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Tuesday, June 2, 2015

IRS Risks Data Breach Repeat While Expanding Online Services

ID TheftBloomberg, IRS Risks Data Breach Repeat While Expanding Online Services:

The IRS’s initiative to expand online services for taxpayers makes it more likely that the U.S. tax agency will be hit by “hackers and other fraudsters,” the agency’s inspector general said Tuesday.

One of the Internal Revenue Service’s early forays into interactive service was halted last month after the agency said identity thieves had accessed past tax returns of 104,000 people.

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June 2, 2015 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Five Things You Might Not Know About The Beatles' Taxman

TaxmanNewsmax, 5 Things You Might Not Know About Beatles 'Taxman':

With countless hits, the Beatles remain an iconic music figure today. Yet, every year as tax season rolls around, one particular hit is refreshed in the minds of many: “Taxman.”

The song, driven out of astonishment and hatred of Britain’s super-tax, is well known for its musical artistry and the Beatles’ experimentation with sound. But the song’s history is also unique.

Here  are five facts you might not know about “Taxman.”

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June 2, 2015 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Atkinson: Inequality — What Can Be Done?

Inequality 2Anthony B. Atkinson (Oxford & London School of Economics),  Inequality: What Can Be Done? (Harvard University Press, May 11, 2015):

Inequality is one of our most urgent social problems. Curbed in the decades after World War II, it has recently returned with a vengeance. We all know the scale of the problem—talk about the 99% and the 1% is entrenched in public debate—but there has been little discussion of what we can do but despair. According to the distinguished economist Anthony Atkinson, however, we can do much more than skeptics imagine.

Atkinson has long been at the forefront of research on inequality, and brings his theoretical and practical experience to bear on its diverse problems. He presents a comprehensive set of policies that could bring about a genuine shift in the distribution of income in developed countries. The problem, Atkinson shows, is not simply that the rich are getting richer. We are also failing to tackle poverty, and the economy is rapidly changing to leave the majority of people behind. To reduce inequality, we have to go beyond placing new taxes on the wealthy to fund existing programs. We need fresh ideas. Atkinson thus recommends ambitious new policies in five areas: technology, employment, social security, the sharing of capital, and taxation. He defends these against the common arguments and excuses for inaction: that intervention will shrink the economy, that globalization makes action impossible, and that new policies cannot be afforded.

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June 2, 2015 in Book Club, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Johnson: Tax ‘Simplification’ As A Trojan Horse For Terrible Tax Policy

Calvin H. Johnson (Texas), When ‘Simplification’ Is a Trojan Horse for Great Harm, 147 Tax Notes 565 (May 4, 2015):

In this article, Johnson argues that simplification is sometimes used as a cover for terrible tax policy. A flat tax, for instance, will increase harm by shifting the burden of tax from Uncle Scrooge, who can bear tax on a dollar without much loss in value, to the Little Match Girl, who cannot. Flat tax does not accomplish substantial simplification. An add-on VAT is not a simplification, but another level of complication. So too, expensing of inventory, repeal of net operating loss carryover limitations, and repeal of straddle rules are not are not well illuminated by calling them simplification and are not justified by simplification.

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June 2, 2015 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

Microsoft And The IRS Are Fighting Again

IRS MicrosoftBloomberg, Microsoft and the IRS Are Fighting Again:

Microsoft Corp. and the IRS are back in court, this time fighting about the U.S. tax agency’s interest in hiring David Boies, the lawyer who beat Microsoft in an antitrust case in 2000.

The software company filed a federal lawsuit May 29 in Seattle, marking the latest legal flurry over an ongoing Internal Revenue Service audit. At issue are “tens of billions of dollars” in corporate income, according to the IRS.

Microsoft is asking a court to enforce its public-records request for documents on the government’s decision to enter into a contract with Boies Schiller & Flexner LLP in 2013.

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June 2, 2015 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Muller: The Top 22 Law Reviews On Twitter

Twitter (2014)Derek Muller (Pepperdine), The Twenty-two Law Reviews You Should Follow on Twitter:

While you could follow a pretty sizeable list of law reviews I've maintained on Twitter, there are a handful of law reviews that rise above the rest.

Last year, I listed the sixteen law reviews to follow on Twitter. I've modified the criteria slightly and updated it. ...

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June 2, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Should Investigate Scientology's Tax-Exempt Status

ScientologyHarvard Political Review, Scientology and Tax Exemptions:

Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney’s latest picture Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief has stirred controversy within the Scientologist community and beyond. The film documents the experiences of ex-practitioners and alleged abuse within the Church of Scientology, prompting some observers to call for the IRS to revoke the institution’s tax-exempt status. It has also prompted a vigorous backlash from the Church and alleged physical threats against those who critique the Church’s practices in the film. ...

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June 2, 2015 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

The IRS Scandal, Day 754

IRS Logo 2Newmax, GOP Calls on AG to Prosecute Lois Lerner in IRS Scandal:

Republican lawmakers are petitioning the new attorney general, Loretta Lynch, to criminally prosecute former IRS official Lois Lerner over the agency's targeting scandal, having failed to convince her predecessor to do so.

According to The Hill, 24 Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee sent a letter to Lynch asking for her to take up the panel's 2014 request to charge Lerner for possible crimes.

The allegations include using her position at the agency to pursue heightened scrutiny of conservative groups; obstructing investigations by giving misleading information; and disclosing confidential taxpayer information, The Hill said.

Before former Attorney General Eric Holder stepped down from his post, House Speaker John Boehner was informed by the department that Lerner would not be prosecuted for refusing to testify at a congressional hearing.

The letter, which was circulated by the committee's chairman, Paul Ryan, also prompted statements of support from Boehner and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

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

Monday, June 1, 2015

NY Times: Beyond Publish Or Perish, Academic Papers Look To Make A Media Splash

SplashNew York Times, Beyond Publish or Perish, Academic Papers Look to Make a Splash:

Each July, many of the top economists in the world gather in Cambridge, Mass., at a conference hosted by the National Bureau of Economic Research. While the work they present comes in all shapes and sizes, from the highly technical to the trendy and provocative, the coveted first day of a key weeklong session is given over to research that will make a media splash.

“I choose the papers,” said David Card, a prominent labor economist at the University of California, Berkeley. “I choose papers that are going to be written up” in the mainstream press.

Professor Card explained that the elders of the field recognized the growing importance of media visibility, and he felt obliged to give it to them. “It’s what the people want,” he said.

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June 1, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

RIP, Westlaw

WestlawRobert Ambrogi, Westlaw’s Days Are Numbered:

No, Thomson Reuters is not about to go out of business or shut down its Westlaw legal research service.

But it is about to shut down Westlaw Classic, as the original version has been called ever since the introduction of WestlawNext.

As of August 31, 2015, Westlaw Classic will go the way of New Coke, becoming only a haunting memory among aging associates of legal research past. In a recent email to Westlaw Classic subscribers, the company said access would be shut off as of Aug. 10. ...

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June 1, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (4)

American Lawyer Special Report: Big Law Is Failing Women

American Lawyer LogoAmerican Lawyer Special Report, Big Law Is Failing Women:

Why aren't there more women at the top of the nation's biggest firms? Consider that at the current growth rate of women equity partners, gender parity will be reached in the year 2181. Our investigation includes firm-by-firm data plus a look at innovative firms that are addressing problems in novel ways.

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June 1, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

NY Times: To Fill Budget Hole, Kansas GOP Considers Raising Taxes

New York Times, To Fill Budget Hole, Kansas G.O.P. Considers the Unthinkable: Raising Taxes:

With the state facing a $400 million budget hole for the coming fiscal year, the conservatives who dominate the Legislature here say they are agonizing over the likelihood of doing something that did not seem to be in their DNA: raising taxes.

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June 1, 2015 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Job Opportunity For Estate Planning Attorney With 1-2 Years Experience: Pepperdine University

Pepperdine Campus PhotoPepperdine University has a wonderful opportunity for an estate planning attorney with 1-2 years experience in its planned giving office:

Purpose: The purpose of the Legal Associate position is to work with internal and external constituents to strengthen the advancement work of the University, specifically the planned giving and estate planning efforts of the Center for Estate and Gift Planning (CEGP). 

Duties: Draft charitable remainder trusts, charitable gift annuities, and other planned giving documents; prepare planned giving proposals for donors; works with CEGP staff, advancement officers, donors, faculty, and staff to assist in the preparation of estate plans; administers and oversees estates, bequests, and probates; conducts research on legal, tax, estate planning, and planned giving issues and pursues continuing education opportunities; drafts pledge, scholarship, and gift agreements;

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June 1, 2015 in Tax, Tax Prof Jobs | Permalink | Comments (1)

WSJ: Lawyer Sues Skadden For Overtime Pay — Is Document Review 'Practicing Law'?

Skadden LogoWall Street Journal, Lawyer Sues Skadden for Overtime:

A lawsuit against legal heavyweight Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP is testing whether some purportedly professional work might in fact be eligible for overtime.

The case pits Skadden against a contract attorney hired by a legal staffing agency to review documents for $25 an hour on a Skadden case.

Under federal labor laws, licensed lawyers can’t earn overtime pay for work in excess of 40 hours a week if what they are doing is considered legal work. But the plaintiff, David Lola, says he deserves overtime pay because the tasks he did were so basic they shouldn’t qualify as practicing law.

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June 1, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (4)

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June 1, 2015 in About This Blog, Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Feminist Northwestern Prof: My Title IX Inquisition

KipnisChronicle of Higher Education:  My Title IX Inquisition, by Laura Kipnis (Northwestern):

When I first heard that students at my university had staged a protest over an essay I’d written in The Chronicle Review about sexual politics on campus — and that they were carrying mattresses and pillows — I was a bit nonplussed. For one thing, mattresses had become a symbol of student-on-student sexual-assault allegations, and I’d been writing about the new consensual-relations codes governing professor-student dating. Also, I’d been writing as a feminist. And I hadn’t sexually assaulted anyone. The whole thing seemed symbolically incoherent.

According to our campus newspaper, the mattress-carriers were marching to the university president’s office with a petition demanding "a swift, official condemnation" of my article. One student said she’d had a "very visceral reaction" to the essay; another called it "terrifying." I’d argued that the new codes infantilized students while vastly increasing the power of university administrators over all our lives, and here were students demanding to be protected by university higher-ups from the affront of someone’s ideas, which seemed to prove my point.

The president announced that he’d consider the petition.

Still, I assumed that academic freedom would prevail. I also sensed the students weren’t going to come off well in the court of public opinion, which proved to be the case; mocking tweets were soon pouring in. Marching against a published article wasn’t a good optic — it smacked of book burning, something Americans generally oppose. Indeed, I was getting a lot of love on social media from all ends of the political spectrum, though one of the anti-PC brigade did suggest that, as a leftist, I should realize these students were my own evil spawn. (Yes, I was spending a lot more time online than I should have.)

Being protested had its gratifying side — I soon realized that my writer friends were jealous that I’d gotten marched on and they hadn’t. I found myself shamelessly dropping it into conversation whenever possible. "Oh, students are marching against this thing I wrote," I’d grimace, in response to anyone’s "How are you?" I briefly fantasized about running for the board of PEN, the international writers’ organization devoted to protecting free expression.

Things seemed less amusing when I received an email from my university’s Title IX coordinator informing me that two students had filed Title IX complaints against me on the basis of the essay and "subsequent public statements" (which turned out to be a tweet), and that the university would retain an outside investigator to handle the complaints.

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June 1, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (6)

The IRS Scandal, Day 753

IRS Logo 2U.S. News & World Report, House Committee Chairman Subpoenas IRS Official to Hearing on Freedom of Information Act:

The chairman of the House Oversight Committee issued a subpoena Friday for an IRS official to testify at a hearing on the Freedom of Information Act.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said he issued the subpoena after the IRS declined to provide the official who oversees information requests. Instead, the IRS offered to have IRS Commissioner John Koskinen testify.

In a letter to Koskinen, Chaffetz said he wanted to hear from the agency's expert on responding to information requests. Chaffetz issued the subpoena for Mary Howard, the IRS director of privacy, governmental liaison and disclosure. She reports to a deputy commissioner.

The IRS said Friday it will send Howard to the hearing, which is scheduled for Wednesday. Officials from several government agencies are scheduled to testify.

"In order to conduct effective oversight we must hear from the individuals with the greatest insight into the issues we are exploring," Chaffetz said in a statement. "When an agency attempts to undermine the role of Congress by refusing to allow a witness to testify, issuing a subpoena is not only necessary but appropriate."

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

TaxProf Blog Weekend Roundup

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Indiana Marijuana Church Granted Tax-Exempt Status, Plans 'Call To Worship' When Members Will Light Up

First ChurchChristian Post, Indiana's Marijuana Church Granted Tax-Exempt Status; Plans to Test Limits of Controversial Religious Freedom Law at First 'Worship' Service:

Indiana's marijuana-smoking church has been incorporated as a tax-exempt religious organization by the Internal Revenue Service according to the church's founder.

Bill Levin, the founder of the First Church of Cannabis, a controversial group looking to test the limits of Indiana's new Religious Freedom Restoration Act by indulging in the smoking of marijuana during "church" services said the IRS notified him earlier this week about the group's tax will allow donors to deduct their contributions.

"It means people in higher tax brackets will be more generous with the church," said Levin to News and Tribune. "There have been people who want us to succeed but they've [been] waiting [on] our 501(c)(3) exemption."

The organization was established by Levin in March, after Indiana's General Assembly passed the controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act which will go into effect on July 1. ... The First Church of Cannabis hopes to test the new law by holding a service on July 1 where members will take part in recreational marijuana-smoking, an activity that is currently illegal in the state of Indiana.

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May 31, 2015 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

Today's Law, Society & Taxation Panels

L&SToday's Law, Society, and Taxation panels at the 2015 Law & Society Association Annual Meeting in Seattle:

  • Panel #14:  The Creation of Transnational Legal Orders in Tax: Actors, Processes and Their Implications
  • Panel #15:  Eclecticism in Tax Law

Panel #14:  The Creation of Transnational Legal Orders in Tax: Actors, Processes and Their Implications (Adam Rosenzweig (Washington University), Chair & Discussant)

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May 31, 2015 in Conferences, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Top 5 Tax Paper Downloads

SSRN LogoThere is quite a bit of movement in this week's list of the Top 5 Recent Tax Paper Downloads, with a new #1 paper and new papers debuting on the list at #3, #4, and #5:

  1. [223 Downloads]  Taxation of E-Commerce, by Orkhan Abdulkarimli (Baku State)
  2. [181 Downloads]  Tax Compliance as a Wicked System, by J. T. Manhire (U.S Treasury Department)
  3. [143 Downloads]  Reducing Inequality With A Retrospective Tax On Capital, by James Kwak (Connecticut)
  4. [124 Downloads]  The Un-Precedented Tax Court, by Andy Grewal (Iowa)
  5. [113 Downloads]  Citizenship Taxation, by Ruth Mason (Virginia)

May 31, 2015 in Scholarship, Tax, Top 5 Downloads | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 752

IRS Logo 2Wall Street Journal op-ed:  Get the IRS Out of the Speech-Police Business, by Scott Blackburn (Center for Competitive Politics): 

In May 2013, an inspector general’s report detailed the politically motivated targeting of nonprofit groups by the IRS for harassment. Two years later, despite continuing Republican outrage and Democratic complaints about Republican anger, the agency continues to stick its nose where it does not belong.

Some agency defenders have claimed that nothing was amiss in the IRS harassing hundreds of conservative and tea party groups. Since the agency also went after a few liberal groups, what’s the problem? The problem is that Americans deserve better than equal harassment under the law.

The job of the IRS should be to collect taxes, fairly and efficiently. Since the income tax was enacted in 1913, however, the IRS has appropriated to itself—sometimes on its own, sometimes with congressional blessing—the right to make political judgments about groups of citizens. That is the central failure revealed by this scandal.

The solution is to get the agency out of the business of policing political speech. ...

The IRS ... should not decide whether an organization is a political committee or a social-welfare group. As National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson advised Congress in 2013, that decision should be made by the FEC. This agency is set up to assure that neither major political party can use the determination of the organization’s status as a weapon against political opponents.

It is a bad idea to have a tax-collection agency monitoring the political activities of tax-exempt groups. Worse still that it would do so without any expertise. And silly when the job is already done by another agency.

The treatment of tea party groups is not the first time that the IRS has been used as a political cudgel to beat some organizations into silent submission. But this has been one of the most systematic efforts to do so. If we want to ensure that such abuse does not happen again, we must, and rather easily can, take the agency out of the speech-police business.

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May 31, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Saturday, May 30, 2015

This Week's Ten Most Popular TaxProf Blog Posts

European Association Of Tax Law Professors Annual Meeting

EATLP Logo (2013)Tax panel at today's European Association of Tax Law Professors Annual Meeting:  

Peer Review in Tax Law

Part One – Fact Finding About Peer-Reviewing

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May 30, 2015 in Conferences, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Today's Law, Society & Taxation Panels

L&SToday's Law, Society, and Taxation panels at the 2015 Law & Society Association Annual Meeting in Seattle:

  • Panel #10:  Social Issues and Taxation
  • Panel #11:  Using the Tax System to Address Social Problems
  • Panel #12:  The Tax System, Regulation, and the Environment
  • Panel #13:  Theory and Constitutionalism in Tax Law
  • International, Socio-legal Feminisms: Perspectives on Taxation Law

Today's paper presenters and topics are below the fold:

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May 30, 2015 in Conferences, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 751

IRS Logo 2Wall Street Journal:  One More Chance for Justice at the IRS, by Kimberley A. Strassel:

Paul Ryan on Thursday sent his first official letter to Loretta Lynch, the new U.S. attorney general. With luck, Ms. Lynch will take a few moments out of her international soccer crackdown to give it a glance.

Signed by every Republican member of the House Ways and Means Committee, which Mr. Ryan heads, the letter is a forceful request that Ms. Lynch channel just a smidgen of her famed prosecutorial skill into the largest abuse of government power in decades: the IRS targeting scandal. It’s now been two full years since a little-known IRS bureaucrat named Lois Lerner admitted that her agency systematically collected the names of conservative groups, harassed them, and denied their right to participate in elections. It’s been two full years since the Justice Department opened an investigation. And it’s been two full years of crickets.

While Ms. Lynch was this week orchestrating a dramatic dawn raid and the arrest of seven international soccer officials, the IRS’s offices continued to operate as if nothing ever happened. Two years ago, in the days following the targeting revelations, the administration sacked Acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller only because it had to. Ms. Lerner, who had led the exempt organizations division, was allowed to retire with full pension benefits. Holly Paz, her effective deputy, was put on administrative leave. Everyone else is still at their desks. Not a single official—there or gone—has faced prosecution.

The Ryan letter asks Ms. Lynch to finally answer his committee’s 2014 referral of Ms. Lerner to the Justice Department for criminal prosecution. That referral has been largely lost to time and other headlines. Most of the focus last year was on the House’s decision to issue a contempt citation against Ms. Lerner, for improperly asserting her Fifth Amendment rights and refusing to answer its questions about her time at the IRS. In March of this year, U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Ronald Machen, who has since resigned, informed Speaker John Boehner that he was refusing to bring that contempt citation before a grand jury.

That’s a pity. Note, though, that the citation dealt only with Ms. Lerner’s after-the-fact behavior in front of Congress. Investigators have also compiled compelling evidence that she may have broken the law while overseeing the targeting of conservative groups. Nearly a month before Mr. Boehner sent out the citation, the Ways and Means Committee (then under Rep. Dave Camp) sent a letter to Justice making the case that Ms. Lerner should be criminally prosecuted for her time at the IRS. The Justice Department has never responded to that letter. ...

Ms. Lynch’s response will be enormously telling about her view of her job. Well before the IRS scandal broke, former Attorney General Eric Holder had already built a reputation as one of the most partisan and political holders of the office in history. It was never really a surprise that Justice assigned the IRS probe to a staff attorney who was a Obama donor, or that the FBI early on leaked that it didn’t intend any prosecutions, or that Mr. Holder ignored calls for a special prosecutor. The likelihood that he’d act dropped further as evidence came out that his own Justice attorneys were implicated in Ms. Lerner’s targeting.

Meanwhile, today’s IRS commissioner, John Koskinen, has been unable to acknowledge that someone at his agency might have engaged in intentional wrongdoing. This attitude, combined with Justice’s inaction, creates the scary potential of an IRS targeting repeat. When nobody in a position of authority or with police power is willing to even question whether some in the IRS might be bad actors, there is no guard whatsoever against a Lerner 2.0.

One of Ms. Lynch’s specialties in her previous post as U.S. attorney for the eastern district of New York was political corruption. She knows that government officials can and do break the law. If she ignores or skirts the Ryan letter, the country will see that it has another Obama partisan sitting in the attorney general seat. If she acts, she might instead restore some public faith in two of the nation’s least respected institutions: the Justice Department and the IRS. It doesn’t seem such a hard choice.

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May 30, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 29, 2015

European Association Of Tax Law Professors Annual Meeting

EATLP Logo (2013)U.S. Tax Prof presentations at today's European Association of Tax Law Professors Annual Meeting:

May 29, 2015 in Conferences, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Weekly Tax Roundup

Weekly Legal Education Roundup

Weekly SSRN Tax Roundup

Weekly Student Tax Note Roundup

May 29, 2015 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Today's Law, Society & Taxation Panels

L&SToday's Law, Society, and Taxation panels at the 2015 Law & Society Association Annual Meeting in Seattle:

  • Panel #5:  Business and Entity Taxation
  • Panel #6:  Inequality, Distribution and the State
  • Panel #7:  Topics in the Theory and Practice of Tax Law
  • Panel #8:  Taxation, Development and Emerging Countries
  • Panel #9:  Problems Raised by Nonprofit Organizations
  • Author Meets Reader:  Confidence Games: Lawyers, Accountants and the Tax Shelter Industry

Today's paper presenters and topics are below the fold:

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May 29, 2015 in Conferences, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Former Assistant Dean, Tenured Law Prof Sue Cleveland-Marshall Dean, Claim Retaliation For Formation Of Faculty Union

Cleveland StateFollowing up on my previous posts (links below):  Cleveland Plain Dealer, Cleveland State University's Law School Dean Retaliated Against Associate Dean and Professor, Lawsuit Claims:

The former [assistant] dean and a professor at Cleveland State University's law school have sued Dean [and Tax Prof] Craig Boise and CSU, claiming Boise retaliated against them because the faculty formed a union [complaint].

Jean Lifter and Sheldon Gelman, who are married, contend in the lawsuit in U.S. District Court that they lost income and their constitutional rights were violated by Boise's actions following Gelman's union activities. ...

Lifter served as [assistant] dean, a non-faculty position, for 37 years at the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law until she was terminated on June 30, 2014.

Gelman, a tenured professor from 1980 until his retirement in May, led the effort in 2012 that resulted in about 37 faculty members affiliating with the American Association of University Professors.

Prior TaxProf Blog coverage:

May 29, 2015 in Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

IRS Should Be 'Red Carded' For This Lame FIFA Zing

FIFAUSA Today, IRS Official Should be 'Red Carded' For This Terrible 'Red Card' FIFA Zing:

The U.S. Government sent a shock wave through the sports world on Wednesday when it promptly indicted 14 FIFA officials — including two vice presidents — on charges of corruption and money laundering, among other things. Considering how long-standing FIFA’s corruption problem is, everyone was understandably impressed.

But one thing that wasn’t so impressive? This attempted zing from the IRS’s criminal investigation division head Richard Weber:

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May 29, 2015 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thomas Jefferson Law School Ditches Federal Loan Program, Forces Non-JD Students To Take Out Private Loans

Above the Law, Law School Ditches Federal Loan Program, Forces Students To Take Out Private Loans:

Thomas Jefferson Logo (2015)The vast majority of those who are in law school rely heavily on federal loans to finance their legal educations. When graduation rolls around and they still haven’t found a job, they’ll celebrate the grace period on those loans that will give them a few months to get their acts together. If and when they aren’t able to find a job, they’ll be thanking their lucky stars that they can enroll in Income-Based Repayment (IBR) or Pay as You Earn (PAYE), which will allow them to pay a fraction of the cost of what would have been their monthly payments on a regular plan — sometimes, the monthly payment will be $0. Thank God for the federal loans that are handed out to prospective lawyers like candy. Law school graduates may be drowning in federal debt, but at least they have options.

Private loans are an entirely different beast. They carry with them far greater risk and far fewer protections than federal loans. There’s no potential for forgiveness in the future, and there aren’t programs like IBR and PAYE to save borrowers if they’re unable to make payment. Private loans can be dangerous, and law school graduates are often left with little to no recourse when struggling with this kind of debt.

That’s why we were very surprised when a law school recently announced that it was abandoning federal loans… in the middle the academic quarter. Which school would do such a thing to its students? None other than Thomas Jefferson School of Law, a much-maligned institution that’s seen its share of trouble over the past few years.

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May 29, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (6)

The IRS Scandal, Day 750

IRS Logo 2Letter From All 24 Republican Members of the House Ways & Means Committee to Loretta Lynch (Attorney General of the United States) (May 28, 2015):

As Members of the House Ways and Means Committee we are writing to inquire about the status of the Committee's April 9, 2014 referral of Lois Lerner to the Department of Justice for criminal prosecution as supplemented July 30, 2014. See attachments.

On March 31, 2015, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, Ronald Machen, wrote U.S. House Speaker John Boehner stating that the U.S. Attorney's office would not prosecute Lois Lerner for contempt of Congress based on her refusal to testify before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, despite offering a brief opening statement before asserting her Fifth Amendment right to remain silent. Mr. Machen's letter responded to Speaker Boehner's referral of Ms. Lerner of May 7, 2014.

Mr. Machen's letter did not address the April 9, 2014, criminal referral of Ms. Lerner issued by the House Ways and Means Committee under my predecessor, Chairman David Camp. In that referral, the Committee identified three specific acts undertaken by Ms. Lerner that may have violated one or more criminal statutes, including that:

  • Ms. Lerner used her position to improperly influence agency action against only conservative organizations, denying these groups due process and equal protection rights under the law.
  • Ms. Lerner impeded official investigations by providing misleading statements in response to questions from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Ad ministration (TIGTA).
  • Ms. Lerner risked exposing, and may actually have disclosed, confidential taxpayer information, in apparent violation of Internal Revenue Code section 6103 by using her personal email to conduct official business.

The Committee continues to believe that these serious charges should be pursed by the Department of Justice. We would appreciate receiving an update on the status of the referral as soon as possible. Thank you for your  assistance in this matter.

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May 29, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Legal Tech Firm UnitedLex Establishes Residency Programs With Emory, Miami, Ohio State & Vanderbilt

UnitedLexLegal technology services provider UnitedLex has established legal residency programs with Emory, Miami, Ohio State, and Vanderbilt law schools:

Recent law graduates who participate in the two-year UnitedLex residency program will learn to use cutting-edge legal technologies and processes to provide high-quality and efficient legal services to corporate legal departments and top law firms. Those selected for the residency program each year will receive rigorous classroom instruction provided by senior attorneys, will serve in a supervisory capacity, and will work directly with clients to deliver legal services in such practice areas as litigation management, e-discovery, cyber security, contract management, patent licensing, IP management and immigration law. At the end of the residency, some residents will continue on the UnitedLex legal staff, while others will join employers seeking experienced attorneys trained in the technologies and processes of 21st-century law practice. ...

The legal residency program is similar to a medical residency in that it provides both full-time employment and rigorous, hands-on training.

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May 28, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

IRS Releases Spring 2015 Statistics Of Income Bulletin

IRS Logo 2The IRS's Statistics of Income Division has released the Spring 2015 SOI Bulletin, with these articles:

Press and blogosphere coverage:

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May 28, 2015 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Role Of Taxes In Mitigating Income Inequality Across The U.S. States

Daniel H. Cooper (Federal Reserve Bank of Boston), Byron F. Lutz (Federal Reserve Board) & Michael G. Palumbo (Federal Reserve Board), The Role of Taxes in Mitigating Income Inequality Across the U.S. States:

Income inequality has risen dramatically in the United States since at least 1980. This paper examines the role that tax policies play in mitigating income inequality. The analysis primarily focuses on state taxes, but also explores federal taxes. Two empirical approaches are employed. First, cross-sectional estimates compare before-tax and after-tax inequality across the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Second, inequality estimates across time are calculated to assess the evolution of the effects of tax policies.

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May 28, 2015 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Rhode: Law Is The Least Diverse Profession In The Nation. And Lawyers Aren’t Doing Enough To Change That.

Washington Post op-ed:  Law Is the Least Diverse Profession in the Nation. And Lawyers Aren’t Doing Enough to Change That., by Deborah L. Rhode (Stanford):

DiversityFrom the outside, the legal profession seems to be growing ever more diverse. Three women are now on the Supreme Court. Loretta Lynch is the second African American to hold the position of attorney general. The president and first lady are lawyers of color. Yet according to Bureau of Labor statistics, law is one of the least racially diverse professions in the nation. Eighty-eight percent of lawyers are white. Other careers do better — 81 percent of architects and engineers are white; 78 percent of accountants are white; and 72 percent of physicians and surgeons are white.

The legal profession supplies presidents, governors, lawmakers, judges, prosecutors, general counsels, and heads of corporate, government, nonprofit and legal organizations. Its membership needs to be as inclusive as the populations it serves.

Part of the problem is a lack of consensus that there is a significant problem. Many lawyers believe that barriers have come down, women and minorities have moved up, and any lingering inequality is a function of different capabilities, commitment and choices.

The facts suggest otherwise.

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May 28, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

Above The Law 2015 Top 50 Law School Rankings

ATL 2ATL 2015 Law School Rankings:

Out of respect for the 40,000 new law students who still, you know, exist, we welcome you to the third annual installment of the Above the Law Top 50 Law School Rankings. These are the only rankings to incorporate the latest ABA employment data concerning the class of 2014. The premise underlying our approach to ranking schools remains the same: that given the steep cost of law school and the new normal of the legal job market, potential students should prioritize their future employment prospects over all other factors in deciding whether and where to attend law school. The relative quality of schools is a function of how they deliver on the promise of gainful legal employment.

Our list is limited to 50 schools. We want to look at "national" schools, the ones with quality employment prospects both outside of their particular region and/or for graduates who don’t graduate at the top of the class.

Methodology:

  • Employment (30%)
  • Quality Jobs (30%)
  • Supreme Court Clerkships (7.5%)
  • Federal Court Clerkships (7.5%)
  • Education Cost (15%)
  • Alumni Rating (5%)
  • Debt Per Job (5%)

 The ATL Top 13 are the same as the U.S. News Top 13, in a different order:

  1. Harvard (2 in U.S. News)
  2. Stanford (2)
  3. Chicago (4)
  4. Penn (7)
  5. Yale (1)
  6. Virginia (8)
  7. Duke (8)
  8. Columbia (4)
  9. Cornell (13)
  10. NYU (6)
  11. UC-Berkeley (8)
  12. Michigan (11)
  13. Northwestern (12)

Here are the law schools that most underperform and overperform in the ATL Rankings compared to the U.S. News Rankings:

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May 28, 2015 in Law School Rankings, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

Today's Law, Society & Taxation Panels

L&SToday's Law, Society, and Taxation panels at the 2015 Law & Society Association Annual Meeting in Seattle:

  • Panel #1:  History and Fiscal Policy
  • Panel #2:  The Treasury, the IRS, and Problems of Tax Administration
  • Panel #3:  Courts and Tax Administration
  • Panel #4:  Problems in International and Interregional Taxation
  • Increasing Access to Justice Through Alternative Avenues

Today's paper presenters and topics are below the fold:

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May 28, 2015 in Conferences, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Fleischer: Yahoo's Alibaba Stock Spinoff May Suffer Same Fate As Evelyn Gregory's Reorganization

NY Times Dealbook (2013)New York Times Deal Book:  Yahoo’s Tax-Free Spinoff Plan Parallels a Historic Case, by Victor Fleischer (San Diego):

Perhaps the most quoted dictum from any tax case comes from Judge Learned Hand of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in the 1934 case of Evelyn Gregory against Guy T. Helvering (then the commissioner of the I.R.S.):

Any one may so arrange his affairs that his taxes shall be as low as possible; he is not bound to choose that pattern which will best pay the Treasury; there is not even a patriotic duty to increase one’s taxes.

This passage might as well serve as the motto for the tax planning industry.

But the words are merely obiter dictum, a “remark by the way,” meaning that the passage was not essential to the court’s decision. As legal precedent goes, Judge Hand’s prose is neither here nor there.

The actual “holding” of the case — the part of the decision that establishes legal precedent for future cases — is that it was not enough for the taxpayer, Mrs. Gregory, to devise a plan to avoid taxes that complied with the literal words of the tax code. The deal was taxable because it was not what Congress had in mind when it wrote the rules.

It’s the court’s ultimate decision, not its dictum, that ought to make Yahoo's shareholders nervous.

Yahoo’s plan to spin off Alibaba stock to its shareholders follows the same basic playbook as Mrs. Gregory’s old plan, making it vulnerable to the same kind of judicial attack. ...

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May 28, 2015 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

GAO, TIGTA Warned Of IRS's Lax Computer Security For Years Before Hack Of 100,000 Taxpayer Accounts On IRS Website

ID TheftFollowing up on yesterday's post, Hackers Gained Access To Old Tax Returns For 100,000 Taxpayers On IRS Website:  USA Today, Audits and Reports Warned of IRS Computer Safety Risks:

Government monitors repeatedly warned of IRS computer security risks long before Tuesday's disclosure that identity thieves had stolen tax agency data for roughly 100,000 U.S. households.

"Computer security has been problematic for the IRS since 1997," according to an October 2014 report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, the government monitor for the nation's tax agency. So problematic, that TIGTA has ranked security for taxpayer data and IRS employees as among the tax agency's top management challenges every year at least since 2004.

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May 28, 2015 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (5)

Are Uber Drivers Employees Or Independent Contractors?

Forbes:  Florida Says Uber Drivers Are Employees, But FedEx, Other Cases Promise Long Battle, by Robert W. Wood:

UberUber promises good open-ended pay, flexible hours, even discounts on vehicles. But employee status? No way. Health and dental coverage? Tax withholding? Nope. Darrin McGillis was a driver in Florida who was in a car accident so could no longer pick up passengers. Buzzfeed reported on the case in which McGillis couldn’t get Uber to help, so he filed for unemployment. Hey, I qualify since I’m effectively an employee, McGillis claimed.

Sure enough, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity agreed with him that he was actually an employee. Predictably, Uber disagrees with the decision and will surely fight it vigorously. A separate report on McGillis’s case in The Miami Herald notes that Uber has managed to get similar state decisions overturned. Although the case only involves one Uber driver and in Florida at that, this case and the inevitable others like it will be watched. Recently, a survey showed that contract workers for Uber and numerous other companies don’t get benefits and have trouble getting them on their own. 

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May 28, 2015 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (4)

The IRS Scandal, Day 749

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Would Tenure Have Saved Blockbuster?

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

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

We don’t want to be the next Blockbuster.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Session #1:  Taxpayer Compliance Costs and Tax Administration

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