TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron
Pepperdine University School of Law

Friday, May 13, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Days 1001-1100

May 13, 2016 in IRS Scandal | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1100

IRS Logo 2National Review, Re: Trump’s Time Bomb:

John Fund’s column today is, no matter what comes in the next few days, the most important column of the week, as it explains why Donald Trump’s weasel-like refusal to release his tax returns is a mortal danger to Republicans and conservatives nationwide — and suggests what should be done about it. John is absolutely right: Republicans, especially delegates, have every right not just to ask for, but to demand, the release of the returns before the convention. With a crew of Lois Lerners running the IRS, those returns surely will leak right after the nomination is made formal.

Mother Jones:  Corrupt IRS Spells Doom For Donald Trump Later This Year, by Kevin Drum:

That's right. The IRS is such a beehive of Democratic Party corruption that Hillary Clinton will have no trouble getting one of her moles to hand over the entire Trump record. Hell, she's probably done it already and is just waiting for the right time to start dribbling out explosive revelations. It's just the kind of things she'd do. Amirite or amirite.

Between left and right, I feel like I'm almost entirely enveloped by bizarre paranoia these days. Can we all just settle down and return to planet Earth for a while?

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May 13, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Brooks:  The Moral Foundation Of 'Grit'

GritFollowing up on Tuesday's post on Angela Duckworth (University of Pennsylvania), Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance (May 3, 2016)):  New York Times:  Putting Grit in Its Place, by David Brooks:

We all know why it exists, but the grade-point average is one of the more destructive elements in American education.

Success is about being passionately good at one or two things, but students who want to get close to that 4.0 have to be prudentially balanced about every subject. In life we want independent thinking and risk-taking, but the G.P.A. system encourages students to be deferential and risk averse, giving their teachers what they want.

Creative people are good at asking new questions, but the G.P.A. rewards those who can answer other people’s questions. The modern economy rewards those who can think in ways computers can’t, but the G.P.A. rewards people who can grind away at mental tasks they find boring. People are happiest when motivated intrinsically, but the G.P.A. is the mother of all extrinsic motivations.

The G.P.A. ethos takes spirited children and pushes them to be hard working but complaisant. The G.P.A. mentality means tremendous emphasis has now been placed on grit, the ability to trudge through long stretches of difficulty. Influenced by this culture, schools across America are busy teaching their students to be gritty and to have “character” — by which they mean skills like self-discipline and resilience that contribute to career success.

Angela Duckworth of the University of Pennsylvania is the researcher most associated with the study and popularization of grit. And yet what I like about her new book, “Grit,” is the way she is pulling us away from the narrow, joyless intonations of that word, and pointing us beyond the way many schools are now teaching it. ...

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May 12, 2016 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

CBPP:  State Estate Taxes Are A Key Tool For Broad Prosperity

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, State Estate Taxes: A Key Tool for Broad Prosperity:

As the income gap between the wealthiest Americans and those at the bottom and middle has widened in recent years, many states have eliminated their estate tax ― a key tool for reducing inequality and building broadly shared prosperity.  States that have eliminated their estate tax should reinstate it and those with an estate tax should keep it and, if needed, improve it.

CBPP

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May 12, 2016 in Tax, Think Tank Reports | Permalink | Comments (1)

Muller:  The Small Uptick In The Quantity And Quality Of The Law School Class Of 2019

Derek Muller (Pepperdine), What We Can Expect About Legal Education and the Class of 2019:

Much has been written about the "bottoming out" of the law school applicant pool, as schools have experienced a small uptick in applicants over last year. It's true. But I'll offer a few visualizations of where things stand this year for the incoming Class of 2019 and where it stands in relation to recent history.

Derek has four great visualizations showing the small uptick the quantity and quality (but not in the 150-54 and 155-59 bands) of LSAT test-takers, applicants, and (likely) matriculants.  Here is one of the visualizations:

Muller

Derek concludes:

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May 12, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (2)

Mitchell:  The Necessary And Valuable Economic Role Of Tax Havens

Daniel J. Mitchell (Cato Institute), The Necessary and Valuable Economic Role of Tax Havens:

Economists certainly don’t speak with one voice, but there’s a general consensus on two principles of public finance that will lead to a more competitive and prosperous economy.

To be sure, some economists will say that high tax rates and more double taxation are nonetheless okay because they believe there is an “equity vs. efficiency” tradeoff and they are willing to sacrifice some prosperity in hopes of achieving more equality.

I disagree, mostly because there’s compelling evidence that this approach ultimately leads to less income for the poor, but this is a fair and honest debate. Both sides agree that lower rates and less double taxation will produce more growth (though they’ll disagree on how much growth) and both sides agree that a low-tax/faster-growth economy will produce more inequality (though they’ll disagree on whether the goal is to reduce inequality or reduce poverty).

Since I’m on the low-tax/faster-growth side of the debate, this is one of the reasons why I’m a big fan of tax competition and tax havens.

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May 12, 2016 in Tax, Think Tank Reports | Permalink | Comments (2)

U.S. News:  Law Schools Offer Loan Assistance Programs To Debt-Burdened Grads

2017 U.S. News LogoU.S. News & World Report, Law Schools Offer Loan Assistance Programs to Debt-Burdened Grads:

Deciding between a law school with a generous scholarship and a school with a well-known loan assistance plan, 30-year-old Michael Kaercher made his choice based on the loan assistance plan provided after graduation.

"I thought that if I ended up at a firm, then I wouldn't miss the $100,000 in scholarships," says Kaercher, who graduated from Harvard Law School in 2010 and works as an attorney adviser at the IRS. "But if ended up going into the public sector and went to Harvard, then I'd qualify for this program."

Roughly half of law schools offer a loan assistance program to their graduates, but it's usually limited it to those in the public sector and has an income cap.

"Harvard has one of the most generous programs that I've seen based on their formula," says the fifth-year attorney, who receives $8,849 in loan assistance every six months from Harvard to pay his $220,000 law school debt. "You don't have to work for a 501(c)(3) or anything like that in order to be eligible. You just have to not make that much money."

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May 12, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

Chodorow:  Bitcoin And The Definition Of Foreign Currency

Florida Tax Review  (2015)Adam Chodorow (Arizona State), Bitcoin and the Definition of Foreign Currency, 19 Fla. Tax Rev. ___ (2016):

The IRS recently dealt a blow to Bitcoin enthusiasts by ruling that Bitcoin and other similar currencies should be treated as property – and not foreign currency – for income tax purposes. As a result, those who use bitcoins to purchase goods or services must report gain or loss on each transaction if the bitcoins have changed value between the time they were acquired and spent. Treating Bitcoin as a foreign currency would have permitted individuals to take advantage of the personal use exemption, which could facilitate Bitcoin’s adoption, and required taxpayers to adopt a formulaic system for tracking the basis of commingled bitcoins. The IRS’s decision seems correct as a matter of positive law, but laws can always be changed.

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May 12, 2016 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Law School Entry-Level Faculty Hiring Up 19%

NTA 46th Annual Spring Symposium:  Tax Policy At The Crossroads

The 46th Annual Spring Symposium on Tax Policy at the Crossroads: What Direction Next? hosted by the National Tax Association and American Tax Policy Institute kicks off today in Washington, D.C.  Today's highlight is the presentation of the Davie-Davis Award for Public Service to Leonard Burman (Director, Tax Policy Center; Professor, Syracuse University) by Daniel Shaviro (NYU).

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May 12, 2016 in Conferences, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Trump Won't Release Tax Returns Prior To Election

The 16% Of Americans Earning $100,000+ Pay 80% Of All Federal Income Taxes

Washington Free Beacon, Americans Earning Six Figures or More Pay Nearly 80% of Individual Income Taxes; These Earners Represent Only 16% of Individual Income Tax Filers:

Americans earning six figures or more paid 79.5 percent of the nation’s share in individual income taxes in 2014, according to the latest preliminary data from the Internal Revenue Service.

Americans paid a total of $1,358,093,169,000 to the IRS in individual income taxes in 2014. Americans earning $100,000 or more paid $1,079,392,180,000 to the IRS, or 79.5 percent of the total income tax paid.

While those top earners contributed almost four-fifths of the total amount of individual income taxes, they represented only 16 percent of the total number of individual income tax returns reported to the IRS. ...

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May 12, 2016 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (6)

Merritt:  The Real Resistance To Clinical Legal Education

Following up on yesterday's post, Robert Kuehn (Washington University), Clinical Costs — Separating Fact From Opinion:  Deborah Jones Merritt (Ohio State), Prices and Priorities:

We don’t favor LSAT scholarships over need-based ones because budgets force us to do so; we make that choice to pursue higher rankings. Similarly, we don’t cater to the demands of tenured research faculty, rather than expanding clinical education, because our budgets are limited. We make that choice because it suits us (the tenured faculty) and because we hope, once again, that our choice will propel higher rankings.

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May 12, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1099

IRS Logo 2Paul C. Barton (Tax Notes), Should Political Nonprofits Disclose More Frequently?:

Not only do many politically active nonprofits operate with dark money from undisclosed donors, but they carry out their work behind another shield, some say: the time lag before having to report their spending to the IRS.

Long before the IRS receives a politically oriented nonprofit's Form 990, "Report of Organization Exempt From Income Tax," the election involved will have come and gone. With easily available extensions, a nonprofit exempt under section 501(c)(4) can have up to 10-1/2 months after the end of its fiscal year before filing its return.

In an ideal world, say advocates of campaign finance reform, there would be more frequent and thorough disclosure of nonprofits' political spending. But, they say, that would require a Republican Congress, one already hostile to policing these groups, to change either the tax code, federal election law, or both. Meanwhile, there are some reports they have to file in a more timely fashion. For instance, they must report to the Federal Election Commission, sometimes in as little as 24 hours, after they pay for an ad that advocates the election or defeat of a candidate for federal office. A 24-hour disclosure rule also applies to some television or radio ads purchased within 30 days of a primary election or 60 days of a general election that mention specific candidates in the context of an issue but don't expressly advocate their election or defeat. These are called "electioneering communications."

Within a two-year federal election cycle, however, there could be spending on issue ads that fall outside those time windows, or on other ads easily construed as political, that are not included under political spending on Form 990. John Pomeranz of Harmon, Curran, Spielberg & Eisenberg LLP gave the example of ads that might feature Republican senators up for reelection this fall and that mention their refusal to consider the nomination of D.C. Circuit Chief Judge Merrick B. Garland to the Supreme Court.

As a result, Form 990 totals can fall far short of telling the whole story, complicating the all-important evaluation of whether nonprofits are spending less than half their budget on politics, the requirement for keeping their exempt status."There are things that almost anyone would acknowledge as having a possible impact on an election that the IRS might well agree are not reportable as political activity on the [Form] 990," Pomeranz told Tax Analysts.

Added Notre Dame law professor Lloyd Hitoshi Mayer: "I agree that the annual tax filing system is a poor fit with the frantic pace of electoral activities. By the time the IRS or the public receives the information, the relevant election is long past."

But Cleta Mitchell of Foley & Lardner LLP, who represents several conservative 501(c)(4) organizations, says the reporting on issue ads is done even if the communications are not election related. "These morons on the left act like" that rule has never been implemented, she said. ...

Mayer said neither the IRS nor Treasury is going to stick its neck out to change the system. "Even if in theory Treasury has the necessary authority, it would be subject to withering criticism from Congress and elsewhere if it tried to unilaterally impose additional filing requirements on politically active exempt organizations," he said.

But it's clear that the current system "makes it very hard for the IRS to identify any improper spending until after the election," said Lawrence M. Noble, general counsel for the Campaign Legal Center. ...

But Ellen Aprill, professor at Loyola Law School, cautions in a new article for the Pittsburgh Tax Review that Congress has so intertwined sections 527 and 501(c)(4) that any stepped-up regulation of the latter is going to require looking at the former [The Section 527 Obstacle to Meaningful Section 501(c)(4) Regulation, 13 Pitt. Tax Rev. 43 (2015)]. Many activities that are tax exempt for section 527 groups are limited for noncharitable 501(c)s and forbidden for 501(c)(3)s, she writes, adding, "Reconciling political campaign intervention under current law is fraught and difficult."

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May 12, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

More On The 'Grim' ABA Jobs Data For Law School Graduates

LSTKyle McEntee (Law School Transparency), How Law School Job Rates Changed This Year:

Last week, the American Bar Association released the latest law school employment data. The entry-level market for new graduates remains grim.

Nationally, the legal job rate is up slightly from 58% to 59.2% for 2015 graduates. However, the raw number of legal jobs declined to levels not seen since 2011. The number of new entry-level jobs at large firms, on the other hand, remains steady — although the types of jobs offered by large firms continue to diversify.

With fewer students enrolled today, jobs rates in 2016 and beyond should improve, even if the raw number of jobs continues to decline. But given that law schools still face significant financial pressure, administrators will be tempted to increase enrollment to keep the doors open. Current employment rates indicate that, for the vast majority of schools, that is not an equitable idea.

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May 11, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (8)

Sunstein:  Using Increased Chevron Deference To Combat Growing 'Partyism' In America

Cass R. Sunstein (Harvard), Partyism, 2016 U. Chi. Legal F. ___:

“Partyism” is a form of hostility and prejudice that operates across political lines. For example, some Republicans have an immediate aversive reaction to Democrats, and some Democrats have the same aversive reaction to Republicans, so much so that they would discriminate against them in hiring or promotion decisions, or in imposing punishment. If elected officials suffer from partyism – perhaps because their constituents do – they will devalue proposals from the opposing party and refuse to enter into agreements with its members, even if their independent assessment, freed from partyism, would be favorably disposed toward those proposals or agreements. In the United States, partyism has been rapidly growing, and it is quite pronounced – in some ways, more so than racism. It also has a series of adverse effects on governance itself, above all by making it difficult to enact desirable legislation and thus disrupting the system of separation of powers. Under circumstances of severe partyism, relatively broad delegations of authority to the executive branch, and a suitably receptive approach to the Chevron principle, have considerable appeal as ways of allowing significant social problems to be addressed. This conclusion bears on both domestic issues and foreign affairs.

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May 11, 2016 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Taxing Wealthy Colleges Would Do More Harm Than Good

Bloomberg View editorial, Taxing Wealthy Colleges Would Do More Harm Than Good:

America's universities have become behemoths -- the result of swelling donations, rising tuitions and growing anxiety among parents that their children cannot succeed without college degrees. None are flourishing more than the most elite private schools, eight of which have endowments of $10 billion or more.

These riches have set some members of Congress, state legislators and local residents thinking: Why are these enormous cash piles left untaxed and unregulated? The short answer is that it would undermine the good work that universities do to educate generations of Americans and energize the economy.  ...

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May 11, 2016 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Joint Tax Committee:  Overview Of The Federal Tax System

The Joint Committee on Taxation has released Overview Of The Federal Tax System As In Effect For 2016 (JCX-43-16):

This document ... provides a summary of the present-law Federal tax system as in effect for 2016. The current Federal tax system has four main elements: (1) an income tax on individuals and corporations (which consists of both a “regular” income tax and an alternative minimum tax); (2) payroll taxes on wages (and corresponding taxes on self-employment income) to finance certain social insurance programs; (3) estate, gift, and generation-skipping taxes, and (4) excise taxes on selected goods and services. This document provides a broad overview of each of these elements.

Joint Tax 1

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May 11, 2016 in Congressional News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Kwon:  The Criminality Of Tax Planning

Florida Tax Review  (2015)Michelle M. Kwon (Tennessee), The Criminality of Tax Planning, 18 Fla. Tax Rev. 153 (2015):

In recent years, the federal government has adopted an aggressive prosecution policy that targets tax advisors who help their clients evade taxes. Increased prosecutions coupled with the present-day sophistication of tax practice call for a critical examination of the willfulness standard applied to tax advisors who use the Code and Treasury regulations as part of their regular practices. This is something no previous legal scholarship has done.

To establish willfulness, the government must show that a person accused of a tax crime intentionally violated a known legal duty. Because knowledge of illegality is an element of the government's tax evasion case, prosecutors must negate a defendant's claim of ignorance or misunderstanding of the law, which is evaluated subjectively. The mistake of tax law defense and the knowledge of illegality standard are anomalies since ignorance of the law usually is not an excuse. The Supreme Court, however, has said that tax law is special due to the need to protect average citizens from prosecution for innocent mistakes made due to the complexity of the tax laws. The same high standard of willfulness that applies to average citizens also applies to tax professionals.

This Article aims to do two primary things. First, it demonstrates that consideration should be given to broadening the current willfulness standard as it is applied to tax advisors. Second, it evaluates the suitability of Samuel Buell and Lisa Kern Griffin's work on “consciousness of wrongdoing” as one possible approach to consider.

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May 11, 2016 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Winston Churchill:  'Serial Tax Avoider'

ChurchillThe Telegraph, Churchill a 'Serial Tax Avoider':

Sir Winston Churchill was a serial tax avoider who exploited loopholes and faked his own retirement in collusion with the chairman of Inland Revenue, his biographer has claimed.

David Lough, a historian and author, said Churchill had learned to use Inland Revenue as a "beast who can be tamed and bent" after finding himself in financial difficulties.

Not only did the politician pretend to retire in order to halve his tax bill, the author claimed, he persuaded the Revenue's young chairman to help him figure out a way to save his earnings for himself. ...

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May 11, 2016 in Celebrity Tax Lore, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Clausing:  Profit Shifting and U.S. Corporate Tax Policy Reform

Clausing
  Kimberly A. Clausing (Reed College), Profit Shifting and U.S. Corporate Tax Policy Reform:

This paper argues that the erosion of the U.S. corporate income tax base is a large policy problem. Profit shifting by U.S. multinational corporations is reducing U.S. government tax revenues by more than $100 billion each year, and other countries are facing similar concerns.

Figure 3

Yet given the starting point of the current U.S. corporate tax system, potential reformers face a dilemma. Reforms that would protect the U.S. corporate tax base may not find support in the multinational business community, which is more concerned with perceived competitiveness problems. But reforms that address competitiveness worries—such as the “toothless territorial” system that many in the multinational business community favor—would make the tax base erosion problem far worse.

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May 11, 2016 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

LoPucki:  Six-Hour Experiential Learning Accreditation Requirement Puts ABA On Collision Course With Ph.D.-Laden Law Faculties

National Law Journal op-ed:  With Ph.D. Hiring Trend, Who'll Help Law Students Find the Courthouse?, by Lynn M. LoPucki (UCLA):

The American Bar Association's adoption two years ago of an accreditation standard requiring law schools to provide students with six credit hours of experiential learning has put the ABA on a collision course with the tenure-track faculties of American law schools.

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May 11, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (6)

Kuehn:  Clinical Costs — Separating Fact From Opinion

Robert Kuehn (Washington University), Clinical Costs: Separating Fact From Opinion:

The late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once observed, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” When it comes to expanding clinical legal education, the knee-jerk opinion is that it is too expensive for legal education to follow the lead of other professional schools and ensure that every student graduates with a clinical experience through a law clinic or externship. Even the richest law schools couldn’t resist playing the cost card to scare the ABA out of requiring additional professional skills training: “Requiring all law schools to provide 15 experiential credit hours to each student will impose large costs on law schools, costs that would have to be passed on to students. . . . Even a law school with significant financial resources could not afford such an undertaking.”

Yet, the facts show otherwise — every school, from the well-heeled to the impecunious, can provide a clinical experience to each student without increasing tuition.

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May 11, 2016 in Legal Education, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (1)

IRS Employee Got Unemployment For 5 Years Before Anyone Noticed

IRS Logo 2The Daily Caller, IRS Employee Got Unemployment For 5 Years Before Anyone Noticed:

A former Internal Revenue Service (IRS) employee collected unemployment benefits for five years before anyone caught her, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ).

Yvonne E. Borders recently pleaded guilty to stealing government funds after collecting $18,550 in unemployment benefits from January 2009 through December 2013, while working for the U.S. Department of Treasury in New York.

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May 11, 2016 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Trigger Warnings For Oxford Law Students ‘Distressed’ By Crime In Criminal Law Class

Oxford (2016)HeatStreet, Trigger Warnings for Oxford Law Students ‘Distressed’ by Crime:

Oxford students studying criminal law have been told they can duck of lectures if they find the crimes they cover upsetting.

Aspiring barristers at the prestigious school now have the option of skipping teaching on “potentially distressing” acts if they do not feel up to it.

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May 11, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (13)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1098

IRS Logo 2Politico, Morning Tax:

IT’S TUESDAY, and we’re marking the third anniversary of the IRS’s tea party controversy — or more specifically, the day that Lois Lerner answered a planted question at an American Bar Association conference. (That’s LLAPQABA, for short.). ...

THREE YEARS LATER: We don’t have the space to give a full recap of the full sordid tale since Lerner acknowledged the IRS improperly scrutinized conservative organizations seeking tax-exempt status. (The short version: People on the right believe it was intentional targeting, while those on the left see bureaucratic mistakes.) But Morning Tax did ask Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.), the chairman of the House Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee, where he thinks matters stand with the IRS three years later.

The takeaways: Roskam said Republicans believe the IRS is still dragging its feet on making key reforms, but made the case that the renewed focus on the agency led to a taxpayer bill of rights and even changes to civil forfeiture rules. “We’ve made significant progress, but nobody’s breathing a sigh of relief.”

The problems with cybersecurity and identity theft have gotten so pronounced, and are affecting so many taxpayers, that Republicans have had to call something of a détente with the IRS — see, for instance, that $290 million funding increase the agency got several months back. “The cyber issue is ripening very quickly, and you don’t get the sense the IRS is on top of it,” Roskam said. “When the IRS wants to do something well, they can.”

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen won’t be getting impeached. “By mid-July, the congressional year will essentially be done,” Roskam said. House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) has been leading the charge for impeachment but recently signaled that he could accept a censure of Koskinen.

FROM THE OTHER SIDE: Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the top Democrat at House Oversight, on the anniversary: “House Republican efforts to impeach or censure the IRS commissioner are exercises in partisanship and a total waste of time and money. Nobody who has examined this issue has identified any evidence of political targeting — not the Justice Department, not the Republican Inspector General of the IRS, and not even the Oversight Committee. Republicans have wasted tens of millions of taxpayer dollars chasing false political conspiracy theories.”

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May 11, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (5)

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Grit:  The Power Of Passion And Perseverance

GritFollowing up on last week's post, Grit and Legal Education:  Wall Street Journal, The Virtue of Hard Things (reviewing Angela Duckworth (University of Pennsylvania), Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance (May 3, 2016)):

Most people would think of John Irving as a gifted wordsmith. He is the author of best-selling novels celebrated for their Dickensian plots, including “The Cider House Rules” and “The World According to Garp.” But Mr. Irving has severe dyslexia, was a C-minus English student in high school and scored 475 out of 800 on the SAT verbal test. How, then, did he have such a remarkably successful career as a writer?

Angela Duckworth argues that the answer is “grit,” which she defines as a combination of passion and perseverance in the pursuit of a long-term goal. The author, a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania, has spent the past decade studying why some people have extraordinary success and others do not. “Grit” is a fascinating tour of the psychological research on success and also tells the stories of many gritty exemplars, from New Yorker cartoon editor Bob Mankoff, who submitted some 2,000 drawings to the magazine before one was accepted, to actor Will Smith, who explains his success as follows: “The only thing that I see that is distinctly different about me is: I’m not afraid to die on a treadmill. . . . If we get on the treadmill together, there’s two things: You’re getting off first, or I’m going to die.”

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May 10, 2016 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

Lenders To Ivy League Student Borrowers Face Unanticipated Risk:  Prepayments

WSJWall Street Journal, Lenders Get Burned Betting on Ivy Leaguers:

For online lenders, the business model of targeting Ivy League student borrowers is starting to backfire.

The problem isn’t that graduates of these and other prestigious universities are deadbeats. Rather, these customers, who the lenders covet for their superlow default rates, are proving savvier and more anti-debt than anticipated.

Borrowers are prepaying their student loans at a quicker pace—in some cases three times faster—than some companies expected, a potentially bad outcome for the lenders and investors that wanted to collect higher interest payments over time, according to people familiar with the industry. Not only are customers aggressive about refinancing at lower rates, some are paying more than required each month in an attempt to get rid of their debt faster. ...

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May 10, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (7)

Massachusetts Property Tax Battle Asks: Who Defines Religion In America?

Photo 5The Atlantic, Should Courts Get to Define Religion?:

Property-tax battles are rarely sexy. But a case now in front of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, about whether the 21 religious brothers and sisters who run the Shrine of Our Lady of LaSalette in Attleboro should have to pay taxes, could have huge repercussions. The Court’s decision will be an important part of the ongoing debate in America about who defines religious practice—believers or bureaucrats—and whether religion itself should be afforded a special place under the law.

The case centers on a colonial-era law in Massachusetts that exempts religious houses of worship and parsonages from property taxes if they are used for religious worship or instruction. The shrine has enjoyed this perk since its founding in 1953. But in recent years, the City of Attleboro, nestled between Providence and Boston, has faced a tightening budget. It began looking to see where it could collect more revenue. The shrine, the only major tourist attraction in town, was an obvious target for tax collectors.

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May 10, 2016 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

McGinnis:  Despite Schadenfreude, Don’t Tax University Endowments

John McGinnis (Northwestern), Don’t Tax University Endowments (Even if It Might Seem Like Rough Justice):

It is hard to suppress schadenfreude as legislators offer proposals to tax the endowments of our elite universities. Their administrators and professors are overwhelmingly Democratic—indeed left-liberal Democrats. They regularly support candidates who want to raise taxes on for-profit corporations and individuals.

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May 10, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (2)

The Tax Strategy Behind Google's Alphabet Reorganization

AlphabetBret N. Bogenschneider (Vienna) & Ruth Heilmeier (Cologne), Google's 'Alphabet Soup' in Delaware, 16 Hous. Bus. & Tax J. 1 (2016):

In this article the tax avoidance planning of Google’s “Alphabet” Delaware reorganization is explored in detail. The recent Google reorganization created an IP parent holding company in Delaware (“Alphabet”) yielding potential state corporate income tax avoidance benefits, including: (1) incremental royalty expense deductions in non-combined reporting states; (2) potential exclusion of foreign royalty income from the tax base in combined reporting states; (3) creation of a constitutional challenge to the taxation of foreign royalty income of Alphabet; and (4) domestic IP license benchmark for foreign affiliates to allow for repatriation of offshore cash by higher royalty payments.

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May 10, 2016 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Bill Would Allow Tax Deduction For HOA Dues Akin To Property Taxes

HomeownerWashington Post, Bill Would Offer Tax Break for Some Homeowner Association Payments:

They are a giant presence in American real estate, but they get short shrift in the federal tax code: the estimated 340,000 communities across the country that are governed by homeowner associations and are often subject to a form of double taxation.

Upward of 67 million people live in these communities, which range from sprawling, master-planned subdivisions to individual condominium or cooperative developments. As of 2014, they contained nearly 27 million housing units. Their homeowner associations often provide the functional equivalents of municipal and county services, and residents nationwide pay roughly $70 billion a year in regular assessments to fund road paving and maintenance, snow removal, trash collection, storm water management, maintenance of recreational and park facilities, and much more.

The same residents also pay local property taxes to municipal, county or state governments. But only their local property tax levies are deductible on federal tax filings while the community association assessments that pay for government-type services are not.

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May 10, 2016 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Call For Papers For AALS Annual Meeting Program:  Sex, Death, And Taxes

AALSCall for PapersAALS Trusts & Estates Section Program, 2007 AALS Annual Meeting (Jan. 3-7, 2017):

Sex, Death, and Taxes: The Unruly Nature of the Laws of Trusts and Estates

Trusts & Estates is a far-reaching and broad-based discipline of law that impacts private citizens’ decisions about sex, death, and taxes.  This legal discipline is based on speculation about donors and their intentions that, by their very nature, create unintended consequences because the laws exist largely unseen until they come into play.  Moreover, ascertaining these preferences prove difficult because individuals are entrenched with idiosyncratic preconceptions about death, family, property rights, personal legacies, paternalism, altruism, investment strategies, taxes, and many other effective interests.  In addition, the field sits at the crossroads of other legal disciplines such as family law, property law, elder law, and tax law. 

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May 10, 2016 in Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

2015-16 Moot Court Rankings

Moot Court2015-16 Moot Court Rankings:

1.   Texas Tech
2.   Chicago-Kent
2.   Stetson
4.   Georgetown
5.   Regent
5.   SMU
7.   South Texas
7.   UC-Hastings
9.   Liberty
10. St. Mary's

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May 10, 2016 in Law School Rankings, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (2)

NY Times:  The Treasury Department’s Never-Ending Fight To Combat Tax Cheats

NY Times Dealbook (2013)New York Times Deal Book:  Treasury Dept.’s Never-Ending Fight to Combat Tax Cheats, by Peter J. Henning (Wayne State):

In the wake of the disclosure of confidential documents known as the Panama Papers showing how lawyers set up shell companies to hide assets, the White House announced initiatives last week to combat “shady practices” used by “corrupt officials, tax cheats, and other criminals.”

Like other well-intentioned steps to fight corruption, they will make it a little bit harder to shift money around anonymously, but ultimately will be only a modest impediment to stanching the flood of illicit funds that course through the economy. ...

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May 10, 2016 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Mankiw:  Presidential Campaign Tax Myths

New York Times op-ed:  The Economy Is Rigged, and Other Presidential Campaign Myths, by N. Gregory Mankiw (Harvard):

If you want to learn about the economy, there are good and bad places to go. Probably the worst source of reliable information is the current crop of presidential candidates. Dissembling and exaggeration are no strangers to politics, but this year’s campaigns have been particularly egregious.

Here are six economic myths that underlie much of the recent rhetoric. ...

[4.]  The rich don’t pay much in taxes.

In an era of great inequality, it is natural for politicians to demonize the rich. And some top earners don’t pay enough in taxes, such as the hedge fund and private equity crowd that benefits from the tax treatment of carried interest.

But don’t confuse these exceptions, even if they are glaring ones, with the general rule. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that under the 2013 tax law, which is still in effect today, the top 1 percent pays 33 percent of its income in federal taxes. By contrast, the middle class (defined here as the middle three-fifths of the income distribution) pays only 13 percent of its income in federal taxes.

[5.]  Tax cuts will unleash stupendous growth.

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May 10, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (5)

Law Student Says He Was Almost Expelled From BYU For Writing Book In Favor Of Gay Marriage

BYU BookFollowing up on my previous posts:

Fusion, Law Student Says He Was Almost Expelled for Writing in Favor of Gay Marriage:

In the middle of his final year at Brigham Young University’s J. Reuben Clark Law School, Brad Levin finally finished a draft of what he hoped would be a game-changing book on the university owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints: Homosexuality: A Straight BYU Student’s Perspective. In the book, Levin laid out why same-sex marriage was not, according to his research, at odds with the church’s teachings. Proud of his work, he shared a few copies with friends for some feedback.

But when the feedback came, it wasn’t the kind he had been hoping for.

“I was basically threatened with removal from the university if I went forward and took a public stance in favor of gay marriage,” Levin, 33, told Fusion, citing conversations he said he had with senior school officials. “I was told that I had to change the contents of my book to be on the right side of the church.”

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May 10, 2016 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1097

IRS Logo 2New York Post editorial, Facebook’s Faked ‘Trending News’ Is a Warning Not to Trust Silicon Valley:

Well, so much for Facebook’s claims to be an honest information broker: Turns out its list of “trending” topics comes with a hefty political bias.

The site Gizmodo on Monday reported what it had heard from some of the “news curators” who actually create the “trending” feed — which only starts with topics flagged by a computer algorithm as to what users are actually posting about.

The exposé reveals one level of bias imposed by management — and another from the peons hired to do the work.

Several curators cited routine nixing of right-of-center topics — news about Mitt Romney, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and even Lois Lerner, the face of the IRS scandal.

Ironic: IRS employees used their power to suppress righty speech, and Facebook then suppressed the fact its users cared about it . . .

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May 10, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 9, 2016

Incentivizing And Assessing Law Faculty Committee Work Contributions

Committee Meeting 1Andrea Anne Curcio (Georgia State) & Mary A. Lynch (Albany), Incentivizing and Assessing Faculty Committee Work Contributions: Why Now?, 65 J. Legal Educ. ___ (2016):

Faculty scholarly productivity reaps tangible internal and external rewards while the "reward" for excellent faculty committee work performance often is additional committee work. Some faculty members perform substantial committee work while others spend little time on institutional service, leaving them more time for scholarship. Despite equity issues, this system maintains the faculty self-governance model integral to academic freedom, and the necessary service work gets done. This article suggests that this traditional workload distribution model may be unsustainable.

Innovations in legal education brought about by financial pressures, declining enrollments, and new accreditation standard requirements will result in increased committee workloads while reductions in full-time faculty at many schools leave fewer faculty members available to do that work. Those currently doing the lion's share of the work may be unable, or unwilling, to take on more committee work. This article examines methods for avoiding an institutional governance crisis.

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May 9, 2016 in Legal Education, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Law Review Rankings By Supreme Court Citations: 2013-2016

Supreme Court (2014)Empirical SCOTUS, Gold Standard Cites:

Publications and citations are essential to the research academic. They help separate experts from novices in a given field. They provide metrics for universities to gauge the quality of their professors’ scholarship. In legal scholarship there is a particularly meaningful measure that distinguishes law from other disciplines: citations in published opinions. Supreme Court citations to law reviews convey the importance of an article to a particular area of law.

Articles by Sirico [The Citing of Law Reviews by the Supreme Court:1971-1999, 75 Ind. L.J. 1009 (2000)] and Newton [Law Review Scholarship in the Eyes of the Twenty-First Century Supreme Court Justices: An Empirical Analysis 2001-2011, 4 Drexel L. Rev. 399 (2012)] previously tracked these citations over different periods of time in the 20th and 21st centuries.

1.  Harvard (27 citations in 23 cases)
2.  Yale (26,18)
3.  Columbia (16,12)
4.  Chicago (11,9)
5.  NYU (9,8)
6.  Stanford (8,6)
7.  Michigan (7,5)
7.  Penn (7,7)
9. Georgetown (6,4)
9. Texas (6,5)
9.  Texas (6,5)

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May 9, 2016 in Law Review Rankings, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Georgetown Graduate Tax Program Receives $1 Million Gift For Student Scholarships

Georgetown (2016)Press Release, Georgetown Law, Baker & McKenzie Establish Leonard B. Terr Memorial Scholarship:

Georgetown Law, the law firm of Baker & McKenzie, and family and friends of the late Leonard B. Terr have established a $1 million scholarship to assist students in the graduate tax program. Terr, a Baker & McKenzie partner and Law Center adjunct professor, taught tax law at Georgetown for 17 years before his death in 2015.

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May 9, 2016 in Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

L.A. Jones Day Associate: 'Let’s Do This Together'—In Law, Women Need To Help Other Women

Jones DayBloomberg Law op-ed: In Law, Women Need to Help Other Women, by Rachel Gezerseh (Associate, Jones Day, Los Angeles):

I’ve seen a lot of articles lately about the difficulties at large law firms with retaining female attorneys, the so-called “leaky pipeline” in Biglaw. To me, as a female associate at a large law firm, the solution is simple: women need to help other women. If you know another woman has your back, you stay. If you don’t have that support, you leave. Also, giving back to other women when you can is important.

I have three stories on this from my life. ... 

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May 9, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (2)

WSJ:  What Is Prince’s Legacy Worth? The Tax Man Wants To Know.

DovesFollowing up on my previous post, Prince Died Without A Will, According To Court Documents:  Wall Street Journal, What Is Prince’s Legacy Worth? The Tax Man Wants to Know:

After the doves cry, there’s IRS Form 706.

Estate-tax attorneys for Prince, who died [April 21], must attempt to put a precise financial value on his name, image and likeness.

That Prince-ness could make him one of America’s top-earning deceased celebrities, and it may be one of his estate’s largest assets—subject to a 40% federal tax.

The Internal Revenue Service is used to putting price tags on tradeable assets and is well-trained in taking existing revenue streams and capitalizing them into a value. It is much trickier to divine the worth of a unique niche business—marketing Prince’s legacy—that doesn’t really exist yet.

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May 9, 2016 in Celebrity Tax Lore, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Harvard Law School Sees 50% Increase In STEM Majors After Accommodating Their Lower UGPAs In Admissions Decisions

Harvard Law School (2016)Harvard Crimson, To Keep Pace with Tech, Law School Seeks STEM Students:

As Harvard Law School admissions officers finalize next year’s class, they do so with an eye toward a group of fields that deviate from the traditional path to legal studies: STEM.

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May 9, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

LSAC Backs Down (For Now) On Threat To Expel University Of Arizona For Use Of GRE In Law School Admissions

GRE Arizona Following up on my previous posts (links below):  National Law Journal, Opposition to Arizona Law School’s Use of GRE Fizzles:

The University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law will remain a member of the Law School Admission Council—for now.

The council, which administers the Law School Admission Test, informed Arizona law dean Marc Miller by letter Saturday that the Tucson law school will be allowed to remain in its membership ranks “for the time being.”

The council’s board of trustees at its meeting on Friday and Saturday discussed whether Arizona’s use of the GRE in addition to the LSAT violated the council rule that requires “substantially all” applicants to members schools take the law school-specific test. ...

“We understand the Accreditation Committee of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar will review the GRE study and address the validity of the alternative tests as well as other issues related to [the ABA admissions standard],” the council’s May 7 letter reads. “The resolution of these issues may well impact LSAC’s membership requirements.” Hence, the board decided to maintain the existing membership, the letter said.

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May 9, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (3)

Taxing Carried Interest As Ordinary Income Through Executive Action

Following up on my previous post, Taxing Carried Interest As Ordinary Income Through Executive Action:  New York Times:  Ending Tax Break for Ultrawealthy May Not Take Act of Congress, by Gretchen Morgenson:

It’s only natural that Barack Obama, entering the homestretch of his presidency, would be concerned about his legacy. Judging from a recent interview in The New York Times Magazine, getting credit for the actions he has taken on economic issues seems to be of special interest to him.

Mr. Obama expressed frustration that many middle-class Americans feel they’ve been left behind during his time in office. The wealthiest Americans, meanwhile, have become richer during the Obama years.

There is a lot about this problem of income inequality — and about the economy over all — that Mr. Obama cannot control. Still, there is something he could do right now to help narrow the widening gulf between rich and poor.

In one deft move, Mr. Obama could instruct officials at his Treasury Department to close the so-called carried interest tax loophole that allows managers of private equity and hedge funds to pay a substantially lower federal tax rate on much of their income.

Forcing these managers to pay ordinary income taxes on the gains they reap in their funds would accomplish two things. It would take away an enormous benefit enjoyed almost exclusively by some of the country’s wealthiest people. And, tax experts say, it would generate billions in revenue to the government each year, though there are wide differences over exactly how much.

But doesn’t changing the carried interest loophole require an act of Congress? Not according to an array of tax experts. Just as Mr. Obama’s Treasury Department recently changed the rules to curb corporate inversions, in which companies shift their official headquarters to another country to lower their tax bills, the Treasury secretary, Jacob J. Lew, and his colleagues could jettison the carried interest loophole.

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May 9, 2016 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (6)

NLJ Special Report:  The Mental Health Of Law Students

National Law Journal (2016)National Law Journal, In Focus: The Mental Health of Law Students:

The numbers are disturbing: Law students suffer from depression, anxiety and substance abuse at unusually high rates. In our report about mental health on law campuses, we examine why law school exacerbates these problems and what administrators and fellow students can do to help. We also share first-person accounts of navigating law school with a mental health condition, from the student and faculty perspective.

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May 9, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

IRS Seeks Grant Applications for Funding for Low Income Taxpayer Clinics, Volunteer Tax Assistance Programs

IRS Logo 2The IRS has announced that it is accepting grant applications for Low Income Taxpayer Clinics (IR-2016-70) and Volunteer Tax Assistance Programs (IR-2016-71) for the 2017 grant cycle (Jan. 1 - Dec. 31, 2017).

Low Income Taxpayer Clinics

Applications will be accepted through June 20, 2016. The LITC program awards matching grants of up to $100,000 per year to qualifying organizations to develop, expand, or maintain a low income taxpayer clinic. 

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May 9, 2016 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1096

IRS Logo 2Bloomberg BNA, Americans for Prosperity Shows That Rough and Tumble Issue Activism Could Serve as a Shield for Charities Against Donor Disclosures:

We all know the saying “politics ain’t beanbag” – and the ranks of candidates for high office seem to be living by that adage. But in the last several years we have seen a significantly more confrontational style filter down to the grassroots issue activists behind any number of organizations and causes – threats to boycott stores (see Hobby Lobby Stores) or even entire states (North Carolina and not too long ago Georgia) over laws or stances taken; calls for individuals to be fired from their jobs or otherwise “economically disciplined” for expressing opinions deemed “unacceptable” (such as Brendan Eich’s ouster from Mozilla for donating to the California Proposition 8 campaign after calls from activists or Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran’s dismissal for expressing his disapproval of same-sex marriage in a religious book he published); and even instances of physical altercations or harassment (picketing the homes of politicians’ families, or attempting to physically disrupt events or attendees). Now we may see that style of politics become a tool by which charities and other exempt organizations challenge state-level disclosure requirements that would force them to disclose donor information. ...

Americans for Prosperity Foundation (AFP) won just such a challenge when Judge Manuel Real of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California held California’s requirement for charities to file annually with the Attorney General (AG) their unredacted Form 990 Schedule B (Schedule of Contributors) to be unconstitutional as applied to AFP. Judge Real permanently enjoined the AG from requiring or demanding AFP’s Schedule B information.

The primary basis for the decision was extensive trial evidence of harassment and intimidation that supporters of AFP and those affiliated with it have experienced. Though Judge Real only recounted a few of the incidents established at trial, the details sound like much of the activism that is becoming more prevalent: An IT contractor took to social media to condemn AFP (and suggest that he could easily slit the throat of AFP’s CEO) and was later found in the garage photographing license plates; protestors at an event cut down the tent being used for the function while attendees were still inside; major donors have received numerous death threats and had their business boycotted once their affiliation has become known; the Koch brothers, long-time supporters have been threatened, along with their families, including their grandchildren (who are all still minors). As Judge Real put it in conclusion, “the Court finds that AFP supporters have been subjected to abuses that warrant relief….” ...

In the end, Judge Real’s opinion may work to open the floodgates for other organizations that have been targeted for various forms of harassment or abuse. Several states have either instituted, revived, or proposed requirements that charitable organizations file their Schedule B information with state officials. And while California has been the focal point of challenges, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York has upheld a similar New York requirement against a facial challenge (see Citizens United v. Schneiderman). While the initial failure of those facial challenges may have dampened litigation at first, this new decision will certainly result in additional interest in litigating these disclosure requirements, even if it must be done on an organization-by-organization basis. For now, we can only wait and see what, if anything, the Ninth Circuit does on appeal.

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May 9, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

TaxProf Blog Weekend Roundup