TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron
Pepperdine University School of Law

Saturday, December 3, 2016

This Week's Ten Most Popular TaxProf Blog Posts

Brooklyn Law School Sells Real Estate For $148m, Raising Endowment To $225m

Brooklyn Logo (2016)New York Law Journal, Brooklyn Law School Sells Office Building for $76.5M:

Brooklyn Law School has sold a downtown Brooklyn office building to a group of investors for $76.5 million. The move is the latest in the school's multi-year plan to sell off its extensive real estate holdings amid the borough's hot market, in order to bolster its finances.

The sale of One Boerum Place, along with the 2015 sale of the school's residential property at 2 Pierrepont St. for $35 million, will raise its endowment to $225 million—double what it was five years ago. ... The law school sold another six properties in Brooklyn Heights for a combined $36.5 million in 2013.

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December 3, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (3)

WSJ:  Taxes Under Trump—Almost Everyone Pays Less, The Richest Pay A Lot Less

Wall Street Journal Tax Report: Taxes Under Trump: Almost Everyone Pays Less and the Richest Pay a Lot Less, by Laura Saunders:

Steven Mnuchin, the likely next Treasury secretary, this week said rich U.S. taxpayers won’t get “an absolute tax cut” under President-elect Donald Trump. But that is not what Mr. Trump says in his taxation plan. In fact, under his approach the wealthy would receive an average tax cut of about $215,000 per household, experts say.

In Mr. Trump’s plan, Americans in different income ranges would divide up several hundred billion dollars of revenue cuts for 2017. As a result, Americans would, on average, receive a lower tax bill for 2017 compared with current law.

The top 1% will benefit, as they would contribute a smaller percentage of total tax revenue under Mr. Trump than they do now. The group, which consists of about 1.1 million households and earns 17% of total income, would owe 25% of federal taxes for 2017 under Trump’s plan compared with 28.7% under current law.

Mr. Mnuchin said these high-income households won’t get an “absolute” cut, because reductions for high earners “will be offset by less deductions.” Notably, Mr. Trump’s tax plan currently limits “itemized” deductions on Schedule A, such as those for mortgage interest, charitable donations, and state taxes, to a maximum of $200,000 per couple and half that for singles. But these limits don’t fully offset the effects of income- and estate-tax cuts for high earners proposed by Mr. Trump, according to experts.



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December 3, 2016 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (5)

SUNY-Buffalo Dean At Post-Election Forum: 'If Hillary Clinton (Or Others) Had Won, We Would Not Be Here'; Donald Trump Was Elected Due To 'Profound Democratic Immaturity'

SUNY 2The Spectrum, UB Law School Holds Presidential Election Forum:

Jim Gardner has “a lot of worries” and “no answers” when it comes to the presidential election. He feels this election raises concerns about the nation’s future.

UB Law School faculty discussed the 2016 presidential election at a community forum on Nov. 28 in O’Brian Hall. The 90-minute forum was open to the entire university community. Roughly 75 students and faculty attended.

“We’re here today to reflect as a community,” Gardner, interim dean of UB law school and SUNY Distinguished Professor said. “We’re here because of the words, the behavior, the evidence of character revealed during the campaign by the individual who will be our next president… If Hillary Clinton or Ted Cruz or Bernie Sanders or Marco Rubio had won we wouldn’t be here today.”

Gardner said there has been “profound democratic immaturity” that led to Donald Trump being elected.

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December 3, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (34)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1304: 'The IRS Has Never Stopped Targeting Conservatives'

IRS Logo 2The Federalist, Despite Investigations, Obama’s IRS Has Never Stopped Targeting Conservatives:

The next Tea Party scandal is not only coming, it may already be happening. When it does, the charade will begin anew, and no one will pay a price.

“It’s not true, it’s not true, it’s not true, it’s old news.” Standard Washington crisis management says to deflect and deny political scandals until they can be ignored—preferably without the powerful punished. The guilty have deftly used this strategy in the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting scandal. Fleeting hours of feigned indignation quickly morphed into assigning blame to laws governing nonprofits and, that all-purpose scapegoat, the Supreme Court’s opinion in Citizens United.

Those who cultivated the scandal by pressuring ideological allies inside the IRS shrugged and moved on. Those within the agency lawyered up, pled the Fifth, and moved on. Those defending the IRS in court engaged in unconscionable dilatory tactics that continue today. New faces replaced old and nothing changed. That the government’s most feared agency had blatantly discriminated against the president’s ideological foes was declared history.

But “the past,” as William Faulkner declared, “is never dead. It’s not even past.” The IRS scandal never ended, because the behavior never stopped. More importantly, the structural forces that nurtured it—piqued politicians demanding agencies “do something” in accord with political objectives, and like-minded, eager-to-please career employees manning those agencies—means a repeat is not just predictable, it’s inevitable. In fact, it may already be occurring.

The IRS cover-up began in earnest with John Koskinen. He marred his tenure as IRS head with gross incompetence and perhaps willful obstruction. Yet he has achieved his mission. His middle finger to congressional investigations ensured destroyed evidence, denied justice, and perpetrators walking scot-free.

The administration sold Koskinen as a “turnaround artist” who specializes in stressed institutions. The all-business technocrat, so it went, would cooperate with congressional investigators and restore the tattered agency’s reputation. During his confirmation hearing, he assured as much: “[W]e will be transparent about any problems we run into; and the public and certainly this committee will know about those problems as soon as we do.” Six weeks into the job, opportunity tested Koskinen’s pledge. He failed miserably. ..

No IRS official ever suffered for the blatantly unconstitutional and unethical actions. Lerner pled the Fifth and then walked away with a $129,000 bonus and a pension that vests with 34 years of government “service”—she could receive almost $4 million over her lifetime. Koskinen impeachment talk fizzled, neutered by Republican leadership unwilling to stomach the difficult political fight. Even successful litigation will only result in victims getting official nonprofit status or, where a group’s privacy rights were violated, a damage award and perhaps payment of attorney’s fees. ...

Evidence suggests targeting will continue and indeed spread —even assuming the IRS henceforth uses objective criteria to approve tax-exempt applications.


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December 3, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (4)

Friday, December 2, 2016

Weekly Tax Highlight And Roundup

This week, Joe Kristan (CPA & Shareholder, Roth & Company (Des Moines, Iowa); Editor, Tax Update Blog) discusses multi-level marketing business deductions.

KristanBig Hummer isn’t the same as a big deduction.

I have long been a doubter of multi-level marketing. I prepare no returns for MLM entrepreneurs, but they often seem to have a business model of deducting personal expenses as Schedule C business expenses.

My doubt is shaken a bit by a Tax Court case last week where a multi-level marketer generated a fair amount of revenue from his network. Unfortunately, his deductions were supported no better than you usually see when such cases reach Tax Court.

MLM entreprenuers often take an expansive view of just what constitutes a “business” expense. As they are always “on duty,” goes the logic, everything is an expense. That seems to have been the approach he took for his vehicle expenses:

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December 2, 2016 in Tax, Weekly Tax Roundup | Permalink | Comments (0)

Weekly SSRN Tax Article Review And Roundup

This week, David Gamage (UC-Berkeley, moving to Indiana) reviews a new article by Walter Hellerstein (Georgia), Taxing Remote Sales in the Digital Age: A Global Perspective, 65 American University Law Review 1195 (2016).

Gamage (2017)Walter Hellerstein’s new article represents comparative legal scholarship at its best.  Hellerstein’s article analyzes the OECD’s recently issued International VAT/GST Guidelines so as to discuss the lessons for the design and reform of U.S. state-level retail sales taxes.  In doing so, the article argues that U.S. retail sales taxes (RSTs) should tax remote sales and should do so based on the destination principle.  The article then analyzes how RSTs should be reformed so as to best accomplish these goals.

Hellerstein is persuasive in arguing that RSTs should tax remote sales. His article offers important guidance for how RSTs should ideally be reformed. But how can we get there in light of the politically and judicially imposed constraints that currently confront U.S. state governments? I would rank the most plausible paths to reform as follows:

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December 2, 2016 in Scholarship, Tax, Weekly SSRN Roundup | Permalink | Comments (0)

Weekly Legal Education Roundup

Harrison:  Normative Legal Scholarship Is An Oxymoron

Jeffrey Harrison (Florida), Scholarship, Rush, and Still Waters:

I ran across the term "normative scholarship" in an article in the Journal of Legal Education by Robin West [The Contested Value of Normative Legal Scholarship, 66 J. Legal Educ. 6 (2016)]. It is, of course, and I think she would admit, an oxymoron. I've looked up every definition of scholarship I could find and no where is there any mention of normativity. Scholars search for information, inconvenient and otherwise, and report it. When they do, it is scholarship.

When they add the "should" element, it stops being scholarship and it becomes advocacy. This is not true just of your run of the mill article in which someone tries to convince you that the position they hold is the "right" one (usually by reporting what others have written that supports that position and not reporting what does not.) It also applies to any empirical work in which the author interprets the results with a certain "correct" spin without coming clean about other possible interpretations.

This is not to say no law professors produce scholarship. Some do. And, this is not to say all normative scholarship is bad. But it is to say that it is not scholarship, it is advocacy. Why don't more law professors do scholarship? The easy answer is they do not know how. They were not trained to be scholars. ...

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December 2, 2016 in Legal Education, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (8)

Penn Prof: 10-15 Law Schools May Close

ABA JournalABA Journal, 10 to 15 Law Schools Could Close If Enrollment Keeps Shrinking, Higher-Ed Market Analyst Says:

Although there’s been a contraction in the law school market, tuition continues to rise, including at private institutions that take first-year students with lower LSAT scores and have high attrition rates, says Robert Zemsky, a professor of education at the University of Pennsylvania [and author of Remaking the American University, Market-Smart and Mission-Centered]. Zemsky predicts several of these schools will close if trends continue.

His study, Mapping a Contracting Market, analyzed 171 law schools and found that enrollment dropped by 21 percent at private law schools between 2011 and 2015. At public law schools, enrollment dropped by 18 percent. Zemsky also analyzed attrition rates at schools within both categories. ...

If the law student market contracts further, it’s possible that between 10 and 15 schools will close, says Zemsky, a founding director of Penn’s Institute for Research on Higher Education. He notes that law schools are already losing money. “You can’t continue to muddle through and hold your breath,” he told the Chicago audience on Nov. 16. “You can only hold your breath for so long.”

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December 2, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (8)

Tax Policy In The Trump Administration

Josie Caron, Malibu Celebrity

The local paper featured this photo of our dog on the front page of the Malibu Life Section:


I fear we are going to have to evade the paparazzi on our future walks. Here is the original higher resolution photo:

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December 2, 2016 in Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1303:  Group Sues IRS For Failure To Produce Communications With Joint Committee on Taxation

IRS Logo 2Press Release, CoA Institute Sues IRS for Improperly Shielding Records:

Cause of Action Institute (CoA Institute) today filed a lawsuit against the IRS after the agency refused to produce records under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) relating to its dealings with Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT).

In December 2015, the IRS Office of Chief Counsel issued new guidance claiming that nearly all IRS records relating to the JCT should be treated as “congressional records” and therefore shielded from public disclosure under FOIA. This revised guidance contradicts long-standing precedent for what records government agencies must provide in response to FOIA requests.

CoA Institute Vice President John Vecchione: “The IRS continues to withhold agency records that the American people have a right to see. Agency records, including communications with Congress, are subject to FOIA. But the IRS is now attempting to change the rules and withhold all of its communications with, and other records relating to, the JCT. Our lawsuit challenges what appears to be a ploy by the IRS to avoid transparency.”

For months, CoA Institute has sought IRS communications with JCT and other JCT-related records, including those that reflect internal deliberations concerning the agency’s dealings with the JCT.  By definition, these are agency records, as they would necessarily have been received or created by the IRS and are currently in the possession of the agency.  Such records would have been used by IRS employees and uploaded or stored into IRS recordkeeping systems, including e-mail or correspondence

On November 22, 2016, in response to CoA Institute’s administrative appeal, the IRS re-affirmed its conclusion that the requested records were not subject to FOIA and went a step further to describe CoA Institute’s FOIA requests as “too broad and too nebulous.” The Department of Justice has explained, however, that “[t]he sheer size or burdensomeness of a FOIA request, in and of itself, does not entitle an agency to deny that request on the ground that it does not ‘reasonably describe’ records.” The IRS never indicated that it was unable to locate records responsive to CoA Institute’s FOIA requests, nor did it suggest it required a narrowed scope or clarification as to the records sought.

CoA Institute’s lawsuit seeks to prevent the IRS from improperly shielding agency records from disclosure under FOIA.

The lawsuit can be found here.

Exhibits can be found here.

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December 2, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

Thursday, December 1, 2016

GAO Assails Department Of Education's Cost Estimates Of Income-Driven Student Loans, Projects 39% ($137 Billion) Of 1995-2017 Loans Will Not Be Repaid

GAO (2016)Government Accountability Office, Federal Student Loans: Education Needs to Improve Its Income-Driven Repayment Plan Budget Estimates (GAO-17-22) (Nov. 30, 2016):

Because Education administers the federal government’s largest direct loan program, it is especially important that the agency corrects its methodological weaknesses associated with estimating IDR plan costs. More specifically, until Education assesses and improves the quality of data and methods it uses to forecast borrowers’ future incomes and accounts for inflation in its estimates, its IDR plan budget estimates may be unreliable.


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December 1, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (4)

NY Times:  How To Hide $400 Million

NY Times 2

New York Times Magazine, How to Hide $400 million:

In any given year, trillions of dollars sit safely in the offshore financial world, effectively stateless, protected by legions of well-compensated defenders and a tangle of laws deliberately designed to impede creditors and tax collectors. Even the United States government finds it challenging: A special Internal Revenue Service division known as the “wealth squad,” set up in 2010 to crack down on high-end tax evaders with multinational holdings, today has enough manpower to assess only about 200 cases a year.

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December 1, 2016 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Simkovic:  U.S. LL.M. Programs Probably Benefit International Students

LLM 2Michael Simkovic (Seton Hall; moving to USC), U.S. LLM Programs Probably Benefit International Students:

Part 1: Students Who Stay in the U.S.:

At a conference I recently attended, some law professors and administrators seemed willing to assume the worst about LLM and international JD programs.[fn 1] They seemed to think that LLM programs provide revenue to law schools but do little to help students. This stoked my curiosity about international law programs. It seems likely, as conference attendees suggested, that LLM admissions are less exclusive than JD admissions at comparable institutions. But lower selectivity does not imply that LLM programs fail to help their students.

Immigrants are generally at a disadvantage relative to those born in the United States because of language, culture, and legal issues. But comparing immigrants to U.S.-born individuals tells us nothing about the benefits of U.S. education for immigrants. Instead, we can either compare immigrants to those from their countries who stay home, or compare immigrants to each other by education level.

Decades of peer reviewed labor economics research indicates that additional education boosts earnings. Moreover, Immigration to the United States can often dramatically boost earnings for immigrants over the long term. Are foreign LLM programs or international JDs exceptions to widely observed trends regarding benefits of education and immigration?

While data is limited, the unsurprising answer appears to be: Probably not.

Using U.S. Census data (ACS), I found (in a very preliminarily, quick analysis intended primarily to satisfy my own curiosity) that an LLM might boost long term annual earnings by as much as $25,000 on average compared to a bachelor’s degree (depending on unobserved selection effects, the causal boost could be lower since these are cross-tabbed means by race sex and education level). The earnings boost from a JD for immigrants might be around two or two and a half times as high as the boost from an LLM.

[Fn. 1]:  At the conference, attendees saw data on international student market share and growth. The data suggested that a relatively small number of law schools attract the lion’s share of international LLMs and JDs. Attendees were also informed that U.S. News does not rank LLM programs, that the ABA does not collect much data about LLM programs, and that the ABA requires that LLM programs not adversely affect JD programs. Based on little more than ostensibly lighter regulation, some attendees enthusiastically speculated about competitor law schools’ nefarious activities. Some went further than speculation. One senior law school administrator compared LLMs and other non-JD programs to “Trump University”—a for-profit institution that critics allege used high-pressure sales tactics and unqualified faculty. A senior faculty member lambasted a local competitor for accepting many international students, while mentioning that his own institution had not “lowered its standards” in accepting international students.

Part 2: Students Who Return Home:

In part 1 of this 2 part post, I noted that U.S. LLM programs may provide substantial financial benefits to students who remain in the United States, even if they do not necessarily pass a U.S. bar exam. But what about the LLM graduates who return to their countries of origin?

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December 1, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (4)

University Of Basel Conference:  Global Histories of Taxation And State Finances Since The Late 19th Century

BaselThe three-day conference on Global Histories of Taxation and State Finances Since the Late 19th Century kicks off today at the University of Basel Institute for European Global Studies:

Taxation has wide-ranging implications for global as well as domestic orders, ranging from budgets and public finances to inequality, the social fabric of societies, and worldwide competition for corporate profits. Since the global financial crisis of 2008 in particular, taxation and the reform of tax systems have become talking points in many parts of the North Atlantic world. The current interest in taxation is welcome, but many of the issues raised more recently have long histories that deserve to be studied in their own right. This international symposium calls on historians and historically-minded sociologists and political scientists with different geographical specializations to engage with the topic of taxation from a wide variety of angles.

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

Law School Rankings By Job Placement

Dan Filler (Drexel) has mined the ABA placement data to rank all 203 law schools by the percentage of graduates in the class of 2015 who found full-time non-law school funded long term J.D.-required or J.D.-advantage jobs within nine months after graduation, along with each school's U.S. News rank.  (He notes glitches in the data in a later post.) Here are the Top 25:

Job Rank US News Rank School Percentage
1 7 PENN 93%
2 11 DUKE  92%
2 60 KENTUCKY 92%
4 13 CORNELL  91%
4 2 HARVARD  91%
4 4 CHICAGO 91%
7 6 NYU 90%
7 4 COLUMBIA  90%
9 2 STANFORD  89%
11 8 MICHIGAN 88%
12 8 VIRGINIA 87%
12 65 SETON HALL 87%
12 8 UC-BERKELEY 87%
15 55 BAYLOR  86%
15 30 OHIO STATE 86%
18 20 IOWA 85%
18 1 YALE  85%
21 45 GEORGE MASON 84%
21 57 NEBRASKA 84%
21 86 ARKANSAS 84%
21 45 SMU 84%
25 33 GEORGIA 83%
25 86 TULSA 83%
25 16 VANDERBILT 83%

Dan notes "there are other ways to slice the data," and my Pepperdine colleague Rob Anderson does so in Law Schools Ranked by Employment.  Rob notes the many "oddities" in Dan's ranking, including Kentucky (2), Georgetown (78), and UC-Irvine (127):

I decided to use a technique have written about in the past to produce a better ranking of law schools by ABA employment data. Professor Filler's post really isn't fair to excellent schools like Georgetown, and is especially harsh to UC Irvine, which Professor Filler's approach ranks at #127. My technique takes into account all of the ABA data and uses a dimensionality reduction technique to squash the data into a single dimension. It counts some categories as negatives and some as positives, and uses information about "biglaw" versus "small law" jobs, etc. This ranking, which I denote A-Rank to distinguish it from Filler's F-Rank, is far from perfect, but it is clearly a significant improvement and I think readers will find it more informative.

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December 1, 2016 in Law School Rankings, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (4)

Full House Expected At Today's IRS Hearing On Proposed Estate Tax Valuation Discount Regulations

DiscountsBloomberg BNA, IRS Can Expect Groups in ‘Full Force’ at Estate Tax Hearing:

The IRS should expect a full house at its Dec. 1 hearing on the estate valuation discount regulations even though the guidance is unlikely to survive under President-elect Donald Trump.

A preliminary list of speakers for the hearing includes 30 individuals, including trade group representatives, estate tax attorneys and appraisers. The proposed regulations (REG-163113-02), issued in August under tax code Section 2704, would make changes to the valuation of interests in family-owned businesses for estate, gift and generation-skipping transfer tax purposes.

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

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

How Social Media Is Impacting Law Students

Facebook Twitter InstagramD Magazine, How Social Media is Impacting Law Students:

Given the prevalence of social media–Facebook now boasts more than 1.7 billion users worldwide, with 293,000 status updates posted each minute–wannabe lawyers are being scrutinized through the unforgiving lens of social networking. As far back as 2011, a Kaplan Test Prep survey indicated that 37 percent of law school admissions officers reported checking out applicants on social media–a far higher percentage than admissions officers for colleges and business schools. A 2015 survey by recruiting software company Jobvite found that 52 percent of recruiters say they “always search” candidates’ online profiles during the hiring process. And, according to a 2013 Careerbuilder study, 43 percent of hiring managers disqualified applicants based on information found online, including provocative photos (50 percent), posts about alcohol or drug use (48 percent), badmouthing a current or former employer (33 percent), making discriminatory comments related to things like race, gender, or religion (28 percent), and lying about qualifications (24 percent).

Law students and recent law graduates today have to navigate one of the most challenging job markets in recent history. The National Association for Legal Placement recently reported that the class of 2015 secured fewer private practice jobs than any class since 1996. And they are doing so having come of age in the era of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, where comments and content that can sink a career are just a few keystrokes away, preserved for posterity, and sharable with an online audience of millions. ... Of course, even older lawyers aren’t immune to social media missteps that can jeopardize employment or professional standing.

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

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

The IRS Scandal, Day 1302:  The 'Corrupt' IRS Is Still Persecuting The Tea Party

IRS Logo 2WND, 'Corrupt' IRS Still Persecuting Tea Party:

A “corrupt” Internal Revenue Service still is shooting down advocates for conservative causes, especially if they have the words “tea party” in their names, even though courts have told the bureaucrats to stop.

Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice said three non-profits that had applied for tax-exempt status years ago at a time when the agency, under the Obama administration, was selectively targeting and discriminating against conservative groups, recently received letters from the IRS regarding their requests.

Two of the organizations were denied tax-exempt status.

“It is clear that we still have an IRS that is corrupt and incapable of self-correction,” Sekulow said. ... “As we continue our fight at the ACLJ against the lawless, unconstitutional Obama administration’s IRS targeting of grassroots conservatives, we are achieving important victories,” Sekulow said. “But the fight also continues in federal court to ensure justice for all 38 of our clients from 22 states across the country. We must not stop fighting the IRS corruption until there is true justice and assurances that no American will ever be targeted by the IRS for his or her beliefs ever again.

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December 1, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal | Permalink | Comments (7)

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

More Law Degrees For Women, But Fewer Good Jobs

NY Times Dealbook (2013)New York Times Deal Book: More Law Degrees for Women, but Fewer Good Jobs, by Elizabeth Olson:

Women currently occupy nearly half of all the seats in American law schools, gaining credentials for a professional career once all but reserved for men. But their large presence on campus does not mean women have the same job prospects as men.

New research indicates that female law students are clustered in lower-ranked schools, and fewer women are enrolled in the country’s most prestigious institutions. Such distribution can make a significant difference in whether female law graduates land legal jobs that pay higher wages and afford long-term job security and professional advancement.

Women “are less likely than men to attend the schools that send a high percentage of graduates into the profession,” said Deborah J. Merritt, a law professor at the Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University, who co-wrote the report called The Leaky Pipeline for Women Entering the Legal Profession.

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November 30, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (2)

CBO & Joint Tax Committee:  Factors Affecting Revenue Estimates Of Tax Compliance Proposals

The Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee Taxation have released Factors Affecting Revenue Estimates of Tax Compliance Proposals (CBO Working Paper 2016-05; JTX-90-16):

This paper examines various factors that affect estimates made by the Congressional Budget Office and the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation of the budgetary savings from tax compliance proposals. Affecting the current law baseline, against which proposed changes are measured, are the size of the tax gap and the amount of Internal Revenue Service (IRS) resources. Other considerations that affect the revenue estimates for either appropriation proposals or changes to the tax code include the distinction between detection and deterrence, the budget scorekeeping guidelines, and the constraints faced by the IRS when trying to obtain a higher return on investment from new initiatives than from the activities allowed under current law. In addition to those common considerations, there are factors unique to proposals to increase funding and to those that would expand the IRS’s enforcement tools allowed under the tax code. Those unique factors are illustrated by two examples—first, the Administration’s proposal to increase funding for IRS enforcement actions that was included in its fiscal year 2016 budget submission and second, legislation enacted in 2016 to reduce identity fraud in the tax system.

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November 30, 2016 in Congressional News, Gov't Reports, IRS News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Dyreng Presents Trade-offs In The Repatriation Of Foreign Earnings Today At Pennsylvania

DyrengScott D. Dyreng (Duke) presents Trade-offs in the Repatriation of Foreign Earnings (with Kevin S. Markle (Iowa) & Jon C. Medrano (Iowa)) at Pennsylvania today as part of its Tax Policy Workshop Series hosted by Chris Sanchirico and Reed Shuldiner:

We examine repatriations of foreign earnings that have been designated as indefinitely reinvested. U.S. firms can repatriate foreign earnings without an immediate tax cost when there is a domestic loss, which frees the earnings to be used domestically. But using the domestic loss to offset repatriation taxes reduces financial accounting income, and removes a real option to tax deferral. We show that firms are more likely to repatriate indefinitely reinvested foreign earnings in domestic loss years, but they are less likely to repatriate when financial reporting incentives are strong.

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November 30, 2016 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

ABA Blawg 100 And Blawg Hall Of Fame

Top 100 2The ABA Journal has released its annual list of the Top 100 Blawgs.  I am delighted that five members of our Law Professor Blogs Network are honored:

Three members of our Law Professor Blogs Network are in the ABA Journal Blawg 100 Hall of Fame:

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November 30, 2016 in Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Several Law Profs Named On Watchlist Of Academics Who Advance 'Leftist Propaganda'

PWFollowing up on last week's post, New Website Seeks To Register Professors Accused of Liberal Bias:  New York Times, Professor Watchlist Is Seen as Threat to Academic Freedom:

A new website that accuses nearly 200 college professors of advancing “leftist propaganda in the classroom” and discriminating against conservative students has been criticized as a threat to academic freedom.

The site, Professor Watchlist, which first appeared Nov. 21, says it names those instructors who “advance a radical agenda in lecture halls.”

“We aim to post professors who have records of targeting students for their viewpoints, forcing students to adopt a certain perspective, and/or abuse or harm students in any way for standing up for their beliefs,” wrote Matt Lamb, an organizer of the site.

ABA Journal, Several Law Profs Land on Watchlist of Academics Who Advance 'Leftist Propaganda':

Harvard law professor Mark Tushnet says he isn’t bothered by his inclusion on a conservative group’s new watchlist of leftist professors. “It’s not a big deal,” Tushnet tells the Harvard Crimson. “It comes with the territory.” ... The watchlist targets Tushnet for a May 2015 blog post saying conservatives lost the culture wars, and it’s time to take a hard line with the losers. ...

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November 30, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (8)

Tax Policy In The Trump Administration

Grand Jury Charges Katherine Magbanua With First Degree Murder In Killing Of Dan Markel

MagnaubaFollowing up on yesterday's post:  Tallahassee Democrat, Katherine Magbanua Indicted on First-Degree Murder Charges in Dan Markel Case:

Prosecutors secured a murder indictment of Katherine Magbanua, a prime suspect in orchestrating the July 2014 shooting of Florida State University law professor Dan Markel.

After hearing from police investigators and Luis Rivera, one of two men suspected of carrying out the murder-for-hire, grand jurors Tuesday charged the 31-year-old with first-degree murder.

She is the suspected link between Markel’s former in-laws and two men, Sigfredo Garcia and Rivera, charged with his murder.

Magbanua has two children with Garcia, who has an extensive criminal record. She was arrested on Oct. 1 in Broward County and is being held in the Leon County Jail.

Investigators believe she is the go-between for the family of Markel's ex-wife Wendi Adelson, whose brother, Charlie Adelson, and mother, Donna Adelson, have been linked to the murder-for-hire plot by investigators but have not been charged. ...

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November 30, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (7)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1301:  If Koskinen Is Impeached Or Fired, Trump Could Appoint New IRS Commissioner To Go Easy On His Taxes

IRS Logo 2USA Today, Trump Faces Potential Decision on IRS:

President-elect Donald Trump could face a decision that may affect whether his tax returns will continue to be audited throughout his four-year term of office.

IRS regulations call for annual audits of tax returns filed by U.S. presidents and vice presidents. But those rules, in place roughly 40 years, theoretically could be changed by the tax agency — whose current leader is under fire from Capitol Hill. ...

Trump has not publicly discussed future leadership for the IRS, which is part of the Department of the Treasury. ... Current IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, serving a five-year term that's set to end in November 2017, has been under pressure from congressional Republicans angered by what they contend was the tax agency's politically motivated delays of applications for non-profit status submitted by conservative Tea Party organizations. They say Koskinen misled Congress and obstructed committees that investigated the issue, allegations he has denied. ...

House Republicans started the process of initiating impeachment proceedings against Koskinen with a Judiciary Committee hearing in September. But no votes were held during the session. If he leaves through impeachment or resignation after Trump takes office, Trump would nominate a successor, subject to Senate confirmation.

"I serve at the pleasure of the President and a new President can always ask me to step aside sooner," Koskinen said in part of a statement prepared for a House hearing in July.

IRS commissioners haven't always stepped down for a new White House administration. Shirley Peterson, appointed in 1992 by President George H.W. Bush, officially left as of January 1993, as Bill Clinton took office. But Charles Rossotti, appointed by Clinton in 1997, stayed on for the opening two years of President George W. Bush's first term following enactment of the law that established five-year terms for IRS commissioners.

In a move to guard against any interference with the IRS, a 1998 federal law makes it illegal for executive branch officials to ask the tax agency to initiate or terminate an audit or investigations, Leas said. Convicted violators are subject to a maximum $5,000 fine and five-year prison term.

Several tax law experts recently told Politico the statute wouldn't necessarily stop the appointment of a nominee who might seek easier or tougher treatment of certain audits.

However, Robert McKenzie, a tax expert at the Arnstein & Lehr law firm's Chicago office, theorized that "a conscientious IRS employee would come forward and report it if someone tried to influence him or her on an audit."

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November 30, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Will Nick Saban Sack The IRS In Tax Court?

SabanWall Street Journal, The Rise of Nick Saban Incorporated:

Over the past decade, Saban has created a modern football dynasty at Alabama, with four national titles in seven years and another possibly in the offing as it gears up for the annual showdown with archrival Auburn.

With considerably less fanfare, Saban has also built a business empire off the field, a collection of investments and projects that roughly traces the path of his 40-year career: A strip mall outside East Lansing, Mich. Apartment complexes around Houston, Texas. A pair of small apartment buildings in Baton Rouge, La. An upscale residential development in Tuscaloosa, Ala. And a growing collection of Mercedes-Benz dealerships. ... On a state disclosure form filed in May 2016, Saban listed 23 entities, some with names like Blitzmore LLC and First Down LLC, in which he or his wife, Terry—a licensed real estate professional—hold 5% or more of the stock, or serve as officers. ...

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November 29, 2016 in Celebrity Tax Lore, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

After Big Associate Salary Boost In June, Cravath Holds Year-End Bonuses Steady ($15k-$100k)

CravathOn the heels of its big June increase in associate salaries, Cravath Swaine & Moore announced yesterday that is is awarding the same amount of associate bonuses as last year:

Class of 2016 — $15,000 (pro-rated) (on top of $180,000 salary)
Class of 2015 — $15,000 (on top of $190,000 salary)
Class of 2014 — $25,000 (on top of $210,000 salary)
Class of 2013 — $50,000 (on top of $235,000 salary)
Class of 2012 — $65,000 (on top of $260,000 salary)
Class of 2011 — $80,000 (on top of $280,000 salary)
Class of 2010 — $90,000 (on top of $300,000 salary)
Class of 2009 — $100,000 (on top of $315,000 salary)
Class of 2008 — $100,000

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November 29, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (4)

Tax Reform May Determine Fate Of Trump's Push For Carrier To Keep U.S. Plant Open

CarrierWall Street Journal, Deal for Carrier to Keep U.S. Plant Open May Hinge on Tax Overhaul:

President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign pledge to save jobs at a Carrier plant in Indiana was framed around free trade, but negotiations about corporate tax law changes could be just as important to any possible deal.

Representatives for the incoming administration, including Vice President-elect Mike Pence, have held wide-ranging policy talks with top-ranking executives at Carrier’s parent company, United Technologies Corp., said a person familiar with the discussions.

The discussions include the conglomerate’s plans to shift more than 2,000 jobs from Indiana to Mexico, but have covered other issues, including the company’s wishes for a tax overhaul that Mr. Trump and Republicans have promised to pursue early in his administration, this person said. ...

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November 29, 2016 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Brooklyn Law School Sues Property Professor For Refusing To Vacate Rental Apartment After School's Sale Of Building To Developer

MurumbaThe Real Deal, Law Professor’s Eviction Fight Complicates Billionaire’s Plans for Brooklyn Rental Building:

A Brooklyn Law School professor is refusing to vacate a Brooklyn Heights rental building that a billionaire investor snapped up last year, setting in motion a flurry of lawsuits.

Professor Samuel Murumba asserted his tenants rights and would not vacate his combined apartments at 2 Pierrepont Street in time for renovations, the New York Post reported. The owner of the building, billionaire Vincent Viola, bought the 12-story rental from the Brooklyn Law School for $35 million in September last year.

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November 29, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (6)

Prosecutors To Seek First Degree Murder Charge Today Against Katherine Magbanua In Grand Jury Proceedings In Dan Markel's Murder

MagnaubaTallahassee Democrat, Grand Jurors Weighing Magbanua's Connection to Markel Murder:

Leon County grand jurors will decide Tuesday whether to indict Katherine Magbanua in connection with the murder of Florida State law professor Dan Markel. ...

Investigators believe she is the go-between for the family of Markel's ex-wife Wendi Adelson, whose brother, Charlie Adelson, and mother, Donna Adelson, have been linked to the murder-for-hire plot by investigators but have not been charged. ... The Adelsons, through their attorneys, have called investigators’ theories “fanciful fiction.”

WCTV, Case Against Katherine Magbanua Headed to Grand Jury:

Assistant State Attorney Georgia Cappleman says the grand jury is scheduled for November 29th and she will seek a first-degree murder indictment against Magbanua. ...

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November 29, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (8)

Korb & Solomon:  What Donald Trump’s Election Means For U.S. Tax Policy

Tax JournalDonald Korb (Sullivan & Cromwell; former IRS Chief Counsel (2004-08)) & Andrew Solomon (Sullivan & Cromwell), What Donald Trump’s Election Means for U.S. Tax Policy, Tax Journal (Nov. 18, 2016):

After last week’s stunning result in the US presidential election, the stage is now set for the most comprehensive rewrite of the US tax code since 1986.

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

Law School Dean Wants al-Qaeda To Go After The U.S. News Rankings

EnginesFollowing up on my previous post, The U.S. News Law School Rankings: Engines Of Anxiety: Washington Post, Law School Administrators Would Like Al-Qaeda To Go After U.S. News & World Report. This Is Why.:

Wendy Nelson Espeland and Michael Sauder’s new book, Engines of Anxiety, explains how law schools try to game the U.S. News & World Report’s academic rankings to attract students. I interviewed them by email to understand why these rankings are so important, and what law schools do to try to improve their rating. ...

HF — Most law school deans seem to detest these rankings — you quote one who compares the rankings to a cockroach infestation, and another who wishes that al-Qaeda would go after U.S. News. Why do deans pay so much attention to the rankings if they hate them so much?

WNE & MS — The primary reason most deans pay attention to the rankings is that there are a number of external audiences — prospective students, current students, employers, boards of trustees — who either take the rankings at face value or use them to make decisions. Deans believe that rankings (no matter how questionable their methodology) can have real effects on their school as these external audiences decide where to go to school or whom to hire based on them. Many deans also fear losing their jobs if they don’t produce good numbers. This fear is warranted, given the number of deans and administrators who have lost their jobs as a result of not meeting expectations in the rankings. ...

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November 29, 2016 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (4)

The IRS Scandal, Days 1201-1300

November 29, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1300:  The IRS Scandal And The DOJ's Ban On U.S. Citizens Only Hiring Practices

IRS Logo 2Patriot Post, DOJ Levies Fines for Respecting Rule of Law:

While Lois Lerner and her acolytes at the Internal Revenue Service got away with unlawfully blocking the tax-free applications of conservative groups — which the agency is still doing, by the way — Obama’s Justice Department is busy punishing those who actually take Rule of Law seriously.

The latest example comes from Colorado, where the Denver Sheriff Department was handed 
"a $10,000 fine after it required applications for deputy sheriff jobs to be U.S. citizens when hiring from the beginning of 2015 through March 2016," the Washington Examiner says. ...

Heritage Foundation fellow Hans von Spakovsky outlines the reasons the statue likely isn’t applicable in this case. Also, don’t miss the irony here. The IRS, to name just one example, spent years circumventing the law in order to subjugate Tea Party groups. But when it comes to the DOJ, its behavior is hardly different; the agency is selectively enforcing rules based entirely on whether it benefits the Left. Spakovsky writes, “Given the importance of the job done by law enforcement officers throughout all levels of government to protect the public from those who would harm them … requiring citizenship seems like a basic, commonsense qualification.”

“The federal government certainly thinks so,” he adds, “because it does not apply this statute to itself. If you want to be a special agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which often works closely with local law enforcement, including sheriff’s departments like Denver’s, the FBI website specifically says that you ‘must be a United States citizen.’ The same is true of the U.S. Secret Service, which routinely discriminates against noncitizens in a manner that no doubt horrifies the DOJ’s Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices.” You know what else requires U.S. citizenship? Yep — the DOJ.

Federal agencies are hardly immune to corruption. They never have been. But when the Justice Department bends the rules — for example, by refusing to prosecute IRS bureaucrats and enforcing rules from which it exempts itself only so far as the outcome comports with an agenda — the administration can hardly be considered “the most transparent in history.” It’s a slow track to tyranny.

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November 29, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, November 28, 2016

Morse Presents Trickle-Down Consumption Today At NYU

MorseAdair Morse (UC-Berkeley) presents Trickle-Down Consumption (with Marianne Bertrand (Chicago)) at NYU today as part of its High-End Inequality Colloquium Series (more here) hosted by Robert Frank (Cornell) and Dan Shaviro (NYU): :

Have rising income and consumption at the top of income distribution since the early 1980s induced households in the lower tiers of the distribution to consume a larger share of their income? Using state-year variation in income level and consumption in the top first quintile or decile of the income distribution, we find evidence for such "trickle-down consumption." The magnitude of effect suggests that middle income households would have saved between 2.6 and 3.2 percent more by the mid-2000s had incomes at the top grown at the same rate as median income.

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

OECD:  Trump Tax And Spending Plans Will Double U.S. Economic Growth, Lift Global Economy

Texas Legislators Push For New Public Law School In The Rio Grande Valley Because 'Everybody Has A Law School'

Rio GrandeThe Monitor, Valley Legislators File Bills Asking For a Law School in the Area:

A new legislative year is bringing renewed hope for Rio Grande Valley representatives who hope to establish a law school in the area.

“The law school is a natural progression as our demographics grow, as our population grows,” said Eddie Lucio III, D-Brownsville. “There are some great, very talented young professionals who for financial reasons or reasons related to family cannot travel to San Antonio, which is our nearest law school.”

Lucio III and Armando “Mando” Martinez, D-Weslaco, both filed legislation — House Bill 169 and 46, respectively — last week calling for the establishment of a public law school in either Cameron or Hidalgo County.

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

The Investment Tax Credit And Immediate Expensing: Lessons In Cyclical Fiscal Activism

Mirit Eyal-Cohen (Alabama), Lessons in Cyclical Fiscal Activism, 48 Conn. L. Rev. 873 (2016):

This Article highlights an anomaly. It tells a story of two tax rules that were introduced at the same time to achieve a similar goal. Both were meant to be temporary and stimulate economic growth but received dramatically different outcomes. The Article reviews the reasons for this paradox. It demonstrates that the causes are structural, ideological, and political. It argues that the historical support the two mechanisms received diverged in accordance with their complexity, the perceptions they epitomized, and their instrumental role in society.

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

Trump’s Emolument Tax Problem

TrumpAndy Grewal (Iowa), The Trump Hotel Isn’t Unconstitutional, Yale J. on Reg.: Notice & Comment (Nov. 22, 2016):

Over the last few days, commentators have argued that President-Elect Trump’s business interests in the D.C.-based Trump Hotel may create constitutional problems under the Emoluments Clause. See, e.g., [Noah Feldman (Harvard)], Trump’s Hotel Lodges a Constitutional Problem, Bloomberg View (Nov. 21, 2016). As relevant here, the Emoluments Clause prevents a person holding a federal office from accepting any “present”  or “emolument” of any kind from any foreign country, unless Congress consents. Foreign diplomats have recently stayed at the Trump Hotel and this raises questions about whether, if this practice continues after inauguration, any lodging fees collected in connection with their stays would constitute the acceptance of a present (gift) or emolument by Trump.

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November 28, 2016 in Political News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Public Opinion Survey:  Should Governments Tax The Rich And Subsidize The Poor?

Robert W. McGee (Fayetteville State), Should Governments Tax the Rich and Subsidize the Poor? An Empirical Study of Opinion in the United States:

The present study reports the findings of a survey conducted by the World Values Survey scientists in the United States on the question of whether governments should tax the rich and subsidize the poor. The sample size of 2166 consisted of individuals from all parts of the United States. A 10-point Likert Scale was used to determine the extent of agreement or disagreement with the question. Various demographic variables were also examined to determine whether differences between groups were significant. Demographic variables included gender, age, marital status, social class, education level, region of the country, religion and ethnicity.

This study examines opinion in the United States on the question of whether it is a legitimate function of government to confiscate the property of the rich and distribute that property to the poor. ...

The questions asked:  Many things are desirable, but not all of them are essential characteristics of democracy. Please tell me for each of the following things how essential you think it is as a characteristic of democracy. Use this scale where 1 means “not at all an essential characteristic of democracy” and 10 means it definitely is “an essential characteristic of democracy”: Governments tax the rich and subsidize the poor.

Responses were measured on a 10-point Likert scale where 1 is “Not an essential characteristic of democracy” and 10 is “An essential characteristic of democracy.” The sample size was 2166.

Table 1 shows the overall results. The mean score of 5.04 indicates strong support for the view that confiscating the wealth of the rich to subsidize the poor is a legitimate function of democracy.

Table 1

Robert W. McGee (Fayetteville State), Should Governments Tax the Rich and Subsidize the Poor? An Empirical Study of Opinion in 59 Countries:

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November 28, 2016 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (5)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1299:  Ways & Means Chair Brady On How The House Has Reined In The IRS

IRS Logo 2Houston Chronicle op-ed: Reining In the IRS, by Kevin Brady (Chair, House Ways & Means Committee):

Over the last year, the Ways and Means Committee has led the "IRS Accountability Agenda" where House Republicans have approved a series of aggressive, Constitution-restoring legislation to reform the IRS and hold it accountable to the American taxpayer.

Our actions include:

Passing into law the first ban against the IRS targeting taxpayers or organizations based on their political beliefs. In June 2016, the House passed the Preventing IRS Abuse and Protecting Free Speech Act, which protects the identities of those who donate to tax-exempt organizations. This was in response to more IRS targeting of Americans.

Passing into law the Stolen Identity Refund Fraud Prevention Act which directs the IRS to take aggressive action to combat the growing problem of identity theft of confidential taxpayer information.

In April the U.S. House passed the Ensuring Integrity in the IRS Workforce Act, which prohibits the IRS from rehiring employees for misconduct, and the No Hires for the Delinquent IRS Act, which suspends the hiring of new IRS employees unless the Treasury Secretary certifies that no IRS employees have serious delinquencies with respect to their own tax obligations.

The same month the U.S. House passed legislation that prohibits the IRS from paying bonuses to employees until the Secretary of the Treasury implements a comprehensive customer service strategy that puts hardworking taxpayers first. And the House approved a bill that repeals the IRS's authority to spend the user fees it collects – restoring to Congress the full authority over how the IRS spends those resources. ... 

One of the most offensive actions by the IRS is its continued unlawful seizures of money and assets of innocent Americans, called civil asset forfeiture. After two years of aggressive oversight by the Ways and Means Committee in which IRS Commissioner John Koskinen apologized for the agency's actions, the U.S. House approved the Clyde-Hirsch-Sowers RESPECT Act, which puts in place important measures to prevent the IRS from wrongfully seizing the assets of law-abiding taxpayers. Since then, under bipartisan pressure the IRS has agreed to review its seizures of assets against hundreds of American taxpayers, and has begun to return the money stolen from these innocent Americans, many of them small business people and farmers merely depositing their daily and weekly receipts. Finally, some justice for those who have been harmed. And perhaps fewer Americans hurt in the future by unlawful seizures.

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November 28, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

TaxProf Blog Holiday Weekend Roundup

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Tax Policy In The Trump Administration

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. The #1 paper is now #9 in all-time downloads among 12,361 tax papers:

  1. [5,543 Downloads]  Families Facing Tax Increases Under Trump's Latest Tax Plan, by Lily L. Batchelder (NYU)
  2. [580 Downloads]  Aggressive Tax Planning & the Ethical Tax Lawyer, by Heather M. Field (UC-Hastings)
  3. [311 Downloads]  The Up-C Revolution, by Gregg D. Polsky (Georgia) & Adam H. Rosenzweig (Washington University)
  4. [280 Downloads]  Estate Planning for Digital Assets: Assigning Tax Basis and Value to Digital Assets, by Elizabeth Ruth Carter (LSU)
  5. [254 Downloads]  IRS Issues Final and Temporary Debt-Equity Regulations Under Section 385, by David S. Miller (Proskauer, New York) & Janicelynn Asamoto Park (Proskauer, New York)

November 27, 2016 in Scholarship, Tax, Top 5 Downloads | Permalink | Comments (0)