Friday, August 17, 2018
This week, Sloan Speck (Colorado) reviews a new work by Victoria J. Haneman (Creighton), Retrenchment, Temporary-Effect Legislation, and the Home Mortgage Interest Deduction (2018).
In Retrenchment, Temporary-Effect Legislation, and the Home Mortgage Interest Deduction, Victoria Haneman assesses the tax legislation enacted in December 2017 as it relates to a favorite target of tax policy opprobrium, the home mortgage interest deduction (MID). Haneman argues that the 2017 changes that affected the MID are, at their core, regressive. For this purpose, the relevant provisions are the doubling of the standard deduction and the limitation of deductible mortgage interest on new loans to principal amounts of $750,000 instead of $1 million. (Presumably, one also could include the effective limitation of deductible mortgage interest on old loans to principal amounts of $1 million instead of $1.1 million.) Notwithstanding Haneman’s dim view of the 2017 changes, she sees brightness at the end of the tunnel: As enacted, these changes sunset after 2025, forcing legislators to reconsider the MID and perhaps repeal it wholesale. Although Haneman wisely doesn’t guarantee that dawn will bring an enlightened legislature, she sees value in opening a “window of opportunity” through which the rays of genuine tax reform could shine. Finally, Haneman proposes replacing the MID with a limited tax credit for homeownership based on the purchase price of a taxpayer’s home.
August 17, 2018 in Scholarship, Sloan Speck, Tax, Weekly SSRN Roundup | Permalink
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Friday, June 8, 2018
This week, Sloan Speck (Colorado) reviews a new work by Kai A. Konrad (Max Planck Institute for Tax Law and Public Finance), Dynamics of the Market for Corporate Tax-Avoidance Advice (2018).
Kai Konrad’s outstanding paper, Dynamics of the Market for Corporate Tax-Avoidance Advice, advances a formal economic model that explores the interactions between private-sector experts and public administrators in the struggle over tax compliance. In broad brush, these interactions are familiar: first, expert tax advisors develop a new tax-avoidance technique, which they sell to clients. Then, other advisors learn of and copy the technique, and avoidance runs rampant. Finally, outraged legislators or regulators shut down the technique. Tax shelters are born in obscurity, enter a promiscuous adolescence, and die young—the James Deans of the Internal Revenue Code. One of Konrad’s principal innovations is to explicitly model the delay between the promulgation of a particular tax avoidance technique and its denouement through government intervention. For virtually all reasonable delays, Konrad’s model yields “a permanent innovation/regulation loop”—stable equilibria with cycles of private-sector tax avoidance (ranging from moderate to obscene) and public-sector crackdowns (which may absorb significant resources). Both periods impose potentially significant social costs, which reinforces how pernicious tax avoidance likely is.
June 8, 2018 in Scholarship, Sloan Speck, Tax, Weekly SSRN Roundup | Permalink
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Friday, March 23, 2018
This week, Sloan Speck (Colorado) reviews a new work by David Hasen (Florida), Rules, Standards and Detection (2018).
David Hasen’s paper, Rules, Standards and Detection, develops a formal economic model to explore and quantify the interrelationship of detection with the choice between rules and standards. Hasen deploys his highly tractable model toward two principal ends. First, Hasen’s model reveals that compliance costs have severe effects on parties’ responsiveness to regulators’ increased efforts at detection. Hasen finds that, when compliance costs are high, enforcement plays second fiddle to adjustments to legal rules in terms of fostering good behavior. By contrast, when compliance costs are low, audit becomes a more potent factor in encouraging compliance. Second, Hasen elaborates an important qualification of his first point. Under a view of regulation as ameliorating negative externalities, low compliance costs imply that the social costs of noncompliance also are small. Although the magnitude of these costs depends on the specific facts at issue (and, in particular, on the relevant elasticities of supply and demand), these considerations temper the broader point that compliance dollars are best spent in low-cost situations.
March 23, 2018 in Scholarship, Sloan Speck, Tax, Weekly SSRN Roundup | Permalink
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Tuesday, March 6, 2018
Sixty tax law professors and economists filed an amicus brief at the Supreme Court Monday urging the Justices to overrule the Dormant Commerce Clause holding of Quill Corp. v. North Dakota, 504 U.S. 298 (1992), which bars states from enforcing sales taxes against retailers who lack a "physical presence" in the state. From the brief:
In Quill Corp. v. North Dakota, the Court emphasized that its dormant Commerce Clause analysis was based on “structural concerns about the effect of state regulation on the national economy.” 504 U.S. 298, 312 (1992). The Court was especially concerned about the effect of taxation on the mail-order industry, and it believed that maintaining the physical presence rule would “foster investment by businesses and individuals.” Id. at 315-18. It also believed that its rule would reduce compliance costs for businesses and individuals engaged in commerce across state lines. See id. at 313 n.6. For those reasons, the Court reaffirmed the physical presence rule first announced in National Bellas Hess, Inc. v. Department of Revenue of Illinois, 386 U.S. 753 (1967).
March 6, 2018 in Ari Glogower, Daniel Hemel, David Gamage, David Herzig, Erin Scharff, New Cases, Orly Mazur, Sloan Speck, Tax Profs | Permalink
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Friday, January 12, 2018
This week, Sloan Speck (Colorado) reviews a new work by Ajay Mehrotra (American Bar Foundation; Northwestern), Fiscal Forearms: Taxation as the Lifeblood of the Modern Liberal State, in The Many Hands of the State: Theorizing the Complexities of Political Authority and Social Control (Kimberly Morgan & Ann Orloff eds., Cambridge University Press 2017).
Ajay Mehrotra’s forthcoming book chapter, Fiscal Forearms, serves as a meditation on, and an expansion of, the important ideas advanced in his 2013 monograph, Making the Modern American State. Mehrotra, like the larger edited volume in which his chapter falls, starts from Bourdieu’s metaphor of the state divided into spending and fiscal spheres: a “left hand” comprised of (in Bourdieu’s words) the “social workers . . . which are the trace, within the state, of the social struggles of the past,” and a “right hand” made up of the ministers and technocrats at the treasury, as well as the public and private banks that underwrite the state. Mehrotra develops this metaphor, describing fiscal administration as “the forearms of the body politic” and taxation itself as “the lifeblood of the modern state.” More critically, Mehrotra challenges the claim that social struggle leaves an imprint only on the spending side of the ledger, showing through historical examples that taxation—and especially income taxation—is a contested concept deployed to construct relationships between state and citizen and in service of societal change.
January 12, 2018 in Scholarship, Sloan Speck, Tax, Weekly SSRN Roundup | Permalink
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Friday, November 17, 2017
This week, Sloan Speck (Colorado) reviews a new work by Kitty Richards, An Expressive Theory of Tax, 27 Cornell J.L. & Pub. Pol’y ___ (2018).
In the early twentieth century, Joseph Schumpeter wrote that “[t]he spirit of a people, its cultural level, its social structure, the deeds its policy may prepare—all this and more is written in its fiscal history.” Following the money tells us more than just who has what; it yields insights into who we are, and what we want to be. Kitty Richard’s interesting and provocative article, An Expressive Theory of Tax, gives a framework for understanding these types of connections between tax law and society, as well as a number of examples “where what the tax code says is explicitly preferenced over what the code does.”
A significant accomplishment of Richards’s project is positive: thick description of “the values and desires that animate policy debates and legal opinions” in taxation. Richards analyzes the expressive aspects of public debates over the taxation of legal brothels in Nevada, the marriage penalties and bonuses doled out by the federal income tax, and the public policy exception for the deductibility of certain expenses. Furthermore, Richards claims that “cheap” talk of (frequently ineffective) incentives obscures the expressive inflection of debates over tax benefits for retirement savings, among other areas.
November 17, 2017 in Scholarship, Sloan Speck, Tax, Weekly SSRN Roundup | Permalink
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