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Thursday, May 28, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 749

IRS Logo 2The Hill:  Two Years Later, IRS Remains Reckless and Corrupt, by Akash Chougule (Americans For Prosperity):

This month marks the two-year anniversary of the nation learning that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) – the nation’s supposedly nonpartisan tax collection agency – systematically harassed and targeted conservative political groups leading up to the 2012 elections. The scandal remains unresolved, and in the past several weeks, a handful of shocking new IRS scandals have emerged, making it clear that the tax collector still has huge problems – and it’s costing Americans billions of dollars. 

Last month, more than 6,000 of Lois Lerner’s supposedly “missing” emails were discovered. Lerner was the IRS official at the center of the political targeting controversy, who in front of a Congressional committee repeatedly declared her innocence and then somehow invoked the Fifth Amendment when questioned – and then claimed her hard drive crashed and erased all of her emails, which obviously would have included the ones related to political targeting. 

Lerner has since retired without criminal charges (but with full pension and benefits), because the investigating U.S. attorney let her off the hook on his last day on the job. But the same week her emails were discovered, it was revealed that the IRS is likely still targeting conservative groups. ...

Officials within the IRS continually blame a lack of funding and resources for the incessant problems, a result of Congress slashing their funding after the political targeting controversy. The clear-thinking taxpayer who pays for the IRS would obviously retort that perhaps they should use the staff, time, and resources spent advancing a political agenda on actually doing the agency’s job correctly. ...

When elected officials do wrong by the people who pay their salary, the people can vote them out. But that is not the case with the unaccountable unionized bureaucrats at the Internal Revenue Service. They can simply hide behind anonymity and protection from their allies like President Obama, who absurdly claimed “not even a smidgen of corruption” at the IRS and has shown no interest in pursuing its recklessness. 

Congress should take these latest reports seriously, and for the sake of the American taxpayer, do whatever it must to rid the IRS of its bad apples and systemic problems.

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May 28, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Would Tenure Have Saved Blockbuster?

BlockbusterInside Higher Ed:  What If Blockbuster Had Had Tenure?, by Joshua Kim (Dartmouth):

The case of Blockbuster offers one of my favorite thought experiments for higher ed. In 2004 Blockbuster boasted 9,000 stores worldwide, 60,000 employees, and a market capitalization of $5 billion. Today, Blockbuster is gone. ...

We don’t want to be the next Blockbuster.

Did you know that Blockbuster had the opportunity to buy Netflix for $50 million? Netflix today is worth about $35 billion. In the early 2000s Netflix was having real challenges gaining enough scale to achieve economic viability, a financial situation that pushed its co-founder Reed Hastings to try to negotiate a sale to Blockbuster.  

The fact that Blockbuster said no to the purchase must rank as one of the dumbest business decisions of all time.

The story of Blockbuster and Netflix leads me to a question — a question that I think is relevant to our higher ed world.

What if some employees at Blockbuster had had tenure? ...

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May 27, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (10)

University President Does 'Parent Trap' Handshake With Son At Graduation

The U.S. News Rankings And Transfer Students: A Reform Proposal

TransferBruce M. Price (San Francisco) & Sara Star (J.D. 2014, San Francisco), The Elephant in the Admissions Office: The Influence of U.S. News & World Report on the Rise of Transfer Students in Law Schools and a Modest Proposal for Reform, 48 U.S.F. L. Rev. 621 (2014):

Students who perform well after the first year of law school are increasingly transferring to schools ranked higher by U.S. News to maximize their chances of getting a law firm job immediately following graduation. This phenomena raises two fundamental and understudied issues: how students make the decision to seek to transfer to a higher-ranked and higher-tier law school, and why such law schools are willing to admit transfer students into their second-year class who they were not willing to admit initially.

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May 27, 2015 in Law School Rankings, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

Papers From The 2014 IRS-TPC Research Conference: Advancing Tax Administration

TPC-IRSThe IRS has released the papers from the 2014 IRS-TPC Research Conference: Advancing Tax Administration (abstracts of papers here):

Session #1:  Taxpayer Compliance Costs and Tax Administration

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May 27, 2015 in Conferences, IRS News, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

LoPucki: Disciplinary Legal Empiricism

Following up on my previous post, Lynn M. LoPucki (UCLA), Disciplining Legal Scholarship, 95 Tul. L. Rev. ___ (2015):  Lynn M. LoPucki (UCLA), Disciplinary Legal Empiricism:

Disciplines tend to develop their own empirical methods. This article reports on a study of one hundred and twenty empirical legal studies published in the non-peer-review leading law reviews and in the peer-review Journal of Empirical Legal Studies ("JELS"). The study reveals four important categories of differences between disciplinary legal empiricism, defined as legal empiricism conducted by persons holding Ph.D. degrees (whether or not they also hold law degrees), and native legal empiricism, defined as legal empiricism conducted by persons holding only law degrees. First, the study found that Ph.D.s and J.D.-Ph.D.s collaborate more than J.D.s, but the collaboration is largely among the Ph.D. holders themselves. Second, JELS appeared to value methodological expertise over legal expertise. Only 15% of the JELS articles had no author holding a Ph.D., while 35% had no author holding a J.D. Third, the J.D.s were more likely to draw their data from published sources, while Ph.D.s and J.D.-Ph.D.s were more likely to draw their data from prior research, survey, or experiment. Lastly, the J.D.s were almost twice as likely to code their own data. These differences are important because law schools are rapidly hiring J.D.-Ph.D.s in an effort to increase the quantity and quality of legal empiricism. The study concludes that law school Ph.D. hiring is unlikely to achieve large increases in collaboration between Ph.D.s and J.D.s. It also concludes that the reduction in coding resulting from the hiring of more J.D.-Ph.D.s will escalate legal empiricism’s methodological sophistication while reducing its legal sophistication.

May 27, 2015 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

SSRN Tax Professor Rankings

SSRN LogoSSRN has updated its monthly rankings of 750 American and international law school faculties and 3,000 law professors by (among other things) the number of paper downloads from the SSRN database.  Here is the new list (through May 1, 2015) of the Top 25 U.S. Tax Professors in two of the SSRN categories: all-time downloads and recent downloads (within the past 12 months):

 

 

All-Time

 

Recent

1

Reuven Avi-Yonah (Mich.)

45,422

Reuven Avi-Yonah (Mich.)

6349

2

Paul Caron (Pepperdine)

28,592

Ed Kleinbard (USC)

5544

3

Michael Simkovic (S. Hall)

27,541

Michael Simkovic (S. Hall)

4574

4

Louis Kaplow (Harvard)

24,071

D. Dharmapala (Chicago)

3270

5

D. Dharmapala (Chicago)

22,855

Gregg Polsky (N. Carolina)

3203

6

Vic Fleischer (San Diego)

20,821

Paul Caron (Pepperdine)

2880

7

James Hines (Michigan)

20,614

Richard Ainsworth (BU)

2248

8

Ted Seto (Loyola-L.A.)

19.907

Omri Marian (Florida)

1950

9

Richard Kaplan (Illinois)

19,612

Robert Sitkoff (Harvard)

1865

10

Ed Kleinbard (USC)

18,172

Katie Pratt (Loyola-L.A.)

1750

11

Katie Pratt (Loyola-L.A.)

17,378

Jeff Kwall (Loyola-Chicago)

1620

12

Carter Bishop (Suffolk)

15,836

Louis Kaplow (Harvard)

1603

13

Dennis Ventry (UC-Davis)

15.664

David Gamage (UC-Berkeley)

1530

14

Richard Ainsworth (BU)

15,445

Brad Borden (Brooklyn)

1502

15

Jen Kowal (Loyola-L.A.)

15,429

Jen Kowal (Loyola-L.A.)

1489

16

Robert Sitkoff (Harvard)

15,162

William Byrnes (T. Jefferson)

1389

17

David Weisbach (Chicago)

15,096

Dick Harvey (Villanova)

1337

18

Chris Sanchirico (Penn)

15,079

Dan Shaviro (NYU)

1282

19

Brad Borden (Brooklyn)

14,896

Francine Lipman (UNLV)

1224

20

Francine Lipman (UNLV)

14,616

James Hines (Michigan)

1189

21

Bridget Crawford (Pace)

14,443

Vic Fleischer (San Diego)

1151

22

David Walker (BU)

14,274

Chris Sanchirico (Penn)

1130

23

Dan Shaviro (NYU)

13,105

Ted Seto (Loyola-L.A.)

1119

24

Herwig Schlunk (Vanderbilt)

12,746

Carter Bishop (Suffolk)

1117

25

Wendy Gerzog (Baltimore)

12,038

Christopher Hoyt (UMKC)

1078

Note that this ranking includes full-time tax professors with at least one tax paper on SSRN, and all papers (including non-tax papers) by these tax professors are included in the SSRN data.

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May 27, 2015 in Legal Education, Tax, Tax Prof Rankings | Permalink | Comments (0)

Hackers Gained Access To Old Tax Returns For 100,000 Taxpayers On IRS Web Site

ID TheftIRS Statement on the "Get Transcript" Application:

The IRS announced today that criminals used taxpayer-specific data acquired from non-IRS sources to gain unauthorized access to information on approximately 100,000 tax accounts through IRS’ “Get Transcript” application. This data included Social Security information, date of birth and street address.

Press and blogosphere coverage:

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May 27, 2015 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Memorable Law School Graduation Speeches

Tax Profs' Brief in Direct Marketing Association v. Brohl

Brief of Interested Law Professors in Direct Marketing Association v. Brohl (10th Circuit) (Joseph Bankman (Stanford), Jordan Barry (San Diego), Barbara Fried (Stanford), Alan Morrison (George Washington), Darien Shanske (UC-Davis), Kirk Stark (UCLA), John Swain (Arizona) & Dennis Ventry (UC-Davis)):

This case, Direct Marketing Association v. Brohl, was recently remanded by the U.S. Supreme Court to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Tenth Circuit then requested a full supplemental briefing; amici law professors submitted this brief.

Like all states with a sales tax, Colorado faced – and faces – a voluntary compliance problem with the collection of its use tax. The use tax is a complement to the sales tax; in-state vendors collect and remit the sales tax, while in-state consumers are responsible for remitting the use tax on purchases made from out-of-state vendors that do not collect the sales tax. To this compliance challenge, Colorado turned to a third-party reporting solution. In broad strokes, the Colorado Statute imposes a modest requirement on one party to a taxable transaction – specifically on relatively large retailers who do not collect the use tax - to report information on their Colorado sales both to the consumer/taxpayer and to the taxing authorities.

Amici make three specific arguments.

 

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May 27, 2015 in New Cases, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 748

IRS Logo 2WND op-ed:  Dishonesty and Cowardice in High Places, by Ben Carson:

I have heard many people say that the level of dishonesty and corruption in our society is no worse today than it has been in the past. I have done a great deal of reading about American history, and I take issue with this assessment. I believe there has been a significant moral decline in our society based on the fact that many people now conclude that they themselves are the final arbiter of right and wrong. ...

The IRS scandal, in which a feared government agency was used to harass and persecute political enemies of the administration, should horrify any American who loves freedom and the principles for which our ancestors died. In a situation where government agencies are stonewalling the congressional investigating committees and in which pertinent emails conveniently disappeared, honest people on either side of the political spectrum should be willing to admit that this kind of behavior cannot be tolerated under any circumstances and is a severe threat to our freedom and autonomy from the tethers of government intimidation. All of us should also remember that if one governmental department can escape responsibility for illegal actions by conveniently making emails disappear, others might be tempted to do the same. You have to wonder what kind of message this is sending to the next generations about honesty and integrity in the workplace and in life. Perhaps we are telling them that as long as you are slick and can cover up or redefine your transgressions, the truth doesn’t matter and you can still be very successful.

How can people be expected to work for the good of a society whose leadership cannot be trusted? How can our military with its proud history of selfless courage be expected to continue such a tradition when our leadership abandons them as they did in Benghazi and says it was too dangerous and too late to risk rescue efforts? Why would soldiers in the future take on heroic risks for a nation that would be willing to abandon them when the going gets tough? These kinds of dishonest and cowardly decisions will have deleterious effects on the future of our nation. When we sacrifice our principles for political expediency, we end up in a very bad place. We must teach our kids the benefits of honesty and integrity. The concept of a clear conscience is worthy of discussion once again. The ability to concentrate on what one is doing because you’re not constantly worried about skeletons in the closet is a topic worthy of in-depth conversation both for us and for the next generation.

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May 27, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

How To Keep Control Of Your Classroom

ClassroomInside Higher Ed, How Not to Lose Control of a Class:

It might be every professor’s worst nightmare: losing control of a class with no hope of getting it back on track. That appears to be what happened this semester at Texas A&M University at Galveston, where a management instructor threatened to fail the entire class for poor behavior before the university intervened. The professor described a class full of students who wouldn't do the work, who weren't performing according to his expectations and who were consistently rude to him.

The specific case certainly appears to be an outlier, and questions remain about how and why the situation got so extreme. It nevertheless captured the attention of fellow faculty members, probably because many have struggled at one point or another with classroom management.

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May 26, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sheppard: Tax Multinationals' Excess Cash

Forbes:  Tax Multinationals' Excess Cash, by Lee Sheppard:

Multinationals have too much cash. So we should tax it away from them.

But that’s not how official Washington thinks. In the capitol, the surfeit of cash is being used as an excuse for a corporate income tax rate cut, because, dontcha know, it’s just the horrible US tax system that causes these giant companies to sit on all that cash!

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May 26, 2015 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Governor Brown Exempts University Of California Law Students From $1,500 Fee Increase Imposed On All Other Grad Students

University of California (2015)Los Angeles Times, UC Law Students Celebrate Exemption From Supplemental Fee Increases:

What was in effect a footnote in Gov. Jerry Brown's recent proposed budget for the University of California has turned into a cause for major celebration among UC law students.

Surprising many faculty, Brown and the UC regents have exempted the four law schools on UC campuses from the fee increases being imposed in the fall on about 50 other professional graduate school programs such as medicine, dentistry, business, public health and social work.

The increases in the so-called professional degree supplemental tuition originally were to be between $1,058 and $1,587 a year for in-state law students at UCLA, Berkeley, Davis and Irvine, according to a plan the UC regents had approved in November. That would have increased overall tuition and fees for a Californian at UCLA's law school, for example, to more than $46,000 a year, including the basic charges all UC students pay. (Non-Californians usually pay somewhat more.)

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May 26, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

Kwak: Reducing Inequality With A Retrospective Tax On Capital

James Kwak (Connecticut), Reducing Inequality with a Retrospective Tax on Capital, 24 Cornell J.L. & Pub. Pol'y ___ (2015):

Inequality in the developed world is high and growing: in the United States, 1% of the population now owns more than 40% of all wealth. In Capital in the Twenty-First Century, the economist Thomas Piketty argues that inequality is only likely to increase: invested capital tends to grow faster than the economy as a whole, causing wealth to concentrate in a small number of hands and eventually producing a society dominated by inherited fortunes. The solution he proposes, an annual wealth tax, has been reflexively dismissed even by supporters of his overall thesis, and presents a number of practical difficulties. However, a retrospective capital tax — which imposes a tax on the sale of an asset based on its (imputed) historical values — can reduce the rate of return on investments and thereby slow down the growth of wealth inequality. A retrospective capital tax mitigates or avoids the administrative and constitutional problems with a simple annual wealth tax and can reduce the rate of return on capital more effectively than a traditional income tax. This Article proposes a revenue-neutral implementation of a retrospective capital tax in the United States that would apply to only 5% of the population and replace most existing taxes on capital, including the estate tax and the corporate income tax. Despite conventional wisdom, there are reasons to believe that such a tax could be politically feasible even in the United States today.

May 26, 2015 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Law School Leadership In A Time Of Crisis

TED Talk:  Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe (click on YouTube button on bottom right to view video directly on YouTube to avoid interruption caused by blog's refresh rate):

Simon 2Simon Sinek, Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action:

"It doesn't matter what you do, it matters Why you do it." With a little discipline, anyone can learn to inspire. Start With Why offers an unconventional perspective that explains the reasons some leaders and organizations are more innovative, more profitable, command greater loyalties from customers and employees alike and, most importantly, are able to repeat their success over and over. 

Simon Sinek, Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t:

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May 26, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (2)

NY Times: Amazon to Stop Funneling European Sales Through Low-Tax Haven

Amazon logoNew York Times, Amazon to Stop Funneling European Sales Through Low-Tax Haven:

In the continuing battle between Europe and American tech companies, score one for Europe.

In a move that could put pressure on its rivals to follow suit, Amazon will start paying taxes in a number of European countries where it has large operations, instead of funneling nearly all its sales through Luxembourg, a low-tax haven that is the home base in the region for Amazon and many other large tech companies.

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May 26, 2015 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

The IRS Scandal, Day 747

IRS Logo 2Politico, Chris Christie Wants the Media to Apologize:

Chris Christie says the media owes him an apology over the Bridgegate scandal. 

“I do believe there's an absolute bias and a rush to judgment. You all know this, you saw the coverage of me 15 months ago. I was guilty, I had done it,” Christie said on CNBC Thursday morning. “Now we're 15 months later, where are the apologies pouring in? Not one thing I said the day after the bridge situation has been proven wrong.”

Christie has not been implicated for any role in the closing of several lanes on the George Washington Bridge in September of 2013 which caused major traffic delays. Christie’s former high-school classmate and Port Authority official David Wildstein pleaded guilty earlier this month to conspiracy counts related to the lane closures and prosecutors have also indicted fellow Christie allies Bill Baroni, the former deputy executive director of the Port Authority, and Bridget Anne Kelly, the governor’s former deputy chief of staff.

On Thursday, Christie said the uproar over the lane closures was overblown and covered more than other stories like the IRS scandals or Hillary Clinton’s private email server.

“I think if you objectively looked at it you would say it was. At the time Bridgegate was outgunning, six or seven to one the IRS scandal,” Christie said.

Christie said that if he had come out in the days after the lane closures announcing that his emails were on a private server and he had deleted them, the reaction would have been much worse than the one Clinton has received.

“Can you imagine how the reaction would be? Yet today, we don't even talk about the email situation with Secretary Clinton it's as though it went away,” Christie said. ”Has there been coverage of the email situation with the secretary? Absolutely. But the intensity of the coverage and relentlessness of coverage is different.”

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May 26, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (5)

TaxProf Blog Holiday Weekend Roundup

Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day Tax Resources For U.S. Armed Forces (And Their Families, Employers)

IwaContinuing a TaxProf Blog Memorial Day tradition, I want to pass along links to the Tax Information for Members of the U.S. Armed Forces material maintained on the IRS web site:

The tax laws provide some special benefits for active members of the U.S. Armed Forces, including those serving in combat zones. For federal tax purposes, the U.S. Armed Forces includes officers and enlisted personnel in all regular and reserve units controlled by the Secretaries of Defense, the Army, Navy and Air Force. The Coast Guard is also included, but not the U.S. Merchant Marine or the American Red Cross. However, these and other support personnel may qualify for certain tax deadline extensions because of their service in a combat zone.

For dozens of links to military tax resources, see below the fold.

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May 25, 2015 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Inseparability Of Legal Theory, Practice And The Humanities

Harold Anthony Lloyd (Wake Forest), Exercising Common Sense, Exorcising Langdell: The Inseparability of Legal Theory, Practice and the Humanities, 49 Wake Forest L. Rev. 1213 (2014):

Maintaining that theory without practice is empty and practice without theory is blind, this article explores the impossibility of meaningfully separating legal theory from practice and the implications of this impossibility for legal education. Recognizing that no meaningful distinction can be made between legal theory and practice, this article maintains that there can be no meaningful distinction between “doctrinal” and “non-doctrinal” or “practical skills” courses and faculty. Accordingly, it explores the resulting implications for law school curricula and for faculty hiring standards.

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May 25, 2015 in Legal Education, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Zelinsky: Tax And ERISA Implications Of The Illinois Private Sector Retirement Plan

Edward A. Zelinsky (Cardozo), Retirement in the Land of Lincoln: The Illinois Secure Choice Savings Program Act, 2016 U. Ill. L. Rev. ___ :

Illinois has now become the first state to complete legislative enactment of a state-mandated, state-operated retirement system for private employers. As it debated, the Illinois General Assembly had before it The California Secure Choice Retirement Savings Trust Act, adopted earlier by California’s legislature. The Illinois legislation, as enacted and signed by the governor, bears obvious similarities to the earlier-adopted California law. However, the Illinois statute also makes notable departures from the California legislation.

As a legal matter, the Illinois private sector retirement plan will pass muster under both the Internal Revenue Code (Code) and the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). The Illinois accounts will qualify as Roth IRAs under the Code. The Illinois program will not be an ERISA-regulated employee benefit plan but, rather, will be an IRA payroll deposit arrangement. Even if the Illinois arrangement is an ERISA-governed plan, Illinois employers and the state itself will have no ERISA liability.

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May 25, 2015 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

The IRS Scandal, Day 746

IRS Logo 2Forbes, Hillary Clinton Should Head IRS, Skilled With Charities, Transparency, Emails!, by Robert W. Wood:

House Republicans formally asked the IRS to review whether the Clinton Foundation is complying with the rules governing its tax-exempt status. The letter was signed by Marsha Blackburn and 51 other House Republicans, and comes on the heels of a flurry of reports and speculation about the Foundation’s international fundraising. Blackburn asked the IRS to respond within 30 days.

But is the IRS going to take any action? It hardly seems likely. Besides, an IRS spokesman has already said that the IRS does not comment on individual tax cases. More broadly, there is no reason to believe that the IRS will probe much of anything. Lois Lerner ran the tax exempt organizations wing of the IRS, but she evidently focused on what she thought were bad conservative causes. The Clinton Foundation is a charity, but seems inextricably entwined with politics, State Department business personal emails, and speech-making. ...

To anyone with a thinner coating of Teflon, the subject would be embarrassing: donations by foreign governments while Mrs. Clinton was Secretary of State. Mrs. Clinton resigned from the Foundation’s board after she announced her Presidential run. But upon becoming Secretary of State, Mrs. Clinton promised that the Foundation would stop accepting donations from foreign governments. It turns out there were exceptions. It also turned out–another oops–that the Foundation’s IRS tax filings were less than transparent.

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May 25, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Atlantic: Why It Pays To Be A Jerk

The JerkThe Atlantic, Why It Pays to Be a Jerk: New Research Confirms What They Say About Nice Guys:

Smile at the customer. Bake cookies for your colleagues. Sing your subordinates’ praises. Share credit. Listen. Empathize. Don’t drive the last dollar out of a deal. Leave the last doughnut for someone else.

Sneer at the customer. Keep your colleagues on edge. Claim credit. Speak first. Put your feet on the table. Withhold approval. Instill fear. Interrupt. Ask for more. And by all means, take that last doughnut. You deserve it.

Follow one of those paths, the success literature tells us, and you’ll go far. Follow the other, and you’ll die powerless and broke. The only question is, which is which?

Of all the issues that preoccupy the modern mind—Nature or nurture? Is there life in outer space? Why can’t America field a decent soccer team?—it’s hard to think of one that has attracted so much water-cooler philosophizing yet so little scientific inquiry. Does it pay to be nice? Or is there an advantage to being a jerk?

We have some well-worn aphorisms to steer us one way or the other, courtesy of Machiavelli (“It is far better to be feared than loved”), Dale Carnegie (“Begin with praise and honest appreciation”), and Leo Durocher (who may or may not have actually said “Nice guys finish last”). More recently, books like The Power of Nice and The Upside of Your Dark Side have continued in the same vein: long on certainty, short on proof.

So it was a breath of fresh air when, in 2013, there appeared a book that brought data into the debate. The author, Adam Grant, is a 33-year-old Wharton professor, and his best-selling book, Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success, offers evidence that “givers”—people who share their time, contacts, or know-how without expectation of payback—dominate the top of their fields. “This pattern holds up across the board,” Grant wrote—from engineers in California to salespeople in North Carolina to medical students in Belgium. Salted with anecdotes of selfless acts that, following a Horatio Alger plot, just happen to have been repaid with personal advancement, the book appears to have swung the tide of business opinion toward the happier, nice-guys-finish-first scenario.

And yet suspicions to the contrary remain—fueled, in part, by another book: Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson. The average business reader, worried Tom McNichol in an online article for The Atlantic soon after the book’s publication, might come away thinking: “See! Steve Jobs was an asshole and he was one of the most successful businessmen on the planet. Maybe if I become an even bigger asshole I’ll be successful like Steve.”

McNichol is not alone. Since Steve Jobs was published in 2011, “I think I’ve had 10 conversations where CEOs have looked at me and said, ‘Don’t you think I should be more of an asshole?’ ” says Robert Sutton, a professor of management at Stanford, whose book, The No Asshole Rule, nonetheless includes a chapter titled “The Virtues of Assholes.” ...

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May 24, 2015 in Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

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. [271 Downloads]  The Historical Origins of the Debt-Equity Distinction, by Camden Hutchison (Wisconsin)
  2. [223 Downloads]  Taxation of E-Commerce, by Orkhan Abdulkarimli (Baku State)
  3. [201 Downloads]  Scholarship Against Desire, by Shari Motro (Richmond)
  4. [170 Downloads]  Tax Compliance as a Wicked System, by J. T. Manhire (U.S Treasury Department)
  5. [127 Downloads]  Believing in Life After Loving: IRS Regulation of Tax Preparers, by Alex H Levy (NYU)

May 24, 2015 in Scholarship, Tax, Top 5 Downloads | Permalink | Comments (0)

Charleston Law School Lays Off Seven Additional Faculty, Announces Plans To Enroll Students For The Fall

Charleston LogoPost and Courier, Charleston School of Law to Enroll Students for the Fall:

The Charleston School of Law announced Friday that the school will accept new students in the fall for the 2015-16 academic year.

Students were taking final exams May 5 when George Kosko and Robert Carr, the remaining owners of the troubled law school, said they might not enroll a new class of students next year.

The school also laid off seven faculty Friday, one of a number of cost-cutting moves that is allowing the school to continue to enroll students, a news release said.

The seven faculty members join 24 staff members and four other faculty members bought out or laid off since May 1, 2014, according to the release:

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May 24, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (14)

The IRS Scandal, Day 745

IRS Logo 2New York Times, I.R.S. Seeks to Define Political Activity for Nonprofits:

The Internal Revenue Service could issue as early as next month new draft regulations governing political activity by tax-exempt organizations, according to a notice issued on Thursday. But it remains unlikely that the new rules would be in place before the 2016 election.

The effort comes as nonprofit organizations prepare to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on presidential and congressional races, much of it devoted to thinly disguised campaign ads that the organizations say are merely intended to raise awareness of policy issues.

Many wealthy donors, particularly on the conservative side, prefer giving to nonprofits rather than “super PACs,” because the former are not required to disclose the identities of donors. Roughly half of all the political advertising aired during last year’s midterm elections came from groups that keep their donors a secret.

The proposed rules would amount to a mulligan: The agency’s first effort, in 2013, drew widespread criticism from liberal and conservative groups. Some of the groups’ members said the draft encompassed too much activity, and some argued that the proposed limits would not go far enough.

Current regulations provide no clear test for what constitutes election activity or for how much of their revenue tax-exempt groups can spend to try to influence elections. ...

I.R.S. officials, still reeling from revelations that conservative tax-exempt groups were subjected to paperwork delays and overzealous investigation during the 2012 election cycle, are wary of appearing to try to shape the course of the coming campaign.

This year, John Koskinen, the I.R.S. commissioner, said that the agency’s timetable was uncertain and that “my only focus on 2016 is to make sure that whatever we do, it doesn’t look like we’re trying to influence the 2016 election.”

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May 24, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (4)

Saturday, May 23, 2015

This Week's Ten Most Popular TaxProf Blog Posts

WSJ: Tax Court OKs Use Of Crummey Trust To Give $1.6 Million Tax-Free To 60 Beneficiaries, Despite No-Contest Clause

Tax Court Logo 2Following up on last week's post, Tax Court Approves Crummey Trust With 60 Beneficiaries, Despite Religious Arbitration Clause:  Wall Street Journal Tax Report, A Way to Make Big Gifts to Family Without Tax: The Tax Court Cleared a Couple’s Use of Crummey Trusts to Give $1.6 million Free of U.S. Gift or Estate Tax:

In Mikel v. Commissioner, [T.C. Memo. 2015-64 (2015),] the court ruled against the Internal Revenue Service and allowed a New York couple to use Crummey trusts—named after a Methodist minister who was the plaintiff in a 1968 case—to make tax-free transfers of $1.6 million without dipping into their lifetime gift-tax exemptions.

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May 23, 2015 in New Cases, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Robert De Niro to NYU Grads: ‘You’re F—ked'

De NiroNew York Post Page Six, Robert De Niro to NYU Grads: ‘You’re F—ked’:

Hollywood heavyweight Robert De Niro delivered a heavy dose of reality to graduates of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts — telling them, “You made it. And, you’re f–ked.”  ...

Other NYU grads had brighter prospects, he added.

“The school of medicine graduates, each will get a job,” he said. Law school grads will too, he said, adding that if they don’t, “Who cares? They’re lawyers!”

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May 23, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

The IRS Scandal, Day 744

IRS Logo 2Federal News Radio,  Why Koskinen Says the IRS Won't Cause Another Scandal:

The IRS has gotten rid of bad policies, created new ones and stepped up oversight since a political scandal thrust its tax-exempt group into the spotlight two years ago.  

recent report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration confirmed the agency had made significant progress since the watchdog office sounded the alarm in May 2013.

But going forward, it's the IRS' people, rather than its rules, who will keep the agency out of trouble, Commissioner John Koskinen said in an interview on In Depth with Francis Rose.

"Every employee should view themselves as a risk manager and if they see a problem--see something not going the way it ought to or not in the way we expected--then they should feel empowered to raise their hand and make sure somebody knows about that," he said. "I really do think that bad news is good news. As I tell employees, the only problem we can't fix — can't solve — is one that we don't know about." 

Since taking office in December 2013, Koskinen said he had met personally with 14,000 IRS employees to encourage them to speak up if they spy trouble. He acknowledged that employees worry about retribution from their supervisors.

"As I tell the employees, we don't shoot the messenger. We reward the messenger. It's important for them to feel comfortable with that," he said. "I've tried to reassure managers if there's a problem in their area and someone's made a mistake, then we're

While the new IG report lends credence to Koskinen's claims that the IRS has changed, conservatives remain wary. Since the IRS was accused of unfairly scrutinizing tea-party groups' applications for tax-exempt status, Republicans have led Congress in cutting the agency's budget dramatically.

Now Koskinen is asking for an 18-percent increase to restore the budget to a level he describes as steady and sustainable, but Republicans have described as "astronomical" and "massive".

"There's a lot of focus in the appropriations process on things that have happened in the past and I've tried to get them to understand that we have fixed those problems," he said. 

The IRS has cut convention spending by 80 percent. Koskinen personally authorizes any training or events that cost more than $20,000, he said. Expensive videos— a Star Trek parody had been a source of ridicule a few years ago — are relics of the past, he said. The agency now has a video review board. It also no longer offers performance awards to employees who have had past performance issues or problems with their taxes.

"It's a new day at the IRS in the context of most of the discussion people have had about prior problems," he said. "They need to understand we took those prior problems seriously and we fixed them."

But is that enough to convince Congress? 

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May 23, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal | Permalink | Comments (3)

Friday, May 22, 2015

Fleischer: Yahoo's Tricky Plan for Tax-Free Spinoff of Alibaba Stock

NY Times Dealbook (2013)New York Times Deal Book:  Yahoo's Tricky Plan for Tax-Free Spinoff of Alibaba Stock, by Victor Fleischer (San Diego):

I bet Marissa Mayer wishes she had minored in corporate taxes.

Ms. Mayer, Yahoo’s chief executive, studied computer science at Stanford, specializing in artificial intelligence. If only there was an algorithm to devise a tax-efficient corporate restructuring. Machine learning cannot sort through an infinite number of strategic tax options and choose the best one. Nor can machines reliably predict how the human beings at the I.R.S. will apply uncertain law to a complex area like corporate tax.

And the tax code, not computer code, is what Yahoo’s shareholders care about.

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May 22, 2015 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Weekly Tax Roundup

Weekly Legal Education Roundup

Weekly SSRN Tax Roundup

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May 22, 2015 in Scholarship, Tax, Weekly SSRN Roundup | Permalink | Comments (0)

Weekly Student Tax Note Roundup

Weekly RoundupConor Clarke (J.D. 2015, Yale) & Edward Fox (J.D. 2015, Yale), Note, Perceptions of Tax Expenditures and Direct Spending: A Survey Experiment, 124 Yale L.J. 1252 (2015):

This paper presents the results of an original survey experiment on whether the public prefers “tax expenditures” to “direct outlays” — that is, whether members of the public are more likely to support government spending that takes the form of a tax credit rather than a check or cash. Using a survey that spans a wide variety of policy areas — and with important variations in wording and information — we show that the public strongly prefers tax expenditures even when the “economic substance” of the proposed policies is identical. We also show that the public views tax expenditures as less costly than equivalent direct outlays. These results support a longstanding but largely unstudied hypothesis that tax expenditures “hide” the costs of government spending, and have implications for why tax expenditures have continued to grow in size and complexity.

May 22, 2015 in Scholarship, Tax, Weekly Student Tax Note Roundup | Permalink | Comments (0)

Yelp Law School Rankings

YelpChicagoInno,  Yelp Launches First TV and Digital Ads, Pointing Out You Can Rate Law Schools:

Would you ever use Yelp to choose a law school?

Whether you would or not, Yelp wants you to know you can.

The San Francisco, Calif.-based reviews company has long been known for its star ratings and customer review features. Mostly it has been used as a tool to find quick info about a local business-- hours, location, BYOB-- and largely restaurant and bar focused. Now Yelp is launching its first round of TV and digital ads, which specifically point out the site can help you choose a university (as well as where to get the best margarita to celebrate your degree).

An ad currently playing on Pandora lays out this new push:

"Let's say you're hungry for justice, want to study to become a lawyer and don't mind paying off hundreds of thousands of dollars of student loans," said a man in the ad. "We know just the place."

A search for "law schools" near "Chicago, IL" showed that all the major law schools in the area have Yelp pages and a handful of reviews. University of Chicago's Law School has a perfect 5 star rating (from three reviews) while John Marshall College of Law averages three stars (with a total of eight reviews).

A search for "law schools" near "Los Angeles, CA"  yields these result:

5Pepperdine (2 reviews), UCLA (6 reviews)

 

4.5UC-Irvine (3 reviews), USC (5 reviews)

 

4Loyola-L.A. (11 reviews)

 

3.5Western State (15 reviews), Whittier (15 reviews)

 

3Southwestern (22 reviews)

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May 22, 2015 in Law School Rankings, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

IRS To Give Loving Refunds

RTRPIRS, Registered Tax Return Preparer Test Fee Refunds (May 21, 2015):

The IRS is refunding the fees that return preparers paid for the Registered Tax Return Preparer test. Letters will be mailed to refund recipients on May 28 and checks will be mailed on June 2. Return preparers took the test between November 2011 and January 2013 and paid a fee of $116. About 89,000 tests were paid for and taken, with some preparers taking the test more than once.

The refunds are being made because the federal courts determined in Loving v. IRS [742 F.3d 1013 (D.C. Cir. 2014)] that the IRS lacked authority to mandate testing.

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May 22, 2015 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

<4% Chance That Lawyer, Professor Jobs Will Be Replaced By Technology

NPR LogoNPR, Will Your Job Be Done By A Machine?:

Machines can do some surprising things. But what you really want to know is this: Will your job be around in the future?

We have the "definitive" guide.

Researchers took a shot at estimating how technology will affect the job market in 20 years. Find your job below to see what the data say about your future.

Lawyers

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May 22, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (2)

Brennan & McDonald: Deconstructing the Taxation of Packaged Financial Strategies

Thomas Brennan (Harvard) & Robert McDonald (Northwestern), Deconstructing the Taxation of Packaged Financial Strategies:

Financial claims are often taxed according to the way in which they are nominally “packaged” rather than according to their economic characteristics. We deconstruct financial taxation by viewing any financial strategy as a dynamic portfolio of pure debt and pure equity. Given the taxation of these building blocks, there is a unique consistent equivalent tax treatment for any strategy, and this transparent tax is a benchmark against which burdens or subsidies due to packaging can be measured. We quantify tax effects in present value terms in the context of a partial equilibrium model. We apply our methodology to common hybrid securities, such as convertible bonds and reverse convertible bonds. We find tax-induced discrepancies of up to about up to about 6% of value (i.e., 20 basis points per year) for typical 30-year convertible bonds. With unfunded securities, such as puts and calls, the discrepancy becomes much larger in percentage terms. Because these unfunded positions are levered, however, investors do not buy as many of them, and the discrepancy in aggregate absolute terms is therefore likely not so much greater. In our framework, the discrepancy can be eliminated either by taxation based on an ongoing determination of building block equivalents or else by eliminating distinctions in taxation among the building blocks. In particular, this would require eliminating the tax distinction between debt and equity.

May 22, 2015 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 743

IRS Logo 2Government Executive, Advocacy Group: IRS' Problems 'Won't Be Cured by Removing Lois Lerner':

Following months of Freedom of Information Act requests, a team of conservative lawyers has sought to rewrite the narrative of the targeting controversy that has plagued the Internal Revenue Service for two years.

In a report leaked to National Review, the nonprofit legal group Cause of Action concluded that employees who mishandled applications for tax-exempt status were following the official agency manual as much as they were their allegedly politicized bosses. The unreleased 35-page report challenges the explanations for the mishandling of applications offered by the congressional Republicans, the White House and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. ...

Cause of Action’s 35-page report is said to conclude that the Internal Revenue Manual must be fundamentally reformed in order to prevent future targeting. “While there are certainly complex or new issues that would warrant or even require an employee to elevate the issue to a manager, the IRS’ desire to be portrayed in a positive light by the media is certainly not one of those issues.”

Reached by Government Executive, Cause of Action leader Daniel Epstein said his group’s “findings, to-date, indicate that the IRS has exercised discretion in ways that incentivize staff to engage in misinterpretations of the law and, in some cases, misconduct.  We believe congressional oversight is crucial on these and other IRS-related matters Cause of Action has examined and agree with the claims of many that a special counsel is appropriate.”

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May 22, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

Thursday, May 21, 2015

NYU Symposium: Tax And Corporate Social Responsibility

NYUSymposium, Tax and Corporate Social Responsibility, 11 N.Y.U. J.L. & Bus. 1-189 (2014):

Articles

Proceedings

Panel 1:  Should Corporations Pay Tax?,  11 N.Y.U. J.L. & Bus. 125 (2014)

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May 21, 2015 in Conferences, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Merritt: Compliance Jobs And Law School Reform

Compliance 2Deborah Jones Merritt (Ohio State), Campbell on Compliance:

Compliance is one of the 'hot" alternative jobs that law schools are promoting for their graduates. Much of this discussion, unfortunately, pays little heed to the nature of compliance jobs and whether legal education really prepares students to do this work well. The two seem to fit. After all, compliance is all about obeying the law, and JDs know a lot of law. The equation, though, isn’t that simple.

Ray Worthy Campbell explores these issues as one part of a rewarding new paper, The End of Law Schools. Although the title is provocative, and Campbell warns law schools of continued upheaval in the profession, the paper’s thesis is forward looking and upbeat. Campbell urges law schools to reinvent themselves as “schools of the legal professions.”

As part of that analysis, Campbell offers the best discussion I’ve seen of the difference between compliance and traditional law practice. His insights parallel those I’ve heard from contemporary general counsels, which is not surprising since Campbell has extensive practice experience. Educators who are contemplating the addition of compliance courses to the law school curriculum, or who just want to understand this area, should read Campbell’s exposition carefully.

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May 21, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Todres: Tax Shelters And Tax Malpractice

Jacob L. Todres (St. John's), Bad Tax Shelters -- Accountability or the Lack Thereof: Ten Years of Tax Malpractice, 66 Baylor L. Rev. 602 (2014):

In the 1990’s and early 2000’s the tax landscape in the United States was overrun by an epidemic of tax shelters that was unprecedented. The shelters were designed and sold by seemingly reputable large accounting and law firms. The same shelters were sold to many taxpayers. They became generic, off-the-shelf, products. However, the tax shelters had no business substance. The shelters were eventually found to be invalid by the courts. In light of the invalidity of the shelters, the large fees paid for the shelters and the large damages caused by participating in the invalid shelters, there were predictions that many malpractice suits against the sellers of the shelters would ensue.

For this article I attempted to determine whether the predicted wave of tax malpractice suits occurred and what impact, if any, resulted in the area of tax malpractice litigation.

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May 21, 2015 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

New University Of Texas President Rejects 'Vulgar' Salary Slurped Up By His Counterparts At Other Colleges

Texas LogoNew York Times op-ed:  Platinum Pay in Ivory Towers, by Frank Bruni:

Gregory Fenves recently got a big promotion, from provost to president of the University of Texas at Austin. A raise came with it. Instead of his current base of about $425,000, he was offered $1 million.

And he rejected it — as too much. ... He suggested, and agreed to, $750,000.

That’s hardly chump change. But in the context of the shockingly lucrative deals that have become almost commonplace among college presidents, the sum — or, more precisely, the sentiment behind it — is worthy of note and praise.

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May 21, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (10)

Sugin: Strengthening Charity Law With Advance Rulings

Linda Sugin (Fordham), Strengthening Charity Law: Replacing Media Oversight with Advance Rulings for Nonprofit Fiduciaries, 89 Tul. L. Rev. ___ (2015):

This Article considers three urgent challenges facing the charitable community and its state regulators: too little fiduciary duty law for nonprofits, the rise of media enforcement of wrongdoing in charities, and an inherent tension in the state’s dual role as enforcer and protector of the nonprofit sector. It analyzes whether the scarcity of law is really a problem by comparing nonprofit organizations with business organizations and concludes that charities lack the self-enforcement mechanisms of businesses and therefore need more government guidance. It evaluates whether the media has made governmental supervision obsolete and expresses skepticism about the press displacing state oversight. The solution presented, an advance-ruling procedure for fiduciary duty questions, proposes that states shift their focus from better enforcement against wrongdoers ex post to better charity governance ex ante by devoting more attention and resources to assisting well-meaning charity directors in carrying out their fiduciary obligations.

May 21, 2015 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Brunson: Will Supreme Court's Same-Sex Marriage Decision Cost BYU Its Tax Exemption?

BYU (2015)By Common Consent:  Obergefell and BYU’s Tax Exemption, by Samuel Brunson (Loyola-Chicago):

On April 28, the Supreme Court heard arguments in Obergefell v. Hodges, which challenged both the constitutionality of state bans on same-sex marriage and of states’ nonrecognition of same-sex marriages performed in other states.

By the end of June, the Justices will have decided and we’ll know the constitutional status of same-sex marriage bans in the United States. But that doesn’t mean all questions will be resolved; in fact, an exchange between Chief Justice Roberts, Justice Alito, and Solicitor General Verrilli piqued the interest of a lot of people, especially those invested in religious educational institutions. 

During the course of oral arguments, Chief Justice Roberts said to General Verrilli:

We have a concession from your friend that clergy will not be required to perform same-sex marriage, but there are going to be harder questions. Would a religious school that has married housing be required to afford such housing to same-sex couples?

A little later, Justice Alito followed up with this:

Well, in the Bob Jones case, the Court held that a college was not entitled to tax-exempt status if it opposed interracial marriage or interracial dating. So would the same apply to a university or a college if it opposed same-sex marriage?

General Verrilli responded,

You know, I—I don’t think I can answer that question without knowing more specifics, but it’s certainly going to be an issue. I—I don’t deny that. I don’t deny that, Justice Alito. It is—it is going to be an issue.

So is General Verrilli right? At least some corners of the media seem to think he is, that a ruling in favor of same-sex marriage will mark the end of religious schools’ tax exemption, if not of religious schools as we know them.

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May 21, 2015 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Brunson & Herzig: The NFL Should Not Be Able To Give Up Its Tax-Exempt Status Without Paying An Exit Tax

NFLForbes:  Penalty For Holding: Why The NFL Should Be Forced To Keep Its Tax Exemption, by Samuel Brunson (Loyola-Chicago) & David Herzig (Valparaiso):

Many people think there are too many tax-exempt entities.  Every time news breaks that there are tax-exemptions for fraternities, golf clubs, and social clubs there seems to be general outrage. So most people welcomed the National Football League’s announcement that it was giving up its tax-exempt status, seeing the announcement as the end of an unnecessary taxpayer subsidy. It turns out, though, that it is not that simple. Either the NFL was not providing a public good and should not have been granted the status in the first place, or if the NFL wants to be for profit, then the benefits of the tax exemption should be recaptured, e.g., with an exit tax.

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May 21, 2015 in Celebrity Tax Lore, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Five Law Schools Drop The LSAT For Top Applicants

LSATBloomberg, More Law Schools Drop the LSAT for Top Applicants:

The piecemeal retreat from the Law School Admission Test is gaining momentum.

The University of Hawaii said this month it would drop the LSAT for some applicants, joining a growing number of law schools around the country trying to make it simpler for high-achieving students to enroll. The schools are taking advantage of new rules issued in August by the ABA that let law schools fill 10 percent of their classes with people who have not taken the LSAT but have done very well in college and on other standardized tests, such as the SAT. ...

All five of the schools that have dropped the exam for some applicants [Drake, Hawaii, Iowa, SUNY-Buffalo, St. John's] have seen their enrollments plunge in recent years.

Bloomberg

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May 21, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (3)

Grewal: Yet Another Example Of The IRS Disregarding The Plain Text of ObamaCare

Yale Journal on Regulation Blog:  More Unlawful ACA Premium Tax Credits, by Andy Grewal (Iowa):

I might be accused of picking at low-hanging fruit, but I’d nonetheless like to devote another blog post to more IRS regulations that expand and contradict Section 36B. My prior blog posts, which I’ve adapted into an essay upcoming in Bloomberg BNA, discuss regulations that improperly extend ACA premium tax credits to persons in the Medicare coverage gap and to some unlawful aliens. In this post, I want to highlight regulations that improperly penalize employers and that give credits to taxpayers already enrolled in employer-sponsored minimum essential coverage. ...

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May 21, 2015 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)