actually broken down how many students from each New York area school are landing at specific Biglaw firms. Here’s the methodology:

I scoured the websites of Cravath, S&C, DPW, Skadden, STB, Cleary, PW, Debevoise, Latham, and K&E (Weil’s website made it impractical to include them), and saw how many associates they each currently employ from Brooklyn, Columbia, Cardozo, Fordham, Hofstra, NYLS, NYU, Pace, Rutgers, Seton Hall, St. Johns. Since I was mainly interested in recent placement, I kept the list to associates only (no partners, counsel, etc). My goal was to see how successful each school has been at placing students at these top firms, and if you’re really that much better off paying more to go to a better school (spoiler alert: you are). ...

ATL

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September 29, 2016 in Law School Rankings, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (6)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1239

IRS Logo 2Breitbart, Anti-Israel J Street Wants the IRS Scandal to Continue:

J Street, the far-left organization that styles itself as “pro-Israel, pro-peace” but in practice works to lobby against Israel in Congress and the media, is continuing its pursuit of conservative pro-Israel non-profit groups as if the IRS scandal had never happened.

In 2010, J Street began pressuring the U.S. Treasury to investigate pro-Israel non-profit groups and charities that spent money in the West Bank, accusing them of fueling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by supporting Israeli settlements. (When pressed to explain why J Street was not also asking the federal government to investigate Islamic charities in the U.S. that may spend money on anti-Israel causes, J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami memorably said: “I don’t give a shit about Islamic charities.”)

J Street’s efforts were part of a broad campaign by the Democratic Party and its senior leadership, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United, to encourage the IRS to investigate conservative non-profit groups and charities. As Wall Street Journalcolumnist Kimberley Strassel documents in her new book, The Intimidation Game: How the Left Is Silencing Free Speech, these efforts, encouraged by President Barack Obama, helped encourage the illegal behavior in the IRS scandal.

One of the groups singled out for discrimination by the IRS was the pro-Israel non-profit group Z Street, which was meant to be a counter-weight to J Street (which is itself a non-profit, with a separate political action committee). Like Tea Party groups and other conservative organizations seeking recognition from the IRS at the time, Z Street faced additional, unusual scrutiny, which included questions that challenged the group’s political beliefs — which are none of the federal government’s business.

In 2010, Matthew Hausman of the Jewish Policy Center noted that the discrimination against of Z Street “occurred not long after the left-wing organization J Street announced its campaign to lobby the Treasury Department to revoke the tax-exempt status of Jewish charities that support religious and cultural institutions in Judea and Samaria.” Z Street is still fighting, and winning, legal battles against the IRS. But other than that, the culprits in the IRS scandal remain unpunished and unashamed. ...

J Street’s shameless effort to encourage Treasury and the IRS to continue the abuse of pro-Israel, conservative groups right where they left off is not only a sign of how dangerous the group is to the future of free speech and freedom of assembly in the U.S., but also a warning of the kind of abuse conservatives can expect under a Hillary Clinton administration if she wins. Clinton has vowed to repeal Citizens United, and wants the IRS to have the authority to do legally what it once did illegally.

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September 29, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Slemrod Presents The Impact Of Public Tax-Return Disclosure Today At Pennsylvania

SlemrodJoel Slemrod (Michigan) presents The Impact of Public Tax-Return Disclosure (with Jeffrey L. Hoopes (North Carolina) & Leslie Robinson (Dartmouth)) at Pennsylvania today as part of its Tax Policy Workshop Series hosted by Chris Sanchirico and Reed Shuldiner:

We investigate the effect of public disclosure of information from corporate tax returns filed in Australia on consumers, investors, and the corporations themselves that were subject to disclosure. We find some evidence that, for firms subject to disclosure, consumer sentiment declines for relatively small private companies, and that investor reaction is negative for both Australian public firms and non-Australian public firms with Australian operations. Regarding firm behavior, we find evidence that some firms took action to avoid disclosure, adjusting their reported income in order to fall below the disclosure threshold. Other firms that did not avoid disclosure appear to have reported paying more in tax in the year of the disclosure.

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September 28, 2016 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

2017 Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education College Rankings

2017Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education College Rankings:

Outcomes (40%):

  • Graduation rate (11%)
  • Value added to graduate salary (12%)
  • Value added to the loan repayment rate (7%)
  • Academic reputation (10%)

Resources (30%):

  • Finance per student (11%)
  • Faculty per student (11%)
  • Research papers per faculty (8%)

Engagement (20%):

  • Student engagement (7%)
  • Student recommendation (6%)
  • Interaction with teachers and students (4%)
  • Number of accredited programmes (3%)

Environment (10%):

  • Proportion of international students (2%)
  • Student diversity (3%) 
  • Student inclusion (2%)
  • Staff diversity (3%)

The inaugural WSJ/THE rankings list over 1,000 schools. Here are the Top 25:

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September 28, 2016 in Law School Rankings, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

Leiter Poll:  The Top 50 Law Faculties (Scholarly Distinction)

Top 50Brian Leiter (Chicago), 50 Best Law School Faculties in Terms of Scholarly Distinction, 2016 Edition:

Here's a list of 76 faculties that might have some claim on having one of the 50 strongest law faculties in terms of scholarly distinction (with apologies to any wrongly omitted).  Have fun!  Detailed ballot reporting will make attempts at strategic voting obvious, so don't!  I'll call out your school!  Remember, this is about the scholarly distinction of the faculties, so if all you know is the U.S. News rank, don't complete the survey, or choose "no opinion" for those schools! 

BAD BEHAVIOR WATCH:  Remarkably, 4  people have ranked Arizona State ahead of Yale!  I wonder where they teach? ...

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September 28, 2016 in Legal Education, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (4)

Tax Break For Olympic Heroes? A Sole Lawmaker Says No

Olympic RingsNew York Times, Tax Break for Olympic Heroes? A Sole Lawmaker Says No:

A group of United States Olympians from the Rio Games is set to visit the White House on Thursday. It’s a safe bet that one particular lawmaker will be excluded from the guest list.

That would be Representative Jim Himes, Democrat of Connecticut, a former Harvard rower who last week cast the only vote against a bill that would give most United States Olympic and Paralympic medalists a tax break on their victory bonuses.

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September 28, 2016 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

BigLaw Could Retain More Women By Hiring From Lower-Ranked Schools

ABA Journal, BigLaw Could Retain More Women by Hiring from Lower-Ranked Schools, Research Suggests:

Female graduates of law schools ranked in the top 10 are more likely to make an early exit from BigLaw than female grads of lower-tier schools.

After their first three to five years in BigLaw, women from top 10 law schools leave their firms at a much higher rate than those from lower-ranked schools.

AmLaw

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September 28, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

Oei & Ring:  Can Sharing Be Taxed?

AUShu-Yi Oei (Tulane) & Diane Ring (Boston College), Can Sharing Be Taxed?, 93 Wash. U. L. Rev. 987 (2016):

In the past few years, we have seen the rise of a new model of production and consumption of goods and services, often referred to as the “sharing economy.” Fueled by startups such as Uber and Airbnb, sharing enables individuals to obtain rides, accommodations, and other goods and services from peers via personal computer or mobile application in exchange for payment. The rise of sharing has raised questions about how it should be regulated, including whether existing laws and regulations can and should be enforced in this new sector or whether new ones are needed.

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September 28, 2016 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Chemerinsky:  The ABA Should Grant Provisional Accreditation To Dallas Law School

UNT 2Following up on my previous posts (links below):  National Law Journal op-ed: In These Times, Innovation in Legal Education Should be Applauded: The ABA Should Grant Provisional Accreditation to UNT Dallas College of Law, by Erwin Chemerinsky (Dean, UC-Irvine):

The lesson from the past several years of unprecedented struggles for many law schools is that this is a time when innovation in legal education should be encouraged.

Unfortunately, it appears that the American Bar Association is doing just the opposite in its treatment of University of North Texas (UNT) Dallas College of Law. The recommendation of the Accreditation Committee of the ABA to deny provisional accreditation to UNT raises disturbing issues concerning how important innovation is being squelched.

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September 28, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (6)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1238

IRS Logo 2Wall Street Journal, An Impeachment, the IRS and Accountability:

Regarding Rep. John Conyers’s op-ed A Dangerous Rush to Impeach John Koskinen (Sept. 23): My understanding of Mr. Koskinen’s actions is that as head of the IRS he did nothing to stop the destruction of email evidence, has not provided documentation requested under the FOIA and has continued to obstruct and obfuscate requests for information by the House of Representatives. If this is correct, I ask Rep. Conyers to explain, in a bipartisan fashion, why these as well as other IRS actions are not actions in “deliberate bad faith.” As head of the IRS, he is accountable for all actions taken by the IRS, period.
Stephen Kane
Troy, Mich.

Rep. Conyers lets the cat out of the bag in telling us that in government you must prove someone acted in bad faith to get fired. Mr. Conyers, in the private sector in Illinois and some other states, an employer doesn’t have to have a reason to fire someone. But Mr. Koskinen can be oblivious to employee malfeasance and not be held responsible. I bet Wells Fargo Chief Executive John Stumpf wishes he were head of a government agency.
Ken Nelson
Chicago

I’m pretty sure that if John Koskinen’s agency had targeted liberals using the IRS’s vast power, John Conyers would be leading the charge for impeachment.
Tom Fleming
Caseyville, Ill.

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September 28, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Illinois Law Review Publishes Ranking Of 81 Online Law Reviews

Law Review Online

Nancy Levit (UMKC) & Allen Rostron (UMKC) maintain a guide to submitting articles to 204 law reviews (last updated in 2016).  The guide contains two charts:  (1) the mechanics of the submission process, and (2) the ranking of the law reviews and their schools in six measures: (a) US. News Overall Rank; (ii) U.S. News Peer Reputation; (iii) U.S. News Judge/Lawyer Reputation Rating; (iv) Washington & Lee Law Review Citation Ranking; (v) Washington & Lee Law Review Impact Factor; and (vi) Washington & Lee Law Review Combined Rating.

Colin Miller (South Carolina) maintains a guide to submitting articles to 49 law review online supplements (last updated in 2013).  The guide contains a chart on the mechanics of the submission process.

The Illinois Law Review has just published a ranking of 81 online law reviews (SSRN) and their schools in three measures:  (1) US. News Overall Rank; (ii) U.S. News Peer Reputation Rank; and (iii) Washington & Lee Law Review Combined Ranking.

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September 27, 2016 in Law School Rankings, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tax Court Allows Estate To Deduct Loss From Bernie Madoff Investment Account Held As Sole Asset Of Family LLC Of Which Decedent Owned 99%

BetrayalEstate of Heller v. Commissioner, 147 T.C. No. 11 (Sept. 26, 2016):

James Heller, a resident of New York, New York, died on January 31, 2008. At that time he owned a 99% interest in James Heller Family, LLC (JHF). James Heller's daughter, Barbara H. Freitag, and his son, Steven P. Heller, each held a 0.5% interest in JHF. Harry H. Falk managed JHF, the only asset of which was an account (JHF Madoff account) with Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities, LLC (Madoff Securities). ... 

On December 11, 2008, Bernard Madoff, the chairman of Madoff Securities, was arrested, and the Securities and Exchange Commission issued a press release to alert the public that it had charged him with securities fraud relating to a multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme. ... As a result of the Ponzi scheme, JHF's interest in the JHF Madoff account and the estate's interest in JHF became worthless.

The estate on April 1, 2009, timely filed Form 706, United States Estate (and Generation-Skipping Transfer) Tax Return, on which the estate reported a $26,296,807 gross estate, including the value of James Heller's 99% interest in JHF (i.e., $16,560,990). The estate also claimed a $5,175,990 theft loss deduction relating to the Ponzi scheme, the amount of which reflects the difference between the value of the estate's interest in JHF reported on the estate tax return and the estate's share of the amounts withdrawn from the JHF Madoff account. Respondent on February 9, 2012, issued the estate a notice of deficiency in which respondent determined that the estate was not entitled to the $5,175,990 theft loss deduction because the estate did not incur a theft loss during its settlement.

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September 27, 2016 in New Cases, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

UC-Davis Welcomes 157 1Ls, Down 13% From Last Year (20% From 2010)

UC-Davis LogoUC-Davis School of Law (ranked #30 in U.S. News) welcomed 157 1Ls this Fall, down 13% from last year's 180 (and 20% from 2010's 196).  Despite the enrollment decline, UC-Davis's 25% and 75% LSATs fell one point to 158 and 164, respectively (its 50% LSAT remained 163).  UC-Davis's 25%/50%/75% GPAs all increased, to 3.31/3.52/3.73 (+.04/+.01/+.05).  Here are UC-Davis's admission data for the prior six years from Law School Transparency:

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September 27, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Brooks:  Treasury Should Exclude Income From Discharge Of Student Loans

John R. Brooks (Georgetown), Treasury Should Exclude Income from Discharge of Student Loans, 152 Tax Notes 751 (Aug. 1, 2016):

There are several ways that a student loan borrower can have a federal student loan discharged. In some cases, that cancellation of student debt creates taxable income, but in others it does not. This Article argues that taxing cancellation of student debt undermines the purposes of loan discharge and income-driven repayment programs like IBR and PAYE. This Article further argues that, if Congress does not act to provide a clear exclusion, Treasury has sufficient statutory and common law authority to exclude that income, and that it should do so.

September 27, 2016 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Department Of Education Rejects Panel's Recommendation, Will Not Suspend ABA's Power To Accredit Law Schools

Department of Education LogoFollowing up on my previous posts (links below):  ABA Journal, ABA Won't Be Suspended From Accrediting New Law Schools:

The U.S. Department of Education will not implement a panel recommendation that called for suspending the ABA from accrediting new law schools for one year.

In a letter sent to Barry Currier, managing director of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, Emma Vadehra, the department’s chief of staff, wrote that she was accepting the recommendation of department staff to allow the ABA to continue accrediting new law schools rather than the recommendation for a one-year suspension made by the National Advisory Council on Institutional Quality and Integrity.

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September 27, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (3)

Hillary Clinton's Proposed 65% Estate Tax Rate Causes Dilbert Creator Scott Adams To Switch His Endorsement To Trump

TrumpFollowing up on Friday's post, Hillary Clinton Proposes Raising Estate Tax Rate From 40% To 65%:  Dilbert.com, Why I Switched My Endorsement from Clinton to Trump:

As most of you know, I had been endorsing Hillary Clinton for president, for my personal safety, because I live in California. It isn’t safe to be a Trump supporter where I live. And it’s bad for business too. But recently I switched my endorsement to Trump, and I owe you an explanation. So here it goes.

Clinton proposed a new top Estate Tax of 65% on people with net worth over $500 million. Her website goes to great length to obscure the actual policy details, including the fact that taxes would increase on lower value estates as well. See the total lack of transparency here, where the text simply refers to going back to 2009 rates. It is clear that the intent of the page is to mislead, not inform.

So don’t fall for the claim that Clinton has plenty of policy details on her website.

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September 27, 2016 in Political News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (14)

Speed Matters In Law School Exams: More Words = Higher Grades

SpeedKif Augustine-Adams (BYU), Candace Berrett (BYU) & James R. Rasband (BYU), Speed Matters:

What, if any, is the relationship between speed and grades on first year law school examinations? Are time-pressured law school examinations typing speed tests? Employing both simple linear regression and mixed effects linear regression, we present an empirical hypothesis test on the relationship between first year law school grades and speed, with speed represented by two variables: word count and student typing speed. Our empirical findings of a strong statistically significant positive correlation between total words written on first year law school examinations and grades suggest that speed matters. On average, the more a student types, the better her grade. In the end, however, typing speed was not a statistically significant variable explaining first year law students’ grades. At the same time, factors other than speed are relevant to student performance.

In addition to our empirical analysis, we discuss the importance of speed in law school examinations as a theoretical question and indicator of future performance as a lawyer, contextualizing the question in relation to the debate in the relevant psychometric literature regarding speed and ability or intelligence. Given that empirically, speed matters, we encourage law professors to consider more explicitly whether their exams over-reward length, and thus speed, or whether length and assumptions about speed are actually a useful proxy for future professional performance and success as lawyers.

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September 27, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1237

Politifact

Politifact, John Fleming Attacks IRS in Inaccurate Radio Ad:

In a recent radio campaign ad, Louisiana senate candidate John Fleming claimed that the head of the Internal Revenue Service ordered 24,000 emails erased before Congress could see them.

"The head of the IRS ordered 24,000 emails erased before Congress could review them, making sure the American people will never know the real truth," Fleming’s ad says. "The officials in charge follow the same dishonest playbook they’ve used for every scandal from Fast and Furious to Hillary’s emails."

Fleming is running for senator of Louisiana against six Republican candidates, including David Duke, as well as three Democrats and one unaffiliated candidate.

Fleming — who currently represents Louisiana in the House — is calling for the impeachment of IRS commissioner John Koskinen.

So far, Democrats are largely against the impeachment, and Republicans are divided on it, citing due process concerns. A vote on the matter was expected on Sept. 15, 2016, but it was delayed.

Since destruction of documents is a serious charge, we wondered if it was true that the head of the IRS "ordered 24,000 emails erased before Congress could review them." Independent reports suggest that’s not the case. ...

Emails were erased, and up to 24,000 are likely unrecoverable. However, there’s zero evidence that the head of the IRS ordered them destroyed. Multiple independent investigations confirmed that the erasure was accidental and not intended to obstruct information from Congress. Fleming’s ad says the opposite.

We rate this claim False.

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September 27, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (23)

Monday, September 26, 2016

Peroni Presents Defending Worldwide Taxation Today At Loyola-L.A.

Peroni (2015)Robert J. Peroni (Texas) presents Defending Worldwide Taxation and Addressing Inversions with a Shareholder-Based Definition of Corporate Residence, 2016 BYU L. Rev. ___ (with J. Clifton Fleming, Jr. (BYU) & Stephen Shay (Harvard)), at Loyola-L.A. today as part of its Tax Policy Colloquium Series hosted by Ellen Aprill and Katherine Pratt:

This article argues that a principled, efficient, and practical definition of corporate residence is necessary even if some form of corporate integration is adopted, and that such a definition is a key element in designing either a real worldwide or a territorial income tax system as well as a potential restraint on the inversion phenomenon. The article proposes that the United States adopt a shareholder-based definition of corporate residence that is structured as follows:

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

Batchelder:  Trump Plan Raises Taxes For Millions Of Low- And Middle-Income Families

Trump (2016-2)Lily L. Batchelder (NYU), Families Facing Tax Increases Under Trump's Latest Tax Plan:

Donald Trump’s latest tax plan would cost more than $5 trillion over 10 years. Trump claims his plan would cut taxes for every income group, with the largest tax cuts for working- and middle-class families. But despite its enormous price tag, his plan would actually significantly raise taxes for millions of low- and middle-income families with children, with especially large tax increases for working single parents.

This paper explains why Trump’s latest tax plan raises taxes on so many families and provides examples of how large these tax increases would be. I conservatively estimate that Trump’s plan would increase taxes for roughly 7.8 million families with minor children. These families who would pay more taxes represent roughly 20% of households with minor children and more than half of single parents. They include roughly 25 million individuals and 15 million children.

Washington Post, A New Study Says Trump Would Raise Taxes for Millions. Trump’s Campaign Insists He Won’t.:

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September 26, 2016 in Political News, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Law School Special Report:  Tackling Issues Of Race And Class

NLJLaw School Special Report, Tackling Timely Issues of Race and Class:

In law schools across the U.S., professors are discussing current events and social justice movements in their courses. The idea? To demonstrate how race and class intersect with law. Also, in a contributed piece, a law dean offers students advice for the first year — work hard and connect with classmates of different cultures — for your own benefit and that of your future clients. And law school access to justice initiatives are discussed by another dean and colleagues.

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September 26, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Top 1% By State, Metropolitan Area, And County

New York Times: Your Local 1-Percenters May Not Be as Rich as You Think, by Robert Frank & Karl Russell:

[D]efining America’s 1 percent — and finding out “where the money is” — has become an increasingly subjective endeavor. As wealth becomes more concentrated in certain states and even counties, the gap between the national 1 percent and the local 1 percent is growing, creating wealth clusters that are pulling away from the rest of the country.

To be in the top 1 percent of incomes nationally, families need to take in a minimum of $389,436. The average income of America’s 1-percenters is $1,153,293, according to a recent study by the Economic Policy Institute [Income Inequality in the U.S. by State, Metropolitan Area, and County]. Yet when incomes are measured state by state, the study shows wildly diverging fortunes for 1-percenters.

NYT

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September 26, 2016 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Death of LSAC President Dan Bernstine

BernstineLaw School Admission Council Announces Death of President Daniel O. Bernstine:

It is with profound sadness that the Law School Admission Council shares the news that Dan Bernstine, President of LSAC, passed away suddenly at his home late last week at the age of 69. Any additional information that becomes available concerning funeral or memorial services, or directed donations, will be posted on our website, LSAC.org.

Mr. Bernstine was appointed to the presidency of LSAC in 2007. For 10 years prior to joining LSAC, he was the president of Portland State University in Portland, Oregon. He also served as Dean at the University of Wisconsin Law School. Prior to his tenure at Wisconsin, Mr. Bernstine was a professor of law and interim dean at Howard University. He was general counsel at Howard University and Howard University Hospital. He was the William H. Hastie Teaching Fellow at Wisconsin and a staff attorney for the US Department of Labor early in his career. He has been a visiting professor and lecturer all over the world, including Taiwan, Germany, and Cuba, and additional US law schools.

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September 26, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Husband Of Retired Tax Court Judge Pleads Guilty To Taking $1 Million In Fraudulent Deductions

TCKFollowing up on my previous posts:

Minneapolis Star Tribune, Twin Cities Husband of Ex-Tax Judge Admits Duping IRS; Charges Against Her Pending:

The husband of a former U.S. Tax Court judge has pleaded guilty to making nearly $1 million in fraudulent deductions on tax returns over much of her tenure on the bench and making several lavish purchases in that time through his consulting firm.

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September 26, 2016 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

A Tale Of Five (Indiana) Law Schools:  Notre Dame, IU-Bloomington, IU-Indy, Valpo, Indy Tech

Indiana Lawyer, Indiana Law Schools Welcome Class of 2019:

Law School

Rank

1L Class

50% LSAT

50% GPA

Notre Dame

22

2016:  187

164

3.71

   

2015:  200

164

3.66

   

2010:  172

167

3.57

Indiana-Bloomington

25

2016:  178

161

3.71

   

2015:  153

161

3.76

   

2011:  240

166

3.78

Indiana-Indianapolis

100

2016:  253

153

3.39

   

2015:  254

152

3.34

   

2011:  314

156

3.44

Valparaiso

Tier 2

2016:  103

147

3.02

   

2015:  130

145

2.93

   

2010:  207

150

3.31

Indiana-Tech

n/r

2016:  55

n/a

n/a

   

2015:  13

151

3.42

   

2014:  35

148

2.85

Here are 2010-2015 admissions data for Notre Dame, Indiana-Bloomington, Indiana-Indianapolis, and Valparaiso from Law School Transparency:

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September 26, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1236

IRS Logo 2Wall Street Journal, Reputation Under Fire, the IRS Pulls a Gun—Al Capone’s:

The Internal Revenue Service doesn’t enjoy an abundance of favorable press. At present, it finds itself mired in controversy as its director, John Koskinen, hauled before Congress last week, tries to fend off an impeachment attempt.

On Tuesday, however, the IRS will participate in an unveiling ceremony it hopes will remind people of the positive things its agents have done. At least, one positive thing.

The agency is playing on the great American story of how Chicago mob boss Al Capone ended up in prison 85 years ago. It wasn’t the FBI’s “G-men” who put him in Alcatraz, nor Elliot Ness’s Prohibition-era agents. It wasn’t on account of gangland murders such as the 1929 Chicago Valentine’s Day Massacre, either.

Capone was undone by an undercover operation of the “T-men,” members of the Treasury Department’s IRS investigative division. He was pinched for cheating on his taxes.

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September 26, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

TaxProf Blog Weekend Roundup

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Michelle Alexander Resigns From Ohio State Law Faculty For Seminary, Valuing 'Publicly Accessible Writing Over Academic Careerism'; Law Without 'A Moral Or Spiritual Awakening' Cannot Bring About Justice

Alexander 3Michelle Alexander, recipient of a 2016 Heinz Award ($250,000) for her work as "legal scholar, advocate, civil rights attorney and author of the seminal book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness," has resigned from the Ohio State Law School faculty to teach and study at Union Theology Seminary in New York City:

I am walking away from the law. I’ve resigned my position as a law professor at Ohio State University, and I’ve decided to teach and study at a seminary. Why?

There is no easy answer to this question, and there are times I worry that I have completely lost my mind. Who am I to teach or study at a seminary? I was not raised in a church. And I have generally found more questions than answers in my own religious or spiritual pursuits. But I also know there is something much greater at stake in justice work than we often acknowledge. Solving the crises we face isn’t simply a matter of having the right facts, graphs, policy analyses, or funding. And I no longer believe we can “win” justice simply by filing lawsuits, flexing our political muscles or boosting voter turnout. Yes, we absolutely must do that work, but none of it — not even working for some form of political revolution — will ever be enough on its own. Without a moral or spiritual awakening, we will remain forever trapped in political games fueled by fear, greed and the hunger for power. American history teaches how these games predictably play out within our borders: Time and again, race gets used as the Trump Card, a reliable means of dividing, controlling and misleading the players so a few can win the game.

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September 25, 2016 in Legal Education, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (4)

LSAC Rescinds Threat (For One Year) To Stop Certifying Matriculant Admissions Data In Response To Law Schools' Use Of GRE

GRELSACFollowing up on my previous post, the LSAC has backed off its threat, for one year, to stop certifying matriculant data in response to the use of the GRE rather than the LSAT in law school admissions:

At the beginning of August, we wrote to you to explain that as a result of uncertainty surrounding the use of alternative admissions tests and concern that LSAT score-certification would no longer present an accurate and complete picture of law school matriculants, the LSAC Board had authorized the suspension of the score certification service. At that time, we asked for your input and the input of your deans, and although there was some variation in responses, much of the input conveyed disappointment at the suspension of the service and support for continuation of the service without interruption.

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September 25, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Top 5 Tax Paper Downloads

SSRN LogoThere is quite a bit of movement in this week's list of the Top 5 Recent Tax Paper Downloads, with a new #1 paper and new papers debuting on the list at #4 and #5:

  1. [387 Downloads]  Property Is Another Name for Monopoly Facilitating Efficient Bargaining with Partial Common Ownership of Spectrum, Corporations, and Land, by Eric A. Posner (Chicago) & E. Glen Weyl (Yale)
  2. [178 Downloads]  Transfer Pricing Money: The Chevron Case, by Richard J. Vann (Sydney) & Graeme S. Cooper (Sydney)
  3. [170 Downloads]  Financial Advisers Can't Overlook the Prudent Investor Rule, by Max M. Schanzenbach (Northwestern) & Robert H. Sitkoff (Harvard)
  4. [119 Downloads]  Taxation and Human Rights: A Delicate Balance, by Reuven Avi-Yonah (Michigan) & Gianluca Mazzoni (S.J.D. 2017, Michigan)
  5. [105 Downloads]  Law and Macroeconomics: The Law and Economics of Recessions, by Yair Listokin (Yale)

September 25, 2016 in Scholarship, Tax, Top 5 Downloads | Permalink | Comments (0)

End The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Bonanza For Graduate And Professional Schools

Brookings (2016)Brookings Institution:  The Coming Public Service Loan Forgiveness Bonanza, by Jason Delisle (American Enterprise Institute):

Abstract: The federal government is making more data available about the performance of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program for federal student loans. Many policymakers are not aware of this program, but the new data reveal PSLF is growing rapidly and is larger than most observers expected. Budget agencies recently revised the projected cost of the program upward by a staggering amount, and the U.S. Department of Education reports that many PSLF enrollees borrowed over $100,000 to finance graduate degrees. Recent research suggests that borrowers in certain professions stand to have their entire graduate and professional educations paid for through loan forgiveness under PSLF. In light of these developments, reforms that limit the most excessive features of PSLF are warranted, although repealing PSLF altogether and letting the federal Income-Based Repayment program (IBR) accomplish the goal of PSLF is an even better course of action.

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September 25, 2016 in Legal Education, Think Tank Reports | Permalink | Comments (11)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1235

IRS Logo 2Wall Street Journal op-ed: A Dangerous Rush to Impeach John Koskinen, by John Conyers (D-MI; Ranking Member, House Judiciary Committee):

The power of impeachment is a responsibility entrusted to the House of Representatives by the Constitution and to the House Judiciary Committee by our peers. I take this charge very seriously—and, for the most part, so do my colleagues in the majority.

I have served on the House Judiciary Committee long enough now to see impeachment done right and to see impeachment done wrong. I have participated in six of the 19 impeachments approved by the House since its inception. I voted in favor of five of them. In the early 1970s I helped to draft articles of impeachment against President Richard Nixon. I joined with 20 Democrats and six Republicans to send three of those articles to the House floor.

But I have never seen anything quite like the obsession of a few House members determined to impeach IRS Commissioner John Koskinen—without much evidence to back their claims, without an independent investigation by the House Judiciary Committee, and without even basic due process for the accused. ...

In the past few days, the actions of a small group of conservative House members threaten to break from this precedent and to lead us down a dangerous path. ...

On the merits, Mr. Koskinen’s critics have simply failed to make their case. They have been unable to produce evidence that the commissioner acted in bad faith at any point in his tenure. The Senate Finance Committee, the Justice Department and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration have all concluded that there is “no evidence” of intentional misconduct of any kind.

But even if there were some evidence of Mr. Koskinen’s wrongdoing, the push to impeach him without due process in the House Judiciary Committee is dangerously misguided. Never, in the history of this body, have we impeached a government official without first proving he has acted in deliberate bad faith. ...

If the commissioner’s critics have their way, I fear we will have a new rule going forward: The House may impeach any government official, for any reason, without supplying evidence of deliberate wrongdoing, without an independent investigation, and without regard to basic fairness toward the accused.

Forcing a vote on impeachment in this manner will certainly not result in the removal of Commissioner Koskinen. Even if his critics succeed in the House, Senators of both parties have already stated their intent to bury the matter. So for all their efforts they will have profited nothing. And in the process they will have turned impeachment from a constitutional check of last resort into a tool of political convenience.

Washington Post op-ed:  Republicans’ Kangaroo Court, by Dana Milbank:

Impeachment is among the most severe and solemn powers Congress has, right up there with declaring war. Not since 1876 has an executive-branch appointee been impeached, and not in the history of the republic has Congress impeached an executive-branch official below the Cabinet level.

Now, Republicans in Congress would change that. On Wednesday, they wheeled out the sacred tool of impeachment — weeks before an election — for the purpose of smearing an honorable public servant, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, in service of a lie. ...

There are just a few wee problems with the Republicans’ logic. The targeting of conservative groups ended in 2013. The Treasury Department’s inspector general, originally a Republican appointee, reported no evidence of political motivation in the targeting. The Justice Department, too, found “no evidence that any IRS official acted based on political, discriminatory, corrupt, or other inappropriate motives” and “no evidence that any official attempted to obstruct justice.” The official responsible for the targeting resigned before Koskinen came to the IRS at the end of 2013. And the same IG said last year that “no evidence was uncovered that any IRS employees had been directed to destroy or hide information from Congress, the DOJ, or [the IG].”

House Speaker Paul Ryan, eager to avoid the spectacle of the House voting to impeach an innocent man based on false charges without a proper hearing, got impeachment advocates to settle for Wednesday’s hearing in which Koskinen testified before the House Judiciary Committee. But that hardly improved matters: To say this impeachment inquiry is a kangaroo court would be an insult to marsupials. ...

There’s no dispute that Koskinen misinformed lawmakers in 2014 when he said that all evidence had been preserved relevant to the targeting. In fact, IRS workers a few months earlier had destroyed backup tapes that contained relevant emails. Koskinen says he didn’t know that at the time. The IG spent a year investigating the matter and attributed the erasure to bureaucratic errors, finding “no evidence that the IRS and its employees purposely erased the tapes in order to conceal responsive e-mails from the Congress.”

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September 25, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

Saturday, September 24, 2016

This Week's Ten Most Popular TaxProf Blog Posts