TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron
Pepperdine University School of Law

Friday, September 2, 2016

Drake Seeks To Hire A Tax Prof

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

We are especially interested in candidates with demonstrated interest or experience in Wills and Trusts or Taxation. Qualifications include: a record of academic excellence, substantial academic or practice experience, and a passion for teaching. Appointment rank will be determined commensurate with the candidate’s qualifications and experience.

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September 2, 2016 in Legal Education, Tax, Tax Prof Jobs | Permalink | Comments (0)

UCLA Graduate Student Body President Leaves Law School For NYU Due To Anti-Israel Harassment

UCLA LogoDaily Bruin, Former Graduate Stduent Association President to Leave UCLA, Finish Law School at NYU:

Former Graduate Students Association president Milan Chatterjee announced he will leave UCLA for his last year of law school.

In a letter dated Aug. 24 and addressed to Chancellor Gene Block, Chatterjee claimed to have been bullied and harassed by members of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement.

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September 2, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (5)

Mazur: Transfer Pricing Challenges In The Cloud

CloudOrly Mazur (SMU), Transfer Pricing Challenges in the Cloud, 57 B.C. L. Rev. 643 (2016):

Cloud computing — the provision of information technology resources in a virtual environment — has fundamentally changed how companies operate. Companies have quickly adapted by moving their businesses to the cloud, but international tax standards have failed to follow suit. As a result, taxpayers and tax administrations confront significant tax challenges in applying outdated tax principles to this new environment. One particular area that raises perplexing tax issues is the transfer pricing rules. The transfer pricing rules set forth the intercompany price a cloud service provider must charge an affiliate using its cloud services, which ultimately affects in which jurisdiction the company’s profits are taxed. This Article argues that the fundamental features of cloud computing exacerbate some of the more difficult transfer pricing problems that already exist.

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September 2, 2016 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Professor Goes on Hunger Strike Following Denial Of Tenure By President And Board, Following 12-1 Favorable Faculty Committee Vote

RojoInside Higher Ed, Going Hungry for Tenure:

Lafayette professor goes on a hunger strike to protest what he sees as irregularities and injustices in his failed tenure bid. He is the latest minority professor to raise questions about fairness of teaching evaluations.

Professors who think they’ve been treated unjustly in their tenure bids have protested in a variety of ways, including lawsuits and social media campaigns. Juan Rojo, an assistant professor of Spanish at Lafayette College, is doing something different, and arguably harder. After receiving the final word on his failed tenure bid last month, he announced at a faculty meeting this week that he was going on a hunger strike until his job is restored. Rojo’s main contention is that his bid was approved by two separate faculty bodies — one unanimously — before it was a rejected by Lafayette’s president, Alison Byerly, over concerns about his teaching. Much of the evidence she cited against him was taken from student evaluations of teaching, which can be highly subjective.

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September 2, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (2)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1212

IRS Logo 2The Daily Caller, Real Power Behind IRS Conservative Targeting Scandal Still A Mystery:

An FBI investigation missed the IRS official who first set in motion the illegal targeting of conservative and tea party non-profit groups applying for tax exemption, documents obtained by a government watchdog group reveal.

An internal IRS document prohibited the targeted applicants from being approved automatically for tax exemption, and agency officials were told to send all such applications to the Orwellian-named Group 7822 to await additional guidance, FBI interviews obtained by Judicial Watch show.

It’s still unclear who authored the internal document that established Group 7822 and who ordered targeted applications be sent to Group 7822.

Disgraced IRS senior executive Lois Lerner has taken most of the heat since retiring from the federal tax agency, but the FBI investigation, which resulted in no prosecutions, suggested that Lerner didn’t write the internal guidance. It’s unclear if she had a role in creating Group 7822. ...

It’s unclear why the FBI did not press IRS officials on who was behind the BOLO and Group 7822. Judicial Watch did reveal, however, that a Department of Justice attorney who donated $6,750 to the Obama campaign and the Democratic National Committee spent more than 1,500 hours on the investigation.

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September 2, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Reuven Avi-Yonah Leaves Michigan For UC-Irvine

Avi-YonahPress Release, University of California, Irvine School of Law Welcomes New Faculty, Largest First-Year Class in School's History and New LL.M. Program:

University of California, Irvine School of Law has hired four new full-time faculty members, bringing the total number of full-time professors to 48. ... All of these new faculty members are leading scholars and skilled practitioners in their respective areas of expertise. ...

Reuven S. Avi-Yonah
Professor Avi-Yonah specializes in corporate and international taxation, international law and legal history. His scholarship focuses on defining the underlying principles of an international tax regime and what consequences follow from these principles for the allocation of tax revenues among countries and for the taxation of multinational enterprises. He will join UCI Law in fall 2017 from University of Michigan Law School, where he has been the Irwin I. Cohn Professor of Law and Director of the International Tax LL.M. program.

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September 1, 2016 in Legal Education, Tax, Tax Prof Moves | Permalink | Comments (3)

More On The EU-Apple $14.5 Billion Tax Dispute

Jerry Brown Vetoes 50-Hour Pro Bono Mandate For California Bar Admission, Citing 'Skyrocketing' Costs Incurred By Students Who 'Struggle To Find Employment'; Instead, Focus Should Be On Lowering Costs Of Law School And Bar Exam

California State Bar (2014)Veto Message (Aug. 29, 2016):

I am returning Senate Bill 1257 without my signature.

This bill requires an applicant for membership in the State Bar to complete at least fifty hours of supervised pro bono legal service. It also requires that a practicing lawyer or law professor supervise the student.

I certainly support law students and lawyers providing pro bono legal services. Some law schools already promote volunteerism and pro bono service in various ways and many employers also require a certain amount of pro bono hours for associates and clerks. While I commend the author for his desire to further these efforts, I don't believe a state mandate can be justified.

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September 1, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (6)

Hellerstein:  A Hitchhiker’s Guide To The OECD’s International VAT/GST Guidelines

Florida Tax Review  (2015)Walter Hellerstein (Georgia), A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the OECD’s International VAT/GST Guidelines, 18 Fla. Tax Rev. 589 (2016):

The OECD’s International VAT/GST Guidelines, which were released in their consolidated form at the OECD’s Global Forum on VAT in Paris in late 2015, are the culmination of nearly two decades of efforts to provide internationally accepted standards for consumption taxation of cross-border trade, particularly trade in services and intangibles. This article provides a roadmap to the Guidelines, especially for readers who may be unfamiliar with consumption tax principles, in general, or VATs in particular.

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September 1, 2016 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 2016 Bar Exam Scores Rise, But Remain Near All-Time Low Amidst Declining LSAT Scores

MBEDeborah Jones Merritt (Ohio State), Surprise: MBE Scores Rise in 2016:

Erica Moeser, President of the National Conference of Bar Examiners, sent a memo to law school deans today. The memo reported the welcome, but surprising, news that the national mean score on the MBE was higher in July 2016 than in July 2015. Last year, the national mean was just 139.9. This year, it’s 140.3.

That’s a small increase, but it’s nonetheless noteworthy. LSAT scores for entering law students have been falling for several years.

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September 1, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

Chodorow:  Snape On Taxes

SnapeTaxProf Blog op-ed:  Snape on Taxes, by Adam Chodorow (Arizona State):

Every fall, as I prepare to teach again after a 3-month hiatus, I am reminded of a scene from the first Harry Potter book. The students, some bright-eyed, others fearful, file into Professor Snape’s dungeon classroom for their first Potions class. Glaring out at his students, he introduces them to the subject he loves, but which he fears they will barely comprehend. The passage reads as follows:

You are here to learn the subtle science and exact art of potion-making,” he began. He spoke in barely more than a whisper, but they caught every word – like Professor McGonagall, Snape had the gift of keeping a class silent without effort. “As there is little foolish wand-waving here, many of you will hardly believe this is magic. I don’t expect you will really understand the beauty of the softly simmering cauldron with its shimmering fumes, the delicate power of liquids that creep through human veins, bewitching the mind, ensnaring the senses…I can teach you how to bottle fame, brew glory, even stopper death – if you aren’t as big a bunch of dunderheads as I usually have to teach.

What if Snape taught tax? Many of our students would likely equate the two subjects. Regardless, with apologies to J.K. Rowling, here’s what I imagine he would say:

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September 1, 2016 in Celebrity Tax Lore, Legal Education, Tax, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (1)

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September 1, 2016 in About This Blog, Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Revised ABA Law School Accreditation Standards

ABA Logo (2016)ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar Memorandum on Adoption and Implementation of Revised Standards and Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law Schools, Criteria for Accepting Credit for Student Study at a Foreign Institution, and Criteria for Summer and Intersession Programs Offered by ABA-Approved Law Schools in a Location Outside of the United States (Aug. 31, 2016):

At its meeting in March 2016, the Council approved changes to the ABA Standards and Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law Schools. The changes had been circulated for Notice and Comment and a public hearing was held on January 29, 2016. The following amended Standards and Rules of Procedure became effective upon concurrence by the ABA House of Delegates at its meeting on August 8-9, 2016:

  • Standard 304: Simulations Courses, Law Clinics, and Field Placement
  • Standard 305: Other Academic Study
  • Standard 307(a): Studies, Activities, and Field Placements Outside the United States
  • Interpretation 311-1: Academic Program and Academic Calendar

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September 1, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

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September 1, 2016 in About This Blog, Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1211

IRS Logo 2Forbes: More Than 100 Law Professors To Congress: Impeaching The IRS Commissioner Is A Bad Idea, by Kelly Phillips Erb:

More than 100 tax law professors have sent a letter to House leaders in opposition to a resolution to impeach or censure Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Commissioner John Koskinen.

The letter was addressed to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI); House Ways and Means Committee Chair Kevin Brady (R-TX); Minority Leader of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA); and House Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member Sander Levin (D-MI). The letter urged those Congressional leaders to “oppose any resolution to impeach or censure John Koskinen, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue.” ...

Censure is, of course, not as drastic as impeachment: it’s a public condemnation and requires a simple majority vote in the House and no action in the Senate. Impeaching an official requires a vote in the full House and, after a formal trial, a 2/3 vote of the Senate to remove the official from office. If that sounds like a high bar, it is: no agency official has been impeached in more than 140 years.

Tax Update Blog:  Profs For Koskinen, by Joe Kristan:

I favor censure because it’s clear that Koskinen has been, if you want to be charitable, tone-deaf to the implications of the IRS targeting of political opposition. He repeatedly has made statements on the investigation that have proven untrue, meaning he is either inept or a liar.

I oppose impeachment because it is a waste of time. The Senate would never convict.

I don’t like the letter because it completely ignores how Koskinen has completely lost the confidence of GOP Congressional appropriators. Nothing he has done provides them any reassurance that funding the IRS doesn’t mean funding their own opposition. If they really are concerned about the institutional integrity of the IRS, the professors should also call on Koskinen to resign in favor of somebody who can merit the respect of both parties.

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September 1, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (4)

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Is The ABA Using Dallas, Ave Maria Law Schools As Scapegoats To Deflect Criticism From Department Of Education?

UNTAMInside Higher Ed, ABA Tightens Up:

The ABA takes a hard line on two law schools' admissions standards amid criticism that the group's accrediting arm is not doing enough to help struggling law-school graduates.

Earlier this month, the ABA’s accrediting arm recommended against approving the University of North Texas-Dallas College of Law, citing low admissions test scores of entering students. Days later, it found Ave Maria Law School in Florida out of compliance with its standards, again citing admissions practices.

The bar association also has considered tightening bar-passage standards to make them tougher for schools to meet. Taken together, the moves might indicate a tougher approach at a time when law-school graduates are facing a tougher job market with ever-growing debt loads.

The struggles of law-schools' former students have led to increased criticism of the association and the schools. That scrutiny came to a head in a summer meeting of the federal panel that oversees higher education accreditors, who grilled ABA leaders over their monitoring practices and suspended the group from accrediting new institutions for one year.

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August 31, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (4)

The Implications Of Apple's $14.5 Billion EU Tax Bill

Apple EUFollowing up on yesterday's post, EU Orders Apple To Repay $14.5 Billion In Irish Tax Breaks:

New York Times editorial, Apple, Congress and the Missing Taxes:

Apple and the United States are crying foul over the ruling in Europe that Apple received illegal tax breaks from Ireland and must hand over 13 billion euros ($14.5 billion), a record tax penalty in Europe. But Apple and the United States have only themselves to blame for the situation.

Apple has engaged in increasingly aggressive tax avoidance for at least a decade, including stashing some $100 billion in Ireland without paying taxes on much of it anywhere in the world, according to a Senate investigation in 2013. In a display of arrogance, the company seemed to believe that its arrangements in a known tax haven like Ireland would never be deemed illegal — even as European regulators cracked down in similar cases against such multinational corporations as Starbucks, Amazon, Fiat and the German chemical giant BASF.

Congress, for its part, has sat idly by as American corporations have indulged in increasingly intricate forms of tax avoidance made possible by the interplay of an outmoded corporate tax code and modern globalized finance. The biggest tax dodge in need of reform involves deferral, in which American companies can defer paying taxes on foreign-held profits until those sums are repatriated. Initially, deferral was a convenience for multinationals, as they sought investment opportunities abroad. Today, it is the taproot of global tax avoidance.

Bloomberg View editorial, The EU's Apple Ruling Is a Victory for Tax Confusion:

The European Commission’s decision to impose a tax bill of 13 billion euros ($14.5 billion) on Apple is unjust and unnecessary. And the harm is not confined to a single company: The ruling has cast a cloud of uncertainty over Europe’s corporate-tax rules, potentially affecting all multinational investors.

Wall Street Journal editorial, Europe’s Apple Tax Ambush:

Even by the usual Brussels standards of economic malpractice, Tuesday’s €13 billion ($14.5 billion) tax assault on Apple is something to behold. The European Commission decided that Dublin’s application of Irish tax law to an American company violated European antitrust rules. Orwell would understand.

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August 31, 2016 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Rotunda:  Why Does The ABA Charge Different Fees To Different Authors To Use Model Ethics Rules?

ABA Logo (2016)Ronald D. Rotunda (Chapman), The ABA Wants Copyright Royalties From Authors Who Publish the Law:

  • The ABA requires law schools to study the ABA Model Rules (even if those Rules are not law).
  • Law students must pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE), which is based on the ABA Model Rules, even if those Rules are not law. When the ABA amends its Model Rules, the MPRE automatically follows the change, usually within one year even if no state adopts the ABA change.
  • Law professors (or at least some of them) must prepare teaching materials on the ABA Model Rules.
  • This is the interesting part: The ABA is prohibiting many authors (but not all) from using the ABA Model Rules unless they first pay hefty royalties to the ABA. ...

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August 31, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

Smith:  The PACT Act And The Constitutionality Of The Marketplace Fairness Act

Florida Tax Review  (2015)Eric Smith (Weber State), The PACT Act as Indicium of the Due Process Validity of the Marketplace Fairness Act, 19 Fla. Tax Rev. 1 (2016):

If passed into law, the Marketplace Fairness Act would impose a federal duty on out-of-state sellers to collect a state-defined and state-benefitting use tax. This unique exercise of federal power implicates due process. The PACT Act represents the only other instance in which Congress has similarly compelled state law compliance. Two circuit courts of appeals have found the PACT Act vulnerable on concerns of due process. This Article relies on the PACT Act analogue to simulate how the Marketplace Fairness Act would fare under similar scrutiny. To this end and in this uncommon context, two novel constitutional questions are considered: 1) with which sovereign, the federal government or the state, are minimum contacts measured; and 2) if measured with the state, is a single sale sufficient to meet due process thresholds?

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August 31, 2016 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Battle Over Plummeting Bar Exam Pass Rates Is Roiling Legal Education

ABA Journal (2014)ABA Journal (Sept. 2016), Bar Fight: Exam Passage Rates Have Fallen, but Battles Over Why and What It Means Are Roiling Legal Education:

David Frakt is a lawyer, a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force Reserve and a former law professor who has studied the relationship between LSAT scores, undergraduate grades, law school performance and bar passage rates. But he may be better known as the candidate for dean of the Florida Coastal School of Law in Jacksonville (which had a July 2015 first-time bar pass rate of 59.3 percent) who was asked to leave the campus in the middle of his presentation to faculty and staff. He had dared to suggest that the school was risking its accreditation by admitting too many students with little or no chance of ever becoming lawyers.

Frakt concedes that some applicants with modest academic qualifications can excel in both law school and practice, but he says there’s a point below which a candidate’s aptitude for legal studies and legal reasoning is highly predictive of failure. “However dedicated and skilled law professors and academic support staff may be,” Frakt maintains, “there is only so much they can do with students with no real aptitude for the study of law. They are not miracle workers.”

Frakt was shown the door in 2014, which may seem to be old news. The problem is that much of current bar passage news isn’t much different. To be plain, it has been lousy:

  • The mean test score on the February administration of the Multistate Bar Examination fell significantly for the fourth consecutive time, down 1.2 points from 2015 to a dismal 135—its lowest score since 1983.
  • February’s decline followed an even bigger drop in the average score on the July 2015 administration of the exam, which fell 1.6 points from July 2014 to 139.9, its lowest level since 1988. (July and February results are not comparable because the test pool is smaller and has more repeat test-takers.)
  • And last year’s poor showing followed the single biggest year-to-year drop in the average MBE score in the four-decade history of the test, from 144.3 in 2013 to 141.5 in 2014.

The numbers don’t lie, but proffered explanations for the descent in bar exam scores leave serious questions about what’s happening with law school admissions, legal education and even the quality of legal representation in the future.

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August 31, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (5)

Pittsburgh Tax Review Publishes New Issue

What Law Schools Can Learn From Medical Schools

Law MedicineNeil W. Hamilton (St. Thomas) & Sarah Schaefer (St. Thomas), What Legal Education Can Learn from Medical Education About Competency-Based Learning Outcomes Including Those Related to Professional Formation (Professionalism), 29 Georgetown J. Legal Ethics 399 (2016):

Following the ABA’s August 2014 changes in the accreditation standards for law schools requiring the establishment (and assessment) of learning outcomes that include “competency” in knowledge of the law, legal analysis, legal research, problem-solving, effective communication and “the exercise of proper professional and ethical responsibilities,” every law school will now develop competency-based learning outcomes and a curriculum that help each student develop and be able to demonstrate both the listed core competencies and “other professional skills needed for competent and ethical participation as a member of the legal profession.” These accreditation changes require a greater emphasis on professional and ethical responsibilities and both the articulation of learning outcomes for each student on these responsibilities and assessment of the learning outcomes.

Medical education, following accreditation changes in 1999 that emphasized learning outcomes (and assessment) of core competencies is fifteen years in front of legal education in learning how most effectively to help students achieve competency-based learning outcomes including those emphasizing ethical responsibilities. This article analyzes what legal education can learn from medical education’s experience over these past fifteen years with competency-based learning outcomes, especially ethical competencies.

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August 31, 2016 in Legal Education, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (2)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1210

IRS Logo 2The Morning Call, Here's a Job for Lois Lerner:

There is no need for the taxpayers to bear the expense of a special prosecutor to investigate the Clinton Foundation. Lois Lerner can be asked to resume her position with respect to approval and oversight of nonprofits and foundations that have qualified under one of the IRS 501(c) classifications.

Lerner honed those skills when she copiously and intrusively examined the applications for recognition of tax-exempt status filed by conservative organizations. She might apply the same degree of intrusion and assertiveness toward the Clinton Foundation. Heck, she is drawing a taxpayer-financed pension so allow her skills to be applied with no additional expense to the taxpaying public. But then if questioned, will Lerner's emails (produced on taxpayer funded time) be lost or will the emails be forthcoming?

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August 31, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

ABA Responds To Department Of Education Panel's Threat To Suspend Its Power To Accredit Law Schools

ABA Journal (2014)Following up on my previous posts (links below) on the June recommendation by a Department Of Education panel to suspend the ABA's power to accredit law schools due to its "lack of attention to student achievement":  ABA Journal (Sept. 2016), ABA Responds To Accreditation Panel's Threat to Suspend its Role:

Facing a Department of Education panel recommendation that the ABA’s accreditation power for new law schools be suspended for one year, the association has responded by filing a confidential comment. “We think we’re in compliance with the standards,” says Barry Currier, ABA managing director of accreditation and legal education.

A June discussion by the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity swirled around enforcement of accreditation standards and the need for a response to law school costs, student debt and the lack of lawyer jobs. The fact that no law schools have had ABA accreditation withdrawn over the past five years and that the organization continues to accredit new ones while law school tuition rises and the number of jobs in the profession shrinks were all part of the debate. ...

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August 30, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (6)

Blank:  The Signalling Function Of Presidential Tax Return Disclosure

Wall Street Journal op-ed: Trump’s Tax Withholding Is a Signal, by Joshua D. Blank (NYU):

Of all Donald Trump’s portrayals of his tax returns, including “extremely complex,” “beautiful” and “very big,” no phrase has ignited more passion or dismay than “none of your business.” Hillary Clinton has posted to her campaign website full copies of her tax returns since 2007, as well as returns for her running mate, Sen. Tim Kaine. Yet Mr. Trump refuses to follow suit. ...

As the law stands, candidates must disclose voluntarily, which provides voters with a valuable signal. The same way that wearing a suit to a job interview at a law firm suggests professionalism, a presidential candidate’s choosing to post personal tax returns indicates a willingness to be transparent and forthcoming. ...

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August 30, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (5)

Herzig:  Walmart, Puerto Rico And Taxes

WalmartFollowing up on Thursday's post, First Circuit: Puerto Rico's Special 100% Tax Imposed Only On Wal-Mart Is Unconstitutional:  David J. Herzig (Valparaiso), Walmart and Puerto Rico:

In order to generate liquidity to pay debt and run government operations, Puerto Rico began to look to the deepest pockets for help. If you are looking for a deep pocket, look no further than Walmart. The question facing Puerto Rico was how to get more money out of Walmart without actually targeting the corporation (that would be unconstitutional.)

The territory, instead, tinkered with an old law to created a tax hikes which on the face seemed neutral. However, the law, according to Walmart, targeted primarily the large retail corporation. The after-tax effect of the corporate alternative minimum tax change was to raise Walmart’s Puerto Rican tax liability to over 90% of its income. ...

In March of 2016, the District Court agreed with Walmart and in a 109 page opinion stated, “Puerto Rico’s AMT, on its face, clearly discriminates against interstate commerce.” ... Late last week, the 1st Circuit agreed with the District Court. The 1st Circuit concluded, “As to the merits of the Commerce Clause challenge, the AMT is a facially discriminatory statute that does not meet the heightened level of scrutiny required to survive under the dormant Commerce Clause.” ...

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August 30, 2016 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

New York Ethics Panel:  Law Firms Can Charge Clients For The Work Of Unpaid Law Student Interns

InternsABA Journal, Law Firms May Bill for Work of Unpaid Interns, Ethics Opinion Says:

Some labor and law-student groups are criticizing a New York ethics opinion that says law firms may bill clients for the work of unpaid student interns.

The Committee on Professional Ethics of the New York State Bar Association issued the opinion in March, the New York Law Journal reports.

The ethics opinion said a law firm using interns that receive academic credit, but no pay, may bill for the interns “provided that the client has been advised of the firm’s intent to charge for the intern’s services and the basis of the charge (e.g., per task or per hour or some fraction thereof) and provided, further, that the fee is neither excessive nor illegal.”

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August 30, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (4)

EU Orders Apple To Repay $14.5 Billion In Irish Tax Breaks

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 August 1, 2016) 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.)

58,337

Reuven Avi-Yonah (Mich.)

10,512

2

Michael Simkovic (S. Hall)

33,181

Michael Simkovic (S. Hall)

4781

3

Paul Caron (Pepperdine)

31,836

D. Dharmapala (Chicago)

3362

4

D. Dharmapala (Chicago)

27,496

Paul Caron (Pepperdine)

2789

5

Louis Kaplow (Harvard)

26,337

Richard Ainsworth (BU)

2416

6

Vic Fleischer (San Diego)

22,711

Robert Sitkoff (Harvard)

2040

7

James Hines (Michigan)

21,995

Nancy McLaughlin (Utah)

1946

8

Ted Seto (Loyola-L.A.)

21,222

William Byrnes (Texas A&M)

1921

9

Richard Kaplan (Illinois)

21,195

Jeff Kwall (Loyola-Chicago)

1902

10

Ed Kleinbard (USC)

20,370

Dan Shaviro (NYU)

1883

11

Katie Pratt (Loyola-L.A.)

19,104

Chris Hoyt (UMKC)

1836

12

Richard Ainsworth (BU)

18,379

Ed Kleinbard (USC)

1821

13

Robert Sitkoff (Harvard)

17,566

Omri Marian (UC-Irvine)

1779

14

Carter Bishop (Suffolk)

17,150

David Weisbach (Chicago)

1771

15

Brad Borden (Brooklyn)

17,107

Louis Kaplow (Harvard)

1741

16

David Weisbach (Chicago)

17,057

Vic Fleischer (San Diego)

1676

17

Jen Kowal (Loyola-L.A.)

16,756

Yariv Brauner (Florida)

1472

18

Chris Sanchirico (Penn)

16,614

Brad Borden (Brooklyn)

1414

19

Francine Lipman (UNLV)

16,260

Katie Pratt (Loyola-L.A.)

1413

20

Dennis Ventry (UC-Davis)

16,136

Jack Manhire (Texas A&M)

1403

21

Bridget Crawford (Pace)

15,819

Francine Lipman (UNLV)

1378

22

Dan Shaviro (NYU)

15,455

Steven Bank (UCLA)

1362

23

David Walker (Boston Univ.)

15,093

Richard Kaplan (Illinos)

1327

24

Steven Bank (UCLA)

13,544

Jordan Barry (San Diego)

1208

25

Herwig Schlunk (Vanderbilt)

13,217

Stephen Shay (Harvard)

1204

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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August 30, 2016 in Legal Education, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Prof Rankings | Permalink | Comments (0)

Kleinbard:  Treasury Publishes White Paper Defending Brazen Tax Avoidance By Apple, Other U.S. Multinational Corporations

Apple TreasuryThe Hill op-ed: U.S. Treasury Publishes White Paper in Support of Tax Avoiders, by Edward Kleinbard (USC):

The U.S. Treasury Department has just published a tax policy white paper which amounts to a lawyer’s brief defending the brazen abuses of tax administrative processes clandestinely orchestrated by U.S. firms in cahoots with a handful of European countries. It’s August, and nearly the end of the Administration’s term to boot, so in the ordinary course even tax professionals could be forgiven for ignoring the white paper. But this is not simply another tedious tax policy exercise.

Simply put, “business friendly” jurisdictions (like Luxembourg) in substance offered through secret private deals to provide U.S. multinationals with tax shields in the form of their laws and European tax treaties, in return for what in substance were modest fees from the multinationals. All of this was revealed principally by the LuxLeaks scandal. I have worked in the area for 30 years, and I was awestruck by the sleaziness of the operations that came to light.

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August 30, 2016 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (6)

San Diego Welcomes 192 1Ls, Down 26% From Last Year's 261 (42% From 2010's 330)

USD (2016)The University of San Diego School of Law (ranked #74 in U.S. News) welcomed 192 1Ls this Fall, down 26% from last year's 261 (and 42% from 2010's 330).  Despite the enrollment decline, San Diego's 25%/50%/75% LSATs all fell, to 154/158/160 (from 156/159/161 in 2015), and their median GPA fell to 3.51 (from 3.52).  Here is San Diego's admission data for the prior six years from Law School Transparency:

USD

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August 30, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1209:  123 Tax Profs Oppose Impeachment/Censure Of John Koskinen

IRS Logo 2Letter From 123 Tax Professors in Opposition to Impeachment or Censure of IRS Commissioner (Aug. 28, 2016):

We the undersigned 123 tax law professors teach in law schools across America. We teach tax law and respect for the process of law in Utah, Montana, Texas, Georgia, Louisiana, Nevada, Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio as well as in Massachusetts and Washington, D.C. and places in between.
We urge you to oppose any resolution to impeach or censure John Koskinen, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue.

We teach our students how to represent clients in positions adverse to the Internal Revenue Service, but we also teach our students respect for the law and for the IRS. The IRS carries out a vitally important mission for our country. Respect for the IRS fosters the voluntary compliance that is essential for our revenue system to work.

Impeachment or censure will harm the country by weakening our revenue system. Impeachment or censure would disrupt the functioning of the IRS—which has had four Commissioners in as many years—leading to increased tax evasion, reduced revenue collection, and a higher national debt. Impeachment or censure would also set a dangerous precedent and deter talented people from working to improve the country’s struggling revenue system.

We also fear that targeting Commissioner Koskinen will distract the Congress from the vital work of enacting meaningful tax reform. Academics, practitioners, and businesses agree that we must revise our revenue system to rationalize and simplify the rules, and to minimize the collateral costs of raising the necessary revenue.

We believe that nothing that has been reported provides any basis for impeachment or censure. Commissioner Koskinen was called out of retirement when the IRS needed help, and responded for the simple reason that it was the time for all good citizens to come to the aid of their country.

We respectfully request that the House reject misguided efforts to impeach or censure Commissioner Koskinen, and focus instead on enacting meaningful reforms to our revenue system.

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August 30, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (14)

Monday, August 29, 2016

Online Courses Fuel Growth Of 'The Cheating Economy': Colleges Prioritize Boosting Enrollment Over Catching Cheaters

WeChronicle of Higher Education:  The New Cheating Economy, by Brad Wolverton:

The Chronicle spoke with people who run cheating companies and those who do the cheating. The demand has been around for decades. But the industry is in rapid transition.

Just as higher education is changing, embracing a revolution in online learning, the cheating business is transforming as well, finding new and more insidious ways to undermine academic integrity.

A decade ago, cheating consisted largely of students’ buying papers off the internet. That’s still where much of the money is. But in recent years, a new underground economy has emerged, offering any academic service a student could want. Now it’s not just a paper or one-off assignment. It’s the quiz next week, the assignment after that, the answers served up on the final. Increasingly, it’s the whole class. And if students are paying someone to take one course, what’s stopping them from buying their entire degree?

The whole-class market is maturing fast. More than a dozen websites now specialize in taking entire online courses, including BoostMyGrade.com, OnlineClassHelp.com, and TakeYourClass.com. One of them, NoNeedtoStudy.com, advertises that it has completed courses for more than 11,000 students at such colleges as Duke, Michigan State, even Harvard.

As cheating companies expand their reach, colleges have little incentive to slow their growth. There’s no money in catching the cheaters. But there’s a lot of money in upping enrollment. ...

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August 29, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (2)

NY Times Op-Ed By Venture Capitalist:  Close My Carried Interest Tax Loophole

New York Times op-ed:  Close My Tax Loophole, by Alan J. Patricof (Co-founder & Managing Director, Greycroft):

My fellow venture capitalists and private equity investors are paying close attention to the heated election-year rhetoric about the future of “carried interest,” which is the performance fee we charge to manage other people’s money. Carried interest is the fund manager’s share of the earnings from a profitable investment, normally paid on top of a much smaller management fee. ...

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August 29, 2016 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Kleinbard:  Searching For Our Fiscal Soul

Edward D. Kleinbard (USC), Searching for Our Fiscal Soul (Presentation Slides):

This is an extended version of a presentation made at TEDx Livermore 2016, the theme of which was The Economics of Empathy. Searching for Our Fiscal Soul argues that democracy is an exercise in empathy towards fellow citizens we do not know, and, if we did, might not like. We express that empathy through government spending, because that is how we actualize values that are important enough that we are willing to pay for them. This is our fiscal soul in action. Whether measured against the values we all routinely recite, or against the social environments achieved by peer countries, the fiscal soul of the United States is in peril. The remedy lies in understanding the value of a complementary economy, in which government spending is properly reframed as purchasing investments and insurance that private markets do not, and cannot, reach.

(Click on YouTube button on bottom right to view video to avoid interruption caused by blog's refresh rate.)

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August 29, 2016 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

University Of Houston:  Like KFC And Pittsburgh Paints, We Own City Law School Moniker

LogosFollowing up on my previous posts (links below):  Houston Chronicle, Courtroom Showdown: Houston Law Schools Battle Over Name:

One day after the University of Houston gleefully announced its basketball arena would get a new sponsor and name, the Cougars brought out their clutch players Friday for a federal hearing challenging the new name taken by a rival law school across town.

The university chancellor and president and the law school dean attended the jam-packed hearing in the downtown federal courthouse, where their lawyers asked U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison to grant a temporary injunction barring Houston College of Law, formerly South Texas College of Law, from using its new name until the matter can be resolved.

UH also wants the private law school to stop using the colors red and white in conjunction with the words "Houston" and "College of Law," fearing the similarities between the two brands might confuse potential applicants, students, and alumni and cause irreparable harm by confusing voters who determine national rankings.

UH's Law Center tied for 50th in the nation in the 2016 U.S. News rankings, along with Temple, Tulane, University of California Hastings and Florida State. The Houston College of Law, the official colors of which are crimson and gold, did not make the list, which goes up to 150.

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August 29, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (2)

Chodorow:  Olympians Don’t Need A Tax Break

Olympic RingsFollowing up on my previous posts (links below):  Adam Chodorow (Arizona State), Olympians Don’t Need a Tax Break:

The Rio Olympics are over, and the Paralympics are less than two weeks away. Nonetheless, America’s athletic finest face one adversary at home: the taxman. As has been widely reported, the U.S. Olympic Committee awards $25,000 to gold medal winners, $15,000 for silver medalists, and $10,000 for bronze medalists. Under current law, they must pay taxes not only on those awards but also on the value of the medals themselves. Sen. Chuck Schumer, the presumptive majority leader should the Democrats win back the U.S. Senate, wants to change that, and the Republicans couldn’t be happier about it. ...

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August 29, 2016 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

Advice To Harvard 1Ls

HarvardHarvard Law Record, Class of 2019: Welcome to HLS!:

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August 29, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Quantum Physics And The IRS Scandal, Day 1208

IRS Logo 2Fox News, Congress Faces Physicists' 'Multiverse' of Issues Including IRS, Zika Upon Impending Return:

Quantum physicists sometimes discuss the possibility of a “multiverse.” A multiverse is where the cosmos is like a layered quilt, populated with alternate realities, different dimensions and unique timelines. As a result, an infinite number of possibilities or scenarios pass along each temporal continuum.

Capitol Hill is now seemingly moored in a legislative multiverse. The House and Senate return to Washington in early September, following an epic, seven-week summer recess. There are only a handful of policy issues lawmakers must tackle when Congress reconvenes, but an almost incalculable string of outcomes loom ahead when they return.

In other words, almost anything can happen.

House Republican leaders conducted a half-hour conference call with rank-and-file GOPers late Thursday. According to sources familiar with the call, the Republican brass offered few specifics as to their approaches on big issues like funding the government, Zika and even an effort by House conservatives to impeach IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. ...

Just before the break in July, Huelskamp and Rep. John Fleming, R-La., filed a special resolution demanding that the House impeach IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. That resolution dissolved over the break.

Now, members of the House Freedom Caucus want to bring it back. Fox has learned the House won’t wrestle with the issue immediately as Freedom Caucus members will wait to see how the GOP leadership intends to handle the matter.

House Republican leaders aren’t fans of Koskinen. But they are lukewarm on impeaching the IRS chief. Congress hasn’t impeached a cabinet official since it sanctioned Secretary of War William Belknap in 1876.

As IRS commissioner, Koskinen isn’t even a cabinet official. There’s concern about setting a precedent if Congress begins impeaching various administration officials.

House Republicans will hold a separate conference meeting on Koskinen in mid-September. A source familiar with the thinking of the Freedom Caucus tells Fox its members aren’t in a hurry to refile the Koskinen resolution right away.

They don’t want to pressure leadership right off the bat. A House GOP leadership source told Fox that the public isn’t attuned to impeaching Koskinen. Still, the GOP leadership could further draw the ire of the Freedom Caucus if there isn’t a try to impeach Koskinen.

This is the Capitol Hill multiverse. No one is quite sure how lawmakers will resolve these issues in the end. But as lawmakers return to Washington, there are almost an infinite number of scenarios and possibilities -- because virtually no one’s decided anything yet.

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August 29, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (7)

TaxProf Blog Weekend Roundup

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Rocky Mountain High:  The Secret Ingredient In Colorado Law School's 'Remarkable Recent Popularity'?

Colorado 2Following up on yesterday's post, Colorado Law School Enjoys All-Time High: Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform: Does Marijuana Legalization at Least Partially Account for the Remarkable Recent Popularity of Colorado Law?, by Douglas Berman (Ohio State):

I am disinclined to assert that hundreds (and perhaps even thousands) of prospective law students are now applying to the University of Colorado Law School just so they can legally relax with cannabis as well as with Coors after a tough week of classes.  But  marijuana reform has surely contributed to the recent success of the Colorado economy and this success surely produces unique benefits and opportunities for law students and junior lawyers.

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August 28, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (4)

ABA Tax Section Publishes Fall 2016 Issue Of Tax Times

ABA Tax Times (2016)The ABA Tax Section has published 35 Tax Times No. 4 (Fall 2016):

FROM THE CHAIR
Hail and Farewell
By George C. Howell, III, Hunton & Williams LLP, Richmond, VA
It has been an honor and a privilege to serve as Chair of the Tax Section over the past year. With the devotion of our volunteer members and the help of our dedicated staff, much has been accomplished.

FROM THE CHAIR-ELECT
Providing a Valuable Benefit
By William H. Caudill, Norton Rose Fulbright LLP, Houston TX
It is both exciting and humbling to be presented with the opportunity to serve as Chair of the Tax Section for 2016-2017. I have three objectives for the coming year: (1) focusing on the high quality output of our Committees in the areas of CLE programming and government submissions: (2) continuing the promotion of the Section’s pro bono and public service efforts—a longstanding priority for the Section; and (3) attracting new members, particularly younger and diverse tax lawyers, to the Section, and identifying new opportunities to meet their needs.

POINT & COUNTERPOINT
Perspectives on Two Proposals for Tax Filing Simplification
By Joseph Bankman, Ralph Parsons Professor of Law and Business, Stanford Law School, Stanford, CA, and James E. Maule, Professor of Law, Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law, Villanova, PA
In this Point and Counterpoint, Stanford Professor Joseph Bankman and Villanova Professor James Edward Maule debate two related tax-filing simplification proposals: data-retrieval system and pro forma return system.

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August 28, 2016 in ABA Tax Section, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Top 5 Tax Paper Downloads

SSRN LogoThis week's list of the Top 5 Recent Tax Paper Downloads is the same as last week's list, with some minor reshuffling of the order within the Top 5:

  1. [470 Downloads]  Dark Pools, High-Frequency Trading, and the Financial Transaction Tax: A Solution or Complication?, by Doron Narotzki (Akron)
  2. [346 Downloads]  The True Economic Effects of Corporate Inversions, by Doron Narotzki (Akron)
  3. [281 Downloads]  Property Is Another Name for Monopoly Facilitating Efficient Bargaining with Partial Common Ownership of Spectrum, Corporations, and Land, by Eric A. Posner (Chicago) & E. Glen Weyl (Yale)
  4. [277 Downloads]  Executive Pay: What Worked? , by Steven A. Bank (UCLA), Brian R. Cheffins (Cambridge) & Harwell Wells (Temple)
  5. [237 Downloads]  The Trojan Horse of Corporate Integration, by Edward D. Kleinbard (USC)

August 28, 2016 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

FBI Interview With Ex-Girlfriend Of Dan Markel's Ex-Brother-in-Law/Mother Of Hit Man's Children

Adelson GarciaDavid Lat (Above the Law), The Dan Markel Case: A Notable New Document:

Earlier this week, we reported on prosecution efforts to find out who paid for the 2014 breast augmentation of Katherine Magbanua [more here]. If you’ve been following the investigation into the 2014 murder of law professor Dan Markel, you’ll recall that Magbanua is a key figure in the case. She is the mother of two children with Sigfredo Garcia, one of the two alleged hit men, and she is the ex-girlfriend of Charlie Adelson, the former brother-in-law of Dan Markel. At the time of his death, Dan was litigating against Charlie’s sister, Wendi Adelson, regarding various matters arising out of their divorce. ...

We now have more information about the breast-implants issue — and it could be interpreted in a light favorable to Charlie Adelson. We have the FD-302 (aka FBI interview notes) for Yindra Velazquez Mascaro, the friend of Katherine Magbanua who apparently told law enforcement about Charlie covering half the cost of the procedure. ...

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August 28, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (7)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1207

IRS Logo 2Neil Buchanan (George Washington), How to Make a Dead IRS Conspiracy Theory Look Not Completely Dead:

How does a right-wing conspiracy theory work?  Why do Republicans insist on pursuing even obvious dead ends?  One answer to those questions is that they have a virtual army of people who are willing to push these stories relentlessly in many directions, and they know that they can sometimes get useful headlines even from misleading underlying stories.

Thus on Monday of this week we saw this headline on a tax blog: "The IRS Scandal, Day 1201: Larry Tribe Says 'IRS Is Engaged In Unconstitutional Discrimination Against Conservative Groups And Must Be Halted'—'Inexcusable Abuse'."

How did a liberal lion like Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe get pulled into this mess, seeming to back up a right-wing talking point? He did so by being intellectually open-minded and generous, but apparently without being aware of the underlying conspiracy theory that his words seemed to confirm. ...

More than three years on, conservatives are still trying to claim that there was a political conspiracy. Republicans in Congress have spent millions of dollars investigating these claims, while also diverting millions of dollars worth of IRS resources to answering repetitive requests for evidence.

Despite all of this, there continues to be no evidence to support any of the conspiracy theories.

So why is the story still alive, and how did Larry Tribe end up playing a starring role for a day in this never-ending saga?

Apparently, Tribe recently (correctly) dismissed the idea of an IRS scandal as a non-scandal that has been debunked. Because Tribe is among the most well-known liberal legal scholars in the country, as well as a former advisor to President Obama, he is regularly trolled by right-wingers. Apparently, one or more of them took to Twitter to tell Tribe that there really is an IRS scandal.

One such response pointed Tribe to a recent decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Because Tribe is intellectually honest and open to being corrected, he said that he would look at the evidence. What he found, upon reading the court's opinion, was that there had really been IRS activities that needed to be stopped. Like the IRS lawyers who had stopped the vetting program when they found out about it, Tribe was rightly shocked.

Which, of course, does not at all support the conspiracy theories that conservatives have been pushing. No one has ever claimed that the IRS employees did nothing wrong. That was all covered in the TIGTA report, and the IRS's leadership had already ended the practice before the report was issued.

But why would Tribe's tweet be in the present tense: "IRS Is Engaged In Unconstitutional Discrimination ..."? Is engaged, not was. Why did he say that the IRS "must be stopped," given that it has already stopped?

Tribe might simply have erred by not using the past tense, or he might not have realized that the activity had been stopped a long time ago.  Another explanation, however, is intriguing (though equally exculpating of Professor Tribe). ...

At this point, therefore, all the IRS has to do to make this case go away is to process the last two applications and issue a new directive putting a bureaucratic stake through the heart of the long-abandoned procedures.

This is, therefore, yet another example of how legal concepts can be misleading. Professor Tribe (assuming that he meant to use the present tense) correctly said that the IRS "is" still doing something wrong, but only in the procedural sense that the last of the effects of the wrongdoing have not been completely cleaned up and tied off.

In the broader political context, of course, the misunderstanding of this legal nuance is more than a bit unfortunate. An important public intellectual was directed toward one tiny bit of the public record on the IRS non-scandal, and he responded to that evidence appropriately. But his words are being misused by people who want to keep the anti-Obama scandal claims alive.

To repeat: Some IRS employees did something that they should not have done. Their superiors made them stop. An inspector general reported what happened to Congress. Republicans have no evidence to show that the Obama people were involved. And Laurence Tribe is rightly dismayed that it ever happened, as are we all.

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August 28, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (7)

Saturday, August 27, 2016

This Week's Ten Most Popular TaxProf Blog Posts

Police Video Released Of Wendi Adelson Being Told Of Dan Markel's Murder, Says Her Brother Joked About Hiring A Hit Man

ABC News, Police Video Shows Woman Hearing About Shooting Death of Her Ex, an FSU Law Professor:

When asked in her videotaped interview whether she thought someone would kill Markel for her benefit without asking her, Wendi Adelson said, “No.”

But she acknowledged being “scared someone maybe did this - not because they hate Danny but because they thought this was good somehow.”

Adelson then recalled an eyebrow-raising phone conversation with her brother Charlie earlier that day, as they were discussing what to do about a television he bought her that had broken down.

“And I was talking to him about whether it made sense to pay to fix it or I should get a new one,” she said. “And it was always his joke that, like, he knew that Danny treated me badly, and it was always his joke, he said, I looked into hiring a hit man but it was cheaper to get you this TV.”

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August 27, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (4)

Treasury Department Backs Apple In $19 Billion EU Tax Dispute

TAFollowing up on Wednesday's post, Treasury Department White Paper: The European Commission And Transfer Pricing:  Wall Street Journal editorial, The EU’s Tax Attack on U.S. Business:

As diplomatic broadsides go, the shot the Obama Administration fired at Europe over tax policy this week is impressive. The U.S. Treasury released a 25-page white paper explaining why the European Commission’s attempts to extract more revenue from American companies violate international tax standards and European legal principles. Too bad the Obama Administration has set such a bad tax example that other nations are now following.

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August 27, 2016 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Colorado Law School Enjoys All-Time High

Colorado Logo (2016)Colorado Law School press release:

With 170 individuals, the University of Colorado Law School’s incoming class of 2019 is the most selective and academically competitive in the school’s history. The 2016-17 admissions cycle set the school’s record for number of applications and highest median GPA of an incoming class.

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August 27, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (4)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1206

IRS Logo 2Vox, How President Donald Trump Could Ruin His Enemies’ Lives:

Indulge for a minute in the worst-case scenario.

A Trump Force One flight to Mar-a-Lago in early January 2017. Donald J. Trump — the pettiest, most vicious version of Trump — is preparing for the ecstasies of his inauguration. He sits by the window, scrolling through Twitter and preparing for a well-deserved weekend at home.

Incoming White House Chief of Staff Corey Lewandowski and Chris Christie — yet to be named attorney general — burst into the cabin with a sheaf of notepaper and a couple of silent young attorneys in tow. "Well, boss," Lewandowski says, "we have a little bit of bad news and a whole lot of good news."

Trump raises an eyebrow. "There are some people we can’t figure out how to get back at yet, but there are a lot of people we can," Lewandowski says. ...

"Now on IRS — we’re doing Kasich and Cruz first, right?" (A nod from the president.) "We figure we just take the memo they sent out about targeting Tea Party groups and make some changes. Every group that’s ever done a fundraiser with those guys, or put up ads for them, or sent them an email, those are going to be audited first," Lewandowski says. "Bezos, we figure, probably next, maybe if the antitrust thing goes too slow. And we’re not allowing any new groups to get registered as 501(c)3s or (c)4s until we figure out who the rest of our targets are." ...

Because there are so many violations, the question of how investigators choose whom to target becomes the most important one. And the specter of politically motivated investigations is always there. This is most obvious when it comes to the IRS.

In 2013, the Treasury inspector general for tax administration found that the IRS had evaluated applications for new tax-exempt 501(c)3 groups, which can’t engage in "political activity," in part based on inappropriate things like whether a group had "Tea Party" in the name.

Conservatives felt this was evidence that the Obama administration was using the IRS to target conservative groups. Moulton of the Project on Government Oversight doesn’t think it quite reached the level of persecution — but still thinks the politically motivated use of the IRS, especially when it comes to tax audits, is a genuine cause for concern.

The government doesn’t even have to use all of these powers to change people’s behavior. Just the very possibility of an investigation is likely to make people tread carefully. Reporters sniffing around might worry about finding themselves snared in a costly audit. ...

In December, NBC and MSNBC correspondent Katy Tur live-tweeted a Trump rally that had been repeatedly disrupted by protesters. She received a note from Trump’s press secretary calling her coverage "disgraceful" and "not nice!" — followed by a tweet from Trump himself, calling for her and a colleague to be fired.

Then Trump singled her out at a rally in South Carolina, pointing to the press pen and saying, "She’s back there. Little Katy. … What a lie. Katy Tur. What a lie it was. Third. Rate. Reporter. Remember that."

Imagine that in 2017, Tur gets an audit request from the IRS for the past seven years of her tax information. She served as a foreign correspondent for NBC before covering the election, and the IRS sends her a letter every few weeks asking for more documentation about how she reported her income while on reporting trips abroad. ...

A vindictive president would need sympathetic political appointees in key positions: attorney general, DHS secretary, head of the IRS, maybe the director of National Intelligence. (The head of the FBI is a 10-year appointment, so James Comey — if he wants to — will be in charge until September 2023.)

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August 27, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)