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Monday, August 25, 2014

Who Is the Vanguard Tax Whistleblower?

VanguardFollowing up on my previous posts:

Philadelpha Inquirer, Who Is Whistle-blower David Danon, Who Is Suing Vanguard?:

Who is David Danon, and what drove him to take on his old bosses at Vanguard Group Inc., alleging that its nearly $3 trillion in assets were built on an illegal tax strategy? ...

The struggle with Vanguard, where he worked for nearly five years as a tax lawyer, is Danon's toughest fight. In a lawsuit made public in July, Danon alleged that Vanguard's tax avoidance and a lack of regulatory oversight have cost federal and state governments more than $1 billion. Danon told the Securities and Exchange Commission that the company fired him after he refused to go along with wrongful practices. He has also told his story in complaints to the Internal Revenue Service and in a New York State whistle-blower lawsuit.

To Vanguard, the nation's largest mutual fund group and the largest business employer in Chester County, with about 10,000 workers at its Malvern campus, Danon is a turncoat employee whose "theft and disclosure" of secret company tax and financial documents breached the attorney-client privilege that keeps internal corporate matters private, according to an Aug. 15 court filing in the New York case. Vanguard also wants its documents back.

Danon and his attorney, Brian Mahany, say he is protected by whistle-blower laws that rate disclosure of illegal activity above attorney-client privilege. ...

In 1995, he enrolled in Fordham University's law school, where he says he won honors as the top first-year student, top tax graduate, top contracts student, and a member of the law review and the honor society Order of the Coif. "He was great. Very bright. That's why he ended up at Sullivan & Cromwell," said Fordham professor Jeffrey Colon, referring to one of the nation's top financial-law firms.

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August 25, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Disclosure of Tax Returns of Publicly-Traded Companies

Washington Post op-ed:  Shareholders, Public Deserve Tax Transparency, by Catherine Rampell:

Tax inversions. Double Irish with a Dutch sandwich. Spinning off tangible assets into real estate investment trusts. Son-of-BOSS shelters.

These are among the array of eye-glazingly complicated tax avoidance strategies adopted by America’s biggest companies. Each gets a moment in the sun when some enterprising journalist stumbles upon a particularly egregious example of its use; the public expresses outrage; policymakers denounce the behavior, which they themselves have incentivized; and then maybe Congress plays whack-a-mole trying to close the loophole. Then the public forgets, firms come up with inventively aggressive new strategies, and the pattern repeats.

Here’s a proposal to try to curb this cycle: Require all publicly traded companies to make their tax returns public. Period.

This is not a new idea. In fact, when the modern federal corporate income tax was introduced in 1909, it came with a requirement to disclose the returns. Such transparency mandates were fought over bitterly for the next couple of decades, and U.S. returns have been confidential since 1935.

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August 25, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Microsoft Admits Keeping $92 Billion Offshore to Avoid Paying $29 Billion in U.S. Taxes

International Business Times, Microsoft Admits Keeping $92 Billion Offshore to Avoid Paying $29 Billion in U.S. Taxes:

MicrosoftMicrosoft Corp. is currently sitting on almost $29.6 billion it would owe in U.S. taxes if it repatriated the $92.9 billion of earnings it is keeping offshore, according to disclosures in the company’s most recent annual filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The amount of money that Microsoft is keeping offshore represents a significant spike from prior years. ...

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August 25, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

George Washington Tells Faculty Not to Inform Students of Cheaper Textbook Alternatives to Protect Campus Bookstore, Then Relents

George Washington University LogoInside Higher Ed, Don't Shop Online:

Faculty members at George Washington University are once again free to tell students they can save money by buying their textbooks online, after the university initially urged professors to stop pointing students to sources other than the campus bookstore.

In a letter dated July 17, the university reminded faculty members of its “contractual obligation” with Follett, which runs the campus bookstore. Since the company has the “exclusive right” to provide textbooks and other course materials for all of the university’s courses, “alternative vendors may not be endorsed, licensed or otherwise approved or supported by the university or its faculty.”

The letter irked many faculty members -- not only did it prevent them from helping students save some money on textbooks, but it also seemed to prohibit them from listing on their syllabuses open educational resources, online exercises and other content that could help students understand the material.

With students heading to college this month, the additional expenses they incur while on campus -- particularly the cost of textbooks -- are again making headlines. On Monday, Mark J. Perry, a University of Michigan professor and scholar with the American Enterprise Institute, shared a graph showing the cost of textbooks has grown by 150 percent since 1998.

 Chart

On Aug. 11, the university sent a clarification, walking back the guidelines and reiterating its commitment to curbing the rising cost of textbooks. “Individual faculty have discretion as to what information they put on their syllabus, including any options available to students to obtain texts,” Nancy M. Haaga, managing director of campus support services wrote, apologizing for the confusion. ...

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August 25, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (5)

50% of Concordia 3Ls to Take Fall Semester Off Amidst ABA Delay of Provisional Accreditation

The IRS Scandal, Day 473

IRS Logo 2Personal Liberty Digest: IRS Answers Due Today In Lawsuit Over Missing Lerner Emails:

The Internal Revenue Service is expected to present sworn testimony today to a federal judge who cracked down on the agency after it offered dismissive responses to a previous discovery order aimed at explaining how Lois Lerner’s infamous “lost” emails went missing. ...

Judicial Watch’s lawsuit against the IRS is faring better than a similar one filed by Texas-based conservative group True the Vote. Earlier this month, federal judge Reggie Walton denied True the Vote’s request for an independent forensic audit of IRS computers connected with Lerner’s emails, saying it would only duplicate the investigative efforts of the government’s Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

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August 25, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

TaxProf Blog Weekend Roundup

Sunday, August 24, 2014

WSJ: Bull Market, Possible Cutbacks in Charitable Deduction & Spate of Inversions Drive Surge in Donor-Advised Funds

Wall Street Journal:   Tax-Smart Philanthropy Made Easy: Many Donors Should Consider a 'Charitable Gift Trust' or 'Donor Advised Fund', by Laura Saunders:

FidelityWhat do the bull market, booming mergers and acquisitions, and possible changes to the tax laws have in common? They all signal that it is a good time to open a charitable-gift fund—or add to one that already exists.

Also called donor-advised funds, the accounts offer charitably-minded investors an easy, low-cost and tax-favored way to manage their giving—and even to maximize it.  ... Charitable-gift funds enable investors to earmark funds for gifts and get an immediate tax deduction, while allowing them to postpone making decisions about specific recipients. Meanwhile, the money is invested and grows tax-free until it's disbursed. ...

[M]ore than 200,000 donors have accounts with more than 1,000 sponsors of charitable-gift funds, according to the most recent survey by National Philanthropic Trust, an administrator of the funds. Grants made from donor-advised funds still amount to less than 5% of total giving in the U.S., though such funds are by far the fastest-growing charitable vehicle. New contributions to them at the four largest sponsors, which account for half the total, rose to $7.4 billion for the fiscal year ended June 30, more than triple the amount for 2009. Last year Fidelity Charitable's gift fund by itself ranked as the second-largest U.S. charity by contributions, after the United Way.

WSJ 1

For people who are charitably inclined, the advantages of donor-advised funds boil down to their ease of use, especially in capturing tax benefits. Here's how they work: A person opens an account with a fund sponsor and makes an irrevocable gift of an asset, which can range from cash to stock to a "complex" asset such as shares of a private business or an ownership interest in a racehorse (which the Fidelity fund once accepted). Because the donor can't get the asset back, he gets an immediate tax deduction for the gift. The cash or proceeds from an asset's sale go into the donor's account, where the money is invested as he directs. There it grows tax-free until the donor "recommends" (translation: designates) one or more tax-exempt charities to receive grants of specified amounts, which the sponsor sends to the groups. There isn't any additional tax deduction, even if the account has grown in value.

Wall Street Journal:  A Charitable Escape Hatch for Investors With ‘Inversion’ Tax Woes, by Laura Saunders:

Special accounts for charitable giving can help ease the tax sting for stockholders in “inversion” merger deals.

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August 24, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Number of Prospective Law Profs Drops 17% from 2013 (26% From 2010)

Sarah Lawsky (UC-Irvine), Number of FAR Forms in First Distribution Over Time:

The first distribution of the FAR AALS forms came out this week. Here are the number of FAR forms in the first distribution for each year since 2009.

FAR

August 24, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (5)

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 on SSRN, with a new paper debuting on the list at #1 and rocketing to #29 in all-time downloads among 10,253 tax papers:

  1. [2446 Downloads]  'Competitiveness' Has Nothing to Do with it, by Edward D. Kleinbard (USC)
  2. [409 Downloads]  Guide to FATCA Compliance (Chapter 1, Background and Current Status of FATCA) (LexisNexis 2d ed. 2014), by William Byrnes (Thomas Jefferson), Denis Kleinfeld, & Alberto Gil Soriano
  3. [216 Downloads]  Unconstitutional Perpetual Trusts, by Steven Horowitz (Sidley Austin, Chicago) & Robert Sitkoff (Harvard)
  4. [166 Downloads]  The Futility of Tax Protester Arguments, by Allen D. Madison (South Dakota)
  5. [142 Downloads]  The Most Critical Issue Facing Tax Administration Today -- And What to Do About It, by George K. Yin (Virginia)

August 24, 2014 in Scholarship, Tax, Top 5 Downloads | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 472

IRS Logo 2The American Thinker: IRS E-mails: The Perfect Storm:

August 22 is another deadline for the Obama administration’s IRS officials to come clean about their clear malfeasance in office. Judge Emmet Sullivan, who has acted sua sponte to compel IRS officials to provide all the details surrounding the “lost” e-mails, has the reputation of a judicial pit bull, a federal judge who insists that his orders and his office be treated with proper respect.

This is a scandal ordinary Americans can completely grasp in all its incarnations. The Obama administration picks out its political opponents for particular persecution. The organ of federal power chosen for this persecution, the IRS, is despised and feared by millions of Americans. Did Obama’s flacks forget that the last major congressional action to rein in the IRS, the IRS Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998, passed the Senate by a vote of 97 to 0 and the House by a vote of 402 to 8, and was signed into law by Bill Clinton? ...

The explosion of information technology expertise among ordinary Americans means that even the relatively apolitical snicker at the hapless efforts of the IRS bosses to pretend that all the e-mail records have been lost. Most Americans use e-mails all the time and know just how difficult it would be to utterly scrub forever even casual e-mails sent to friends and acquaintances. Most Americans in their ordinary lives assume that an e-mail they send will exist in myriad places, and that if their computers crash, this will not affect these independent records of e-mails sent.

The scandal then is the perfect storm of political corruption. Obama’s IRS partisans do something very bad. They complement this misbehavior with condescending e-mails that seem to relish their abuse of political opponents. When confronted by the proper regulating agency within our constitutional system, Congress, they smirk, dissemble, rebel, and ignore. These bad folks then assume that ordinary Americans know much less about information technology than they do and think that they can lie with impunity. When the third branch of government, the Judicial Branch, is brought into the argument, these IRS clowns lie and hide again. ...

What all this means is that when these records appear – and with a federal judge threatening IRS employees with jail time, these records will appear – then the whole sordid mess will implode like a deck of cards. The depth of corruption, like the depth of corruption in the VA scandal, will be impossible to fob off as rogue employees acting badly. Heads will have to roll, and this grim knowledge will move those who know the truth – very likely people we have not heard of yet – to come out of the shadows and to spill their guts to save themselves. It is the perfect storm, and it is coming up fast.

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August 24, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Slate: 170+ LSAT Scorers Are Returning to Law School

Slate:  One Group of Law School Applicants That’s Growing: High-Scoring Students, by Jordan Weissmann:

When law school applications began collapsing a couple of years back, a troubling pattern emerged. Some of the biggest percentage drops were among elite applicants with high LSAT scores. The smallest declines, meanwhile, were among candidates with especially low LSAT scores. ...

The number of top-tier applicants—those with at least a 170 on their LSAT—is growing again. ... Their numbers are still well down from a few years ago but seem to have stabilized—they're realizing that now really is a good time to go to law school.

 Slate 1

For those who are extra-obsessive about this topic, I've put together this chart showing the three-year changes to law school applications by LSAT band.

Matt Leichter, Slate Thinks LSAT-Takers Are Clairvoyant:

Jordan Weissman argues that the ~7.5 percent growth in law school applicants in the 170-174 and 175-180 LSAT brackets this year is a sign that “the right people” have decided to go to apply to law school again. It might have helped readers if he’d told them that these applicants only account for about 5 percent of the total applicant decline since 2010.

Change in Applicants by LSAT Score Share of Net Change in Applicants (2010-2014)

August 23, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (3)

IRS Releases 2012 Individual Income Tax Return Data

IRSThe IRS yesterday released  (IR-2014-83) Publication 1304, Individual Income Tax Returns 2012:

U.S. taxpayers filed 144.9 million individual income tax returns for tax year 2012, down 0.3 percent from 2011. The adjusted gross income less deficit reported on these returns totaled $9.1 trillion, which is an 8.7-percent increase from the prior year.

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August 23, 2014 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Academics and the Social Network

The IRS Scandal, Day 471

IRS Logo 2Washington Examiner op-ed:  The Case for Impeaching Lois Lerner and Other Lawbreakers at the IRS, by Ken Cuccinelli & Mark Fitzgibbons:

In April, the House Ways and Means Committee referred Lois Lerner to the Department of Justice for criminal prosecution. Nothing has come of it. Given the politicization and lawlessness of the DOJ under Attorney General Eric Holder, nothing likely will.

The House should move to impeach Lerner instead, and other IRS officials who have broken the law. Federal bureaucrats need to be sent a message that lawbreaking is not part of their job descriptions, and that notwithstanding our recalcitrant Justice Department, our constitutional system provides this remedy against executive branch officials gone rogue under the law.

More importantly, Americans deserve to know that lawbreaking within their own government will have consequences. ... If criminal conduct within the IRS and the federal bureaucracy won’t be prosecuted, our Constitution at least gives our elected representatives a check of impeachment on unelected “civil officers.”

Impeaching Lerner and others may actually help restore some faith that someone in government takes the rule of law seriously.

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August 23, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, August 22, 2014

Weekly Tax Roundup

Weekly Roundup

August 22, 2014 in Tax, Weekly Tax Roundup | Permalink | Comments (0)

Shadow Syllabus

SyllabusSonya Huber (Fairfield University), Shadow Syllabus:

  • I could hardly hear my own professors when I was in college over the din and roar of my own fear.
  • Those who aim for A’s don’t get as many A’s as those who abandon the quest for A’s and seek knowledge or at least curiosity. ...
  • The goals and outcomes I am required to put on my syllabus make me depressed; they are the illusion of controlling what cannot be controlled. 
  • I end up changing everything halfway through the semester anyway because the plan on paper is never what the living class ends up being about. 
  • I desperately needed A’s when I was in college because I didn’t know what else I was besides an A. 
  • Our flaws make us human; steer toward yours. I steer toward mine. That won’t always be rewarded in “the real world.” ...
  • I realize that I, as the authority figure in this room, might trigger all kinds of authority issues you have. Welcome to work and the rest of your life. ...
  • One of you who is filled with hate for this class right now will end up loving it by the end.
  • One of you who I believe to be unteachable and filled with hate for me will end up being my favorite.
  • One of you will drive me bat-shit crazy and there’s nothing I can do about it.
  • Later I will examine the reason you drive me bat-shit crazy and be ashamed and then try to figure out my own limitations. ...
  • Sometimes I will be annoyed, sarcastic, rushed, or sad; often this is because you are not doing the readings or trying to bullshit me. 
  • Students are surprised by this fact: I really really really want you to learn. Like, that’s my THING. Really really a lot. ...
  • Everyone sees you texting. It’s awkward, every time, for everyone in the room. ...
  • Secret: I get nervous before each class because I want to do well.
  • Secret: when I over-plan my lessons, less learning happens.
  • Secret: I have to plan first and THEN abandon the plan while still remembering its outline.
  • Secret: It’s hard to figure out whether to be a cop or a third-grade teacher. I have to be both. I want to be Willie Wonka. That’s the ticket. Unpredictable, not always nice, high standards, and sometimes candy. ...
  • Secret: Every single one of your professors and teachers has been at a point of crisis in their lives where they had no idea what the fuck to do. 
  • Come talk to me in my office hours, but not to spin some thin line of bullshit, because believe it or not, I can see through it like a windowpane.
  • Some of you will lose this piece of paper because you’ve had other people to smooth out your papers and empty your backpack for as long as you can remember, but that all ends here. There’s no one to empty your backpack. That’s why college is great and scary.
  • Maybe there’s never been anyone to empty your backpack. If there hasn’t been, you will have a harder time feeling entitled to come talk to me or ask for help. 
  • I want you, especially, to come talk to me. 
  • You can swear in my classroom.
  • Welcome. Welcome to this strange box with chairs in it. I hope you laugh and surprise yourself.

August 22, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Weekly SSRN Tax Roundup

August 22, 2014 in Scholarship, Tax, Weekly SSRN Roundup | Permalink | Comments (0)

Weekly Legal Education Roundup

Weekly Student Tax Note Roundup

Distribution of Household Wealth in the U.S.: 2000 to 2011

Census Bureau, Distribution of Household Wealth in the U.S.: 2000 to 2011:

Median household net worth decreased by $5,046, or 6.8 percent, between 2000 and 2011. ... Between 2000 and 2011, experiences of households varied widely depending on their net worth quintile (See Figure 1). Median household net worth decreased by $5,124 for households in the first (bottom) net worth quintile, $7,056 (or 49.3 percent) for the second quintile, and $5,072 (or 6.9 percent) for the third quintile. Median household net worth increased by $18,433 (or 9.8 percent) for households in the fourth quintile, and by $61,379 (or 10.8 percent) for households in the highest (top) quintile.

Census Bureau

(Hat Tip: Bruce Bartlett.)

August 22, 2014 in Gov't Reports, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

LLCs: The Hot New Trend Among Sole Proprietors

Small Business Trends, LLCs are a Hot New Trend Among Sole Proprietors:

llcs are a new trend

Unless you are an accountant specializing in small business, you may not be aware of a new trend in the world of sole proprietorships: registering with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as a limited liability company (LLC). While LLCs have been around since 1977, their popularity among sole proprietors has accelerated in the past decade, data from the IRS reveals.

The figure above shows the fraction of sole proprietorships organized as LLCs along with their share of the revenues of all Schedule C filers from 2001, when the IRS first began to provide these data, and 2011, the most recent year for which these numbers are available.

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August 22, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Faculty Development, Faculty Incentives, and Law School Innovation

Stephen Daniels (American Bar Foundation), William M. Sullivan (Denver) & Martin Katz (Dean, Denver), Analyzing Carnegie's Reach: The Contingent Nature of Innovation, 63 J. Legal Educ. 585 (2014):

Our interest is curricular innovation, with a focus on the recommendations of the 2007 Carnegie report – Educating Lawyers. Recognizing that meaningful reform requires an institutional commitment, our interest also includes initiatives in the areas of faculty development and faculty incentive structure that would support curricular innovation. Additionally, we are curious as to what might explain change and whether certain school characteristics will do so or whether external factors that challenge legal education offer an explanation. To explore these issues we surveyed law schools (a 60.5% response rate). The results show that while there is much activity in the area of curriculum – including the key matters of lawyering, professionalism, and especially integration – there is much less in the important areas of faculty development and faculty incentive structure. School characteristics, including rank, do not provide a sufficient explanation for the patterns emerging from the survey’s results. Additionally, activity by law schools with regard to curriculum, faculty development, and faculty professional activity is not simply a response to external challenges either. However, it appears that those pressures are providing a potential window of opportunity for innovation, reinforcing the need for change, and accelerating its pace.

Table 2

August 22, 2014 in Legal Education, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 470

Thursday, August 21, 2014

DOJ Allows Bank of America to Deduct $12 Billion of $17 Billion Settlement

Wall Street Journal, BofA Could See $4 Billion in Tax Savings From $16.65 Billion Settlement; Parts of Settlement Reached Over Soured Mortgage Securities Will Be Tax Deductible:

BOA Logo (2014)Bank of America will pay roughly $4 billion less to the government after-tax than the $16.65 billion it agreed to in a settlement over soured mortgage securities, because parts of the settlement will be tax deductible, the bank said Thursday.

The bank has already taken some of the savings from the settlement's tax deductions in previous quarters, so the savings won't all come in the current third quarter. But tallying the total tax savings to roughly $4 billion "would be fair," a bank spokesman said.

Federal law allows companies to deduct large portions of the costs of settling with federal agencies on their tax returns. But that effectively shifts part of the settlement's burden to taxpayers, and some lawmakers and consumer advocates have expressed concerns that the public can be misled when regulators tout giant settlement amounts that companies aren't fully paying. ...

Fines and penalties imposed as part of a settlement can't be deducted, so that knocks out the $5.02 billion in fines Bank of America agreed to pay. But other amounts paid can be deducted as ordinary business expenses—including the $4.63 billion in compensatory payments that Bank of America agreed to pay, and the costs it incurs in providing $7 billion in mortgage modifications for struggling homeowners and other consumer relief.

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August 21, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Why Did American University’s Law School Plunge in the Rankings?

Washington City Paper, Why Did American University’s Law School Plunge in the Rankings?:

American Logo (2014)American University’s law school woos its students with a chance at the kind of international law jobs in which they might handle classified documents. In the spring of 2012, however, one graduate says his classmates got some practice being secretive about something decidedly less important to national security: their own job prospects.

In order to avoid offending classmates who faced unemployment after racking up more than $150,000 in student debt—nine months after graduation, just 42 percent of the class had jobs that required passing the bar—students who actually had offers had to engage in their own cover-ups. “Everything was sort of hush-hush,” says the graduate, who asked not to be named to avoid so as not to damage his new, nonlegal career.

Lately, the prospects for American University’s Washington College of Law have looked just as grim. Since 2013, the school has plummeted down the U.S. News and World Report law-school rankings, dropping 23 positions from 49th in the country to 72nd. Thanks to its graduates’ dubious employment prospects, meanwhile, Washington College of Law has become a target for activists who see it as one of the worst examples of a law school that dupes students with unlikely legal ambitions, only to stick them with a mountain of inescapable debt when they graduate. 

All the same, the school has started construction on a new campus in Tenleytown that the university expects will cost $130 million. As the Washington College of Law expands its goals in the face of its ratings collapse and a nationwide drop in law applications, it looks headed for a collision between its aspirations and the realities of what a mid-tier law school can realistically offer its students. ...

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August 21, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (2)

ObamaCare Tax Forms Pose Challenge for Enrollees, Exchanges

Washington Times, Obamacare Tax Forms May Pose Challenge for Enrollees, Exchanges:

Obamacare customers won’t be able to file their tax returns next year until the government sends them a form detailing their coverage and tax credits, and if those forms are late some taxpayers could face a delay in seeking their refunds.

1095A

Federal and state officials said they’re working on the forms, known as the 1095A, and vowed to meet the Jan. 31 deadline for issuing them. But some tax professionals are skeptical, citing the administration’s iffy track record on being able to meet other deadlines in the massive health overhaul law. “It really strains credulity to think 1095A is not going to be a big problem,” said George Brandes, vice president for health programs at Jackson Hewitt Tax Service.

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August 21, 2014 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Dear Committee Members: A Novel

Slate Book Review:  Strongest Possible Endorsement: A Funny and Lacerating Novel of Academia Written in the Form of Letters of Recommendation:

Dear CommitteeI have been tasked with assessing Julie Schumacher’s Dear Committee Members, an epistolary novel consisting entirely of fictionalized letters of recommendation penned by professor Jason Fitger (failed novelist, failed husband, successful misanthrope). Although professor Fitger is—despite his correct opinions on the current state of the academic professions, and rare mitzvahs for his few remaining friends—an abhorrent human being, I cannot help but give this year in his life—which is narrated solely through his self-centered, off-topic, usually-counterproductive “endorsements” of colleagues, students, and friends—my strongest possible recommendation. 

Indeed, like his innumerable crotchety-white-male-academic protagonist predecessors (some of my favorites: Nabokov’s Humbert, Goethe’s Faust, Chabon’s Grady, Franzen’s Chip), Jason Fitger makes up in self-importance what he lacks in human contact with anyone who can stand him. “I’ll get around to my evaluation of Professor Ali,” Fitger explains in an alleged letter of support for a colleague’s tenure case. “But I have a few other things on my mind also, and it would be foolish of me, I think—it would be remiss—if I didn’t take this opportunity to address a few of them. After all, how often does a lowly professor of creative writing and English have the ear” of the associate vice provost? He then unleashes a tirade of grievances about the decrepit facilities and lackluster funding of his department, touching only briefly on his colleague’s many accomplishments. ...

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August 21, 2014 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tax Profs on Twitter

August 21, 2014 in Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

The Deductibility of $100 Charitable Contributions to ALS in the Ice Bucket Challenge

Forbes:  Could The IRS Disallow Ice Bucket Challenge Charitable Contributions?, by Tony Nitti:

IceSo let’s say you were challenged via social media to either take the Ice Bucket Challenge or contribute to ALS. Assume further that you are unable or unwilling to get cold and wet, and choose instead to donate to ALS. Do you possess the necessary donative intent if you otherwise wouldn’t have contributed to the cause, and are doing it merely to avoid being publicly chastised by your Facebook friends? Did you make the donation with the anticipation of receiving the benefit of, you know…not having to dump a freezing bucket of water on your head?

OK, rest easy; the IRS isn’t coming after your ALS donation. While the principle of donative intent is very real, in recent years, the courts have tied this principle to a “quid pro quo test,” which states that in order for a donation to lack donative intent, the donor must anticipate receiving a financial benefit from the contribution commensurate with the value the donor transferred to the charity. Because an ice bucket dodger has received no financial benefit, but rather merely a physical one, the contribution is (should be) immune to attack. Plus, I think I’ve read somewhere that the IRS is dealing with a bit of a public perception problem these days, so attacking contributions to a horrible disease is probably not in its best interest.

August 21, 2014 in Celebrity Tax Lore, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

The Case for Undergraduate Law Degrees

Following up on my previous post, Arizona Launches Nation's First B.A. in Law:  Chronicle of Higher Education op-ed:  The Case for Undergraduate Law Degrees, by Brent T. White (Arizona):

Arizona Logo[N]o university or law school in the United States offers an undergraduate degree in law. That is, until this fall, when the University of Arizona will introduce the nation’s first bachelor of arts in law. Stepping back from the culturally embedded assumption in America that legal training should be provided in professional schools, the lack of an undergraduate route to legal education is perplexing.

First, in most countries—including those requiring additional graduate-level training to become a licensed attorney—law is an undergraduate degree. Second, there is little rationale for excluding the study of law from the full range of undergraduate academic subjects. ... Third, a law degree would offer many benefits to undergraduates, including the ability to independently research, read, and understand the law, as well as training in critical thinking and problem solving, analytical reasoning, and persuasive writing—all of which are highly marketable skills that translate well into a variety of professions, law-related or not. Finally, undergraduate law degrees would be the best response to the reality that many law-related tasks are performed by people who are not lawyers but who need legal training. Examples include accountants who act as tax advisers, human-resource managers who must navigate employment law, school-compliance officers who create policies related to education law, mediators who provide conflict-resolution services, legal technicians who conduct e-discovery, and contract managers who draft and negotiate contracts.

The question is not whether nonlawyers will provide legal services; it’s whether they will be well trained. Undergraduate law degrees offer the most cost-effective and broadly accessible way to offer such training. ...

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August 21, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Measuring Merit: The Shultz-Zedeck Research on Law School Admissions

Kristen Holmquist, Marjorie Shultz, Sheldon Zedeck & David Oppenheimer (all of UC-Berkeley), Measuring Merit: The Shultz-Zedeck Research on Law School Admissions, 63 J. Legal Educ. 565 (2014):

Law schools profess a commitment to racial diversity both for the educational benefits diversity confers and for its contribution to the profession. But they admit students based on standards that, while not discriminatory in a legal sense, undeniably favor white applicants. Today the question of who belongs in any given law school, or law school at all, turns almost exclusively on an applicant’s score on the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). Law schools are not blind to the racial impact that accompanies this narrow measure of merit. But rather than taking a hard look at whether legal educators have adequately, or accurately, identified what qualities best qualify students for law school, the admissions process largely relies on affirmative action to ameliorate the current process's negative effects. That approach is imperfect for a whole host of reasons, not least of which is that affirmative action’s legal use in higher education may be about to end. Should race-conscious admissions practices be banned, every law school that truly values diversity will have to explore race-neutral means of achieving it. The good news is that research conducted by Marjorie Shultz and Sheldon Zedeck suggests that this is possible -- that qualities relevant to effective lawyering can be defined and predicted without recreating the LSAT's disparate impact [Predicting Lawyer Effectiveness -- A New Assessment for Use in Law School Admission Decisions]. This essay describes that research and the promise that it holds for improved, race-neutral, admissions processes.

August 21, 2014 in Legal Education, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 469

IRS Logo 2Breitbart:  Federal Judge Takes Extraordinaru Steps in IRS Lawsuit:

The order from U.S. District Court Judge Emmett Sullivan was certainly clear enough. In a landmark victory for Judicial Watch, the federal judge ordered the IRS to submit sworn declarations detailing what happened to Lois Lerner’s “lost” emails and what steps were being taken to find them. What was provided was a garbled explanation from no less than five IRS officials with more holes than a block of Swiss cheese. ...

These sworn declarations came from five IRS officials: Aaron G. Signor, John H. Minsek, Stephen L. Manning, Timothy P. Camus, and Thomas J. Kane.

We noted that the IRS and DOJ filings seem to treat as a joke Judge Sullivan’s order requiring the IRS to produce details about Lois Lerner’s “lost” emails and any efforts to retrieve and produce them to Judicial Watch as required under law.

This is the story we’re supposed to believe, according to these IRS officials: Lerner’s crashed drive was analyzed by two technicians who employed a variety of tech tactics to recover the data, to no avail. The drives – which, mind you, had no recoverable data according to these experts – were then “degaussed” (wiped clean) “to protect against any possible disclosure of… taxpayer information.” Anyone with even a passing familiarity with the IRS email scandal would have realized that these filings were a blatant continuation of the cover-up.

Well, if there’s one thing I know, it is that most federal courts don’t take kindly to being treated disrespectfully and expected to act like a somnolent member of Congress as administration officials mislead, omit, and play games.

Sure enough, in a stunning move, Judge Sullivan took the extraordinary step of launching an independent inquiry into the issue of Lerner’s missing emails. ...

Judicial Watch has filed hundreds of FOIA lawsuits. I have never seen this type of court action in all my 16 years at Judicial Watch.

Judge Sullivan has already authorized Judicial Watch to submit a request for limited discovery into the missing IRS records after September 10. So stay tuned for further details very soon.

Judge Sullivan took the additional step of appointing Magistrate Judge John M. Facciola to manage and assist in discussions between Judicial Watch and the IRS about how to obtain the missing records. Magistrate Facciola is an expert in e-discovery.

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August 21, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Which States Give You the Biggest Bang For Your Buck?

Survey: Grads Give High Marks to Law Schools for Professors, Training & ROI, But Not Job Placement

Kaplan, Class of 2014 Law School Graduates Give Their Schools Solid Grades in Professor Quality, “Practice Ready” Training and ROI — But Job Placement Gets More “F”s than “A”s:

Kaplan LogoAccording to a Kaplan Bar Review survey* of over 1,200 law school graduates from the class of 2014, a strong majority of tomorrow’s attorneys give their alma maters strong marks overall: 40% of law school graduates gave their overall law school education an “A” (up from 37% in 2012), while 45% gave it a “B”.  Only 11% gave their legal education a “C”; and a relatively small percentage (4%) scored it as below average or failing.  And while law school grads gave their former JD programs generally favorable marks in a number of subcategories, there was one glaring exception:  job placement.

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August 20, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

ABA Tax Section Publishes Summer 2014 Issue of News Quarterly

ABA News QuarterlyThe ABA Tax Section has published 33 News Quarterly No. 4 (Summer 2014):

August 20, 2014 in ABA Tax Section, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

LinkedIn Law School Rankings?

LinkedInInside Higher Ed, The New Rankings?:

LinkedIn is one of several players in a growing market: the business of aggregating data about career outcomes for prospective college students. Rankings still dominate conversations about which colleges are best, to the chagrin of many college presidents. But a number of companies are developing data-backed search tools to help students decide where to apply, where to attend and what to study.

Students and parents are the consumers most of these companies have in mind. But the services also attract business from colleges and universities that the aggregated data depicts favorably. Tulane now features its LinkedIn page in its promotional materials. ...

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August 20, 2014 in Law School Rankings, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Law Professor Blogs Network Launches Legal Technology Blog

LPBN LogoThe Law Professor Blogs Network is thrilled to announce the launch of Legal Technology Blog, edited by Jeanne Eicks (Vermont), Oliver Goodenough (Vermont), Stephanie Kimbro (Stanford), and Michele Pistone (Villanova). From their inaugural post:

What will law practice look like in the next decade? What should legal professionals know about technology to be competent and profitable in legal practice? How will we educate the next generation of lawyers entering a legal field deeply altered by technology? Who are these legal entrepreneurs changing the face of law – and should we fear them or emulate them? Will innovation happen at a stately pace, trimming the edges of inefficiency and risk aversion in legal practice? Or will innovation happen disruptively as technology entrepreneurs make an end-run around the more deliberate pace of legal practitioners? To borrow from Richard Susskind, a visionary in this field, who are tomorrow’s lawyers and how will they be trained?

We seek answers to these questions and more. This blog will focus on the topics at the nexus of law, legal practice and legal education and technology. Welcome.

With the support of our sponsor, Wolters Kluwer Law & Business/Aspen Publishers, the Network is seeking to expand in two ways.

First, I am actively recruiting law professors to launch blogs in other areas of the law school curriculum not currently covered by the Network, including Administrative Law, Bankruptcy, Intellectual Property, National Security, Native American Law, Race and the Law, and Trial Advocacy.

Second, I am actively recruiting law professors to affiliate their existing blogs with the Network, like Brian Leiter's Law School Reports, Brian Leiter's Law School Rankings, Mirror of Justice, REFinBlog, The Right Coast, and Sentencing Law and Policy

The Network offers law professors the premier blogging platform and the opportunity to share in growing sponsorship and advertising revenues. For more information about these opportunities, see here.

August 20, 2014 in About This Blog, Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Welcome to the Law School Class of 2017: Should You Stay or Should You Go?

Forbes:  Law School Begins: Here's A Message to the New Crop of 1L's, by Michael I. Krauss (George Mason):

Clash 1Later this week I will teach the first Torts class to George Mason Law School’s newly matriculated 1L’s.  Here is my message, both to them and to 1L’s nationally.

You have decided to enter law school during “interesting” times.  The business model for the private practice of law is a-changin, and many say it is broken.  Law school tuition is higher than ever, yet incomes are stagnant and perhaps dropping.  Law school loans, guaranteed by Uncle Sam and not dischargeable by bankruptcy, help you pay for tuition, but every increase in the generosity of federal largess is yet another incentive for universities to capture rents by increasing tuition further.

Mason students are at a “top-50″ school, but many readers of this column will be matriculating at lower-ranked institutions (and others will be at higher-rated schools).  Most Mason students ranked near the top of their undergraduate class and did quite well on their LSAT.  But half of you will get GPA’s at Mason that are lower than you’ve ever experienced before, both because your undergrad institution had succumbed to grade inflation and because our mandatory GPA mean immunizes us against this to some extent.  Those in the bottom half of the class won’t be eligible for Law Review, and they generally won’t be invited to those coveted on-campus interviews with BigLaw firms.  For them, and for many in the top half of the class as well, “summer camp” at a BigLaw firm after 2L will never happen; and the famous $160K starting salary after graduation will be pie in the sky.  Most law grads learn to their sorrow that the income distribution for freshly-minted JD’s is quite bimodal.  And those who do catch that brass ring will be in for a life that is usually exhausting and often boring, if not soul-destroying.

Are these facts part of an effort to get you to rethink your decision to attend law school?  For some of you, frankly, yes; but for others, absolutely not.  ...

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August 20, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (9)

Tax Profs Debate President Obama's Authority to Stop Tax Inversions

Following up on my previous posts:

Wall Street Journal editorial, Beltway 'Strip' Club: Democrats Imagine New Ways to Raise Taxes on Corporations:

Washington's tax collectors fear that foreign firms may fund their U.S. subsidiaries with debt so these U.S. units can deduct the interest payments. The foreign parent companies can then receive these interest payments. With more debt held in the U.S., the firms may be able to boost the profits of their overseas units and pay less in taxes, since taxes are lower nearly everywhere else in the world than in the U.S. ...

The White House is nonetheless looking to raise corporate taxes administratively while Mr. Schumer seeks to do so legislatively. Team Obama was thrilled by a recent paper from former Treasury official and current Harvard Law School professor Stephen Shay. Mr. Shay claims that without any change in the law the Administration can simply overturn years of precedent by declaring that some debt will now be treated as equity, and voila, higher tax bills.

This would involve claiming authority under a provision of law known as Section 385 that was not intended to stop corporate inversions, but rather to define generally what is stock and what is debt. As Mr. Shay admits, "Section 385 is not normally thought of as an antiabuse provision (indeed, it has hardly been thought of at all since it was amended in 1992) and this proposal is to apply it to only a subset of related party cases—those involving expatriated entities."

No doubt a wave of lawsuits would follow. But if Treasury is looking for a short-term political victory it could issue a temporary regulation, avoid the usual notice and comment period, and earn headlines by interrupting pending inversion deals. Another full election cycle might pass before the courts rule on the legality of this tax grab.

The Harvard Law brand might seem to lend some heft to this novel idea, but in his paper Mr. Shay credits the intellectual contributions of two, er, scholars from Change to Win, the advocacy shop funded by labor unions. And nobody does disinterested legal analysis like the Teamsters. ...

Bloomberg BNA, Executive Action on Inversions? Not So Fast:

Can President Obama deal with corporate inversions-which occur when a U.S. company merges with a foreign competitor in order to create a parent organization with a tax residency abroad--on his own?

After pressure from his fellow Democrats, Obama and the Department of Treasury have said they're looking into it. Some former officials -- including Stephen Shay, a professor of law at Harvard University and a former deputy assistant secretary at Treasury -- have suggested that Obama can use his executive authority to deal with earnings stripping, one of the chief incentives for inversion deals.

The dynamic might make it seem like the issue is mainly a political one -- that, as with immigration and climate change, the main consideration for the White House is whether the policy goal is worth enraging Congress even further.

But, in fact, the legal authority for Obama or the Treasury Department to act is far from certain. In fact, many tax experts -- some who share the goal of cracking down on inversions -- believe the president has very little leeway to act without support from Congress.

"The arguments for Treasury regulation are based on laudable policy instincts, which I share. But they are very strained readings of the relevant regulatory authority," said Edward Kleinbard, a professor of law at the University of Southern California and the former chief of staff for the U.S. Congress Joint Committee on Taxation. "In fact, they are so strained, I think in the long term they would do more harm than good in terms of Treasury's ongoing relationships with Congress, and its ability to take courageous stands through regulation in the future." ...

"My reading of this rule is that they are authorized to have a general rule that distinguishes debt from equity," said Reuven Avi-Yonah, director of the international tax LL.M. program at the University of Michigan Law School. "If they try to do that, I think the companies would sue them." ...

Ultimately, the statement that Treasury was looking into possible anti-inversion regulations may be more important than any actual regulations the department might issue. "I frankly think it's a question of whether they could make enough noise to scare people," said Willard Taylor, an adjunct professor of law at New York University, who has written about inversions in the past. "As to specific options, I really don't see very much there."

August 20, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

The IRS Scandal, Day 468

IRS Logo 2Wonkette:  Laura Ingraham Explains That Thugs Gonna Thug:

What do you think would have happened, guys, if tea party activists, right, came to Washington D.C. after the IRS scandal broke and decided to start smashing windows, rampaging through neighborhoods, throwing fire bombs. What do you think Eric Holder and Barack Obama would do? Would they start saying, ‘Well, we understand that people are angry, we really get your emotion here, but this isn’t acceptable. Do you really think there would have been this nuanced language, this emoting that has become the pastime of this administration?

Washington Times:  Intolerance on the Left: The Marketplace of Ideas Can’t Function Without Civility:

We often hear those on the right branded as “intolerant.” We’re all a bunch of extremists who just want to shut down the other side, right? We’re unlike those on the left, who welcome debate and want to give all viewpoints a respectful hearing.

Or so we’re told. We might even start to believe it — until we encounter the oh-so-tolerant voices of our loyal opposition. Voices such as: ...

Lois Lerner: According to emails written by the former Internal Revenue Service official, conservatives are “crazies” and another word too obscene to quote. Conservatives who dare to criticize the government, in her view, want to “take us down.” Small wonder that the agency targeted conservative groups during Ms. Lerner’s tenure.

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August 20, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

NY Times: Tax Burden in U.S. Not as Heavy as It Looks, Kleinbard Says

New York Times DealBook:  Tax Burden in U.S. Not as Heavy as It Looks, Report Says, by Andrew Ross Sorkin:

NY Times Dealbook (2013)For years, chief executives have complained bitterly about the United States corporate tax code, arguing that it is too complicated and that rates are too high. The issue has reached a near boiling point this summer as many large American companies have sought to buy smaller foreign rivals so they can renounce their United States corporate citizenship and reincorporate overseas to lower their tax bills. Others are considering the move, known as an inversion.

Again and again, we hear that these deals are being driven by an effort to make our companies more competitive globally and that unless we “reform” our tax system — which is code for “lower our corporate tax rate” — we will lose business to foreign rivals.

It is a compelling narrative. But it may be wrong.

Edward D. Kleinbard, a professor at the Gould School of Law at the University of Southern California and a former chief of staff to the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation, makes a captivating argument in an academic paper ['Competitiveness' Has Nothing to Do With It] that the United States tax code — counter to the conventional wisdom — is not impeding global competitiveness. In fact, the opposite is true.

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August 19, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Perkins: Salience and Sin -- Designing Taxes in the New Sin Era

Rachelle Holmes Perkins (George Mason), Salience and Sin: Designing Taxes in the New Sin Era, 2014 BYU L. Rev. 143 (2014):

Tax salience reflects the extent to which consumers take into account the after-tax cost of a good or service prior to making their consumption decision. Recent empirical work on tax salience has revealed something that is perhaps intuitive, but nevertheless important to the design of sin taxes. Taxpayers are more likely to make consumption decisions based on pre-tax rather than post-tax prices when the salience, or visibility, of a tax is diminished. Thus, consumers are less likely to change their demand for a particular product if shelf prices are tax-exclusive rather than tax-inclusive. Economically, this makes low salience taxes mimic some of the benefits of taxes on inelastically demanded goods. Because a taxpayer’s demand change in response to a tax increase is diminished, the deadweight loss generated by the imposition of the tax can be reduced. Notwithstanding the potential for efficiency gains, politicians and academics alike have expressed various fairness, distributional, and normative concerns regarding the use of low salience taxes. In fact, a number of countries already require tax-inclusive pricing for consumer products in order to purportedly preserve consumer awareness and transparency.

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August 19, 2014 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

TIGTA: ObamaCare Medical Device Tax Is Raising 25% Less Revenue Than Expected, IRS Administration of Tax Is Rife With Errors

TIGTA The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration today released The Affordable Care Act: An Improved Strategy Is Needed to Ensure Accurate Reporting and Payment of the Medical Device Excise Tax (2014-43-043):

The Affordable Care Act includes a tax provision that provides for an excise tax equal to 2.3 percent of the sales price for medical devices sold beginning January 1, 2013. Manufacturers, producers, and importers are responsible for collecting the medical device excise tax and must file a Form 720, Quarterly Federal Excise Tax Return. The Joint Committee on Taxation estimated revenues from the medical device excise tax of $20 billion for Fiscal Years 2013 through 2019. ...

Our review found that both the number of Forms 720 filed reporting the medical device excise tax and the amount of the associated revenue reported are lower than estimated. The IRS is attempting to develop a compliance strategy to ensure that businesses are compliant with medical device excise tax filing and payment requirements and has taken several measures to advise medical device manufacturers of the new excise tax. However, the IRS cannot identify the population of medical device manufacturers registered with the Food and Drug Administration that are required to file a Form 720 and pay the excise tax.

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August 19, 2014 in Gov't Reports, IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Taxing the Rich Can Strengthen Democracy

Washington Post:  Can Taxing the Wealthy Strengthen Democracy?, by Deborah Boucoyannis (Virginia):

“Taxing the rich” has emerged as a controversial proposal on how to deal with the historic rise in inequality of the last few decades. Thomas Piketty recently recommended taxing the top 1 percent globally to redistribute wealth, reduce inequality and provide a generous social safety net. The policy has been attacked on both the left and the right as unfeasible, unpredictable in its effects, even unconstitutional, and in any case inadequate to address the needs of a welfare state, although other research powerfully contradicts them.

The historical record, however, suggests that taxing the wealthiest does have an important, but different, consequence: making the wealthy vested in the common good. In fact, taxing the wealthy was crucial for the emergence of representative government itself. ...

“[T]axing the rich” can actually help democracy. When the government is strong enough to impose a substantial obligation on the richest people, they are inclined to lobby the government to ensure those funds are efficiently spent. This is quite different than the pattern that mostly occurs today, where the wealthy lobby the government for tax breaks or private interests—and the state is too weak or too unwilling to resist. “Taxing the rich something more than in proportion” to their wealth is what Adam Smith himself still praised about the English system of taxation many centuries after its Parliament was born.

August 19, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Obama's Use of Executive Authority: Could a Republican President Refuse to Enforce the Estate Tax?

New York Magazine:  Obama's Immigration Plan Should Scare Liberals, Too, by Jonathan Chait:

What if a Republican president announced that he would stop enforcing the payment of estate taxes?

The New Republic, The Liberal Fear of Obama's Executive Action Is Irrational, by Brian Beutler:

[L]et’s look at the estate tax. First, it’s important to note that Obama isn’t proposing to “suspend” immigration law. It’s impossible to reconcile Chait’s admission that the action Obama’s considering is legal with the suggestion that he will be suspending the law. He’s rather proposing to direct resources toward enforcing the law against higher-priority offenders. Washington Post reporter Greg Sargent’s expert sources have more here. So the proper comparison isn’t to a Republican president who suspends the estate tax, but to a Republican president who decides to enforce the estate tax against the highest priority offenders—the super-duper rich—rather than the merely exorbitantly wealthy.

I can’t claim to know (yet) whether a presidential administration has identical discretion over tax law as it does over immigration law, so I don’t know whether this would pass the threshold test of legality. I suspect the president has more discretion over the latter than the former, and if deferred action for recently deceased wealthy people were slam-dunk illegal, I would oppose it on those grounds. But assuming President Ted Cruz could plausibly shield estates valued below, say, $20 million from tax, within the bounds of the law, my instinct would neither be to scream “Caesar!” nor to blame Obama for setting a bad precedent, but to note that Cruz was insane. It’d be crazy for any president to apply tax law more leniently to people who hit the estate tax threshold than to regular people who don't accrue much if any wealth, and I believe they’d ultimately lose that fight in the political realm, either through legislation or at the ballot or upon the election of a Democratic president who would resume strict enforcement. ...

If Ted Cruz becomes president and his Republican Congress gets to work on a comprehensive tax reform plan that would (among other things) abolish the estate tax, a decision to defer estate tax enforcement through 2017 might make sense (again, assuming legality) to avoid penalizing people who have the misfortune of dying before Cruz can sign the bill. If that bill were to fail, enforcement would surely resume at some point. Norms wouldn't have very much to do with it.

The Daily Caller:  Nice Try, New Republic, by Micky Kaus:

[V]irtually any categorical we-won’t-prosecute-you decree will serve the interests of “consistency” and “predictability.” Take the hypothetical that Obama’s defenders seem to have the most trouble dealing with: Imagine Mitt Romney, campaigning on a platform of raising the limit on taxable estates to $20 million dollars (from the current $5.3 million).  Romney wins the election. He’s President! But he can’t get his estate tax bill through Congress. He decides he can’t wait! If Congress won’t act to boost the incentives to “job creators,” he will! His IRS announces that, as a matter of “prosecutorial discretion,” no estates under $20 million that fail to pay estate tax will be pursued by the IRS.  Romney could grant case by case leniency power to IRS auditors and lawyers — but a blanket categorical free pass makes the law so much more predictable, don’t you think? And predictability is important for job creators!  They have investments to make. You wouldn’t want an IRS with the leeway to play favorites — going soft on Republicans, or Romney donors, while coming down hard on dead multimillionaire Democrats. ...

President Romney, for example, could cite the Internal Revenue Code’s goal of increasing tax receipts and spurring economic growth — and argue that because a zero capital gains rate would encourage revenue-producing asset sales, he would now exercise his discretion to avoid punishing people who don’t pay their (legislated) capital gains taxes as well as most of  those who duck their estate taxes. Jonathan Chait is right to be worried.

P.S.: TNR‘s Brian Beutler takes a simpler approach. He appears to argue that, if there aren’t statutory provisions that would make a Romney estate-tax move “slam-dunk illegal” (which there probably aren’t) then Romney is free to go ahead. He’d be “insane,” Beutler says. The voters would probably reinstall the Democrats at the next election. But democracy itself would provide the limit.

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August 19, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

Johnston: Kinder Morgan’s Evolving Tax Strategy

Tax Analysys Logo (2013)David Cay Johnston (Syracuse), Kinder Morgan’s Evolving Tax Strategy, 144 Tax Notes 881 (Aug. 18, 2014):

Johnston looks at Kinder Morgan’s recent announcement that it would be folding two master limited partnerships into a C corporation holding company.

August 19, 2014 in Scholarship, Tax, Tax Analysts | Permalink | Comments (0)

NY Times: Behind Closed Doors, Obama Crafts Executive Action on Tax Inversions

Following up on yesterday's post, WSJ: Meet the Law Professor Who’s Crashing the Inversion Party: New York Times, Behind Closed Doors, Obama Crafts Executive Actions:

When President Obama announced in June that he planned to bypass congressional gridlock and overhaul the nation’s immigration system on his own, he did so in a most public way: a speech in the White House Rose Garden.

Since then, the process of drafting what will likely be the only significant immigration changes of his presidency — and his most consequential use of executive power — has been conducted almost entirely behind closed doors, where lobbyists and interest groups invited to the White House are making their case out of public view.

Mr. Obama’s increasingly expansive appetite for the use of unilateral action on issues including immigration, tax policy and gay rights has emboldened activists and businesses to flock to the administration with their policy wish lists. It also has opened the president, already facing charges of executive overreach, to criticism that he is presiding over opaque policy-making, with the potential to reward political backers at the expense of other interests, including some on the losing side who are threatening to sue. ...

Consumer groups and organized labor want the Treasury Department to act on its own to limit financial incentives for companies that move overseas for tax breaks and stop so-called inversions. ... One group, Change to Win, a labor union-backed consumer advocacy organization that has pressed for congressional action to block corporate inversions, sought out a legal expert with Obama administration ties, Stephen E. Shay, to press its case.

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August 19, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Cause of Higher Tenure Rates for Men: Productivity or Sexism?

Inside Higher Ed, Productivity or Sexism?:

In discussions about the gender gap among tenured professors at research universities, there is little dispute that there are far more men than women with tenure in most disciplines. But why? Many have speculated that men are outperforming women in research, which is particularly valued over teaching and service at research universities. With women (of those with children) shouldering a disproportionate share of child care, the theory goes, they may not be able to keep up with publishing and research to the same extent as their male counterparts.

A study presented here Sunday at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association finds that those assumptions may be untrue in some disciplines. [Kate Weisshaar (Stanford), Measuring the Glass Ceiling Effect: An Assessment of Discrimination in Academia.] The study compared tenure rates at research universities in computer science, English and sociology -- and then controlled for research productivity. 

Not only are men more likely than women to earn tenure, but in computer science and sociology, they are significantly more likely to earn tenure than are women who have the same research productivity. In English men are slightly (but not in a statistically significant way) more likely than women to earn tenure. ...

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August 19, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (6)

Tax Inversions Often Don't Produce Big Returns for Investors

Reuters,  When Companies Flee U.S. Tax System, Investors Often Don't Reap Big Returns:

Establishing a tax domicile abroad to avoid U.S. taxes is a hot strategy in corporate America, but many companies that have done such "inversion" deals have failed to produce above-average returns for investors, a Reuters analysis has found.

Looking back three decades at 52 completed transactions, the review showed 19 of the companies have subsequently outperformed the Standard & Poor's 500 index, while 19 have underperformed. Another 10 have been bought by rivals, three have gone out of business and one has reincorporated back in the United States. ...

It is impossible to know how the companies might have fared in the market had they not inverted. Innumerable factors other than taxes influence a stock's performance, and no two of these deals are identical, complicating simple comparisons. But the analysis makes one thing clear: inversions, on their own, despite largely providing the tax savings that companies seek, are no guarantee of superior returns for investors.

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August 19, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)