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Saturday, January 10, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 611

IRS Logo 2Washington Post, Shrinking IRS Struggles to Keep Up With Growing Number of Tax-exempt Charities:

Remember when conservatives accused the Internal Revenue Service of being too aggressive toward nonprofit tea party groups? Now the agency faces criticism for the opposite problem, this time related to a different type of tax-exempt organization.

An independent review released last month faulted the IRS for scant oversight of charities, saying the agency examined the groups less frequently while its budget and workforce steadily shrank in recent years.

The Government Accountability Office said in its report that the IRS audited 0.7 percent of charities in 2013, down from 0.81 percent in 2011. By comparison, the agency audited individuals and corporations at rates of 1 percent and 1.4 percent, respectively, in 2013.

Meanwhile, the IRS’s budget decreased by $900 billion after 2010, and its workforce lost 10,000 full-time employees over the same period, according to the review. The staff reductions included 47 positions within the IRS’s exempt-organizations division, which examines charities, nonprofit advocacy groups and other entities that qualify for tax-free status. ...

But congressional Republicans, who now represent a majority in both chambers, have shown little desire to boost the IRS’s resources. A comprehensive spending bill lawmakers passed in December trimmed $346 million from the agency’s budget.

It’s worth noting that the IRS has shown little appetite for challenging tax-exempt groups after its tea party controversy, in which the agency was found to have targeted nonprofit advocacy groups based on their names and policy positions.

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January 10, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (4)

Friday, January 9, 2015

2015: The Year That the Law School Crisis Ended (Or Not)

American Lawyer LogoThe American Lawyer:  2015: The Year That the Law School Crisis Ended (Or Not) -- Part I, by Steven J. Harper (Northwestern):

Remember that you read it here first: In 2015, many law school deans and professors will declare that the law school crisis is over. After five years of handwringing, relatively minor curriculum changes at most schools, and no improvement whatsoever in the mechanism for funding legal education, the storm has passed. All is well. What a relief.

The building blocks for this house of cards start with first-year law school enrollment that is now below 38,000 – a level not seen since the mid-1970s when there were 53 fewer law schools. The recent drop in the absolute number of future attorneys seems impressive, but without the context of the demand for lawyers, it’s meaningless in assessing proximity to market equilibrium, which remains far away.

To boost the projected demand side of the equation, the rhetoric of illusory equilibrium often turns to the “degrees-awarded-per-capita” argument that Professor Ted Seto of Loyola Law School – Los Angeles floated in June 2013. His premise: “Demand for legal services…probably increases as population increases.”

“Unless something truly extraordinary has happened to non-cyclical demand,” Seto continued, “a degrees-awarded-per-capita analysis suggests that beginning in fall 2015 and intensifying into 2016 employers are likely to experience an undersupply of law grads, provided that the economic recovery continues.”

If only wishing could make it so. The economic recovery did, indeed, continue, but the hoped for increase in attorney demand was nowhere to be found. When Seto posted his analysis, total legal services employment (including non-lawyers) at the end of May 2013 was 1,133,800. At the end of November 2014, it was 1,133,700.

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January 9, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (15)

Weekly Tax Roundup

Weekly Legal Education Roundup

Weekly SSRN Tax Roundup

Weekly Student Tax Note Roundup

Kamin: How to Tax the Rich

Tax Analysys Logo (2013) David Kamin (NYU),  How to Tax the Rich, 146 Tax Notes 119 (Jan. 5, 2015):

In this article, Kamin reviews options for increasing tax liabilities for the richest Americans. He concludes that several options that have received considerable attention and support are not viable as a practical matter -- taking into account amounts of revenue raised and administrative considerations. Those options include taxing capital gains as ordinary income, annual wealth taxes, and broad mark-to-market accounting. Kamin identifies more viable options, including substantially expanding transfer taxes, increasing the tax rate on ordinary income, and taxing -- at least partially -- unrealized gains at death or gift, which may be the most promising.

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January 9, 2015 in Scholarship, Tax, Tax Analysts | Permalink | Comments (2)

The Evolution of Legal Careers: The Case of Big Law Associates

Christine Riordan (MIT), The Evolution of Legal Careers: The Case of Big Law Associates:

The legal profession, long an example of a well established professional occupation, has been remade by a combination of technology, which permits outsourcing of work, as well as changing economics within Big Law as customers become more sophisticated and demanding regarding staffing a billing. As a consequence the careers of young associates have been transformed with the probability of making partner diminished. At the same time outsourcing of low level work, such as document review, has the potential for enabling associates to do more interesting work that better develops their skills. This paper, based on interviews with a sample of Big Law associates, will explore the changing nature of legal careers and the implications of these changes for the life chances of young lawyers.

January 9, 2015 in Legal Education, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Harvard: Corporate Inversions and Tax Reform

Harvard Law School Logo (2014)Tax Turnaround Time? Proposals For Reversing the Corporate Inversion Trend Bring Home the Need for Tax Reform, Harvard Law Bulletin (Fall 2014):

Last summer, as more American companies like Mylan and Walgreen announced plans to relocate their headquarters overseas to avoid paying U.S. taxes—typically through combining under a new foreign holding company—the issue of “tax inversions” gained increasing attention in the media. Some 75 companies have inverted in the past two decades, most in the last seven years, according to the Congressional Research Service. The Joint Committee on Taxation reports that this has resulted in the loss of as much as $20 billion in tax revenue for the U.S. over the past decade. ...

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January 9, 2015 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Shanske: The Federal Role in Municipal Debt Finance

Darien Shanske (UC-Davis), The Feds Are Already Here: The Federal Role in Municipal Debt Finance, 33 Rev. Banking & Fin. L. 795 (2014):

Should the federal government be involved in the regulation of municipal debt finance? The answer is arguably not. But this theoretical dispute is not the focus of this Article because, in fact, the federal government already regulates municipal debt finance extensively, generally much more extensively than the states regulate their municipalities’ use of debt. The primary source of federal regulation is the securities laws. Less well-known is that federal tax law also serves as an important constraint. This Article surveys and critically evaluates these federal laws, and comes to three tentative conclusions. First, the current federal oversight “system,” unplanned and ad hoc as it is, has been effective. Second, in part because the current system has never been thought of as a comprehensive system, there are low-hanging fruit in terms of making the system work better. To the extent the federal government does not put these reforms in place, states should. Third, even an optimally operating federal overlay does not absolve the states from more careful regulation of the financial affairs of their localities, particularly as to the use of debt. Above all, what the federal government does not — and ought not — do is provide localities with the expertise to use debt optimally; this is another area where the states should focus their reform efforts.

January 9, 2015 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 610

IRS Logo 2National Review, Ask Lynch About the IRS Scandal:

Confirming a new attorney general is near the top of the new Senate's to-do list. The power not to confirm the president's nominees is near the top of the Republicans' new consignment of political clout. ... They should focus on the president’s AG nominee, Loretta Lynch, and they should refuse to confirm her until she commits to appointing a Special Prosecutor to investigate the IRS.

So long as the Justice Department is controlled by the Obama administration, it's going to obstruct any investigation that might embarrass the White House. ... [T]he IRS’s persecution of Americans of a particular political stripe is far and away the most important scandal of the bunch. It's the defining corruption of the era.

Requiring Lynch to promise a full investigation, headed by a special prosecutor, has ironclad precedent. In 1973, the Senate Judiciary Committee threatened to reject the appointment of Elliot Richardson unless he appointed Archibald Cox as a Watergate special prosecutor. Richardson was confirmed as attorney general on May 25, 1973; a week before that, on May 18, it was announced that "Attorney General-designate Elliot L. Richardson" had appointed Cox, and agreed, per the Judiciary Committee's demands, to give him "an unprecedented degree of independence from Federal interference and influence in investigating and prosecuting the case," according to a contemporaneous report in the Harvard Crimson. (Richardson was a Harvard alumnus.)

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January 9, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (4)

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Harvard Law School Prevails in Defamation Lawsuit by 2009 Grad Over Plagiarism Reprimand

National Law Journal, Harvard Law Prevails in Graduate’s Defamation Lawsuit:

WalkerHarvard Law School did not defame a graduate by reprimanding her for plagiarizing a law review article, a federal judge has ruled [Walker v. Harvard College, No. 12-10811 (D. Mass. Dec. 30, 2014)].

Judge Rya Zobel of the U.S. District Court for Massachusetts granted summary judgment in a lawsuit brought in 2012 by Harvard Law graduate Megon Walker against the university, law school administrators and two former classmates.

Walker, who graduated in 2009, said in her complaint that the law school committed breach of contract by failing to follow its disciplinary procedures during its investigation into her alleged plagiarism. Moreover, she said, the placement of a reprimand on her transcript was defamatory and cost her a job with a prestigious law firm.

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January 8, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (6)

Hasen: Income Taxation and Risk-Taking

David Hasen (Colorado), Income Taxation and Risk-Taking:

The literature on income taxation and risk-taking has tended toward the view that a true, or “normative,” income tax is ineffective at taxing the returns to risk-taking. The theory is that investors increase the size of their portfolios in response to the tax, because the tax causes the government both to absorb a portion of the gains realized from risk-based investment and to subsidize in analogous fashion any losses sustained. When the increased investment makes money, the larger return covers the associated tax liability, and when it loses money, the deduction for the enlarged loss compensates for the excess over the loss that would have been realized in a world without the tax. At the end of the day, the investor is mostly returned to the position he occupied in the non-tax world.

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January 8, 2015 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Houston Business & Tax Journal Publishes New Issue

HB&TJ The Houston Business & Tax Law Journal has published Vol. 14, Part 1 (2014):

January 8, 2015 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Measuring Faculty Scholarly Impact Through 'Citation Wake' Analysis

Citation, Assessing Scientific Research by 'Citation Wake' Detects Nobel Laureates' Papers:

Ranking scientific papers in order of importance is an inherently subjective task, yet that doesn't keep researchers from trying to develop quantitative assessments. In a new paper, scientists have proposed a new measure of assessment that is based on the "citation wake" of a paper, which encompasses the direct citations and weighted indirect citations received by the paper. [Stefan Bornholdt & David F. Klosik, The Citation Wake of Publications Detects Nobel Laureates' Papers] The new method attempts to focus on the propagation of ideas rather than credit distribution, and succeeds by at least one significant measure: a large fraction (72%) of its top-ranked papers are coauthored by Nobel Prize laureates. ...

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January 8, 2015 in Legal Education, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Judge Goldberg and the Federal Tax Law

William D. Elliott, Judge Irving L. Goldberg and the Federal Tax Law, 46 Tex. Tech. L. Rev. 849 (2014):

From 1966 to 1995, Irving Goldberg served as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. ... This Article concerns Goldberg's tax opinions. ... Like Henry Friendly of the Second Circuit, Richard Posner of the Seventh Circuit, and a few other circuit judges who have developed a unique reputation and perhaps even a close identity with a certain area of law, Irving Goldberg placed his personal stamp on federal tax law.

January 8, 2015 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

2014 Tax Person of the Year: Dave Camp

Tax Analysys Logo (2013) The 2014 Tax Person of the Year, 146 Tax Notes 7 (Jan. 5, 2015):

It may be a year or two or several before Congress actually passes tax reform legislation, but the plan released in 2014 by recently retired House Ways and Means Committee Chair Dave Camp, R-Mich., will help set the stage for the next tax code overhaul. The tax community's anticipation and ongoing reaction -- both good and bad -- to Camp's plan has earned him the designation of Tax Notes' 2014 Person of the Year.

Other finalists:

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January 8, 2015 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Parental Gap Year: Should You Move to Where Your Child Goes to College (Or Law School)?

Gap YearUSA Today, Too Close? These Parents Moved to College With Their Kids:

Lori Osterberg and her husband are lifelong Denver folk, but they got restless and intended to relocate for adventure’s sake once their only child left home for college.

Well, long story short, they did that. Sort of.

Rather than following the sun down to Mexico, they followed their daughter to Portland, Oregon, where she is a sophomore. While still taking long weekends and other trips to Canada and California, the couple bought an apartment near campus that all three share.

“We’re calling it our gap year. We’re here for now, with the possibility of extending throughout her college career,” Osterberg said. “We’re taking it one year at a time.”

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January 8, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Shapiro: Anatomy of a Special Tax Break and the Case for Corporate Tax Reform

Robert J. Shapiro (Georgetown), Anatomy of a Special Tax Break and the Case for Broad Corporate Tax Reform:

This essay provides a case study of the difficulties entailed in reforming the corporate tax code by examining the costs and distortions associated with one large special tax preference, Section 199 of the corporate code. Enacted in 2005, this provision provides a special deduction for some of the profits arising from certain designated “domestic production activities.” Our analysis shows that while the provision was originally intended to help manufacturing, it now provides tax benefits for a number of other, selected industries, including the information industry (including film production), mining, and construction. In many cases, eligibility is arbitrary: For example, food processing qualifies but not retail food businesses – unless the food establishment roasts beans used to brew coffee. At the same time, vital areas such as health care, finance, insurance, and educational services receive no benefit, and neither do many labor-intensive industries such as transportation and warehousing, administration and support, retail trade, and accommodations and food services. From 2005 to 2009, for example, Section 199 provided the information and movie industry, on average, 60 times the benefits received by these other vital and job-intensive industries. And within the manufacturing sector, Section 199 provided by far the greatest benefits, relative to the size of manufacturing sub-industries, to beverage and tobacco producers, followed by chemicals, and then by computer and electronic products. Traditional manufacturing industries such as textiles, apparel, wood products, leather products, printing, and furniture cannot claim significant benefits from Section 199. We also show that that while these allocations distort investment, there is no evidence that the provision promotes job creation in those industries that use it most.

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January 8, 2015 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Hill: Citizens United and § 501(c)(4) Organizations -- Guidance, Compliance, and Enforcement

Frances R. Hill (Miami), Citizens United and Social Welfare Organizations: The Tangled Relationships Among Guidance, Compliance, and Enforcement, 43 Stetson L. Rev. 539 (2014):

This Article explores the roles of the IRS and the Supreme Court in creating the conditions for the redesign of § 501(c)(4) organizations as campaign finance vehicles, which resulted in the current crisis. Part II discusses the long-term failure of the IRS to issue guidance relating to § 501(c)(4), including its failure to issue any guidance in response to Citizens United. Part III discusses the impact of Citizens United on the structure and operation of § 501(c)(4) organizations. Part IV examines the impact of the Court's insistence in Citizens United that regulatory agencies play a limited role in campaign finance regulation and that tests based on facts and circumstances are themselves constitutionally impermissible burdens on political speech. Part V discusses the response of the reconstituted but not yet reformed IRS. Part VI offers a brief conclusion focused on the challenges going forward.

January 8, 2015 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 609

IRS Logo 2Tribune-Review, BNY Mellon Hires Official Who Headed IRS During Tea Party Targeting:

Bank of New York Mellon hired a former Internal Revenue Service commissioner who modernized the agency's infrastructure but later was the subject of criticism from congressional Republicans over his handling of what they believed was a conspiracy targeting conservative groups.

Douglas Shulman, 47, was appointed senior executive vice president and global head of Client Service Delivery at BNY Mellon and joined the firm's executive committee, the bank said Wednesday.

He will oversee more than 18,500 employees at the world's largest custody bank, BNY Mellon said. He brings experience using technology to manage immense amounts of financial data, most notably in his previous job as commissioner of the IRS from 2008 to 2012. ...

Shulman's time at the IRS has been the subject of political controversy. The agency under his watch was accused of targeting conservative groups seeking a tax exemption. Starting in 2010, an IRS unit picked certain organizations for intensive scrutiny based on their politics, particularly those identifying with so-called Tea Party conservatives, according to a May 2013 report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

Shulman, who was appointed by President George W. Bush in 2008, told Congress before the report was released that there was no targeting happening. Once the general inspector's report emerged, he faced skeptical Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee who said he should have known about the practice and moved to shut it down.

Shulman said he was “dismayed” by the report's conclusions, but he admitted no wrongdoing on his part.

“I certainly am not personally responsible for creating a list that had inappropriate criteria on it,” Shulman told the committee, adding “With that said, this happened on my watch. And I very much regret that it happened on my watch.”

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January 8, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Cauble Presents Taxing Publicly Traded Entities Today at Toronto

Cauble (2015)Emily Cauble (DePaul) presents Taxing Publicly Traded Entities at Toronto today as part of its James Hausman Tax Law and Policy Workshop Series:

Publicly traded entities are generally treated as corporations for U.S. tax purposes. Under various exceptions, however, publicly traded entities may obtain special treatment if they earn predominately certain specified types of qualifying income. This Article examines potential rationales for granting special tax treatment to certain publicly traded entities. As the analysis in this Article will show, many of the potential rationales are unconvincing. In addition, to the extent that some rationales may be persuasive, the current rules are not designed in a way that best comports with these potential justifications. Therefore, reform is needed.

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January 7, 2015 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Organ: The Variable Affordability of Law School: How Geography and LSAT Profile Impact Tuition Costs

National Law Journal, Study Looks At How to Get a Law Degree For Less:

Despite rising tuition rates, law school can be more affordable if prospective students are strategic about where they study and select a school that offers the largest available scholarship award—even if it’s not the best school they can get into.

That’s the takeaway from research [The Variable Affordability of Law School: How Geography and LSAT Profile Impact Tuition Costs] by University of St. Thomas School of Law professor Jerome Organ, who has spent years studying enrollment, cost and admission trends. He presented his findings on Monday during the Association of American Law School’s annual meeting in Washington. ...

The trend toward higher tuition has obscured the reality that there are lower-priced schools, primarily in the Midwest, and that students with higher LSAT scores in general will pay far less if they opt for schools ranked lower than would otherwise qualify to attend, Organ said. His findings support the long-standing concern that tuition paid by students with lower LSAT scores often subsidizes scholarships for higher-scoring classmates. ...

Organ used 2012 American Bar Association data on student LSAT scores and first-year student scholarship rates to determine what students with different scores actually pay—known as net tuition. He assumed the largest scholarships went to students with the highest LSAT scores. He also looked at the interplay between LSAT scores, costs and schools’ U.S. News & World Report ranking.

Chart 1

On average, students with LSAT scores of 165 or higher attended higher-ranking law schools, but they didn’t necessarily pay the least. However, students with LSAT scores of 150 or lower on average attended the lowest-ranking schools and paid the highest net tuition.

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January 7, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (2)

Miller: Reducing the Corporate Tax Rate and Income Inequality

 David S. Miller (Cadwalader, New York), Reducing the Corporate Tax Rate and Income Inequality:

There is broad consensus about the need to reform the international tax system and reduce the corporate tax rate, but great political difficulty in doing so, largely because of the insistence that any changes be revenue neutral, with the offsetting revenue arising from a repeal of tax expenditures that would disproportionately affect purely domestic corporations and require small businesses to fund the corporate tax reduction.

At the same time, the realization requirement allows the very wealthiest individuals to defer or avoid income tax on their investments and contributes significantly, if not overwhelmingly, to income inequality.

Solving the second problem allows a solution to the first.

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January 7, 2015 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

LSE: Why Scholars Should Blog and Tweet

The London School of Economics and Political Science:

Shorter, Better, Faster, Free: Blogging Changes the Nature of Academic Research, Not Just How It Is Communicated:

One of the recurring themes (from many different contributors) on the LSE Impact of Social Science blog is that a new paradigm of research communications has grown up — one that de-emphasizes the traditional journals route, and re-prioritizes faster, real-time academic communication. Blogs play a critical intermediate role. They link to research reports and articles on the one hand, and they are linked to from Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr and Google+ news-streams and communities. So in research terms blogging is quite simply, one of the most important things that an academic should be doing right now.

Using Twitter in University Research, Teaching, and Impact Activities:

How can Twitter, which limits users to 140 characters per tweet, have any relevance to universities and academia, where journal articles are 3,000 to 8,000 words long, and where books contain 80,000 words? Can anything of academic value ever be said in just 140 characters?

We have put together a short guide answering these questions, showing new users how to get started on Twitter and hone their tweeting style, as well as offering advice to more experienced users on how to use Twitter for research projects, alongside blogging, and for use in teaching.

Download the PDF for more on:

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January 7, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

House Adopts Dynamic Scoring For Tax Bills

The 25 Most Influential People in Legal Education


The Most Influential People in Legal Education (2014), The National Jurist (Jan. 2015):

Some of the most influential are also the most hated people in legal education. We name those who are Innovators, Intellectuals, Controversial and -- to be sure -- Loathed.

I am honored to be #6:

We used to think of people devoted to blogging as doing so sitting in their par­ents' basement, wearing a bath­ robe, unshaven, with empty Miller bottles next to them.

That is not Paul Caron, who is in the Intellectual category. He runs both the TaxProf Blog and The Law Professor Blog Network, where one can find just about everything hot and current about law at your fingertips. A column from The New York Times on a falling law school? He's got a link to it. An article on the downsizing of law schools and what it means? He links to it. A paper on the correlation and con­cordance between the CR.4 Index and the Herfindahl-Hirscham Index? Yep, you can find that there as well.

Caron, one of the leading tax scholars in the nation, makes the list for the first time thanks in part to the power of blog­ging, which has become a hot mechanism for debate and information sharing in the legal community. The Law Professor Blogs Network, which Caron owns, sponsors more than 40 blogs in an assortment of legal areas. More than 100 deans, professors and lawyers contribute.  

Here are the 10 Most Influential People in Legal Education:

  1. Bill Henderson (Professor, Indiana)
  2. Erwin Chemerinsky (Dean, UC-Irvine)
  3. Brian Leiter (Professor, Chicago)
  4. Martin Katz (Dean, Denver)
  5. David Yellen (Dean, Loyola-Chicago)
  6. Paul Caron (Professor, Pepperdine)
  7. Brian Tamanaha (Professor, Washington University)
  8. Kyle McEntee (Founder, Law School Transparency)
  9. Frank Wu (Dean, UC-Hastings)
  10. Blake Morant (Dean. George Washington)

Update:  ABA Journal, Indiana University Law Professor William Henderson Named 'Most Influential' Person in Legal Ed

January 7, 2015 in Law School Rankings, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (4)

Mike Livingston: Tax Prof, Blogger, Fiction Writer

LivingstonTax Prof Michael A. Livingston (Rutgers-Camden) has returned to the blogosphere with From Milan to Mumbai 2.  In one of his first posts, he reveals that he has written three short stories:

  • Avi's Story: A Day in the Life of a Middle-Tier (But In All Other Respects Outstanding) Law Professor:  "[A] brief fiction piece describing a day in the life of a professor at a respectable but nonelite law school in the contemporary period. The article uses humor and irony to address several issues in the legal academy including race and gender relations, US News and other law school rankings, and the economic crisis. It spares no one, including the narrator, but does so in a playful and constructive way."
  • The Descent of Man:  "Mordecai Lomza is a tax professor with a family in the suburbs and a subscription to every available magazine. His life is ordinary until Martha Malinconica, an old friend from law school, makes him an unusual proposal. A story about love, work, and gender roles in the 21st century."
  • Iced Cortado: A Twenty-First Century Story:  "Avi Shalatzki is a somewhat cranky law professor and a committed Republican with strong views on race, gender, and just about everything else. His worldview begins to disintegrate when he meets Cassandra Coen, a 20-something entrepreneur who frequents the same cafe. A story about love, politics, and generational differences in a changing--or is it disintegrating?--society."

January 7, 2015 in Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Beyond Homo Economicus: The Prosocial Brain & The Charitable Tax Deduction

Ryan S. Keller (Ph.D. 2015, Cambridge), Beyond Homo Economicus: The Prosocial Brain & The Charitable Tax Deduction, 34 Va. Tax Rev. ___ (2014):

Charitable tax policy is at an impasse. Historically, citizens have overwhelmingly supported the charitable tax deduction as a means of fostering diversity, encouraging donations and supporting the nonprofit sector. Yet various policymakers and academics have increasingly disputed the deduction’s cogency and justifiability. In response, legal scholars and economists have offered various defenses and assessments of the deduction, but these have not convinced skeptics or placed the deduction on sufficiently solid theoretical and policy footing. The article adopts a novel approach by instead employing recent research in the neuroscience and psychology of prosocial behavior and charitable giving. Specifically, it identifies structural advantages specific to the deduction, rather than to charity or nonprofits more broadly. It then delineates key neural mechanisms and psychological functions that provide evidence linking dimensions of the deduction to distinct, previously neglected positive externalities. Amidst growing skepticism, developing a more capacious understanding of the deduction’s worth to society is essential. Indeed, failure to consider more robust, innovative analyses of the deduction compels authorities to craft policy without adequate information, and leaves the deduction and thus many philanthropic endeavors needlessly vulnerable.

January 7, 2015 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Harvard: How to Grow a Law Professor

Harvard Law School Logo (2014)How to Grow a Law Professor, Harvard Law Bulletin (Fall (2014)):

For many years it was possible to get a job as a law professor mainly by performing brilliantly as a law student and then clerking for a prestigious appellate court. Over time, there’s been an increased focus on candidates’ publication records, and as a result: “Promising entry-level candidates need to show a track record of writing and publishing scholarship,” says Susannah Barton Tobin ’04, managing director of the Climenko Fellowship Program and assistant dean for academic career advising at Harvard Law School.

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January 7, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 608

IRS Logo 2Forbes: Report On IRS Targeting Of Conservatives - No Christmas Pony For Darrell Issa, by Peter J. Reilly:

When I look at the report of Darrell Issa’s Committee on Oversight and Government Reform issued on the eve of Christmas Eve, I can’t help but think of the story of the kid with parents concerned about his excessive optimism.  Their therapist, who must have been quite malevolent, suggested that on Christmas morning, there be no presents under the tree and a stocking filled with horse dung.  That Christmas morning, the house was filled with the delighted shrieks of the young fellow as he ran around the house looking for the pony that Santa Claus must have brought.

Well the report is derived from 1.3 million pages and 52 transcribed interviews.   That’s quite a few stockings full of, well you know.  Still no pony. ... The pony being sought is named Watergate or maybe Watergate Jr. George Will, whose career commenced around the time of Watergate, in February 2014 argued that there have been three major scandals Watergate, IranContra and the IRS Scandal. On the other hand, John Dean, whose career as a public servant was terminated by his Watergate involvement finds comparisons between Watergate and the IRS scandal silly. ...

I recommend that if you are interested in the matter you read the report with an open mind.  Even though it strongly adopts one narrative, all the material for a different narrative is there.  That is why the New York Times can headline its coverage “Probe Fails to Link IRS Scandal to White House”  while Ben Shapiro’s Truth Revolt headlines “Issa Releases Damning Report On IRS Scandal” and leads with “Issa’s report contained emails which seemed to indicate there was visceral hatred of the Tea Party by IRS workers.”  Frankly, even if I just strongly disliked someone, I could come up with something better than calling them “icky”.

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January 7, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Chodorow: Should Martians Pay U.S. Taxes?

Mars 3Slate:  Should Martians Pay U.S. Taxes?, by Adam Chodorow (Arizona State):

The dream of sending a manned expedition to Mars has long been with us. Yet, despite periodic enthusiasm, it seems we have made little progress. Until now. Our understanding of the planet’s environment (past and present) increases almost daily. Just recently, we tested a rocket ship capable of taking people to Mars. And a surprising number of people would volunteer to go to Mars, even if it meant not returning. (Elon Musk is fond of saying that he would like “to die on Mars, just not on impact.”) As engineering and other hurdles fall, it is time to address one of the most pressing—and yet least discussed—problems facing such a journey, one that could undermine it almost from the beginning.

Of course, I’m referring to taxes, and in particular to just how Marstronauts and ultimately Martians (assuming they stay) will be taxed on the income they earn while en route to, and living on, the Red Planet. Failure to address this important question now could lead to Martians renouncing their U.S. citizenship, or worse. Let me explain.

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January 6, 2015 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Villanova Symposium: Selective Issues in Tax Administration

Villanova Law LogoSymposium, Selective Issues in Tax Administration, 59 Vill. L. Rev. 409-648 (2014):

The Increasing Importance of the Whistleblower Provisions in U.S. Tax Administration

The IRS's Efforts to Regulate Unlicensed Tax Return Preparers

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January 6, 2015 in Conferences, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

'Crap-Free' University Websites

In advance of Monday's college football championship game, the University of Oregon has paunched a branding initiative theat includes a re-designed website.  Inspired by this chart:


the "Unofficial Organ on the University of Oregon" has launched a competing "Crap-Free" University of Oregon website. (Hat Tip: Jack Bogdanski.)

January 6, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (4)

Do You Want Flowers (And Tweets) From the IRS?

Tax Analysts Blog:  Would You Settle for Flowers in Place of Help From the IRS?, by Christopher Bergin:

Reports from the U.K.  over the New Year holiday weekend detailed how the British government’s tax authority. ... I don’t know about you, but I’d be a little freaked out if I got flowers from the tax collector. According to an HMRC spokesman, “When we let a customer down, we always apologize and put matters right.” ...

This got me to thinking. For months we’ve heard that U.S. taxpayers may be in for one of the most challenging tax return filing seasons in recent memory. And most of those warnings have been coming from the IRS itself. The leader of the better-watch-out-chorus has been none other than IRS Commissioner John Koskinen himself. ... One of the commissioner’s direst warnings is that IRS employees may not be there to answer the phones when taxpayers call with questions about filing their returns this year. Considering that ours is a self-assessment individual income tax system, a little help that way from the tax collector is the least we should expect. Unfortunately, answering the phone is not something the IRS has ever been stellar at, so to think it will get even worse is not great news. But maybe flowers are a less expensive alternative to good customer service. Taking -- and expanding on -- a page from our friends across the pond, we could call them the “Insult to Injury Bouquet” from your government – and adding a bill for taxes owed with the card would be a nice touch as well.

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January 6, 2015 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Andrew Guzman (UC-Berkeley) Named Dean at USC

GuzmanAndrew Guzman, Jackson H. Ralston Professor of Law and Associate Dean, International and Executive Education, at UC-Berkeley has been appointed Dean of USC Gould School of Law, effective July 1, 2015.  From the announcement:

Professor Guzman is highly qualified to lead the Gould School of Law as it continues to advance its already-outstanding reputation and influence.  He will join USC form the University of California, Berkeley. ... Professor Guzman has distinguished himself as one of the nation's leading scholars of international law and has proven success in academic leadership. ...

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January 6, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

A Discussion of Thomas Piketty's Capital in the 21st Century

PikettyAllied Social Science Associations Annual Meeing (Boston Jan 3-5, 2015), A Discussion of Thomas Piketty's Capital in the 21st Century (Harvard University Press, 2014):

New York Times, Talk Turns to Inequality at Annual Meeting of Economists.  For my perspective, see Thomas Piketty and Inequality: Legal Causes and Tax Solutions, 64 Emory L.J. Online ___ (2015):

Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-first Century has acted as an accelerant fueling the fiery public debate over increasing inequality in America and around the world. Piketty makes the provocative empirical claim that the rate of return to private capital inevitably exceeds the rate of economic growth (r > g) and thus leads to growing concentrations of wealth among the richest members of society. Piketty has spawned heated debates in newspapers, magazines, and blogs, which soon will continue in academic journals and law reviews. Shi-Ling Hsu is one of the first out of the gate with The Rise and Rise of the One Percent: Considering Legal Causes of Wealth Inequality, 64 Emory L.J. Online ___ (2015).

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January 6, 2015 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Kahng: The Taxation of Intellectual Capital

Lily Kahng (Seattle), The Taxation of Intellectual Capital, 66 Fla. L. Rev. 2229 (2014):

Intellectual capital — broadly defined to include nonphysical sources of value such as patents and copyrights, computer software, organizational processes and know-how — has a long history of being undervalued and excluded from measures of economic productivity and wealth. In recent years, however, intellectual capital has finally gained wide recognition as a central driver of economic productivity and growth. Scholars in fields such as knowledge management, financial accounting and national accounting have produced a wealth of research that significantly advances our conceptual understanding of intellectual capital and introduces new methodologies for identifying and measuring its economic value.

This Article is the first to analyze and assess the taxation of intellectual capital within this broader interdisciplinary landscape.

Informed by the recent research and reform efforts in knowledge management, financial accounting and national accounting, the Article finds that the tax law, which allows most investments in intellectual capital to be deducted, is fundamentally flawed. This results in the loss of hundreds of billions of dollars in tax revenues, costly misallocations of resources and a grave deviation from the accurate measure of income. The Article argues that, consistent with the prevailing view in other fields, investments in intellectual capital ought to be capitalized under the tax law. Drawing upon the work of reform proponents in other fields as well as their critics, the Article considers whether and to what extent the advances in other disciplines can be adapted to the tax system. Based on this analysis, it proposes the tax law be reformed to require businesses to capitalize and amortize over five years a broad array of intellectual capital investments including research and development, advertising, worker training and strategic planning.

January 6, 2015 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

How Can Scandinavians Tax So Much?

Henrik Jacobsen Kleven (London School of Economics), How Can Scandinavians Tax So Much?, 28 J. Econ. Perspectives 77 (Fall 2014):

American visitors to Scandinavian countries are often puzzled by what they observe: despite large income redistribution through distortionary taxes and transfers, these are very high-income countries. They rank among the highest in the world in terms of income per capita, as well as most other economic and social outcomes. The economic and social success of Scandinavia poses important questions for economics and for those arguing against large redistribution based on its supposedly detrimental effect on economic growth and welfare. How can Scandinavian countries raise large amounts of tax revenue for redistribution and social insurance while maintaining some of the strongest economic outcomes in the world? Combining micro and macro evidence, this paper identifies three policies that can help explain this apparent anomaly: the coverage of third-party information reporting (ensuring a low level of tax evasion), the broadness of tax bases (ensuring a low level of tax avoidance), and the strong subsidization of goods that are complementary to working (ensuring a high level of labor force participation). The paper also presents descriptive evidence on a variety of social and cultural indicators that may help in explaining the economic and social success of Scandinavia.

Table 1

January 6, 2015 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Rosy Job Scenario for Econ Profs

Econ 3Inside Higher Ed, Econ Jobs Are Up:

The start of the calendar year is a big time for gatherings of academics, and reports about the state of the job markets in various disciplines. New data on economists continue a trend of better news for the social sciences than for the humanities.

In the 2014 calendar year, the American Economic Association listed 3,051 jobs, an increase of 9.4 percent from the total in 2013. ... The good news for economics Ph.D.s contrasts with the more difficult environment in humanities disciplines, many of which also gather this month for annual meetings and (for many colleges) a preliminary round of interviews for openings:

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January 6, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 607

IRS Logo 2Forbes:  Enough Already On IRS Targeting! Maybe, But Whose Tax Returns Went To White House And Why?, by Robert W. Wood:

We discussed IRS targeting during 8 months of 2013, and all of 2014. It is now 2015. We are all tired of it. Many Democrats accuse conservatives of blowing the IRS scandal out of proportion, conducting a ‘witch hunt.’ They say, as Mr. Obama said to Fox News, that there is not even a smidgen of corruption. Yet it should be no wonder that some people still aren’t so sure. Transparency hasn’t characterized much of what has happened over the course of these 20 months.

To find the missing emails from the key figure who refused to testify, the IRS said it spent $10 million of taxpayer money. Even those expensive recovery efforts were unsuccessful. Then, embarrassingly, the lost or destroyed Lois Lerner emails were recovered after all by the Treasury Inspector General. Among other things, the emails showed Justice Department involvement. Yet that too has been explained with a spin that seems to point the finger at conservatives.

DOJ had to look into conservative organizations, goes the narrative, because they were so bad. Because the focus isn’t on who did what and why, we are still in the dark about much of it. For there are really two scandals. One is alleged targeting, although it really isn’t alleged any longer. Lois Lerner, the IRS, and the Inspector General all admitted it.

Questions remain how involved the administration was, how one-sided it was solely to conservatives, etc. Still, the administration’s gyrations and shifting stories consumed 20 months. A parade of narratives ranged from confused IRS employees, to rogue IRS employees, to lost emails, recycled backups, $10 million of search efforts, and more. It should be upsetting to every American. And it should be embarrassing to government officials, though they do not show it.

Who can blame Americans for being suspicious? It was a whole year into a Congressional investigation before the IRS first said the emails were ‘lost.’ Would such a belated “oh by the way…” ever be tolerated if an American taxpayer voiced it? Even the ‘take the Fifth’ attitude is disturbing, regardless of one’s understanding of our Constitutional protections. As one report slams ‘culture of bias’, is it over-reacting to be bothered by this?

Even if it is, the second IRS scandal, the alleged release of confidential taxpayer data to the White House, is far more debilitating. It too isn’t just alleged. We know it happened. What we do not know is how much was released, whose tax records they were, or who over at the White House requested them. Even worse, we do not know if we will ever know. ...

White House Press Secretary Mr. Josh Earnest has said the Obama administration “has been very rigorous in following all of the rules and regulations that govern proper communications between Treasury officials and White House officials and the Internal Revenue Service.” Maybe that is all true, but this sure looks sloppy or worse. Especially given all the platitudes about transparency, it would be nice if we could get to the bottom of this and then finally move on. After all, it is 2015.

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January 6, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (6)

Monday, January 5, 2015

WSJ: The Outlook for Taxes in 2015

Wall Street Journal Tax Report:  The Outlook for Taxes in 2015, by Laura Saunders:

The new year could bring important changes to the tax landscape. Here are several issues that will affect how much taxpayers owe for 2015 and beyond: 

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January 5, 2015 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Will a Cheap Engagement Ring and Wedding Help Your Marriage?

SSRNThis paper from SSRN's list of the most downloaded papers of 2014 caught my eye:

Andrew M. Francis (Emory University, Department of Economics) & Hugo M. Mialon (Emory University, Department of Economics), ‘A Diamond is Forever’ and Other Fairy Tales: The Relationship between Wedding Expenses and Marriage Duration:

In this paper, we evaluate the association between wedding spending and marriage duration using data from a survey of over 3,000 ever-married persons in the United States. Controlling for a number of demographic and relationship characteristics, we find evidence that marriage duration is inversely associated with spending on the engagement ring and wedding ceremony.

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January 5, 2015 in Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (7)

NY Times: The Year in Charts

New York Times:  The Year in Charts, by Steven Rattner:

Although developments on the political front were certainly dispiriting, for the first time in years, the economic news was not all gloomy. But with the economy improving, there was less focus on the continuing need to address flagging incomes, rising inequality and unbalanced government spending. Below are 10 charts to illustrate the crosscurrents of the past year in economics and politics:


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January 5, 2015 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

NY Times Debate: Charity v. Socially Responsible Investment

NY Times Room for DebateNew York Times Room for Debate:  Charity vs. Socially Responsible Investment:

  • Scott Harrison (Charity: Water), The World Needs More Charity:  "There’s a great need for nonprofit organizations that seek to spread compassion and empathy, and offer people a way to give without getting anything in return."
  • Ana Oliveira (New York Women's Foundation), When Philanthropy Builds Community:  "Donors, community leaders, researchers, corporate partners and policy makers are all able tSonal Shah, Beeck Center for Social Impact & Innovationo collaborate on solutions in pursuit of a shared goal."
  • Sonal Shah (Beeck Center for Social Impact & Innovation), Charity and Investment Should Work Together:  "Grants and charity are important in providing immediate basic services, but to promote long-term sustainability, market-based solutions can be more effective."
  • Darren Walker (Ford Foundation), Knowing When to Use the Right Approach:  "Socially responsible businesses and charities are only as effective as the women and men who use them."

January 5, 2015 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Ten Biggest Charitable Gifts in 2014 Totaled $3.3 Billion

MoneyChronicle of Philanthropy, Biggest Gifts of Year Topped by New $1-Billion Foundation:

The ultra-rich continued to give big to American nonprofits in the past year, with the sum of the 10 largest single donations of the year nearly equaling the combined top 10 of 2013.

The top donation of 2014 was a $1-billion bequest from Ralph Wilson, Jr., a Detroit businessman who owned the Buffalo Bills football team. He died in March at age 95, and now his heirs are deciding how best to adhere to his wishes as his charitable foundation expands. ...

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January 5, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Seto: Law School Value Added As Measured by Bar Passage

California State Bar (2014)Following up on my previous posts:

TaxProf Blog op-ed:  Law School Value Added As Measured by Bar Passage, by Theodore Seto (Loyola-L.A.):

The fact that Stanford graduates pass the California bar exam at higher rates than Cal Western graduates is not particularly interesting. Stanford is chock full of students who were good test-takers before they started law school; Cal Western is not. Their relative first-time bar pass rates therefore tell us little about the value added by either school. Nor do they tell applicants much about which school will better prepare them for the bar exam, should that be their goal.

I have therefore reanalyzed California schools’ July 2014 California first-time bar pass rates controlling for incoming LSATs – specifically, the average of the 25th percentile and 75th percentile LSATs of each school’s 2011 incoming class (“average LSATs”). As one might predict, average LSATs and bar pass rates are highly correlated (r = .86).

This, in turn, allows me to generate predicted bar pass rates – that is, the rates at which schools’ graduates would be expected to pass if average LSATs and bar pass rates were perfectly correlated. And this, in turn, permits an estimate of each school’s value added, as measured by bar passage. Here are the results, ranked by average LSAT:


25% LSAT

75% LSAT

Average LSAT

Bar Pass Actual

Bar Pass Predicted









UC Berkeley





















UC Irvine







UC Davis














UC Hastings














San Diego







Santa Clara





















San Francisco














Cal Western














Golden Gate







Western State














Thom Jefferson







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January 5, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (12)

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January 5, 2015 in About This Blog, Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

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January 5, 2015 in About This Blog, Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Today's AALS Annual Meeting Highlights

AALSToday's highlights at the AALS Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.:

  • Retirement Policy: Incremental v. Fundamental Reform (8:30 - 10:15) (Maryland Suite B, Lobby Level):  Norman Stein (Drexel), Nancy Altman (Social Security Works), Daniel Halperin (Harvard), Regina Jefferson (Catholic)
  • Differential Affordability: Understanding the Net Cost of Law School (10:30 - 12:15) (Maryland Suite A, Lobby Level):  Michael Dean (Mercer), Jerome Organ (St. Thomas)
  • Tenure, Austerity, and Academic Freedom (10:30 - 12:15) (Delaware Suite B, Lobby Level):  Anthony Paul Farley (Albany), Tayyab Mahmud (Seattle), Natsu Taylor Saito (Georgia State), Terry Smith (DePaul), Donna Young (Albany)
  • Merit Scholarship Policies and the Impact on our Classes and Legal Education (10:30 - 12:15) (Maryland Suite B, Lobby Level):  R. Jay Shively (Wake Forest), Susan Bogart (Penn State), Cary Cluck (Mississippi), Tracy Simmons (McGeorge)

January 5, 2015 in Conferences, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)