TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Helicopter Pilot Lands In Tax Court, Successfully Establishes That His Tax Home Is In Iraq

Forbes, Helicopter Pilot Lands In Tax Court, Successfully Establishes That Tax Home Is In Iraq

Cowardice, it seems, is not a trait Jesse Linde and I share. A two-time Army helicopter pilot, after struggling to find work in the private sector, Linde jumped at the opportunity to relocate to the Middle East in order to continue flying. To date, he has successfully navigated the many dangers to be found in Iraq, but even halfway across the globe, he couldn't escape one domestic menace: the IRS.

Yesterday, Linde found himself in the Tax Court, and it's a decision that all tax professionals would be wise to review, as it addresses a fascinating area of the law:

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September 23, 2017 in New Cases, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 22, 2017

Weekly SSRN Tax Article Review And Roundup

This week, Ari Glogower (Ohio State) reviews a new work by Gladriel Shobe (BYU), Private Benefits in Public Offerings: Tax Receivable Agreements in IPOs, 71 Vand. L. Rev. ___ (forthcoming 2018).   

Glogower (2016)Gladriel Shobe’s new work describes the evolution of Tax Receivables Agreements (TRAs) in IPOs, and evaluates the policy implications of these increasingly common agreements.

A TRA is contract entered into in connection with an IPO whereby the new public company agrees to pay the pre-IPO owners for the value of tax assets held by the historic company, which can offset the company’s future taxable income.  The most common such assets are depreciable asset basis and net operating losses (NOLs).  Under a TRA, the public company pays the pre-IPO owners for the value of these tax assets over a period of years following the IPO as the value is realized.

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September 22, 2017 in Scholarship, Tax, Weekly SSRN Roundup | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tax Policy In The Trump Administration

Galle: Deal To Swing Alaska Senator's Vote May Violate Uniformity Clause

Brian Galle (Georgetown), The "Alaska Purchase" Is Probably Unconstitutional

As Republican leadership searches for the 51st vote in favor of Cassidy-Graham-Heller, their apparently randomly chosen vehicle for repealing the ACA, rumors abound of a sweetheart deal aimed at securing Lisa Murkowski’s vote. The so-called “Alaska Purchase” would maintain existing premium support credits for those purchasing health insurance on the individual market…but only in Alaska and Hawaii.

They probably can’t do that. Article I, section 8 of the Constitution says “all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States.” Joseph Story, writing in 1834, thought that the point of that provision was to prevent coalitions of states from ganging up, in Congress, to benefit themselves at the expense of others. While the “uniformity clause” has been watered down over time, it’s still enough to swamp the Alaska Purchase proposal.

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September 22, 2017 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1597: New Details Of Targeting Of Conservative Groups Emerge In Tea Party Lawsuits

IRS Logo 2Cincinnati Enquirer, New Details Emerge in Tea Party Suit Against IRS:

The IRS used the political views of conservative "tea party" groups trying to get nonprofit status as a reason for extra scrutiny and continued delaying applications until 2013 — long after they said they'd stopped — new federal court filings allege.

The new accusations counter previous IRS claims that agents did not consider political beliefs when slowing down tax-exempt applications from right-leaning groups in the months leading up to the 2012 presidential election.

The IRS had instead argued that it was merely monitoring whether the groups were conducting more political activity than was allowed.

The filings by conservative groups suing the IRS also state the agency continued the practice after IRS officials said it had stopped in 2011. ...

"By trying to make this about whether this was done to help Obama win is setting the goalpost artificially too high," Eddie Greim, a lawyer representing conservative groups in the class-action suit, said in an interview with The Enquirer. "All we have to prove is whether they had the intent and if they indeed treated a set of groups differently based on their ideology. ...

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Terrrace Park, who was one of the first in Congress to publicly complain in 2012 about the IRS' possible discrimination against conservative nonprofit groups, said that the practice was "an appalling abuse of power" in a statement to The Enquirer. “It’s clear that the Obama administration’s IRS illegally and intentionally targeted conservative groups for their ideological beliefs, and those responsible ... need to be held accountable," Portman said. ...

[O]thers testified in depositions that Lerner ordered IRS agents to send requests for additional information from the affected groups following that 2011 meeting. That included requests for donor information, normally considered off-limits. Lerner "wanted everyone to know that we are handling the cases as we should," testified Cindy Thomas, the top nonprofit official in Cincinnati at the time.

"So after they were told that this was possibly improper, they doubled down and kept going," Greim said. "This goes well beyond the narrative of what's been reported before."

Greim also said that the IRS removed two Washington agents who had raised questions about the extra scrutiny on the tea party cases. "These two found that ideology was indeed being used, raised questions about it and told their superiors about it and that it was going to cause delay," Greim said. "And wouldn't you know it, they were moved off the matter soon thereafter."

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September 22, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

Thursday, September 21, 2017

IRS FAQs Are A Trap For The Unwary

IRSFAQMarketWatch, What the IRS Does on its Website That’s Unfair to Taxpayers:

Taxpayers can’t rely on Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and answers and other “unofficial” guidance that the IRS posts on its website, National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson recently explained in a blog post [IRS Frequently Asked Questions Can Be a Trap for the Unwary]. While tax professionals already know about this issue, you may find it unsettling. Here’s what you need to understand.

Unofficial guidance
The IRS puts out what it calls unofficial guidance in many forms. Unofficial guidance includes IRS tax forms and instructions (believe it or not), press releases, online publications, website articles, and website FAQs and answers. Such unofficial guidance is generally not subject to careful internal review or public commentary before being released. Worse yet, the IRS takes the position that taxpayers cannot rely on unofficial guidance even though the IRS has put it out there for public consumption. For example, FAQs and answers that are posted at www.irs.gov can be changed at any time and without any public notice. Ditto for information in IRS publications that are posted on its website. So if you rely on unofficial IRS guidance in taking a position on a federal tax return, the IRS can potentially audit you and assess additional taxes, interest, and even penalties because you did not “follow the rules” even though what you did was consistent with what the IRS said at the time. Not good!

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September 21, 2017 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Suing Someone for a False Information Return

ABA Tax Section (2017)Last week I went to the ABA Tax Section Meeting in Austin and really enjoyed attending a terrific panel on Section 7434.  The moderator was Professor Leslie Book, of Villanova School of Law and the presenters were Stephen Olsen, of Gawthrop Greenwood, PC; and Mandi Matlock, of Texas RioGrande Legal Aid Inc., Austin, TX.  

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September 21, 2017 in ABA Tax Section, Tax, Tax Practice And Procedure | Permalink | Comments (2)

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Glogower Presents Progressive Taxation Of Income And Wealth Today At Northwestern

Glogower (2016)Ari Glogower (Ohio State) presents Progressive Taxation of Income and Wealth today at Northwestern as as part of its Advanced Topics in Taxation Workshop Series hosted by Sarah Lawsky:

Rising economic inequality has led commentators to reassess the base for progressive taxation, and to argue that wealth should be taxed in addition to, or instead of, income. This Article claims that, if income and wealth should both be periodically taxed as factors in economic well-being, then taxing an integrated measure of both factors is preferable to taxing income and wealth under separate instruments. Separate income and wealth taxes cannot consistently compare taxpayers on the basis of their total economic well-being during the taxing period, and will favor or disfavor taxpayers depending whether their economic well-being results from income, wealth, or a combination thereof.

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September 20, 2017 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

Batchelder: Opportunities And Risks In Individual Tax Reform

Lily Batchelder (NYU), Opportunities and Risks in Individual Tax Reform: Testimony Before the US Senate Committee on Finance:

This testimony before the US Senate Committee on Finance on individual tax reform makes five main points.

First, the current tax reform effort is occurring at a time when low- and middle-income families are facing deep financial challenges. Economic disparities are vast and have been widening for decades. The US also has one of the lowest levels of economic mobility relative to our competitors. Our debt as a share of GDP is projected to grow to unprecedented levels in coming decades, largely because of the retirement of the Baby Boom and increasing life expectancy. This growth in debt will be a drag on economic growth. For all these reasons, tax reform should increase revenues and enhance progressivity. Doing so would boost economic growth and make the tax code fairer at the same time. At a bare minimum, tax reform should maintain the current level of revenues and progressivity—and these both should be measured consistently and without resort to budget gimmicks like a “current policy” baseline.

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September 20, 2017 in Congressional News, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Ryznar: A Practical Solution To The Marriage Penalty

Margaret Ryznar (Indiana-Indianapolis), A Practical Solution to the Marriage Penalty, 44 Pepp. L. Rev. 647 (2017):

In the federal income tax code, there is a marriage penalty resulting from tax brackets that do not double upon marriage. This marriage penalty persists despite universal condemnation of it, penalizing a significant portion of married women who work and many same-sex couples.

This Article proposes a novel way to deal with this marriage penalty by creating a filing status for dual-income couples that earn an amount within a particular percentage of each other. This filing status would be the same as the current married filing status, except it would double the rates of single filers by accommodating two incomes.

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September 20, 2017 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Perkins: The Threat of Law — Is Treasury Using Regulatory Blackmail Or Responding To Congressional Inaction?

Rachelle Holmes Perkins (George Mason), The Threat of Law: Regulatory Blackmail or an Answer to Congressional Inaction, 65 Kan. L. Rev. 621 (2017):

In light of the obstacles affected taxpayers are up against in the face of regulations of dubious authority, Treasury is able to wield what I term an effective “threat of law.” While certainly less binding than an actual legitimately exercised “force of law,” the effects (at least in the nearterm) can be identical. For example, with respect to the Inversion Notice, taxpayers could either comply with Treasury’s Inversion Notice or potentially face a myriad of negative consequences. When faced with these options, while some taxpayers rolled the proverbial dice and found ways to structure around the Inversion Notice, others declined to play this game of tax chicken with Treasury and called off their transactions.

In this Article, I will explore the contours of this so-called “threat of law” that Treasury can employ even in the absence of legitimate congressional authority to do so.

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September 20, 2017 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

It's Bigger Than Bitcoins: The Matrix Is Here

ABA Tax Section meetings are fun!  Last week I attended a fascinating panel presentation at the Austin meeting titled "Beyond Bitcoin: Blockchain and the Tax System."  The panel was moderated by Stow Lovejoy, of Kostelanetz & Fink, LLP and included Amanda Wilkie, CIO of Withum Smith & Brown; Tony Tuths, of KMPG in Short Hills; and Lisa Zarlenga, of Steptoe & Johnson.

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September 20, 2017 in ABA Tax Section, Conferences, Miscellaneous, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Barry Presents Tax And The Boundaries Of The Firm Today At Columbia

Barry (2017)Jordan Barry (San Diego) presents Tax and the Boundaries of the Firm (with Victor Fleischer (San Diego)) at Columbia today as part of its Davis Polk & Wardwell Tax Policy Colloquium Series hosted by Alex Raskolnikov and Wojciech Kopczuk:

How does the income tax shape the boundaries of the firm? This Article goes back to foundational ground — Coase’s inquiry into the nature of the firm— to gain some traction on this elementary question. ...

Part II revisits the literature on Coase and the boundaries of the firm, setting the stage for a discussion of how transaction cost economics can inform tax policy. Part III explores some of the ways in which the income tax distorts the boundary of the firm. In doing so, it provides numerous examples of provisions that can grow or shrink firms at the margin or alter the relative size of their components. It also discusses how firms can respond to income tax law incentives without significantly changing their economic behavior by engaging in regulatory arbitrage.

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September 19, 2017 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Harrison: Spite And Tax Law

Jeffrey Harrison (Florida), Spite: Legal and Social Implications:

Spite is not a simple concept. The same actions may be motivated by a desire to harm others as a source of the actor’s satisfaction. They may also be a reaction to a personal sense of injustice. Finally, spite-like actions are consistent with simply righting a wrong. This Article makes the case that spite, in its worst from, is comparably to theft. It is a taking of someone’s sense of well-being without consent. It also claims that the purchase of positional goods is ultimately spite driven. It canvasses tort law, contracts, tax law, trademark, and criminal law in an effort to assess the reaction of the law to spite.

September 19, 2017 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

CBO: An Analysis of Corporate Inversions

Congressional Budget Office, An Analysis of Corporate Inversions (Sept. 18, 2017):

U.S. multinational corporations—businesses incorporated and operating in the United States that also maintain operations in other countries—can use a variety of strategies to change how and where their income is taxed. One such strategy is a corporate inversion, which can result in a significant reduction in worldwide tax payments for a company. U.S. companies have engaged in corporate inversions since 1983, and public and government attention to them has varied over the years. Concern grew most recently in 2014 because the group of corporations that announced plans to invert that year included some that were very large: Their combined assets were $319 billion, more than the combined assets of all of the corporations that had inverted over the previous 30 years.

CBO1

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September 19, 2017 in Congressional News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

ABA Tax Section Reduces Support For Tax Profs

ABA Tax Section (2017)I was sad to learn that at the Austin meeting the ABA Tax Section Council voted to significantly reduce the academic speaker and academic leadership reimbursement policy, retaining it only for academics who meet the Tax Section's definition of "young lawyer" (under 40 or less than 5 years in practice). I believe this is a penny-wise, pound-foolish policy change and can serve only to damage the historically salutary close ties between tax practitioners and tax academics. I think my personal involvement with the ABA Tax Section would likely be much less had those reimbursements not been available to me. I explain more below the fold.

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September 19, 2017 in ABA Tax Section, Conferences, Legal Education, Tax, Tax Profs | Permalink | Comments (6)

Crawford & Spivack: Tampon Taxes, Discrimination and Human Rights

Bridget J. Crawford (Pace) & Carla Spivack (Oklahoma City), Tampon Taxes, Discrimination and Human Rights, 2017 Wis. L. Rev. 491:

In recent months, activists around the globe have harnessed the power of the Internet to raise awareness of the so-called “tampon tax,” an umbrella term to describe sales, VAT and similar “luxury” taxes imposed on menstrual hygiene products. In response to pressure from constituents, five U.S. states and Canada have repealed their tampon tax. Active campaigns are underway in Australia, the United Kingdom and several other countries. Where public pressure has not been an effective technique, those seeking to challenge the tampon tax in the United States have turned to litigation. In four U.S. states, class action lawsuits have been filed seeking repeal of the tax and a refund for back taxes paid, alleging equal protection violations. In the international context, human rights law provides a promising foundation for similar legal challenges to the tampon tax because human rights law takes a capacious approach to gender equality. In the European Court of Human Rights, for example, there are several tax cases that recognize gender-differentiated taxes as a form of impermissible discrimination. This Article explains how the tampon tax violates equal protection and human rights norms. The tax also shows how deeply embedded gender is in matters of tax policy. Full realization of gender equality will require revision of tax laws.

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September 19, 2017 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 18, 2017

Bankman Presents The Global Battle To Capture MNE Profits Today At Loyola-L.A.

Bankman (2017)Joseph Bankman (Stanford) presents Collecting the Rent: The Global Battle to Capture MNE Profits (with Mitchell Kane (NYU) & Alan Sykes (Stanford)) at Loyola-L.A. today as part of its Tax Policy Colloquium Series hosted by Ellen Aprill and Katherine Pratt:

Multinational enterprises (MNEs) earn substantial rents in the current global economy. Governments have an interest in capturing some of these rents for their citizens or national treasuries, and regularly pursue policies to that end. Some rents are realized in the country in which the MNE is headquartered and domiciled. In theory, at least, that country (the "resident country") can collect these rents through its power to tax or regulate. Other rents are realized in nations outside that of the MNE's residence. Collection of these rents by nations in which the MNE operates, but does not reside, has proven more difficult.

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September 18, 2017 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Capacity Of Governments To Raise Taxes

OECD Econ. Dep't Working Paper No. 1407, The Capacity of Governments to Raise Taxes:

This paper investigates the factors that shape governments’ capacity to collect revenue. To do so, it analyses how tax revenue responds to tax rates using evidence from a panel of 34 OECD countries over 1978-2014. The estimations show that the response of revenue to rates weakens as rates become higher, confirming the existence of a hump-shaped relationship between tax revenue and rates for corporate income taxation and providing a new contribution by analysing value-added taxation. Importantly, the estimated responses of revenue to tax rates vary, in some cases very strongly from an economic perspective, depending on country-specific policies and framework conditions. In particular, the corporate income tax revenue-generating potential of hiking the effective rate shrinks much more quickly in more open economies than in more closed ones.

OECD

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September 18, 2017 in Gov't Reports, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Hasen: Taxation And Innovation

David Hasen (Colorado), Taxation and Innovation: A Sectorial Approach, 2017 U. Ill. L. Rev. 1043:

A number of tax rules have been adopted or proposed to promote innovation. The primary justification for these rules is that they can be effective in reducing or eliminating chronic market failure in the innovation sector. This paper argues that special tax rules for innovation generally are inappropriate.

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September 18, 2017 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

An Emotionally Distressing Lesson From The Tax Court

Tax Court (2017)Last week, in the Summary Opinion of Collins v. Commissioner, the Tax Court agreed with the Service that a taxpayer could not exclude $85,000 under section 104(a)(2) for payments received for "emotional distress" even though that distress resulted in physical sickness.  It's a case that not only teaches an important basic lesson about 104(a)(2) but also exposes a distressing gap in current tax law.  More below the fold. 

Mr. Collins had sued his employer for workplace discrimination and retaliation.  One of his allegations was that he had "suffered severe emotional distress and anxiety, with physical manifestations, including high blood pressure."  The case settled, with $85,000 of the settlement was allocated to "emotional distress."  Could Mr. Collins exclude that $85k under section 104(a)(2)?  Mr. Collins---like many of my basic tax students---thought he could because he had undeniably physical sickness stemming from the stress of his workplace situation.  The Service and Tax Court properly said "no exclusion" based on current law.  

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September 18, 2017 in New Cases, Tax | Permalink | Comments (10)

Hayashi: A Theory Of Facts And Circumstances

Andrew Hayashi (Virginia), A Theory of Facts and Circumstances, 69 Ala. L. Rev. ___ (2017):

The legal consequences of an action often depend on information that only the actor knows. This information is typically inferred from the observable “facts and circumstances” attending the actor’s conduct, which creates a seemingly unresolvable tension in legal design. On the one hand, these unstructured inquiries give free rein to the factfinder’s judgment about which facts justify an inference to the hidden information. On the other hand, specifying the facts that will be used to draw that inference would provide a roadmap for actors to strategically adjust their conduct to manipulate the factfinder’s conclusions. I argue that this tension can be resolved by applying insights from the economics literature on asymmetric information.

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September 18, 2017 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

TaxProf Blog Weekend Roundup

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Larson & Ruse: On Faith And Science

Larson 2Edward J. Larson (Pepperdine)  & Michael Ruse (Florida State), On Faith and Science (Yale Univ. Press 2017):

Throughout history, scientific discovery has clashed with religious dogma, creating conflict, controversy, and sometimes violent dispute. In this enlightening and accessible volume, distinguished historian and Pulitzer Prize–winning author Edward Larson and Michael Ruse, philosopher of science and Gifford Lecturer, offer their distinctive viewpoints on the sometimes contentious relationship between science and religion. The authors explore how scientists, philosophers, and theologians through time and today approach vitally important topics, including cosmology, geology, evolution, genetics, neurobiology, gender, and the environment. Broaching their subjects from both historical and philosophical perspectives, Larson and Ruse avoid rancor and polemic as they address many of the core issues currently under debate by the adherents of science and the advocates of faith, shedding light on the richly diverse field of ideas at the crossroads where science meets spiritual belief.

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September 17, 2017 in Book Club, Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

HMRC Chief Warns Brexit Merger Of UK Border And Tax Operation Is A 'Mega Project' Requiring 5,000 Extra Staff

International Business Times, HMRC Chief Warns Brexit Merger of UK Border and Tax Operation is a 'Mega Project' 

Britain's top tax body said a merged border force and tax checking operation will need 5,000 extra staff cost up £800m after Brexit.

HMRC director general of customer strategy Jim Harra told MPs the country will have to tackle 130,000 new companies that import and export within the European Union (EU) that do not currently come into contact with British customs.

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September 17, 2017 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Top Five New Tax Papers

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

  1. [588 Downloads]  Federal Tax Procedure (2017 Practitioner Ed.), by John Townsend (Houston)
  2. [327 Downloads]  Is Efficiency Biased?, by Zachary Liscow (Yale)
  3. [218 Downloads]  When Did Tax Avoidance Become Respectable?, by Steven Bank (UCLA)
  4. [146 Downloads]  Codification of the Tax Law and the Emergence of the Staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation, by George Yin (Virginia)
  5. [142 Downloads]  Distributive Justice and Donative Intent, by Alexander A. Boni-Saenz (Chicago-Kent)

September 17, 2017 in Scholarship, Tax, Top 5 Downloads | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, September 16, 2017

This Week's Ten Most Popular TaxProf Blog Posts

Should The United States Have A National Investment Authority?

On Tuesday, Boston College Law School welcomed Professor Saule Omarova (Cornell) as the first presenter in our inaugural Regulation and Markets Workshop Series. The paper (with Robert Hockett, also of Cornell) is entitled “Private Wealth and Public Goods: A Case for a National Investment Authority.” It’s available on SSRN.

In brief, the paper makes a two pronged contribution: First, a policy proposal for the creation of a National Investment Authority (NIA), a hybrid, public-private entity that directs private financial capital to fund long-term infrastructure and development projects; and second, a theoretical re-envisioning of what public goods are and how to provide them.

What is quite interesting from a tax and public finance perspective is that the NIA proposal aims to fill an institutional gap between the classic Treasury function and that of the central bank (the Fed). As Omarova and Hockett characterize it, the standard response to the public goods problem is to have Treasury, as the fiscal authority, collect tax payments (or borrow) and use the proceeds to finance public goods. However, they argue that political budget fights have rendered Treasury unable to advance large-scale and long-term public infrastructure investments. While the Fed has partially attempted to fill the gap and to encourage infrastructure investment using monetary policy tools, these tools are insufficient. As a result of the policy gap between the Treasury and Fed mandates, economic growth and development suffer.

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September 16, 2017 in Colloquia, Conferences, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

ABA Tax Section Fall CLE Meeting

CLE 2The ABA Tax Section concludes its three-day joint Fall CLE meeting with the ABA Real Property, Trust and Estate Law Section today in Austin, TX.  The full program is here.  Today's highlight is the keynote luncheqon address by  Michael J. Graetz (Columbia). Other Tax Profs with speaking roles include:

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September 16, 2017 in ABA Tax Section, Conferences, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Texas A&M Names Jack Manhire Assistant Dean And Chief of Staff Of The I-School, And Assistant Vice President For Entrepreneurship And Economic Development

Manhire (2017)Jack Manhire, former Director of Program Development and Senior Lecturer in Law at the Texas A&M University School of Law in Fort Worth, is taking on new roles in College Station as Assistant Dean and Chief of Staff for Texas A&M’s new School of Innovation (“I-School”) and Assistant Vice President of Operations for Entrepreneurship and Economic Development.

Manhire’s positons prior to entering academe include National Chair of the Executive Education Program for the Treasury Executive Institute, Chief of Legal Analysis for the IRS Office of Professional Responsibility, Director of Technical Analysis & Guidance for the IRS Taxpayer Advocate Service, and Attorney-Advisor to the IRS National Taxpayer Advocate. Before entering full-time government service, he practiced law privately for over a decade and was Division Chief, Tax Law for the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary National Office.

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September 16, 2017 in Legal Education, Tax, Tax Prof Moves | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, September 15, 2017

Weekly SSRN Tax Article Review And Roundup

This week, Erin Scharff (Arizona State) reviews a new working paper by Leslie Book (Villanova), David Williams (Intuit) and Krista Holub (Intuit), Insights from Behavior Economics Can Improve Administration of the EITC.  

Scharff (2017)The problems of our dysfunctional Congress are legion. This dysfunction not only affect Congress’ ability to get the basic work of government done, but it shrinks the space available to have rational conversations about improving public policy. We see this in the debate over the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The EITC retains bipartisan support. Nevertheless, it regularly comes under criticism for the high error rates in the program.

At the high end, the IRS estimates the overclaim percentage at a high of 39.1%, but even the IRS’s low estimate of 28.5% represents about $14 billion a year.  Conservative commentators use these estimates to argue the program is riddled with fraudLiberals, on the other hand, stress that the complexity of the program’s eligibility requirements makes inadvertent mistakes likely and note that methodological problems may lead the IRS to overstate the improper payment rate.  

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September 15, 2017 in Scholarship, Tax, Weekly SSRN Roundup | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tax Policy In The Trump Administration

WaPo: The GOP's War On The EITC

EITCIn this op-ed in the Washington Post, columnist Catherine Rampell comments on a proposal in the Budget Committee Report 115-240 explaining the current budget legislation.  It's a proposal to tighten up processing of tax returns claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit (ETIC).  She writes:

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September 15, 2017 in Gov't Reports, News, Tax, Tax Policy in the Trump Administration, Tax Practice And Procedure | Permalink | Comments (7)

Online Sales Tax Case Is Headed To The Supreme Court

Bloomberg Technology: Internet Tax Ruling Worth Billions Poised for Supreme Court Review, by Jef Feeley:

The South Dakota Supreme Court brought the question of whether online retailers should pay sales tax back into sharp focus.

The Mount Rushmore state’s highest court ruled Thursday that companies selling wares over the Internet can’t be forced to collect South Dakota’s 4.5 percent tax on purchases, laying the groundwork for a U.S. Supreme Court appeal that could change law across the country. A decision forcing online retailers to collect such taxes could be worth billions in revenue to state and local governments.The court backed an appeal by online retailers Overstock.comWayfair and NewEgg challenging a state law that required companies that do more than $100,000 worth of business in online sales in the state to collect sales taxes.

The law ran afoul of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1992 decision in Quill Corp v. North Dakota, which forbade states from requiring retailers without a physical presence to collect sales tax. Justice Anthony Kennedy has suggested in later rulings that the court reconsider the decision.

Daniel Hemel (Chicago), The Common Law and the Commerce Clause

South Dakota’s highest court, in a unanimous decision released this morning, struck down a 2016 state law requiring out-of-state retailers to collect sales taxes on transactions with state residents.

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September 15, 2017 in New Cases, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

ABA Tax Section Fall CLE Meeting

CLE 2The ABA Tax Section continues its three-day joint Fall CLE meeting with the ABA Real Property, Trust and Estate Law Section today in Austin, TX.  The full program is here.  Today's highlight is the Teaching Taxation program on Best Practices in Drafting and Interpreting IRS Guidance:

Tax regulators communicate with taxpayers and their advisors through various means including regulations, notices, rulings, publications, and the IRS website. Not surprisingly, taxpayers and their advisors parse these communications in order to understand the applicable law and conduct their affairs accordingly. This panel will critically analyze two high profile modes of communication: examples in Treasury regulations and IRS public pronouncements. One key question taxpayers and their advisors face is how regulation examples should be interpreted, and how new legal content in examples should be reconciled with the broader regulatory and statutory scheme. Another major debate regarding IRS guidance concerns the trend and pressure for the IRS to use plain language in written communications with the public. Although “plain language” sounds compelling, there are downsides to this drafting approach. Panelists will discuss the benefits and risks associated with plain language explanations of tax law in these communications.

  • Terri Helge (Texas A&M) (moderator)
  • Joshua Blank (NYU)
  • Nina E. Olson (National Taxpayer Advocate)
  • Susan Morse (Texas)
  • Kerry Ryan (St. Louis)
  • Eric Solomon (EY, Washington, D.C.)

Other Tax Profs with speaking roles include:

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September 15, 2017 in ABA Tax Section, Conferences, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

TIGTA: 64% Of The IRS's Information Technology Is Beyond Its Useful Life

TIGTAThe Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration has released Sixty-Four Percent of the Internal Revenue Service's Information Technology Hardware Infrastructure Is Beyond Its Useful Life (2017-20-051):

The overall objective of this review was to determine the efficiency and effectiveness of key ongoing or planned activities aimed at addressing the IRS operational challenge of replacing its aged hardware infrastructure.

While the Sustaining Infrastructure Program spends on average nearly 99.7 percent of its allocated budget each year, the IRS has not yet achieved its stated objective of reducing its aged information technology hardware to an acceptable level of 20 to 25 percent. In fact, this percentage has steadily increased from 40 percent at the start of Fiscal Year 2013 to 64 percent at the start of Fiscal Year 2017. The IRS estimates that the current replacement cost for its aged information technology hardware is approximately $430 million.

Figure 1

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September 15, 2017 in Gov't Reports, IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Kleinbard: We Can’t Afford The Tax Reform Many Want (Tax Cuts), And Many Don't Want The Tax Reform We Need (Business Tax Overhaul)

Los Angeles Times op-ed:  A Business Tax System That's Both Fair and Competitive? It's Possible, by Edward Kleinbard (USC):

You can’t escape talk of tax reform. It remains the one demand that keeps the business community firmly engaged with President Trump. And in a crowded legislative calendar, it’s the one must-pass item that would constitute a really new policy initiative.

But we can’t afford the tax reform many of us want, and many of us don’t accept the importance of the tax reform we need.

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September 14, 2017 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

When Sharia Law And The U.S. Tax Law Collide

Virginia La Torre Jeker, When Sharia and U.S. Tax Law Collide, 87 Tax Notes Int'l 787 (Aug. 21, 2017):

Sharia law impacts the US tax analysis of transactions arising in any Muslim-majority country or in any country when Muslim persons are involved in the transaction. Neither the US courts nor the Internal Revenue Service have provided guidance as to how the matter should be resolved when US tax and Sharia laws collide.

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September 14, 2017 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

ABA Tax Section Fall CLE Meeting

CLE 2The ABA Tax Section kicks off its three-day joint Fall CLE meeting with the ABA Real Property, Trust and Estate Law Section today in Austin, TX.  The full program is here.  Tax Profs with speaking roles include:

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September 14, 2017 in ABA Tax Section, Conferences, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1589: The Better IRS Reform

IRS Logo 2

Wall Street Journal editorial, The Better IRS Reform:

The long saga of Lois Lerner is coming to a close. Ms. Lerner was the infamous Obama Administration cat’s paw at the Internal Revenue Service, which harassed conservative political groups in the Tea Party era. Now the Trump Justice Department has decided there is no cause to pursue criminal charges against Ms. Lerner, and Congressional Republicans are howling. ...

Republicans are furious. But this mess happened because the Obama Administration used federal bureaucracies for raw political purposes. If Mr. Sessions’s Justice Department has found no way to prove criminal intent beyond a reasonable doubt, Republicans could begin the road back to accountability by respecting that decision.

What House Republicans should do now is create a structure that will stop assaults by bureaucrats on political activity. They’ve been putting riders in spending bills to bar the IRS from imposing restrictions on nonprofit speech. But this thumbs-in-the-dike approach does nothing about powers that IRS functionaries already have over political activity.

The solution is to get the IRS out of the political arena by limiting its role to the most basic administrative task of giving initial approval to nonprofits. Transfer to the Federal Election Commission the job of deciding whether a nonprofit is abiding by the existing rules governing political spending. The FEC’s commissioners would decide if complaints against the political activities of nonprofits had merit.

Democrats will rebel because the design of the FEC makes it difficult to sic the commission on political enemies. That’s why they made the IRS their political enforcer. Legislators designed the FEC to prevent partisans from turning it into a political weapon.

It takes a majority vote among its six bipartisan FEC commissioners to proceed with a judgment. Commissioners are confirmed by the Senate and operate in the open. The status quo gives this job—and power—to the IRS’s unconfirmed, unseen federal bureaucrats.

Campaign-finance fights make Republicans nervous, but they’ve got a political self-interest in permanently transferring this job to the FEC. Once back in power, Democrats will mobilize a crackdown against their single biggest obsession—“dark money.” Meaning the conservatives who fund their opposition.

Lois Lerner’s IRS operation was the swamp at its worst. The GOP would do the country’s politics a favor by draining these bureaucrats of partisan political power.

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September 14, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Herzig & Brunson: Let Prophets Be (Non) Profits

David Herzig (Valparaiso) & Samuel D. Brunson (Loyola-Chicago), Let Prophets Be (Non) Profits,  52 Wake Forest L. Rev. ___ (2017):

In this article, we take a step back and ask whether the Supreme Court’s application of the fundamental public policy rule as espoused in the Bob Jones case is the normatively correct position. In our analysis, we conclude that using fundamental public policy as a filter in granting tax exemption gets both tax and public policy wrong. Our conclusion is informed by the history of the role played by public charities espousing minority views. We believe that a legitimate space in society should exist and populated by nonprofits to both espouse popular and unpopular minority views. But it is also informed by tax policy: applying the fundamental public policy rule to qualification for tax exemption misunderstand how exemption fits into the corporate income tax.

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September 13, 2017 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Privatizing Tax Collection: The Idiocy Continues

Congress seems to be on an unceasing quest to undermine effective tax collection (for why I choose those words see my rant here).  In what can only be described as yet another boneheaded move,  Congress included a provision in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act in 2015 that required the Service to out-source collection work to private collection agencies (PCA's).

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September 13, 2017 in ABA Tax Section, Tax, Tax Practice And Procedure | Permalink | Comments (0)

SSRN Tax Professor Rankings

SSRN LogoSSRN has updated its monthly rankings of 750 American and international law school faculties and 3,000 law professors by (among other things) the number of paper downloads from the SSRN database.  Here is the new list (through September 1, 2017) of the Top 25 U.S. Tax Professors in two of the SSRN categories: all-time downloads and recent downloads (within the past 12 months):

 

 

All-Time

 

Recent

1

Reuven Avi-Yonah (Mich.)

71,502

Reuven Avi-Yonah (Mich.)

12,589

2

Michael Simkovic (USC)

37,095

Lily Batchelder (NYU)

9108

3

Paul Caron (Pepperdine)

33,494

D. Dharmapala (Chicago)

3828

4

D. Dharmapala (Chicago)

31,694

Michael Simkovic (USC)

3519

5

Louis Kaplow (Harvard)

28,524

Richard Ainsworth (BU)

3307

6

Vic Fleischer (San Diego)

23,957

Michael Graetz (Columbia)

3086

7

Ed Kleinbard (USC)

23,528

David Gamage (Indiana)

2863

8

James Hines (Michigan)

23,124

Andy Grewal (Iowa)

2830

9

Richard Kaplan (Illinois)

22,216

David Weisbach (Chicago)

2572

10

Ted Seto (Loyola-L.A.)

22,199

Ed Kleinbard (USC)

2569

11

Richard Ainsworth (BU)

21,867

Daniel Shaviro (NYU)

2115

12

Katie Pratt (Loyola-L.A.)

20,482

Louis Kaplow (Harvard)

2089

13

David Weisbach (Chicago)

19,694

Darien Shanske (UC-Davis)

2018

14

Robert Sitkoff (Harvard)

19,183

William Byrnes (Texas A&M)

1816

15

Brad Borden (Brooklyn)

18,659

Steven Bank (UCLA)

1710

16

Carter Bishop (Suffolk)

18,312

Omri Marian (UC-Irvine)

1707

17

Chris Sanchirico (Penn)

17,996

Bridget Crawford (Pace)

1646

18

Francine Lipman (UNLV)

17,822

Jordan Barry (San Diego)

1625

19

Daniel Shaviro (NYU)

17,813

Jeffrey Kwall (Loyola-Chicago)

1580

20

Jen Kowal (Loyola-L.A.)

17,680

Paul Caron (Pepperdine)

1509

21

Bridget Crawford (Pace)

17,519

Stephen Shay (Harvard)

1502

22

Dennis Ventry (UC-Davis)

16,615

Cliff Fleming (BYU)

1455

23

David Walker (BU)

15,739

Brad Borden (Brooklyn)

1453

24

Steven Bank (UCLA)

15,512

Yariv Brauner (Florida)

1431

25

Gregg Polsky (Georgia)

14,227

Francine Lipman (UNLV)

1424

Note that this ranking includes full-time tax professors with at least one tax paper on SSRN, and all papers (including non-tax papers) by these tax professors are included in the SSRN data.

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September 13, 2017 in Scholarship, Tax, Tax Prof Rankings | Permalink | Comments (0)

Baltimore Plans To Offer $2,500/Year Property Tax Discount For Police, Firefighters

Baltimore Sun, Baltimore Plans to Offer $2,500 a Year Property Tax Discount for Police and Firefighters:

Baltimore’s leaders plan to offer local police officers, firefighters and sheriff's deputies a property tax break of $2,500 a year if they own a home in the city.

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September 13, 2017 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Reforming Tax Administration

The current discussion about tax reform is focused on reforming substantive tax law and not tax administration.  Last April, however, a group of tax practitioner organizations put out a paper calling for tax administration reform.  You can find the proposal on the AICPA website here.

The nine practitioner organizations include the AICPA, the National Association of Enrolled Agents, and the National Association of Tax Professionals.  Notably absent from the list of practitioner groups are the main tax lawyer organization, the ABA Section on Taxation.

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September 13, 2017 in ABA Tax Section, IRS News, Tax, Tax Practice And Procedure | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Why American Workers Pay Twice As Much In Taxes As Wealthy Investors

Bloomberg Politics, Why American Workers Pay Twice as Much in Taxes as Wealthy Investors:

Let’s say you and I are neighbors. You’re an emergency room doctor, and I don’t work, thanks to a pile of money my grandparents left me.

You spend your days and nights stitching up gunshot wounds and helping children survive asthma attacks. I’ve gotten really good at World of Warcraft, winning EBay auctions, and frying shishito peppers to just the right crispiness.

Let’s also say we both report $300,000 in income to the Internal Revenue Service this year. Who pays more in taxes?

You do, by a lot. You owe the IRS about $38,500 more, assuming each of us pays the maximum with no special deductions. I also have more flexibility to lower my burden with tax planning strategies and other tricks, and I get to skip about $24,000 in payroll taxes that you and your employer must fork over each year.

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September 12, 2017 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (6)

How Perceived Influence Over Laws Affects Tax Evasion

Paul Mason (Baylor), Steven Utke (Connecticut) & Brian Williams (Indiana), Why Pay Our Fair Share? How Perceived Influence Over Laws Affects Tax Evasion:

We examine how the relation between taxpayers and their government affects tax evasion. Specifically, we examine how perceived influence over government policymaking affects taxpayers’ tax evasion decisions. We argue that taxpayers are less willing to comply with tax laws when they perceive the influence over their government to be unfavorable to them or the result of an unfair policymaking process.

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September 12, 2017 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1587: Judicial Watch Says Trump Should Overrule His DOJ And Order A Full Review Of The IRS Scandal

IRS Logo 2

Town Hall, Judicial Watch: DOJ Giving Lerner a Pass is Bogus and Trump Should Order a Full Review of the Scandal:

Last week the Department of Justice, led by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, announced prosecutors will not pursue charges against former IRS official Lois Lerner. Lerner is infamous for her deliberate targeting of conservative tea party groups between 2010 and 2012 while leading the tax exempt department inside the agency.

The news was immediately met with outrage by House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady, who said the failure to reopen the case against Lerner (which was closed without charges under the Obama administration) only proves that Washington bureaucrats are held to a much lower standard than every day Americans living outside the protective D.C. bubble. ...

Judicial Watch, which is still pursuing documents related to the IRS targeting scandal and has for years, proving Lerner was at the heart of the targeting, is buying none of it and calling on President Trump to intervene.

"I have zero confidence that the Justice Department did an adequate review of the IRS scandal. In fact, we’re still fighting the Justice Department and the IRS for records about this very scandal. Today’s [Friday's] decision comes as no surprise considering that the FBI collaborated with the IRS and is unlikely to investigate or prosecute itself," Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton released in a statement. "President Trump should order a complete review of the whole issue. Meanwhile, we await accountability for IRS Commissioner Koskinen, who still serves and should be drummed out of office."

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September 12, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (6)

Monday, September 11, 2017

Schmalbeck Presents Nonprofit Organizations And Political Campaigns At Northwestern

Schmalbeck (2016)Richard L. Schmalbeck (Duke) presented Nonprofit Organizations and Political Campaigns at Northwestern as part of its Advanced Topics in Taxation Workshop Series hosted by Sarah Lawsky:

This story involves three organizational forms, and two broad policy considerations. There are more than a score of different nonprofit organizational categories described in the IRC, but only three are relevant here: the organizations described in sections 501(c)(3), 501(c)(4), and 527. All are exempt from federal income taxes on any excess of revenue over expense that they might experience in any tax year. The first category (charitable organizations under section 501(c)(3)) allows use of deductible contributions to advance its programmatic ends, and also permits anonymous donations. The second (social welfare organizations under section 501(c)(4)) allows anonymous donations (but no deduction for contributions). The third (political organizations under section 527) is subject to rules that compel disclosure of the names of contributors and amounts of their contributions.

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September 11, 2017 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Brookings Symposium On Business Tax Reform