TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron
Pepperdine University School of Law

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Snuggies Are Blankets, Not Garments, For Tax Purposes

Snuggie2Prior Probability, The Snuggies Case:

Have you seen those cheesy infomercials for Snuggies, those wearable fleece coverings–blankets with sleeves? Now, as a matter of tax law, is a Snuggie more like a blanket or more like a garment? (Blankets are subject to a lower import tax than articles of clothing are.) The United States Court of International Trade recently decided this close question, ruling that Snuggies are blankets for import tax purposes [citations omitted]:

Parties do not dispute that specifications, purchase orders, and invoices describe the Snuggie® as a blanket, and Allstar has trademarked "Snuggie®" to use on blankets and throws. The Snuggie® is marketed as a blanket, albeit one with sleeves. Retail packaging depicts people wearing the Snuggie® in the types of situations one might use a blanket; for example, while seated or reclining on a couch or bed, or outside cheering a sports team. The television commercial additionally shows a woman wearing a Snuggie® in place of a blanket that failed to sufficiently cover her. All of the above indicates that the Snuggie® is designed, used, and functions as a blanket, and is regarded in commerce and described in sales and marketing literature as a blanket.

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February 22, 2017 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Lawyers Could Be The Next Profession To Be Replaced By Computers

CNBC, Lawyers Could be the Next Profession to be Replaced by Computers:

Technology is often blamed for destroying traditional working-class jobs in sectors like manufacturing and retail.

But blue collar jobs aren't the only ones at risk.

The legal profession — tradition-bound and labor-heavy — is on the cusp of a transformation in which artificial-intelligence platforms dramatically affect how legal work gets done.

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February 22, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (4)

Should New York State Give President Trump’s Federal Tax Returns To Congress?

Trump Tax ReturnsBalkinization:  Does New York State Have a Copy of President Trump’s Federal Returns?, by Gregory Klass (Georgetown):

There has been a lot of talk about the new role state attorneys general have been taking on as a check on federal overreach. ... There is something else state attorneys general might do. It is now absolutely clear that the President will not release his federal tax returns.

Any state with a copy of those returns could choose to share them with Congress.

Section 6103(f)(1) of the Tax Code gives House Ways and Means Committee, the Senate Finance Committee, and the Joint Committee on Taxation the power to request individual returns from the IRS. Representative Bill Pascrell is a member of the House Ways and Means Committee. On February 1, he sent a letter to the Chairman, Republican Kevin Brady, requesting that that the Committee obtain from the IRS President Trump’s returns. Last week Brady rebuffed Pascrell.

But there is another option. Since 1998, another subsection of section 6103 has given whistleblowers permission to share federal returns with Congress. Section 6103(f)(5) provides:

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February 22, 2017 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (5)

Lawyers For Adelsons, Magbanua Attack Prosecution's Case Against Their Clients In Dan Markel Murder

Markel SuspectsOrlando Sun Sentinel, 'That's What We Went to Go Kill That Man For': New Details Emerge in FSU Professor's Killing:

No one in the Adelson family has been arrested or charged in the case. The family, through its attorneys, has denied any involvement in Markel's death. "There is a reason that the police have not arrested any of the Adelsons — they weren't involved in Dan's death,” according to a statement released in August 2016 by attorneys representing the family.

David Oscar Markus, Charlie Adelson’s attorney, said Friday: “Even though Charlie wasn't involved, the prosecution has run a smear campaign against him and his family by using alternative facts created by people with quite a bit of time on their hands.” ...

Christopher DeCoste, one of Magbanua’s attorneys, said his client has done nothing wrong. "The prosecution created a theory fit for a soap opera, built a case around that preposterous plot using the wholly unreliable word of a thug as mortar, and peddled it through the media without mentioning any of the massive inconsistencies,” DeCoste said in a statement. “Before they turned Luis Rivera, a lifelong gangster, into their snitch, the threadbare circumstantial evidence wasn't even enough to arrest Katie.” ...

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February 22, 2017 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (5)

Racism In The Legal Academy: A Tale Of Two Law Professors

Racism In Academia (Not A Breaking Story), by LawProfBlawg (Anonymous Professor, Top 100 Law School):

This is a story of a traditional law school. It is a story I have heard many times at law professor gatherings around the country. It’s a story, which, while not true as a whole, is an amalgam of true experiences people have had being a person of color in academia. ...

As with many tragic tales, this story starts with a Dean. The Dean makes a genuine effort to promote diversity in a predominantly white faculty. The faculty’s new hire is a person of color. People of color now represent 5 percent of this school’s faculty. ...Let’s call the new hire Professor X. ...

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February 22, 2017 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (6)

ABA Tax Section Publishes New Issue Of Tax Times

ABA Tax Times (2016)The ABA Tax Section has published 36 Tax Times No. 2 (Feb. 2017):

Interesting Times
By William H. Caudill, Norton Rose Fulbright LLP, Houston, TX
As I write this column, we are well into the Tax Section’s 2016–2017 year. I am pleased that we have made good progress on many tasks, but there is much that remains to be accomplished, not least of which is how we as tax lawyers will prepare for the tax reforms that will likely come our way as a result of this last election cycle and how the Section can contribute to the process.

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February 22, 2017 in ABA Tax Section, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Oh Presents Are the Rich Responsible for Progressive Marginal Rates? Today At NYU

OhJason Oh (UCLA) presents Are the Rich Responsible for Progressive Marginal Rates? at NYU today as part of its Tax Policy Colloquium Series hosted by Daniel Shaviro and Rosanne Altshuler:

Why do income tax systems across the world consistently feature progressive marginal rates? The existing literature tells a political story focusing on the top of the rate schedule and the preferences of the poor and middle class. According to the standard view, higher rates at the top result from the poor and middle class using the political process to “soak the rich.” However, this explanation is inconsistent with research showing that public policy is generally more responsive to the preferences of the rich. Explaining marginal rate progressivity as a universal (and exceptional) triumph of the poor and middle class rings hollow.

This Article resolves this tension in the extant literature by showing how progressive marginal rates are in fact consistent with the preferences of the rich.

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February 21, 2017 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

2018 U.S. News Law School Rankings

US News 2018Robert Morse (Chief Data Strategist, U.S. News & World Report) announced today that the new 2018 law school rankings will be released online on Tuesday, March 14 and in hard copy on Tuesday, April 11. Here is my coverage of the current 2017 law school rankings:

February 21, 2017 in Law School Rankings, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Will Trump Make Legal Infrastructure Great Again?

Rules for a Flat WorldPaul Lippe (ABA Legal Rebels), Will Trump Make Legal Infrastructure ‘Great Again’? (reviewing Gillian Hadfield (USC), Rules for a Flat World: Why Humans Invented Law and How to Reinvent It for a Complex Global Economy (Oxford University Press, 2016)):

President Donald Trump says he wants to ‘make America great again,” in part by investing in upgrading our “obsolete” infrastructure. University of Southern California law professor Gillian Hadfield has a proposal that may not be on the top of the president’s list. ...

To the extent that law schools concern themselves primarily with legal theory, they tend to operate in a self-contained echo chamber, with less influence over the profession and society and less opportunity to test those theories against reality to make them more powerful. Medicine and other fields have moved much more strongly to an evidence-based model, with faster learning, less hierarchy and faster practice improvement.

Hadfield is one of the most consequential legal scholars doing evidence-based work. Her recent book ... is a must-read for lawyers trying to see the whole landscape of the legal New Normal.

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February 21, 2017 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

Fleming:  The EU Apple Case

J. Clifton Fleming Jr. (BYU), The EU Apple Case: Who Has a Dog in the Fight?, 154 Tax Notes Int'l 251 (Jan. 9, 2017):

This is a reductionist article. It provides a simplified diagram and explanation of Apple's foreign tax planning that eliminates complexities not necessary to an understanding of either the relevant EU or U.S. tax issues. The primary focus of the article is identification of the stakeholders in the controversy over the EU Commission's Apple decision, analysis of their interests, and evaluation of the impact of the Apple decision on those interests.

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February 21, 2017 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Hemel & Lederman:  The Impact Of Repeal Of The Affordable Care Act On The Economic Substance Doctrine

Daniel Hemel (Chicago), Repealing Economic Substance Codification and Replacing It With What?:

The Republican effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act appears to be stalling. If and when it picks up again, the fate of section 7701(o) of the Internal Revenue Code will be far from the most consequential issue at stake. But section 7701(o), the provision added by the ACA that codifies the tax law economic substance doctrine, matters still — to the tune of $5.8 billion in federal revenue that will be lost over the next decade if the provision is repealed. Or so the Congressional Budget Office estimates; what repeal of section 7701(o) would actually accomplish is something of a mystery. ...

One can imagine (at least) three possible interpretations:

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February 21, 2017 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Oei & Ring:  Leak-Driven Tax Law

Shu-Yi Oei (Tulane; moving to Boston College) & Diane M. Ring (Boston College), Leak-Driven Law:

Over the past decade, a number of well-publicized data leaks have revealed the secret offshore holdings of high-net-worth individuals and multinational taxpayers, leading to a sea change in cross-border tax enforcement. Spurred by leaked data, tax authorities have prosecuted offshore tax cheats, attempted to recoup lost revenues, enacted new laws, and signed international agreements that promote “sunshine” and exchange of financial information between countries.

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February 21, 2017 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Syracuse's Secret Sauce For Its Outperformance On NY Bar: Tougher 1L Curve And Readmit Policy, Mandatory Bar Courses

Syracuse Logo (2016)I previously have blogged Syracuse's over-performance on the New York State Bar Exam: although Syracuse is the seventh highest ranked of fifteen New York law schools, it ranked fourth (89.5%) in bar passage on the July 2016 bar exam, behind only Columbia, Cornell, and NYU (and above Fordham, Cardozo, St. John's, and Brooklyn); fifth (83.3%) in 2015; and fourth (87.0%) in 2014.    Brian Leiter reprints a note from Syracuse professor Christian Day,  who attributes the impressive results to the faculty's decision after much study to:

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February 21, 2017 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (2)

2017 Tannenwald Tax Writing Competition

Tannenwald (2013)The Theodore Tannenwald, Jr. Foundation for Excellence in Tax Scholarship and American College of Tax Counsel are sponsoring the 2017 Tannenwald Tax Writing Competition:

Named for the late Tax Court Judge Theodore Tannenwald, Jr., and designed to perpetuate his dedication to legal scholarship of the highest quality, the Tannenwald Writing Competition is open to all full- or part-time law school students, undergraduate or graduate. Papers on any federal or state tax-related topic may be submitted in accordance with the Competition Rules.


  • 1st Place:   $5,000, and publication in the Florida Tax Review
  • 2nd Place:  $2,500
  • 3rd Place:  $1,500

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February 21, 2017 in Legal Education, Tax, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 20, 2017

Blank Presents The Timing Of Tax Transparency Today At Pepperdine

Blank (2017)Joshua Blank (NYU) presents The Timing of Tax Transparency, 90 S. Cal. L. Rev. ___ (2017), at Pepperdine today as part of our Tax Policy Workshop Series funded in part by a generous gift from Scott Racine:

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

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February 20, 2017 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Revenge Of The Tax Nerds

Revenge of the NerdsWeekly Standard, Revenge of the Nerds:

How the Prosperity Caucus and the Joint Economic Committee drove the tax reform debate.

If some sort of fundamental tax reform does occur this year—and the odds of its happening are looking good—the politicians, economists, tax lawyers, congressional staffers, trade associations, think tanks, academics, corporations, and others claiming credit for having influenced the legislation that finally becomes law will be legion.

But the critical impetus for reform has arguably come from a loose clique of policy wonks with ties to an inconsequential congressional committee—a group that came to be called the Prosperity Caucus. Its monthly meetings—which began 30 years ago, shortly after the last big tax reform passed in 1986—have been a regular abode for a long list of thinkers who have greatly influenced Republican thinking about tax reform. Its alumni now hold key positions in Congress and the Trump administration, and one happens to be the current speaker of the House. If any entity can rightly lay claim to credit for the reform, the Prosperity Caucus can.

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February 20, 2017 in Congressional News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Ball & Viswanathan:  From Business Tax Theory To Practice

Alina S. Ball (UC-Hastings) & Manoj Viswanathan (UC-Hastings), From Business Tax Theory to Practice:

The past decade has seen a dramatic increase in the number of business law clinics in legal academia. This increase in clinical transactional courses has not, however, resulted in a proliferation of transactional tax clinical offerings. Although tax issues, including federal, state, and local tax matters, are an integral consideration of nearly every business transaction, most business law clinics explicitly exclude tax representation from their client services. For clients of business law clinics that are social enterprises — companies that combine market-based business strategies and social mission — this lack of tax-focused representation is problematic for two reasons.

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February 20, 2017 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Creighton Dean Lifts Law Prof's Suspension After Faculty Threaten Vote Of No Confidence

MelilliOmaha World-Herald, Creighton University Law Professor Reinstated After Brief Suspension:

A professor at Creighton University has agreed to return to the law school today after he was temporarily suspended by the school’s dean.

Kenneth Melilli [right], who won the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Award for Teaching Achievement at Creighton last year, was suspended by the dean of law Wednesday evening, evidently after an argument this month with a senior associate dean of law.

Letters obtained by The World-Herald show Melilli had support from numerous faculty members who intimated they would push for a vote of no confidence against Paul McGreal, dean of law, and Nicholas Mirkay, associate dean of law [and tax professor]. ...

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February 20, 2017 in Legal Education, Tax Profs | Permalink | Comments (6)

Sixth Circuit Reverses IRS, Tax Court:  'Citizens Can't Comply With Tax Laws They Can’t See'

CaligulaSumma Holdings v. Commissioner, No. 16-1712 (Feb. 16, 2017):

Caligula posted the tax laws in such fine print and so high that his subjects could not read them. Suetonius, The Twelve Caesars, bk. 4, para. 41 (Robert Graves, trans., 1957). That’s not a good idea, we can all agree. How can citizens comply with what they can’t see? And how can anyone assess the tax collector’s exercise of power in that setting? The Internal Revenue Code improves matters in one sense, as it is accessible to everyone with the time and patience to pore over its provisions.

In today’s case, however, the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service denied relief to a set of taxpayers who complied in full with the printed and accessible words of the tax laws. The Benenson family, to its good fortune, had the time and patience (and money) to understand how a complex set of tax provisions could lower its taxes.

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February 20, 2017 in IRS News, New Cases, Tax | Permalink | Comments (11)

Hawaii Seeks To Hire A Tax Prof

Hawaii LogoThe University of Hawaii Law School invites applications from entry level and lateral candidates for a tenure-track or tenured tax position beginning in the 2017-18 academic year:

We are seeking applicants with the ability and interest to teach in the area of federal taxation and preferably also trusts and estates. ...

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February 20, 2017 in Legal Education, Tax, Tax Prof Moves | Permalink | Comments (0)

Florida Names Fred Murray Professor Of Tax Practice

Muray (2018)Dean Laura Rosenbury has announced that Fred Murray will join the faculty of the University of Florida Levin College of Law as a full-time Professor of Tax Practice:

Since 2007, Professor Murray has been at Grant Thornton LLP, where he serves as a Managing Director, International Tax Services. In addition, he has taught International Tax as an adjunct Professor of Law in the LL.M. program at the Georgetown University Law Center since 2005. Professor Murray started his career as a tax lawyer at Chamberlain, Hrdlicka in Houston, Texas, where he was a partner, before he left to serve as Special Counsel (Legislation) to the Chief Counsel for the Internal Revenue Service from 1992 to 1996. Professor Murray also has served as a Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Tax Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, as General Counsel and Director of Tax Affairs of the Tax Executives Institute, and as Vice President for Tax Policy at the National Foreign Trade Council.

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February 20, 2017 in Legal Education, Tax, Tax Prof Moves | Permalink | Comments (1)

TaxProf Blog Weekend Roundup

Sunday, February 19, 2017

University Of Washington Delays Launch Of New Law School In Tacoma Until At Least 2021 In Face Of Projected Annual $5.5 Million Deficits

UWT2Following up on my previous posts (links below): News Tribune, UW Tacoma Law School Vision Remains Years Away:

If you share the years-old vision of adding a law school to the growing University of Washington Tacoma campus, prepare to wait a few more years.

A newly released study has found trends in law school applications and available jobs that persuaded officials to wait a few years longer than they hoped to try to restore postgraduate legal education to the South Sound.

Because a UW Tacoma law school — like most public universities’ graduate-school programs, including the UW law school in Seattle — wouldn’t pay for itself, backers of the plan said they want to be sure the school will be sustainable enough to justify investing an estimated $62 million over a decade to get the school started, stabilized and accredited.

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February 19, 2017 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (4)

Bill Gates:  Robots That Displace Workers Should Be Taxed

Quartz, The Robot That Takes Your Job Should Pay Taxes, Says Bill Gates:

Robots are taking human jobs. But Bill Gates believes that governments should tax companies’ use of them, as a way to at least temporarily slow the spread of automation and to fund other types of employment.

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February 19, 2017 in Celebrity Tax Lore, Tax | Permalink | Comments (4)

Did Florida State President Violate Lobby Ban In Special $1 Million Annual Appropriation For Law School?

Florida State logoTallahassee Democrat, Did FSU President John Thrasher Violate Lobby Ban?:

Florida State University President John Thrasher’s push for a special law school appropriation includes a 2015 form with Thrasher named as the requester and dated before the former senator’s ban on lobbying expired, records show.

Thrasher denies he unlawfully lobbied the Legislature for the $1 million a year, and said he’s been careful to follow the rules as FSU president. ...

The $1 million, tucked away in this year’s $82.3 billion state budget, is among the special lawmaker requests that have surfaced in a battle between House and Senate leaders over how to write the spending plan. ... 

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February 19, 2017 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Bob Jones University Regains Tax-Exempt Status 34 Years After It Was Stripped By IRS, Supreme Court Due To Interracial Dating Ban

Bob JonesGreenville News, Bob Jones University Regains Nonprofit Status 17 Years After It Dropped Discriminatory Policy:

In a move that’s been more than two years in the making, Bob Jones University announced Wednesday it would regain its federal tax-exempt status on March 1, more than three decades after the IRS stripped its nonprofit status following a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

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February 19, 2017 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

The Top 5 Tax Paper Downloads

SSRN LogoThere is a bit of movement in this week's list of the Top 5 Recent Tax Paper Downloads, with a new paper debuting on the list at #2:

  1. [2,131 Downloads]  Problems with Destination-Based Corporate Taxes and the Ryan Blueprint, by Reuven S. Avi-Yonah (Michigan; moving to UC-Irvine) & Kimberly A. Clausing (Reed College)
  2. [1,019 Downloads]  The Known Unknowns of the Business Tax Reforms Proposed in the House Republican Blueprint, by Michael J. Graetz (Columbia)
  3. [677 Downloads]  A Guide to the GOP Tax Plan — The Way to a Better Way, by David A. Weisbach (Chicago)
  4. [326 Downloads]  Accounting for Behavioral Considerations in Business Tax Reform: The Case of Expensing, by Lily L. Batchelder (NYU)
  5. [274 Downloads]  How Donald Trump can Keep His Campaign Promises, Grow the Economy, Cut Tax Rates, Repatriate Offshore Earnings, Reduce Income Inequality, Keep Jobs in the United States, and Reduce the Deficit, by David S. Miller (Proskauer, New York)

February 19, 2017 in Scholarship, Tax, Top 5 Downloads | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, February 18, 2017

This Week's Ten Most Popular TaxProf Blog Posts

Michael Jackson Estate's $700 Million Tax Court Thriller Turns On Value Of Star's Name At Time Of Death

ThrillerWall Street Journal, Michael Jackson’s Estate Faces Demand for Big Tax Payment: Dispute With IRS Centers on Valuation of the Singer’s Name and Likeness Rights at Time of His Death:

When pop star Michael Jackson died in 2009, weeks before a planned comeback tour, how much was the man in the mirror worth? The answer is far from black and white.

After coming to agreements on the value of some of the King of Pop’s more concrete assets in a legal fight that began four years ago, the estate’s executors are facing off with the Internal Revenue Service in U.S. Tax Court on Monday, primarily over the valuation of the singer’s name and likeness rights at the time of his death.

Depending on the outcome of the case, the estate could be on the hook for more than $500 million in taxes and $200 million in penalties, according to the IRS’s notice to the estate of its deficiency.

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February 18, 2017 in Celebrity Tax Lore, New Cases, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

IRS Suspends Guidance Due To Trump Executive Order

Sam Brunson (Loyola-Chicago), The (Near) Future of Treasury Regulations:

Today’s Tax Notes reports [No Substantive IRS Guidance Coming for a While, Official Says] that the IRS has announced that it will not release pretty much any new formal guidance (including revenue rulings and revenue procedures) for the foreseeable future. [Fn: It will continue to release routine guidance, like updated interest rates and updated mileage allowances.]

Why not? A confluence of an Executive Order and a January 20 memorandum. The EO, Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Cost, requires that, for every new regulation issued, two existing regulations be eliminated.

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February 18, 2017 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (4)

Charlotte Law School Is Delinquent On Its $148k Property Tax Bill, Says Check Is In The Mail


Charlotte Business Journal, Charlotte Law Delinquent on $148K in Taxes; School Says Check Issued:

Charlotte School of Law is delinquent on its property taxes for its uptown campus.

A tax bill shows that the for-profit law school owes $148,227.63 as of Friday. Charlotte Law is located at 201 S. College St.

“A check for the outstanding Meck County property taxes has been cut. The county should receive full payment in the next few business days,” spokeswoman Victoria Taylor told the Charlotte Business Journal Friday.

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February 18, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

NY Times Special Tax Section

Friday, February 17, 2017

Weekly Tax Highlight And Roundup

This week, Joe Kristan (CPA & Shareholder, Roth & Company (Des Moines, Iowa); Editor, Tax Update Blog) discusses how a dentist kept adequate records to beat the IRS's claim that he did not materially participate in his real estate business:

KristanPart-time dentist, full-time record-keeper beats IRS.

Beyond Flossing. A California man seemed to have a pretty good deal going. He had a dental practice with his dentist wife and had a pretty good six-figure joint income. Yet somehow it didn’t satisfy. He wanted a real estate career.

He still kept up a part-time dental practice, but he threw himself into real estate. He spent a lot of time on it. The couple owned for rental properties that he managed, and he also worked as a broker. The rental properties generated a taxable loss, and the IRS said that he couldn’t deduct them under the “passive loss rules.”

Rental real estate losses are automatically passive for most taxpayers, deductible only to the extent of other “passive” income or when the property is sold. A special rule applies to “real estate professionals.” They get to determine whether rental losses are “passive” using the same “material participation” standards that apply to other businesses — primarily based on hours worked in the activity.

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February 17, 2017 in Tax, Weekly Tax Roundup | Permalink | Comments (0)

Weekly SSRN Tax Article Review And Roundup

This week, David Gamage (Indiana) reviews a new piece by Michael Graetz (Columbia), The Known Unknowns of the Business Tax Reforms Proposed in the House Republican Blueprint, Columbia Law and Economics Working Paper No. 557.

Gamage (2017)How should we evaluate the House Republicans’ proposals for adopting a destination-based cash-flow tax (“DBCFT”)?  This is among the most important tax policy question currently facing the United States.  Yet this question is difficult to analyze, in part, because of uncertainty about what the proposed DBCFT might turn out to be if implemented.

To survey this quagmire, Graetz offers what is essentially just a list of questions, presented on PowerPoint slides printed to PDF.  Nevertheless, I found Graetz’s work to be by far the most helpful document for understanding the House Republicans’ DBCFT proposal that has been made available to date.

To highlight just a couple points raised by Graetz’s list of questions: 

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February 17, 2017 in Scholarship, Tax, Weekly SSRN Roundup | Permalink | Comments (0)

Weekly Legal Education Roundup

Tax Policy In The Trump Administration

Hickman Presents Restoring The Lost Anti-Injunction Act At BYU

Hickman (2017)Kristin Hickman (Minnesota) presented Restoring the Lost Anti-Injunction Act (with Gerald Kerska (J.D. 2017, Minnesota)) yesterday at BYU as part of its Faculty Workshop Series:

Should Treasury regulations be eligible for pre-enforcement review? The D.C. Circuit’s recent decision in Florida Bankers Association puts its interpretation of the Anti-Injunction Act at odds with both general administrative law norms in favor of pre-enforcement review of final agency action and also the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the nearly identical Tax Injunction Act in Direct Marketing Association v. Brohl. In fact, cases interpreting the Anti-Injunction Act more generally are fragmented and inconsistent.

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February 17, 2017 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Anderson:  Law School Scholarship Policies — Markets Or Social Engineering?

Robert A. Anderson (Pepperdine), Law School Scholarship Policies: Markets or Social Engineering?:

Quite a few law school commentators have been talking about the 2016 annual report of the Law School Survey of Student Engagement (LSSSE). The report provocatively calls law school merit scholarship policies "engines of inequity." In his Foreword, Frank Wu says that law school scholarships cause a "'reverse Robin Hood' revenue model in which the poorest students are being forced to subsidize their wealthier peers." Aaron Taylor parrots virtually the same line word-for-word in his "Director's Message." It's unclear who copied whom. The basic gist of the report is that law school scholarship policies favor students with higher LSATs who tend to have higher socioeconomic backgrounds, etc. The authors see this as a scandalous outcome.

It is true that many students come out of law school hopelessly indebted with poor prospects for financial independence. However, very few students are being "forced" to subsidize anyone, because of some basic facts that the report doesn't mention. The report makes it sound as if a student with a high LSAT will receive scholarships everywhere and a student with a low LSATs will not receive scholarships anywhere. In reality, however, most applicants with a given LSAT will receive a generous scholarship from some schools and will receive no scholarship (or not even be admitted) to other schools. It is the student's choice of whether to attend the higher-ranked school with no scholarship or the lower-ranked school with a scholarship that will determine whether he or she graduates with high debt. Of course, the more prestigious school is enticing, but there's a price to pay for attending it. ...

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February 17, 2017 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Syracuse Law School Offers $20,000 Scholarships To New York Residents

Syracuse Logo (2016)Syracuse Post-Standard, New Law School Grant Will Make Syracuse University NY's Cheapest Private Option:

Syracuse University's College of Law will offer new tuition grants to New York state residents starting with the upcoming school year.

The Empire State Scholars Grant will offer $20,000 of tuition assistance to all admitted state residents. Qualified students in good standing will receive the grant for all three years of their program. The College of Law's tuition cost is $46,460 this year, and the grant will make tuition comparable to law schools in the SUNY system for residents. Currently, tuition at the law school at SUNY Buffalo is $26,997 for in-state residents.

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February 17, 2017 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

Is Donald Trump Making Law School Great Again?

TrumpFollowing up on my previous post, Will Donald Trump Solve The Law School Crisis?:  Quartz, Trump’s Disregard for the Judicial System Has Accidentally Made Law School Cool Again:

When US president Donald Trump signed his immigration ban on Jan. 27, law enforcement, customs officials, and airports were thrown into disarray. The executive order, which temporarily barred people from seven predominantly Muslim nations, as well as Syrian refugees, from entering the country, left people stranded in airports in the US and abroad. Families waited frantically for news of loved ones detained or were otherwise unaccounted for.

In this crucial time, lawyers from across the country stepped up to help. Many were immigration lawyers who work regularly on political asylum cases, but many others were not. Lawyers arrived at airports in drove over the weekend, carrying signs offering free legal assistance. They stayed there until the ACLU, representing plaintiffs affected by the order, won an emergency stay blocking parts of the executive order.

Suddenly, in the face of US president Trump’s bold—albeit hastily planned—agenda, lawyers seem heroic. And for the first time in what feels like the better part of a decade, the legal profession is being talked about as something other than a soul-and-money sucking dead-end.

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February 17, 2017 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (2)

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Hayashi Presents A Theory Of Facts And Circumstances Today At Duke

HayashiAndrew Hayashi (Virginia) presents A Theory of Facts and Circumstances at Duke today as part of its Tax Policy Workshop Series hosted by Lawrence Zelenak:

The legal consequences of an action often depend on information that only the actor knows, such as her intentions. This information is often inferred from the observable “facts and circumstances” attending the actor’s conduct, which creates a seemingly unresolvable tension in legal design. On the one hand, the unstructured nature of these analyses gives free rein to the factfinder’s judgment about which facts justify an inference to the hidden information. On the other hand, if the law were to specify in advance the facts that would be used to draw that inference it would provide a roadmap for actors to strategically adjust their conduct to manipulate the factfinder’s conclusions. I argue that this tension can be resolved by applying insights from the economics literature on asymmetric information.

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February 16, 2017 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Book Presents Taxpayer Rights, Behavioral Economics And The EITC Today At Indiana

BookLeslie Book (Villanova) presents Thinking About Taxpayer Rights and Behavioral Economics to Improve Administration of the EITC (with David Williams (Chief Tax Officer, Intuit)) at Indiana-Bloomington today as part of its Tax Policy Colloquium Series hosted by Leandra Lederman:

The IRS is a reluctant but key player in delivering social benefits to the nation’s working poor. Yet it administers one of the nation’s largest anti-poverty programs: the earned income tax credit (EITC). The EITC is generally praised for its role in reducing poverty and incentivizing low-wage work. While the credit has generally received bipartisan support, the IRS continues to face strong criticism over EITC compliance issues.

The IRS has generally focused on tax return characteristics in identifying and preventing erroneous EITC claims. We believe that shifting the focus from tax return characteristics to taxpayer characteristics may offer additional opportunities to improve EITC compliance (and perhaps other areas where there is systemic noncompliance).

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February 16, 2017 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Grewal:  Can Congress Get President Trump’s Tax Returns?

Trump Tax ReturnsFollowing up on my previous post, George K. Yin (Virginia), Congress Already Has The Power To Obtain And Release Trump’s Tax Returns: Andy Grewal (Iowa), Can Congress Get President Trump’s Tax Returns?, Yale J. on Reg.: Notice & Comment (Feb. 13, 2017):

The statutory authority for any congressional requests would probably come from Sections 6103(f)(1) & (2) of the tax code. Under (f)(1), some committees of Congress can request disclosure of Trump’s returns and can examine those returns privately. Under (f)(2), a non-partisan career official, the Chief of Staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT), may also request and privately examine those returns. Professor Yin argues that information obtained through Section 6103(f) can be subsequently disclosed to the public, when public disclosure serves a legitimate legislative purpose. ...

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February 16, 2017 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

IRS Stealth Attack On Obamacare Should Worry Both Conservatives And Liberals

Los Angeles Times:  Trump's IRS Stages a Stealth Attack on Obamacare, by Michael Hiltzik:

The Internal Revenue Service has become the first agency to follow President Trump’s directive to start undermining the Affordable Care Act.

In a quiet rule change, but an important one, the IRS has told tax preparers and software firms that it won’t automatically reject tax returns that fail to state whether the tax filer had health insurance during the year. That effectively loosens enforcement of the ACA’s individual mandate. It appears to be a direct response to Trump’s Jan. 20 executive order requiring federal agencies “minimize...the economic and regulatory burdens of the Act.”

National Review, Refusing to Enforce the Law Is the Wrong Way to Defeat Obamacare, by Charlie Cooke:

The IRS’s willingness to ignore violations of the individual mandate should worry conservatives and liberals alike.

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February 16, 2017 in IRS News | Permalink | Comments (3)

Woman Sues Howard Stern For Airing Her Phone Call With IRS Agent Discussing Her Taxes

HIRSRadio Ink, “Hello Howard, This Is the IRS …”:

In a fact pattern worthy of a law school exam question, an IRS employee calls the Howard Stern Show and is put on hold. The IRS employee on a different line, apparently either using fat fingers on a conference call feature, or on a speakerphone, takes a call from a taxpayer while on hold with Stern. The Howard Stern Show then picks up, hears the IRS employee talking with the taxpayer and puts the nearly hour-long conversation on the air live. The law school question is … in how many ways might the Howard Stern Show be civilly and criminally liable?

The question will likely be answered by the courts. The taxpayer has sued both the IRS for violations of the Federal Tort Claims Act and unlawful disclosure of tax returns and personal information, the Howard Stern Production Company, and Stern individually, for negligence, invasion of privacy, and the intentional infliction of emotional distress.

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February 16, 2017 in IRS News, Tax Analysts | Permalink | Comments (11)

Schizer:  The Charitable Deduction And The Exemption For Endowment Income

David M. Schizer (Columbia), Subsidies and Nonprofit Governance: Comparing the Charitable Deduction with the Exemption for Endowment Income:

Charitable subsidies are supposed to encourage positive externalities from charity. In principle, the government can pursue this goal by evaluating specific charitable initiatives and deciding how much each should receive. But this Article focuses on two income tax rules that leave the government very little discretion about which charities to fund: the deduction for donations to charity (“the deduction”) and the exemption of a charity’s investment income (“the exemption”). Under each rule, as long as charities satisfy very general criteria, federal dollars flow automatically. While both of these sibling subsidies delegate key decisions to private individuals, they create very different incentives and effects. This Article breaks new ground by showing their different effects on the governance of nonprofits.

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February 16, 2017 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

ADR And International Law Curriculum Rankings (Pepperdine Earns A+, A- Grades)

ADRADR Curricular Leaders, 20 preLaw 48 (Winter 2017):

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) specialty programs aren't easy to come by, but the 86 schools that do offer the specialty provide a wide range of options. We graded all schools on curricular offerings, and three earned an A+ — Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University; University of Missouri School of Law; and Pepperdine University School of Law.  Their offerings include workplace conflict resolution training for the Los Angeles Police Department, participating in a dispute resolution journal and dispute resolution skills competitions. ...

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February 16, 2017 in Law School Rankings, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

John Plecnik Discusses His Tax Scholarship

February 16, 2017 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

WSJ:  Universities, Facing Budget Cuts, Target Tenure

Wall Street Journal, Universities, Facing Budget Cuts, Target Tenure:

For decades, tenured professors held some of the most prestigious and secure jobs in the U.S. Now, their status is under attack at public and private colleges alike.

In states facing budget pressures such as Missouri, North Dakota and Iowa, Republican lawmakers have introduced bills for the current legislative sessions to eliminate tenure, cut back its protections or create added hoops that tenured faculty at public colleges must jump through to keep their jobs. University administrators, struggling to shave their costs, are trying to limit the ranks of tenured professors or make it easier to fire them. ...

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February 15, 2017 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

The Tax Lawyer Publishes New Issue

The Tax Lawyer (2013)The Tax Lawyer has published Vol. 70, No. 1 (Fall 2016):

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February 15, 2017 in ABA Tax Section, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)