TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Friday, July 14, 2017

NY Times:  California Supreme Court Moves To Make Bar Exam Easier To Pass

California Bar ExamFollowing up on Wednesday's post, California Supreme Court Strips Authority Of Bar Examiners To Set Cut Score; Lower Cut Score May Apply Retroactively To July Test-Takers:  New York Times, California Supreme Court Moves to Make Bar Exam Easier to Pass:

California has long had a reputation for having one of the most difficult bar exams in the country. Now, with passage rates sagging, the state will make it easier to pass the test, which is required to be licensed as a practicing lawyer.

The California Supreme Court, the ultimate authority over the bar exam, has decided to change the way the certification score is set. The court has not yet decided where the threshold will be set, but the changes will take effect in January.

The move follows a sometimes furious debate in California legal circles over whether the state’s passing score, or “cut score” — 144 — was unrealistic. ...

Last year, just 62 percent of first-time test takers passed the California bar exam, compared with 83 percent in New York.

And only 51 percent of the graduates of the University of California Hastings College of the Law passed the state’s exam in July 2016. That result, the school’s dean, David L. Faigman, wrote the California Committee of Bar Examiners last December, was “outrageous and constitutes unconscionable conduct on the part of a trade association that masquerades as a state agency.”

“The cut score is almost everything,” said Robert Anderson, a professor of corporate law at Pepperdine School of Law in California, who did a study of the 10 most difficult state exams in 2013. That study concluded that “California’s is probably the most difficult” in the country. “If California changed its minimum score to 133, which is the same as New York’s, then I would say, California’s is easy,” he added. (Delaware’s passing score is 145.)

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July 14, 2017 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tesla’s Sales Stall In Hong Kong As Tax Breaks End. Could The U.S. Be Next?

TeslaWashington Post: Tesla’s Sales Stall in Hong Kong as Tax Breaks End. Could the U.S. be Next? 

Tesla’s sales appear to be stalling in Hong Kong.

According to data from the city’s transportation department that was analyzed and first reported by the Wall Street Journal, not a single newly purchased Tesla model was registered in April after the government in March announced changes to the tax benefits customers can get from buying the electric cars. ...

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July 14, 2017 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Dean Andy Morriss On Law School Innovation

MorrissFollowing up on my previous post, Andy Morriss Steps Down As Texas A&M Law School Dean To Lead New School Of Innovation:  Law.com, Law Dean Who Helped Texas School Shine Takes on 'Innovation' Role:

Andrew Morriss oversaw the transformation and dramatic rise in the rankings of the former Texas Wesleyan School of Law into the Texas A&M School of Law. He was the first dean hired by Texas A&M after it bought in 2013, and since then the school has steadily risen from U.S. News & World Report’s unranked tier to claim the No. 92 spot—an almost unheard of ascent.

Now, the university has a new challenge for Morriss: heading up a brand new School of Innovation at its main campus in College Station, a gig he will assume Aug. 1.

Legal academics generally aren’t known as innovators. After all, modern law school largely follows the case method format pioneered by Christopher Columbus Langdell at Harvard Law School more than 120 years ago. But Morriss introduced a steady stream of changes at the Fort Worth law school intended to make it more competitive and relevant in today’s legal market.

We spoke with Morriss about what a school of innovation is, the changes at Texas A&M’s law school, and the need for legal educators to embrace new ways of teaching and structuring their law schools. His answers have been edited for length.

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July 14, 2017 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (2)

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Ranking The States By Fiscal Condition

ABA May Add Gender Identity, Ethnicity To Law School Accreditation Diversity Rules

ABA Section On Legal Education (2016)ABA Journal, ABA Committee Weighs Adding Gender Identity, Ethnicity to Law School Accreditation Diversity Rules:

Proposed revisions to add gender identity and ethnicity to existing rules regarding diversity, nondiscrimination and equal opportunity are being considered by the Standards Review Committee of the ABA’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar at its July 15 meeting in Chicago.

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July 13, 2017 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

George Washington Seeks To Hire A Junior Tax Prof

George Washington Law Logo (2016)George Washington seeks to hire a Tax Prof with 0-2 years of experience.  For more information or to apply, email Faculty Appointments Committee Chair Catherine Ross or Faculty Appointments Committee Member (and Tax Prof) Karen Brown.

July 13, 2017 in Legal Education, Tax, Tax Prof Jobs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Fall 2018 Law School Admissions Season Opens With A Bang: LSAT Test-Takers Increased 19.8% In June, The Biggest Jump In 8 Years

LSACThe number of LSAT test-takers rose 19.8% in June, the first test administration in the 2017-18 admissions season.  The 19.8% increase is the biggest increase since the September/October 2009 test administration and comes on the heels of a 3.3% increase in 2016-17 and a 4.1% increase in 2015-16,  which followed five consecutive years of declines.

LSAC 2

LSAC also has announced that "As of 7/7/17, there are 350,205 applications submitted by 54,871 applicants for the 2017–2018 academic year. Applicants are down 0.5% and applications are up 1.2% from 2016–2017. Last year at this time, we had 98% of the preliminary final applicant count."

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July 13, 2017 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (8)

Google Wins $1.3 Billion French Tax Case

The Case For An ABA Accreditation Standard On Employment Outcomes

Scott F. Norberg (Florida International; Former Deputy Managing Director, ABA Section of Legal Education and Admission to the Bar (2011-14)), The Case for an ABA Accreditation Standard on Employment Outcomes:

Students graduating from American Bar Association (ABA)-accredited law schools over the past ten years have faced a declining entry-level legal employment market, stagnant or decreased starting salaries, and increased tuition debt burdens. While most law schools report strong legal employment rates, some consistently place fewer than 40 or 50 percent of their graduates in law jobs (roughly defined as those full-time, long-term jobs for which bar passage is required or the J.D. degree is an advantage in obtaining or performing the job) within 9-10 months after graduation. At least partly in response to the declining legal employment market, law school applications and enrollments have decreased sharply in the past six years. However, some law schools with persistently very weak graduate employment outcomes have lowered admissions standards in order to minimize reduction in class sizes. In doing so, they almost inevitably exacerbate existing problems because their bar passage rates suffer and their graduates’ employment prospects are further diminished.

SN1

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July 13, 2017 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (5)

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

American University Provost Denies Tenure To Latina Prof Based On Standard Deviation Of Her Student Evaluations, Rather Than Relying On The 'Tyranny Of The Mean'

BrownInside Higher Ed, Student-Evaluated Out of Tenure:

Carolyn Brown, an assistant professor of journalism at American University, says it’s her ethical duty to hold her students to high standards, especially the kinds of firm deadlines they’ll face in their careers. So she wonders why American is denying her tenure over some moderately lower than average student evaluations of her teaching, which she says are linked to her at-times unpopular rigor — not poor teaching.

So do many of her colleagues, who have appealed to Scott Bass, provost, on her behalf. “Denying her tenure after six years based on the clearly specious basis of teaching evaluations is clearly wrongheaded,” John C. Watson, associate professor and director of the journalism division, said this week. “That’s as a matter of principle, and more specifically in terms of what’s happening at the university today.”

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July 12, 2017 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (12)

Colinvaux:  Donor Advised Funds — Charitable Spending Vehicles For 21st Century Philanthropy

Roger Colinvaux (Catholic), Donor Advised Funds: Charitable Spending Vehicles for 21st Century Philanthropy, 92 Wash. L. Rev. 39 (2017):

The donor advised fund (DAF) is changing longstanding giving norms in United States philanthropy. DAF contributions now account for around 8.4% of giving by individuals in the U.S. Over half of those contributions go to national DAF sponsors that have relationships with large commercial investment firms like Fidelity, Vanguard, and Schwab. This Article seeks to advance the understanding of the donor advised fund and to address two of the main policy questions: whether to require a mandatory distribution of funds by DAFs and their sponsoring organizations and how to respond to the increased use of DAFs for noncash charitable contributions.

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July 12, 2017 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

New Dean Wants To Make Mercer Georgia's 'Premier Law School'

MercerThe Telegraph, New Dean Wants to Make Mercer the State’s ‘Premier Law School’:

Cathy Cox has returned to the roots of her legal career. As the new dean of Mercer University’s Walter F. George School of Law, she wants to help take the institution she loves to the next level. ...

“(Macon) has really grown a lot since I was in school here, but my husband, Mark, and I are really glad to be a part of this community and look forward to getting involved in a lot of things,” Cox said. “I really want to make sure that Mercer stands out as the premier law school in this state."

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July 12, 2017 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (3)

California Supreme Court Strips Authority Of Bar Examiners To Set Cut Score; Lower Cut Score May Apply Retroactively To July Test-Takers

Netanya Hosts 4th International Roundtable Today On Taxation And Tax Policy

WSJ:  Paying Law Professors — Inside Google’s Academic Influence Campaign

GoogleWall Street Journal, Hidden Influence | Paying Professors: Inside Google’s Academic Influence Campaign:

Google operates a little-known program to harness the brain power of university researchers to help sway opinion and public policy, cultivating financial relationships with professors at campuses from Harvard University to the University of California, Berkeley.

Over the past decade, Google has helped finance hundreds of research papers to defend against regulatory challenges of its market dominance, paying $5,000 to $400,000 for the work, The Wall Street Journal found.

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July 12, 2017 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Oh:  Will Tax Reform Be Stable?

Jason S. Oh (UCLA), Will Tax Reform Be Stable?, 165 U. Pa. L. Rev. 1159 (2017) (review by Leigh Osofsky (Miami) here):

Stability is essential to any reform’s success, yet it is hardly guaranteed. This is particularly true in tax policy, where Congress persistently tinkers. This Article offers a novel approach to studying the stability of reform proposals in taxation. Any reform proposal can be decomposed into its constituent policies. I show that politically extreme policies are more likely to be reversed than are moderate ones. This basic intuition allows one to decompose any tax reform proposal into stable and unstable pieces.

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July 11, 2017 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Charleston Law School's Unexpected Rebound

Charleston Logo (2017)preLaw, Charleston Law's Unexpected Rebound:

Just two years ago, Charleston School of Law was on the brink of failing. Enrollment numbers were dwindling. Its financial health was in peril. Graduate’s debt to income ratios were high. Above all, the school was beleaguered by a controversial pending sale to a private company.

But the for-profit law school has rebounded and improved at an unexpected rate. By making a series of tough choices under the leadership of President Ed Bell, the law school has improved its financial standing and attracted more students to its urban campus in downtown Charleston.

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July 11, 2017 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (2)

WSJ:  In Face-off With IRS, The Boston Bruins Win Big

BruinsFollowing up on last month's post, The Boston Bruins (And Other Pro Sports Teams) Can Deduct 100% Of Meal Expenses At Away Games:  Wall Street Journal Tax Report, In Face-off With IRS, the Boston Bruins Win Big:

The Boston Bruins ruled the world of professional hockey six years ago when they last won the Stanley Cup. But the team’s victory last week over the Internal Revenue Service will likely resonate far beyond the rink.

In Jacobs v. Commissioner, [148 T.C. No. 24 (June 26, 2017),] the owners of the National Hockey League’s Bruins argued the team should be able to deduct 100% of the cost of certain meals they provided to players and staff. Under current law, only 50% of the cost of many business meals is tax-deductible.

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July 11, 2017 in Celebrity Tax Lore, New Cases, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Cotropia & Rozema:  Who Benefits From Repealing Tampon Taxes?

Christopher Anthony Cotropia (Richmond) & Kyle Rozema (Chicago), Who Would Benefit from Repealing Tampon Taxes? Empirical Evidence from New Jersey:

Many state and local governments exclude some medical products from the sales tax base, including some that are primarily used by men such as hair growth products. However, tampons and other menstrual hygiene products are subject to sales taxes in most states. A recent social movement advocates for the repeal of these “tampon taxes” on the grounds that tampon taxes (a) create an unequal tax burden between men and women because only menstruating women must pay a tax on products that men do not use, and (b) decrease the affordability of these necessary products, particularly for lower income women. To date, however, no empirical research has documented the extent that repealing tampon taxes would benefit women by lowering consumer prices, and how any tax benefit is distributed among women of different socio-economic backgrounds. It is possible that eliminating tampon taxes would lead to an increase in before-tax retail prices such that consumer prices for the products do not decrease by the full size of the repealed tax. This would imply that consumers and producers share the benefit of the tax repeal.

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July 11, 2017 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

The Moral Case For Renaming UC-Hastings Law School Due To 'Indian Hunting' By Serranus Hastings In The 1850s

UC Hastings LogoFollowing up on my previous post, UC-Berkeley Adjunct Calls For Renaming Boalt Hall Due To John Boalt's 1870s Anti-Chinese Racism:  San Francisco Chronicle op-ed:  The Moral Case for Renaming Hastings College of the Law, by John Briscoe (Adjunct Professor, UC-Hastings):

Between the first European “contact” in 1542 and 1834, the native Californian population dropped from 350,000 to 150,000. The causes of the population collapse were European diseases, abuse at the hands of the Spanish and suicides. After 1834, however, when the native population plummeted from 150,000 to 18,000, the cause was different: Indian hunting was sport for the mostly white gold-seekers and settlers. Indian-hunting raids nearly annihilated the population and had the added benefit of ridding the state of those who might assert their land rights, rights guaranteed under international law.

Serranus Clinton Hastings was promoter and financier of Indian-hunting expeditions in the 1850s. Hastings later founded Hastings College of Law in San Francisco, now the oldest law school in the state, and a part of the University of California system.

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July 11, 2017 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (9)

Norway’s ‘Voluntary’ Tax Plan Brings In Just $1,325

NorwayBloomberg, Norway’s ‘Voluntary’ Tax Plan Brings In Just $1,325:

Eager to pay more taxes? Then look no further than Norway.

Hammered by the opposition for slashing taxes and going on a spending spree with the country’s oil money, the center-right government has hit back with a bold proposal: voluntary contributions.

Launched in June, the initiative has received a lukewarm reception, with the equivalent of just $1,325 in extra revenue being collected so far, according to the Finance Ministry.

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July 11, 2017 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (4)

Monday, July 10, 2017

Lessons From Hamilton On Leaving A Legacy As A Law Professor Through Our Scholarship ('Skin In The Game') And Our Students ('Planting Seeds In A Garden You Never Get To See')

Hamilton 3Business Law Prof Blog:  Lessons on Teaching Law and Creating a Legacy from Hamilton: An American Musical, by Joshua Fershee (West Virginia):

As an unabashed and unapologetic fan of the Hamilton: An American Musical, a couple of analogies from this brilliant production seemed appropriate to convey my thoughts on law school and leaving a legacy. ...

To be effective, law professors must be engaged with their work, with their institution, and their students. This means, to me, engaging in scholarship, in some way, and sharing that work with the world.  As Alexander Hamilton tells Aaron Burr in The Room Where It Happens: 

When you got skin in the game, you stay in the game. But you don’t get a win unless you play in the game. Oh, you get love for it. You get hate for it. You get nothing if you … Wait for it, wait for it, wait!

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July 10, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (1)

NY Times:  Supreme Court May Use Tax Case To Narrow Definition Of 'Obstruction'

NY Times Dealbook (2013)New York Times DealBook:  What Constitutes Obstruction? A Tax Case May Narrow the Definition, by Peter J. Henning (Wayne State):

Prosecutors have enormous discretion in the American criminal justice system, aided greatly by catchall provisions in statutes.

Congress often adopts broadly worded laws to catch a wide range of conduct, especially for white-collar crimes, and regularly tacks on a section to catch actions that might otherwise slip through the cracks.

Over the past few years, the Supreme Court has shown a conspicuous concern when the Justice Department seemed to push the envelope of what constitutes a crime in a way that could reach ostensibly innocent acts, or at least conduct that does not deserve the severe punishment meted out under federal law.

Last week, the justices agreed to review the conviction of Carlo J. Marinello II for obstructing the administration of the tax laws, presenting another opportunity to cut back on the scope of white-collar prosecutions under a catchall section.

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July 10, 2017 in New Cases, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Robot Lawyers, 'Skills Training,' And Legal Education

Following up on Paul's follow up on Whittier Law School, my summer project has to do with the limits of artificial intelligence in the process of lawyering, and its impact on how and what we teach in law school.  (The Savannah Law Review is holding a provocative symposium on September 15, 2017 entitled The Rise of the Automatons.  The call for papers provoked me — see below.)

I want to connect three things here:  (a) the role of "machine lawyering" referred to in the discussion about Whittier, (b) the essay by Jay Finkelstein on "skills training" particularly in transactional law to which I provided a link a couple days ago (plus the  comments to the post), and (c) what I think about law schools of the future.  The punch line is that I hope to reveal just how radical I am as a futurist on the last point, even if, as I descend into my own dotage, I probably don't have the energy to carry off the revolution.  

Here's a teaser to get you past the break.  Law school curricula, by and large, are the educational versions of the Winchester Mystery House.  Sarah Winchester was the widow of the inventor of the Winchester repeating rifle.  It's been disputed, but some say she believed that unless she kept building rooms onto her house in San Jose, California, she would not appease the ghosts that were haunting her.  The result was a bizarre mansion, built haphazardly with no planning at all, containing doors and stairs that go nowhere, windows opening into other rooms, and stairs with irregular risers.  That is an apt metaphor for standard legal education, at least beyond the first year.  So if we were to redesign it from the ground up, in light of the possibility of robot lawyers, the cry for skills training, and the dilemma of law schools like Whittier, what would we do? 

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July 10, 2017 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

Caron & Testy:  The Quantity And Quality Of Law School Applicants

CaronTestyPaul L. Caron (Dean, Pepperdine) & Kellye Y. Testy (President & CEO, LSAC; Former Dean, University of Washington), Corrected Data: The Quantity and Quality of Law School Applicants:

We spent some time together at the recent ABA Deans Workshop in Washington, D.C. and discussed recent blog posts Paul had written about the declining quantity and quality of law school applicants.  These posts have attracted quite a bit of attention in the blogosphere and mainstream media.  Unfortunately, Paul relied on incomplete data on the Internet and conflated some of the reporting categories rather than using official LSAC data and categorization.  We want to set the record straight in this blog post and also announce a new initiative to ensure that accurate legal education data is more easily accessible by the law school community and the public.

The trend Paul reported — the decline in the number of law school applicants and the disproportionately greater decline in the higher LSAT score band — is correct.  But the rate of decline in the higher LSAT score band is less than Paul reported.  The highest scoring band has moved by 3%, from 29% to 26%, between 2010-11 and 2016-17.  The larger change, as we have all understood for some time, is in the overall number of applicants to law schools.  Here are the official LSAC data:

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July 10, 2017 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (10)

Call for Papers: University of North Carolina Tax Symposium

North Carolina Tax SymposiumThe University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler School of Business has issued a call for papers for its Twenty-First Annual Tax Symposium to be held April 21-22, 2018. The symposium "is designed to bring together leading tax scholars from economics, accounting, finance, law, political science, and related fields." The deadline for the call for papers is December 15, 2017:

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July 10, 2017 in Conferences, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

TaxProf Blog Weekend Roundup

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Howard Law School Finds Tenured Prof Guilty Of Sexual Harassment Due To Exam Question About A Client Receiving A Brazilian Body Wax

Howard (2017)Inside Higher Ed, Brazilian Wax Question Lands Professor In Hot Water:

Howard University has found a professor of law guilty of sexual harassment in relation to a 2015 test question involving Brazilian waxing. At first blush, it’s the kind of case that might anger even modest professors concerned about the rising tide of what’s been called campus illiberalism, or student calls for censorship of emotionally discomfiting speech.

But Reginald Robinson’s full question about a client who fell asleep during a wax and later alleged improper touching is rather graphic, with references to a “landing strip,” hairlessness from “belly button to buttocks" and more. Still, some free speech and academic freedom advocates are calling Howard’s response excessive: mandatory sensitivity training for Robinson, prior administrative review of his future test questions, classroom observation and a warning that any further violations of the university’s sexual harassment policies may result in termination.

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July 9, 2017 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (3)

The Top Five New Tax Papers

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 #5:

  1. [431 Downloads]  Family Limited Partnerships and Section 2036: Not Such a Good Fit, by Mitchell Gans (Hofstra) & Jonathan G. Blattmachr (Milbank, New York)
  2. [258 Downloads]  The Rise and Fall of the Destination-Based Cash Flow Tax: What Was That All About?, by Daniel Shaviro (NYU)
  3. [194 Downloads]  A Taxonomy for Tax Loopholes, by Heather Field (UC-Hastings)
  4. [152 Downloads]  Why Don't White Supremacists Pay Taxes?, by Eric Franklin Amarante (UNLV)
  5. [145 Downloads]  The Case against BEPS: Lessons for Coordination, by Mindy Herzfeld (Florida)

July 9, 2017 in Scholarship, Tax, Top 5 Downloads | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Sermon On The Mountain Of Cash: Using Tax Law To Curtail The Prosperity Gospel And Prevent Opportunists From 'Preying' On Vulnerable Parishioners

Jacob M. Bass, The Sermon on the Mountain of Cash: How to Curtail the Prosperity Scheme and Prevent Opportunists from “Preying” on Vulnerable Parishioners, 37 B.C.J.L. & Soc. Just. 147 (2017):

Many televangelists in the United States preach the “prosperity gospel,” a doctrine which teaches that a religiously faithful person who continually donates money to church ministries can expect God to grant material improvements to their finances, health, and relationships. Americans who participate in prosperity gospel churches often donate thousands of dollars to these churches, despite their difficulty financing such large donations and the lack of the promised material improvement to their lives. Televangelists who preach the prosperity gospel secretly use these donations to finance their extravagant lifestyles, instead of using the funds to support the faithful masses who continue to donate. The U.S. Constitution’s Free Exercise Clause makes it difficult to regulate this religiously-based scheme.

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July 9, 2017 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Saturday, July 8, 2017

This Week's Ten Most Popular TaxProf Blog Posts

NY Times:  Uber Improperly Reduced Drivers' Pay By $200m By Withholding New York State Taxes That Should Have Been Paid By Passengers

UberNew York Times, How Uber’s Tax Calculation May Have Cost Drivers Hundreds of Millions:

Drivers’ trip receipts contain signs that the ride-hailing service deducted hundreds of millions of dollars from drivers’ earnings in New York to pay state taxes.

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July 8, 2017 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Law Prof Files Discrimination Complaint Over Tenure Denial:  'Inferior Whites Advance On Campbell’s Faculty While Superior Blacks Are Blocked'

JonesFollowing up on my previous post, Black Law Prof Files Discrimination Complaint Over Tenure Denial: 'When Dr. King Called Sunday At 11 A.M. The Most Segregated Hour In America, He Could Have Just As Easily Referred To Law Faculty Meetings 50 Years Later':

News & Observer, Former Professor Claims Racial Discrimination at Campbell Law School:

A former law professor at Campbell University accused the school of racial discrimination on Facebook Live on Friday, saying African Americans don’t get tenure at Campbell.

Amos Jones made the assertions on Facebook and on a San Diego-based Christian radio broadcast. In a phone interview with The News & Observer on Friday, he said he was passed over for tenure and that his contract was not renewed. He left the school in May.

“They haven’t tenured a black in 11 years,” Jones said. “They cannot suddenly change that. Their record speaks for itself. ... They have a problem with hiring blacks and that will change, whether it’s me or not. They cannot continue to do that. The ABA expects more in their accreditation standards.”

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July 8, 2017 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (5)

Friday, July 7, 2017

Weekly SSRN Tax Article Review And Roundup

This week, Erin Scharff (Arizona State) reviews a recently posted article by Manoj Viswanathan (Hastings), The Hidden Costs of Cliff Effects in the Internal Revenue Code.  

Scharff (2017)Early on in my federal income tax class, I usually spend a bit of time with my students on the idea of the marginal tax rate.   The point I stress to them is that even as you earn more money and your tax rate goes up, you still take home more money working an additional hour than not working that hour.  I sometimes get the sense many of my students hadn’t understood that prior to my class.  

Of course, there’s a caveat to this simple marginal tax story:  the high marginal rates that result from cliff effects, particularly those in tax and spending programs aimed at addressing low-income Americans.  While I usually talk about these cliff effects when discussing the Earned Income Tax Credit, Manjoj Viswanathan’s recent work reminds me that these income-based cliff effects are pervasive in the Code.

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July 7, 2017 in Scholarship, Tax, Weekly SSRN Roundup | Permalink | Comments (0)

Weekly Legal Education Roundup

Tax Policy In The Trump Administration

Tax Reform Is Hard (#TRIH)

With the looming deadline on both the debt ceiling and the tax reconciliation bill (not to be confused with the ACHA reconciliation instructions), taxes and, hopefully, tax reform are moving to the top of the legislative agenda.   The rhetoric of tax reform is heating up.  Yesterday Paul Ryan tweeted:

Screen Shot 2017-07-06 at 9.43.05 AM

Speaker Ryan is not the only member of GOP leadership discussing tax reform.  News last week broke that Steve Bannon wants to raise the top bracket rate to a number that has ”a 4 in front of it”. So, the GOP continues to a least float the idea of substantive tax reform measures.  

I don't want to get too carried away about tax reform. Despite my optimism for "reform season," others does not seem to have the same zeal. First there is no "plan" to discuss.  Second, the House Appropriations Bill (which I wrote about at Surly) does not seem to be too keen on the chances of real reform measures.  For example, the Appropriations Bill addresses estate tax regulations and ACA penalties.  If the estate tax and the ACA are on the chopping block, then why worry about the measures in the Appropriations Bill?

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July 7, 2017 in Congressional News, Political News, Tax, Tax Analysts, Tax Policy in the Trump Administration, Tax Profs | Permalink | Comments (1)

Hamilton And Law School Deaning

Hamilton 2Surf Report, Right Hand Man: Caron and Hamilton:

Hamilton changed my life. I am not exaggerating when I say Lin Manuel-Miranda will be remembered as the William Shakespeare of our time.

Dean Caron first saw Hamilton last August. His daughter was beginning medical school, so he wanted to mark the moment by doing something special. Before seeing the play, his daughter had the soundtrack on repeat at home and in the car, so Caron was familiar with the lyrics. Not only does Caron believe that the play is “genius,” but he feels it’s a compelling musical metaphor for his tenure as dean. ... 

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July 7, 2017 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

National Taxpayer Advocate Blog: Private Debt Collection Program

Taxpayer Advocate (2016)National Taxpayer Advocate Blog: Private Debt Collection Program

Since 2004, when Internal Revenue Code (IRC) § 6306 was enacted as part of the American Jobs Creation Act, the IRS has had the statutory authority to outsource the collection of tax debt. The IRS exercised this authority in its prior private debt collection program from about 2006 to 2009, but the program was ended due to concerns about its return on investment. Congress amended the statute in 2015, and the IRS is now required to outsource collection of “inactive tax receivables.” Even with this Congressional mandate, as I explained in my 2016 Annual Report to Congress, and my recently released Fiscal Year 2018 Objectives Report to Congress, I believe the IRS has overstepped its statutory authority in implementing its current Private Debt Collection (PDC) initiative.

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July 7, 2017 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 6, 2017

'Is Whittier Law School An Outlier Or A Bellwether, A White Elephant Or A Canary In The Coal Mine?'

WhittierFollowing up on my previous posts on the closure of Whittier Law School (links below):  USA Today, Law Schools Hunker Down As Enrollment Slips:

Whittier Law School in California is closing its doors for good next spring, and students and faculty are stunned. It is, after all, a shocking milestone — to be the first ever accredited law school to shut down. ...

Future lawyers, heed this. Whittier's demise could be a sign of things to come.

As several trends hit the law profession — fewer graduates, fewer jobs and the specter of growing automation in legal services — experts say more law schools could take a hit.

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July 6, 2017 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (4)

Manhire Presents The Action Principle In Market Mechanics Today At University Of Warsaw

Manhire (2017)Tax Prof Jack Manhire (Texas A&M) presents his theory of market mechanics to physicists, economists, and mathematicians today at the 13th Econophysics Colloquium at the University of Warsaw:

This paper explores the possibility that asset prices, especially those traded in large volume on public exchanges, might comply with specific physical laws of motion and probability. The paper first examines the basic dynamics of price displacements in financial markets and finds one can model this dynamic as a harmonic oscillator at local “slices” of elapsed time via a homogeneous coordinate system. Based on this finding, the paper theorizes that price displacements are constrained, meaning they have extreme values beyond which they cannot go for defined periods.

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July 6, 2017 in Conferences, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Symposium:  WashULaw’s 150th Anniversary — Celebrating Our Faculty

Wash U (2017)Symposium, WashULaw’s 150th Anniversary: Celebrating Our Faculty, 53 Wash. U. J.L. & Pol'y 1-267 (2017):

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July 6, 2017 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

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 June 1, 2017) 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.)

69,648

Reuven Avi-Yonah (Mich.)

12,832

2

Michael Simkovic (USC)

36,521

Lily Batchelder (NYU)

9116

3

Paul Caron (Pepperdine)

33,215

Michael Simkovic (USC)

4082

4

D. Dharmapala (Chicago)

30,984

D. Dharmapala (Chicago)

4063

5

Louis Kaplow (Harvard)

28,232

Michael Graetz (Columbia)

3343

6

Vic Fleischer (San Diego)

23,802

Richard Ainsworth (BU)

3040

7

James Hines (Michigan)

22,930

Ed Kleinbard (USC)

2834

8

Ed Kleinbard (USC)

22,677

David Weisbach (Chicago)

2521

9

Richard Kaplan (Illinois)

22,126

Dan Shaviro (NYU)

2433

10

Ted Seto (Loyola-L.A.)

22,033

David Gamage (Indiana)

2404

11

Richard Ainsworth (BU)

21,058

Louis Kaplow (Harvard)

2226

12

Katie Pratt (Loyola-L.A.)

20,284

William Byrnes (Texas A&M)

2065

13

David Weisbach (Chicago)

19,398

Robert Sitkoff (Harvard)

1943

14

Robert Sitkoff (Harvard)

18,988

Paul Caron (Pepperdine)

1818

15

Brad Borden (Brooklyn)

18,342

Jeff Kwall (Loyola-Chicago)

1694

16

Carter Bishop (Suffolk)

18,148

Darien Shanske (UC-Davis)

1691

17

Francine Lipman (UNLV)

17,733

Omri Marian (UC-Irvine)

1648

18

Chris Sanchirico (Penn)

17,610

Francine Lipman (UNLV)

1600

19

Jen Kowal (Loyola-L.A.)

17,525

Jordan Barry (San Diego)

1599

20

Dan Shaviro (NYU)

17,320

Brian Galle (Georgetown)

1535

21

Bridget Crawford (Pace)

17,202

Bridget Crawford (Pace)

1529

22

Dennis Ventry (UC-Davis)

16,539

Steven Bank (UCLA)

1466

23

David Walker (BU)

15,674

Brad Borden (Brooklyn)

1403

24

Steven Bank (UCLA)

14,834

Vic Fleischer (San Diego)

1392

25

Gregg Polsky (Georgia)

13,972

Christopher Hoyt (UMKC)

1388

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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July 6, 2017 in Scholarship, Tax, Tax Prof Rankings | Permalink | Comments (0)

Pepperdine Seeks To Hire A Visiting LRW Professor

Pepperdine Law School (2017) (Logo) (High-Res).jpgPepperdine Seeks to Hire a Legal Research and Writing Visiting Professor (2017-18):

Pepperdine University School of Law seeks a Legal Research and Writing Visiting Professor for one year to teach for the 2017-2018 academic year. Applicants must have a J.D. from an ABA-accredited law school, have excellent academic credentials, be committed to teaching Legal Research and Writing, and support the goals and mission of the University. Applicants should have at least two to three years of post-J.D. experience in a position or positions requiring substantial legal writing. The position comes with a market-competitive salary, employment benefits, and the title of Assistant Visiting Professor of Legal Research and Writing.

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July 6, 2017 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (2)

NY Times:  After Killing Currency, Modi Takes A Leap With India’s Biggest-Ever Tax Overhaul

New York Times: After Killing Currency, Modi Takes a Leap With India’s Biggest-Ever Tax Overhaul:

For the second time in less than a year, the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is putting India through a revolution in the way the country does business.

In the fall, the government imposed one of the most radical monetary experiments ever, abruptly banning most of the country’s currency notes in an effort to stem corruption.

Now, it is instituting the country’s biggest tax overhaul since independence. On Saturday, a nationwide sales tax replaces the current hodgepodge of business taxes that vary from state to state and are seen as an impediment to growth. It is expected to unify in a single market 1.3 billion people spread over 29 states and seven union territories in India’s $2 trillion economy.

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July 6, 2017 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

WSJ:  Caterpillar Faces New Questions In Tax Probe

CaterpillarFollowing up on my previous posts:

Wall Street Journal, Caterpillar Faces New Questions in Probe:

Federal investigators believe Caterpillar failed to submit numerous required export filings with the government in recent years, adding to questions facing the manufacturing giant, people familiar with the matter said.

The findings are preliminary, these people said, but offer an avenue for investigators to examine whether missing export submissions were part of a possible effort by the Peoria, Ill.-based maker of yellow bulldozers, mining trucks and other heavy equipment to avoid paying taxes.

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July 5, 2017 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Finkelstein On How And Who To Teach Transactional Skills

What is the optimum mix (if there is to be a mix at all) in legal education as among theory, doctrine, and "skills"? And as to the "skills," who is going to teach them? And as to transactional skills, historically the least amenable to either simulation or clinic pedagogy, add "how" to the question of "who."  Oh, and by the way, what do law professors have against getting practitioners actively involved in both the "who" and the "how"?

Those are the subjects of a provocative article, Barriers to Entry: Putting it Together School by School (to be published in the Journal of Experiential Education) by Jay Finkelstein, a corporate and securities partner at DLA Piper in the D.C. area.

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July 5, 2017 in Legal Education, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (6)

NY Times:  Congress Tries To Stop The IRS From Enforcing Obamacare Mandate

New York Times, Congress Tries to Stop IRS From Enforcing Obamacare Mandate:

Congress is moving to prevent the Internal Revenue Service from enforcing one of the more unpopular provisions of the Affordable Care Act, which requires most Americans to have health insurance or pay a tax penalty.

The plan is separate from Republican efforts to repeal the health care law, and appears more likely to be adopted because it would be written into the annual spending bill for the Treasury and the IRS.

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July 5, 2017 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Andy Morriss Steps Down As Texas A&M Law School Dean To Lead New School Of Innovation

MorrissAndy Morriss is stepping down as Dean at Texas A&M to become Vice President for Entrepreneurship and Economic Development and lead a new School of Innovation — I-School — at Texas A&M. Andy was named the inaugural dean after Texas A&M acquired Texas Wesleyan Law School for $20 million in 2012 and received ABA approval in 2013. Andy was a transformative dean in his three short years, hiring a number of outstanding faculty (including two impressive tax hires), dramatically shrinking enrollment and reducing tuition, challenging other law schools to be more accountable in their admissions and bar passage practices, embracing a rigorous metrics-based approach for measuring and incentivizing faculty scholarship, and engineering an incredible ascent in the U.S. News Rankings, up 57 places in the overall ranking to 92 (from 149) and 50 places in the academic peer reputation ranking to 101 (to 2.2 from 1.7 (152)). From the press release:

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July 5, 2017 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (2)

Hemel On The NY Times' Front Page Assault On The Low-Income Housing Tax Credit

Daniel Hemel (Chicago), Is the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit “Keeping Cities Segregated”?:

The front page of the New York Times this morning features a full-frontal assault on the low-income housing tax credit, the largest federal subsidy for the development of affordable housing. The charge against the credit is that the housing units it subsidizes are “disproportionately built in majority nonwhite communities,” which “means . . . that the federal government is essentially helping to maintain entrenched racial divides.” The first part of that claim is indisputably true: developments receiving low-income housing tax credits are, indeed, disproportionately located in communities with large nonwhite populations. But it does not therefore follow that the federal government, through the credit, is perpetuating residential segregation. ...

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July 5, 2017 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)