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Thursday, October 2, 2014

Do Law Schools Teach (and Model) Ineffiiciency (Especially in Tax Law)?

SeytLines Blog, Another Reason to Re-Think Legal Education:

EfficiencyLawyers have suggested many reasons for changing legal education. I have another one to add to the list. I think legal education teaches inefficiency. From day one in law school, law students are taught to be inefficient in the practice of law. By the time they hit the world outside academia and start practicing, they have three years of intensive inefficiency training. In a world that has moved towards reducing waste, at least in corporations, having someone join the workforce who has been taught inefficiency adds some complications. At a minimum, it means we will spend years re-training them, at the same time they are learning to practice. More realistically, we will end up with many lawyers who are never re-trained. ...

The good news is that this one issue could be fixed at little or no cost. The first step is teaching law school faculty about the modern practice of law. Seminars, workshops, and other training tools can accomplish that goal. The second step is to have law school faculty start modifying existing courses to reflect these modern practices and incorporate them as part of the core learning experience. My son is taking accounting, yet they don’t have him using accounting ledger paper from the 1930s to learn double-entry bookkeeping. If he can learn the basics of accounting with Excel, I’m not sure why law students can’t learn the basics of contract law in combination with Word and contract automation. Third, law schools should start thinking about law in the context of problems presented by clients. This isn’t a novel suggestion, but it still is a good one. Some classes should be integrated classes where students confront problems that require cross-functional thinking. Three years of training students to think one-dimensionally creates habits that are difficult to break. Problems don’t come neatly sliced into property law, tax, or other substantive areas.

The last point involves a personal pet-peeve, so I’ll share a story about it. As a corporate general counsel, I spent a fair amount of time on tax issues. The companies where I worked had global businesses, so we had plenty of international tax “opportunities.” On more than one occasion, partners from whichever of the Big Four accounting firms my company used would come to us with a tax proposal. They would have spent a fair amount of time working on the proposal and consulting with our tax team. They would invite the corporate lawyers to an overview presentation. We would identify several fatal flaws in the plan almost immediately. Those flaws were missed because the tax practitioners knew nothing about and didn’t take the time to ask about, the corporate law aspects of what they proposed. We would suggest many ways to work around the problem, and usually, after much additional work by the tax practitioners, we would land on a solution. I would always ask why the tax practitioners didn’t come to us right at the start, knowing that the key to the entire plan depended on corporate work, so that we could develop an integrated solution that worked. They always responded, “we were taught to look at the tax issues and let someone else think about the rest.” Not very efficient.

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October 2, 2014 in Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 511

IRS Logo 2National Review:  IRS Erased Key Records in Lawsuit, NetJets Says, by John Fund:

There may be a pattern involving the IRS losing e-mails and other key computer records. For months, the House Oversight Committee has been pursuing the lost e-mails of Lois Lerner and other figures in the IRS tax-exempt organization scandal. 

Now, the private-jet company NetJets is claiming in a lawsuit that as part of its tax dispute with the agency the IRS “wiped clean a number of computer hard drives containing emails and other electronic documents that the Government was required to produce.”

Washington Free Beacon:  Court: Obama Admin Can’t Hide Investigation into Former White House Adviser; Austan Goolsbee Suspected of Illegally Revealing Koch Tax Details to Press:

The Obama administration must acknowledge the existence of an independent investigation into former White House senior economics adviser Austan Goolsbee’s alleged unauthorized access to the Koch brother’s tax returns, a court ruled Tuesday.

A federal judge ruled the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) must disclose to watchdog group Cause of Action whether records of an investigation exist.

Cause of Action filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit after TIGTA refused to confirm or deny the existence of the investigation in what is commonly known as a “Glomar response.”

“The court has ruled that the federal government cannot hide behind confidentiality laws to prevent Americans from knowing if our President has gained unauthorized access to their tax information,” Cause of Action executive director Dan Epstein said in a statement Tuesday. “This is a decisive win for all Americans and for government transparency and accountability.”

Former White House Council of Economic Advisers chairman Austan Goolsbee sparked a mini-scandal in 2010 when he told reporters during a background press briefing that Koch Industries—the company of libertarian philanthropists Charles and David Koch—paid no income taxes.

Conservative lawmakers and activists said Goolsbee’s statements not only unfairly singled out the president’s political opponents but also used confidential IRS documents to do so.

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October 2, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Zolt Presents Fiscal Contracting in Latin America Today at Harvard

Zolt (2014)Eric M. Zolt (UCLA) presents Fiscal Contracting in Latin America (with Richard M. Bird (Toronto)) at Harvard today as part of its Tax Law, Policy and Practice Workshop Series hosted by Daniel Halperin and Stephen Shay:

Latin America has long been characterized as a region of high income inequality. In recent years, however, many countries have seen a decrease in income inequality and poverty levels and an increase in economic mobility. Fiscal policies have played a role in achieving these results. One important explanation for changing fiscal policies is the increasing economic and political role played by the growing middle class in shaping the level and quality of collective goods and services and the types of taxes and relative tax burdens to fund these expenditures. Through a process we call “fiscal contracting,” less unequal societies may be willing to pay more in taxes for expanded, relatively universal public services.

October 1, 2014 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Schön Presents International Taxation of Risk Today at Toronto

SchoenWolfgang Schön (Max Planck Institute for Tax Law and Public Finance) presents International Taxation of Risk at Toronto today as part of its James Hausman Tax Law and Policy Workshop Series:

The allocation of risk and of the income from risky investment and activities belongs to the central topics of international tax policy today. This fact is highlighted by the current BEPS initiative of G20 and OECD which casts doubt on the recognition of contractual risk allocation within multinational groups and its impact on profit allocation between separate entities within these groups. It is largely felt that “risk shifting” provides the basis for “profit shifting” by multinationals to the detriment of states and domestic competitors.

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October 1, 2014 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

A Mother's Love

(Hat Tip: Naomi Goodno.)

October 1, 2014 in Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Most Underrated and Overrated BigLaw Tax Practices

Above the Law, Over- And Underrated Biglaw Practice Groups:

OuATL’s Insider Survey (17,300 responses and counting — thanks everyone!), whereby practicing attorneys and current students evaluate their own schools or employers. Among other things, our survey asks attorneys to nominate firms with over- and underrated practices within the respondent’s own practice specialty. Litigators nominate litigation departments, etc. ...

Most Overrated Tax Practices
Skadden
Cravath
Davis Polk

Most Underrated Tax Practices
Cooley
White & Case
Cahill Gordon

October 1, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

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October 1, 2014 in About This Blog, Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Orange is the New Black, Tax Edition

OrangeAvalara, Orange is the New Black, Tax Edition:

For most businesses in most states, when you sign up to be a business owner, you sign up to collect and remit sales and use tax. This may not be forefront in the minds of future business owners of America, but it should be. Failure to collect, report and remit sales tax in a timely manner can land you behind bars (the kind that obscure the view, not the kind that serve drinks).

October 1, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

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October 1, 2014 in About This Blog, Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

The IRS Scandal, Day 510

IRS Logo 2Daily Caller:  After Holder: Four Things The Next Attorney General Must Address, by Dan Epstein (Executive Director, Cause of Action):

Attorney General Eric Holder may be heading for the exit door at the Department of Justice (DOJ), but numerous gaps in the agency’s enforcement remain. Will the next attorney general address fraud, transparency, and oversight concerns? We recommend four issues the next attorney general can and should resolve. ...

IRS Political Targeting: Americans have known for over a year about the Internal Revenue Service’s political targeting of non-profit groups. Cause of Action first petitioned DOJ to look into this scandal in May 2013. While an investigation has begun, the DOJ assigned an attorney from the Civil Rights Division (CRD), which mostly prosecutes hate crimes cases and conspiracies to violate civil rights, to investigate the IRS. If criminal violations are uncovered in the investigation, the CRD may not have the authority to handle them, given its jurisdiction. That is why the next attorney general should appoint a special counsel to direct the investigation.

Lois Lerner’s Emails: Perhaps the most confounding part of the IRS scandal is the somehow “lost” emails of Lois Lerner, the IRS official at the heart of the scandal. Cause of Action’s investigation indicates that in losing this valuable information, multiple government officials violated the Federal Records Act, which instructs agencies to create their own regulations regarding document retention. IRS regulations, for instance, required Ms. Lerner to print and file her emails and her attachments. By failing to preserve Lerner’s records, the IRS may have violated its own regulations — and therefore the Federal Records Act.

To this day, the Department of Justice refuses to investigate this potential violation of law, so we urge the next attorney general to conduct an investigation to determine if there has been a violation of the Federal Records Act.

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October 1, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Elizabeth Garrett (USC) Named President of Cornell University

Cornell Press Release, Elizabeth Garrett, USC Provost, Named Cornell's 13th President:

GarrettThe Cornell University Board of Trustees today approved the appointment of Elizabeth Garrett, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at the University of Southern California, as Cornell’s next president. Garrett will assume the presidency July 1, 2015. ...

Garrett is married to Andrei Marmor, professor of philosophy and the Maurice Jones Jr. Professor of Law at USC, who will be joining the Cornell faculty as a full professor with joint appointments in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Law School. ...

Garrett’s primary scholarly interests include legislative process, the design of democratic institutions, the federal budget process and tax policy. She is the author of more than 50 articles, book chapters and essays, and is co-author of the nation’s most influential casebook on legislation and statutory interpretation, now in its fifth edition. At Cornell, Garrett will be a tenured faculty member in the Law School with a joint appointment in the Department of Government in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Garrett has an exemplary record of public service. In 2005, President George W. Bush appointed her to serve on the nine-member bipartisan Advisory Panel on Federal Tax Reform. ... Before entering academics, Garrett served as budget and tax counsel and legislative director for Sen. David L. Boren (D-Okla.) and clerked for Justice Thurgood Marshall on the U.S. Supreme Court.

September 30, 2014 in Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Singhal Presents Firm Misreporting Behavior and Tax Evasion Substitution Today at Columbia

8171Monica Singhal (Harvard) presents Dodging the Taxman: Evidence on Firm Misreporting Behavior and Evasion Substitution (with Paul Carrillo (George Washington) & Dina Pomeranz (Harvard)) at Columbia today as part of its Tax Policy Colloquium Series hosted by Alex Raskolnikov, David Schizer, and Wojciech Kopczuk:

Reducing tax evasion is a key priority for many governments, particularly in developing countries. A growing literature has argued that the use of third party information to verify taxpayer self-reports is critical for tax enforcement and the growth of state capacity. However, there may be limits to the effectiveness of third party information if taxpayers can substitute misreporting to less verifiable margins. We present a simple framework to demonstrate the conditions under which substitution will occur and provide strong empirical evidence for substitution behavior by exploiting a natural experiment in Ecuador. We find that when firms are notified by the tax authority about detected revenue discrepancies on previously filed corporate income tax returns, they increase reported revenues, matching the third party estimate when provided. Firms also increase reported costs by 96 cents for every dollar of revenue adjustment, resulting in minor increases in total tax collection.

September 30, 2014 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Bird & Zolt: Fiscal Contracting in Latin America

Richard M. Bird (Toronto) & Eric M. Zolt (UCLA), Fiscal Contracting in Latin America:

Latin America has long been characterized as a region of high income inequality. In recent years, however, many countries have seen a decrease in income inequality and poverty levels and an increase in economic mobility. Fiscal policies have played a role in achieving these results. One important explanation for changing fiscal policies is the increasing economic and political role played by the growing middle class in shaping the level and quality of collective goods and services and the types of taxes and relative tax burdens to fund these expenditures. Through a process we call “fiscal contracting,” less unequal societies may be willing to pay more in taxes for expanded, relatively universal public services.

September 30, 2014 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Jellum: Codifying and 'Miscodifying' Judicial Anti-Abuse Tax Doctrines

Linda Jellum (Mercer), Codifying and 'Miscodifying' Judicial Anti-Abuse Tax Doctrines, 33 Va. Tax Rev. 579 (2014):

As former President George W. Bush said once, “the tax code is a complicated mess . . . [and] a million pages long.” The length and complexity of the Internal Revenue Code (Code) is largely the result of the U.S. government’s rule-based approach to curtail tax abuse. Taxpayers, aided by literalism, have long found and used language in the tax laws to avoid or minimize their tax obligations. Although complying with the language of the law, abusive tax transactions are nevertheless at odds with the law’s spirit. Historically, the government, specifically Congress and the Department of the Treasury (Treasury), has responded by crafting new rules to stem the abuse.

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September 30, 2014 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

TIGTA: IRS Does Not Adequately Research 57% of Cases, Losing Billions in Taxes Wrongly Labeled Uncollectible

TIGTA The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration yesterday released Delinquent Taxes May Not Be Collected Because Required Research Was Not Always Completed Prior to Closing Some Cases As Currently Not Collectible (2014-30-052):

If an IRS employee is unable to contact or unable to locate (UTC/UTL) a delinquent taxpayer, the collection case may be closed as currently not collectible (CNC). If all of the required research steps are not taken prior to the case closure, there is a risk that the Government’s interest may not be protected and that taxpayers will not be treated equitably.

In Fiscal Year 2012, the IRS closed 482,611 tax modules involving approximately $6.7 billion as CNC–UTC/UTL.  This audit was initiated to determine whether these cases were adequately researched, documented, and approved to ensure that all actions were taken to collect outstanding taxpayer liabilities.

Required case actions were not always completed before closing cases as CNC–UTC/UTL.  Of a stratified sample of 250 cases reviewed, there was no evidence that employees completed all of the required research steps for 57 percent of the cases prior to their closing.  Moreover, 7 percent of the cases did not have a Notice of Federal Tax Lien (NFTL) filed on all delinquent tax periods as required. Collection Field function (Field) employees did not complete all research in 165 of the 204 Field cases, while Automated Collection System function employees did not complete all research in eight of the 38 Automated Collection System cases

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September 30, 2014 in Gov't Reports, IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

The IRS Scandal, Day 509

IRS Logo 2Christian Post:  Documentary Highlights First-Hand Accounts of IRS Targeting Conservative, Christian Groups:

A documentary set to be released in October aims to show the American public exactly how the IRS is unfairly treating certain groups by sharing first-hand experiences from those "oppressed" by the IRS.

Bothered by the reports that the IRS was targeting conservative activist groups, Craig Bergman, a former Gulf War veteran and syndicated conservative talk show host, traveled across America to get to the bottom of how the IRS was targeting these groups.

In his travels, Bergam interviewed various leaders of conservative activist groups, religious groups, veterans associations, international adoption parents and other groups. His interviewees detailed on camera how the IRS either forced them to fill out "intrusive" paperwork while filing for tax exempt status, or stalled the paperwork, making it difficult for the groups to grow in size.

The documentary, "UnFair: Exposing the IRS," was screened this past weekend at the Values Voters Summit in Washington D.C. and will premiere on Oct. 14 at over 700 theaters nationwide. The documentary uses the first-hand experiences to transition into a call to action to help abolish the IRS and the income tax and promote the Fair Tax, which would be similar to a national sales tax.

USA Today op-ed:  For Next Attorney General, Reach Across Aisle, by Glenn Reynolds (Tennessee):

Perhaps President Obama — and, for that matter, future presidents — should take a lesson from the way we handle the Department of Defense, and apply it to the Department of Justice: Consider naming someone outside his own party as attorney general.

This frequently happens with secretaries of Defense, and it has been of benefit to the administrations that have done it. FDR picked a Republican, Henry Stimson, to be secretary of War in 1940, and that meant that the war — and the war's casualties — became a bipartisan matter instead of fodder for partisan attacks. President Obama retained George W. Bush's Defense secretary, Robert Gates, for most of his first term. He replaced Gates with another Republican, Chuck Hagel, in that position.

Having a Defense secretary from the other party makes war bipartisan, and reassures members of the opposition that the powers of the sword aren't being abused. Likewise, naming an attorney general from the opposite party would tend to make the administration of justice bipartisan, and would provide considerable reassurance, as Holder's tenure in office emphatically did not, that the powers of law enforcement were not being abused in service of partisan ends. In an age of all-encompassing criminal laws, and pervasive government spying, that's a big deal.

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September 30, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, September 29, 2014

Barry Presents The Foreign Tax Credit and the Limits of Substance Today at Loyola-L.A.

BarryJordan Barry (San Diego) presents The Foreign Tax Credit and the Limits of Substance at Loyola-L.A. today as part of its Tax Policy Colloquium Series:

The foreign income tax credit is a major component of U.S. economic policy and a key provision of the U.S. tax code. Accordingly, when the Supreme Court took up PPL v. Commissioner, which turned on whether a particular tax qualified for the foreign income tax credit, economists and tax experts nationwide paid close attention. Because the Supreme Court decides foreign income tax credit cases so rarely, the Court’s reasoning in PPL will likely influence courts’ thinking—and taxpayers’ pocketbooks—for many years to come. Unfortunately, the Court’s decision in PPL does little to clarify the law and guide taxpayers. Instead, it reveals the fundamentally arbitrary nature of the foreign income tax credit.

The Court justifies its ruling as a triumph of substance over form. But the Court’s opinion itself demonstrates how two taxes can be the same in substance, yet be treated quite differently for purposes of the foreign income tax credit. The Court describes a specific hypothetical tax that would not be creditable—yet there are multiple taxes that are substantively identical to the Court’s hypothetical tax, but qualify for significant foreign income tax credits.

This Article explores these conceptual problems with the foreign income tax credit, as demonstrated by PPL, and suggests several steps that Congress and the IRS might wish to take to ameliorate these problems.

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September 29, 2014 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

WSJ: Fed Questions Banks' Use of 'Dividend Arbitrage' to Cut Hedge Funds' Tax Bills

Wall Street Journal:  Fed Questions Bank Maneuver to Reduce Hedge Funds' Dividend Taxes; 'Dividend Arbitrage' Helps Big Banks Generate More Than $1 Billion in Revenue, Draws Criticism, by Jenny Strasburg:

Large banks generate more than $1 billion a year in revenue by helping hedge funds and other clients reduce taxes through a complicated trading strategy that has drawn criticism from U.S. authorities.

Known as "dividend arbitrage," the strategy is run largely from London, where the banks temporarily transfer ownership of a client's shares to a lower-tax jurisdiction around the time when the client expects to collect a dividend on those shares, according to people familiar with the matter.

The maneuver typically enables bank clients to reduce taxes from as much as 30% of the dividend payment to 10% or so—and sometimes to zero. The savings are divided between the client, bank and entities that take ownership of the shares. The business largely involves tsocks listed in Europe and Asia.

WSJ

Banks and hedge funds say dividend arbitrage is an attractive, legal way to shrink tax bills through the differences in withholding rates around the world. ... But Bank of America recently was questioned by U.S. regulators about potential legal and reputational risks from the maneuver, according to a spokesman for the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond. ...

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September 29, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Graetz: The Bipartisan 'Inversion' Evasion: Meaningful Tax Reform Requires a Different President and a Different Congress

Wall Street Journal op-ed:  The Bipartisan 'Inversion' Evasion: Neither the White House Nor Congress Seems Interested in Tax Reform That Would Make Companies Want to Stay Here, by Michael J. Graetz (Columbia):

Tennessee Williams was famous for concocting American dramas where something is terribly wrong but no one is willing to talk about the underlying problem. That is exactly where we are now with the Obama administration's attack on "corporate inversions"—transactions where a U.S. company merges with a foreign company and locates the parent company abroad to reduce taxes.

This week Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced new regulations that "will significantly diminish the ability of inverted companies to escape U.S. taxation." For some U.S. companies considering inversion, he said, the new measures will mean inverting will "no longer make economic sense." He admitted, however, that Treasury's moves are just a stopgap measure until Congress enacts corporate tax reform.

President Obama, Mr. Lew and just about everyone in Congress agree that the laws governing corporate taxation need rewriting. Members of both parties say they support reforms that will lower the corporate tax rate—now the highest statutory rate among developed nations—and make our corporate tax system more "competitive." The president points to his Framework for Business Tax Reform, announced in February 2012. Republicans take their cues from a comprehensive tax-reform plan issued in February by outgoing House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp. Mr. Obama's plan would lower the corporate tax rate to 28% from 35%. Mr. Camp's plan would lower it to 25%. Both would impose a "minimum" tax rate of around 15% on the foreign earnings of a U.S. multinational corporation.

The Treasury's new regulations are aimed at hindering inverted companies' ability to bring cash back to the U.S. free of corporate taxes. And they would require the new foreign parent to be engaged in real business activities. But the new regulations do not address one of the advantages of inversion—the inverted companies' ability to use debt from their foreign parent to increase interest deductions as a way to strip earnings out of the U.S. ...

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September 29, 2014 in Congressional News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Symposium on Tax System Complexity Today in Italy

MonashMonash University hosts a two-day symposium beginning today on Tax System Complexity in Prato, near Florence, Italy convened by Chris Evans (University of New South Wales, Australia) and Rick Krever (Monash University. The symposium proceedings will be published by Kluwer in early 2015 in a book edited by Professors Evans and Krever. Speakers include Joel Slemrod (Michigan), Judith Freedman (Oxford), Alex Raskolnikov (Columbia), Philip Baker (London), Francois Vaillancourt (Montreal), Sharon Smulders (Pretoria), Kristin Hickman (Minnesota), John Hasseldine (New Hampshire), Michael Walpole (UNSW Australia), Lynne Oats (Exeter), Pasquale Pistone (Vienna), Cliff Fleming (Brigham Young) and David Ulph (Edinburgh).

 There are three broad themes within which papers will be situated:

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September 29, 2014 in Conferences, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Penalty for Opting Out of the Affordable Care Act Is Large ($12,240) and Growing

Wall Street Journal Tax Report:  Penalty for Not Having Health Coverage Can Be Thousands of Dollars; The ACA Penalty Can Top $12,000 for a High-Income Family of Five, by Laura Saunders:

ObamaCareIf you're opting out of the health-care coverage required by the Affordable Care Act, make sure you understand how much you'll owe Uncle Sam as a result.

For a family of five, the penalty could be as high as $12,240 for the 2014 tax year, experts say. And for many people, the penalty will rise sharply in 2015 and 2016.

The massive health-care changes passed in 2010 are phasing in, and this is the first year most Americans must have approved health insurance. Those who don't will owe a penalty under the Individual Shared Responsibility Provision. It's due with your income taxes, payable by April 15, 2015.

While most people will probably obtain qualified health coverage through an employer or an exchange, there will be others who owe the penalty. Eddie Adkins, a health-care and benefits specialist at Grant Thornton in Washington, says this group will likely include affluent and wealthy people who want to self-insure or use a so-called nonconforming policy that doesn't meet Affordable Care Act standards.

Then there are the "young invincibles": healthy young adults, typically in their late 20s or early 30s, who will get little or no tax credit to reduce their premiums. Many would rather spend the cost of health coverage, which can run from several hundred to several thousand dollars a year, on something else, such as paying off college loans.

For those who are thinking of opting out, here's what you need to know.

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September 29, 2014 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

The IRS Scandal, Day 508

IRS Logo 2New York Observer:  Eric Holder Runs from a Ticking Time Bomb: IRS Deadline Approaches Fast, Federal Judges are Furious—and Where’s Andrew Selka?, by Sidney Powell:

The surprise resignation of Eric Holder, the first Attorney General ever to be held in contempt of Congress, exploded in the news today. Holder has been under unrelenting assault for the most egregious politicization and abuse of power in the Department of Justice in history—exceeding that of John Mitchell and Alberto Gonzalez. He has made the Department of Obstructing Justice notorious. Federal judges are stepping in to end his stone walling of Congressional and other investigations on several fronts, and now he’s on the run.

Why now? What is about to blow up? ...

Mr. Holder is about to run out of stalling time on the cover-up in the IRS scandal. He has come under increasingly serious fire for refusing to appoint a real special prosecutor to investigate what the Inspector General of the Treasury has already determined to be improper targeting of conservative groups by IRS officials including Lois Lerner. That bomb could detonate any day now.

The IRS has stonewalled production of the relevant documents, suffered astonishing computer crashes, deliberately destroyed Lois Lerner’s Blackberry with no effort to retrieve the “missing” emails from it, and been deceitful and obstructionist in the lawsuit brought by Judicial Watch to obtain documents that would reveal the target selection process and how high up in the White House the knowledge or direction of it can be traced.

Judicial Watch recently requested additional discovery. Judge Emmet Sullivan, the federal judge in the District of Columbia, has just given the IRS until October 17 to file its response to that motion. Judge Sullivan has the power to appoint—and has previously—appointed a special prosecutor to investigate the Department of Justice. ...

Mr. Holder tasked Barbara Bosserman, a Civil Rights Division attorney, with the Department’s own purported investigation of the IRS abuses. Congress later learned that she had made substantial contributions to the President’s campaign and renewed its demand for Mr. Holder to name a special prosecutor.

As more of the IRS emails have come to light, they have revealed that Mr. Holder allowed a Justice Department lawyer, Andrew Strelka, to represent the IRS in opposing the lawsuit by Z Street—a group allegedly targeted for abusive treatment by the IRS because of its support for Israel. Mr. Strelka used to work with Lois Lerner, engaged in the political targeting himself, and maintained his close relationship with Ms. Lerner after he joined the Justice Department. Congressmen Issa’s and Jordan’s letter of August 25 to the Attorney General revealed that Mr. Strelka was privy to internal communications of the Exempt Office of the IRS long after he left that office. He was even advised immediately of the crash of Ms. Lerner’s hard drive—unlike Congress or any federal judge.

The letter notes: “Curiously, before his withdrawal from the case [forced by a story reporting this conflict], Strelka also completed a detail to the White House Counsel’s Office from December 2013 to June 2014—during which time the White House learned of Lois Lerner’s destroyed emails.”

The Congressional Committee on Government Oversight and Reform has intensified its inquiry into the Department’s conduct. The Congressmen told the Attorney General that their Committee staff should be contacted to arrange transcribed interviews of Mr. Strelka and Ms. Siegel by September 8. Mr. Strelka quickly and quietly left the Department. By September 5, the Department was stonewalling and refusing to assist the Committee in locating Mr. Strelka—who seems to be as missing as the IRS emails. As the Hill has reported, Rep. Jordan complains that the Justice Department “has declined to give Strelka’s contact information to the Oversight Committee and has reprimanded the panel for trying to get in touch with him directly.” Is this an out-take from House of Cards?

Congress also wants to talk to Nicole Siegel, a Department lawyer in the Office of Legislative Affairs. Turns out she also worked for Lois Lerner, shared Ms. Lerner’s views, and kept in touch. Hardly the disinterested person one should have in the Department office that responds to congressional inquiries on the IRS’s target selection.

Then there was the extraordinary accidental or mistaken call to Congressman Issa’s office by the Justice Department’s Office of Public Affairs. The call was intended for Rep. Elijah Cummings, the ranking minority member of the Oversight Committee, and sought to coordinate a leak of selected Committee documents to selected reporters so the Department could comment on them. The subject of the conversation and documents? None other than Andrew Strelka—regarding his representation of IRS Commissioner Koskinen in the Z-Street case. Meanwhile, other emails reveal extensive communications between Rep. Cummings’ staff and the IRS — referred to as an “executive branch agency” — in 2012 and 2013 regarding conservative group True the Vote.

As of September 12, the Department was still obstructing efforts to locate Mr. Strelka. Meanwhile, the Department’s own Inspector General Michael Horowitz testified before the House Judiciary Committee that the FBI and other components of the Department of Justice “have refused our requests for various types of documents. As a result, a number of our reviews have been significantly impeded.” Mr. Horwitz had already joined an unprecedented letter signed by 47 Inspector Generals for various agencies expressing serious concern that their jobs were being undermined and obstructed by multiple agencies of this presidency, including the Department of Justice.

Mr. Strelka can’t hide forever. Judge Bates is fed up with Department’s delays and ordered the list of documents Mr. Holder and Mr. Obama have been hiding for years now on their Fast and Furious scheme. Soon, Judge Sullivan could appoint a special prosecutor or demand production of the back-up server’s emails, or give Judicial Watch additional discovery after October 17.

One thing is for certain. Mr. Holder didn’t just wake up today and decide he wanted to go fishing. There are truths underlying this resignation that will be shocking when they surface. Mr. Holder will no longer have the shield of the Attorney General and the Department of Justice to protect him from congressional, grand jury, or other subpoenas. The next question is: Which criminal lawyer will he hire to defend him and how soon?

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September 29, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

TaxProf Blog Weekend Roundup

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Income Gains in the Obama Economic Recovery: +116% to Top 10%, -16% to Bottom 90%

New York Times:  The Benefits of Economic Expansions Are Increasingly Going to the Richest Americans, by Neil Irwin:

Economic expansions are supposed to be the good times, the periods in which incomes and living standards improve. And that’s still true, at least for some of us.

But who benefits from rising incomes in an expansion has changed drastically over the last 60 years. Pavlina R. Tcherneva, an economist at Bard College, created a chart that vividly shows how.

Income Growth

The Rich Are Getting Richer, Part the Millionth, by Kevin Drum:

It's a pretty stunning chart. The precise numbers (from Piketty and Saez) can always be argued with, but the basic trend is hard to deny. After the end of each recession, the well-off have pocketed an ever greater share of the income growth from the subsequent expansion. Unsurprisingly, there's an especially big bump after 1975, but this is basically a secular trend that's been showing a steady rise toward nosebleed territory for more than half a century. Welcome to the 21st century.

September 28, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

Cass Sunstein's Ode to the Independent Bookstore: 'Church, House of Worship, Sacred Place'

Seminary

Chicago Tribune:  A Treasure-Trove Beyond Words, by Cass Sunstein (Harvard):

I joined the faculty of the University of Chicago Law School in 1981. On the day after I moved to Hyde Park, a young English professor told me, in hushed tones, "The best thing about the University of Chicago is the Sem Co-op." He added, as if he were discussing a legendary priest, or a world leader, or perhaps a spy, "It's run by Jack Cella."

Of course I had no idea what a "Sem Co-op" might be, and I had never heard of Jack Cella — and I was properly intimidated by both. A week later, I discovered the Seminary Co-op Bookstore, and I was able to see, at his small desk on the right as you enter the store, the famous Jack Cella.

Hyde Park's Seminary Co-op Bookstore is not merely a bookstore. It is a community. It is a small town. It is a church, a sacred place. The air is cleaner there, and the people are more gracious, and they move more slowly. It is defined by quiet, and by gentleness, and by respect. No one disturbs anyone there. When they talk, they tend to whisper.

A confession: During my first years at the University of Chicago, I was a bit frightened whenever I entered the Seminary Co-op. I met Jack, or sort of met Jack, but I didn't know if he knew my name. When I saw him, I felt painfully shy. You could find the university's legendary professors there — the people who wrote the books that made it onto the celebrated Front Table (more on that in a minute). Wayne Booth might be there, or Marshall Sahlins, or Wendy Doniger, or David Tracy, or William Julius Wilson, or Gary Becker. (Would one say, "hello, Professor Becker"? "Hi there, Gary?" Nothing at all?)

The Seminary Co-op was a magnet. It was analogous to a great city as memorably described by Jane Jacobs: It was full of life-altering surprises, and unknown treasures, and whenever you turned a corner, you never knew what you would see. ...

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September 28, 2014 in Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Top 5 Tax Paper Downloads

SSRN LogoThere is a bit of movement in this week's list of the Top 5 Recent Tax Paper Downloads on SSRN, with a new paper debuting on the list at #5.  The #1 paper is now #19 in all-time downloads among 10,329 tax papers:

  1. [3172 Downloads]  'Competitiveness' Has Nothing to Do with it, by Edward D. Kleinbard (USC)
  2. [333 Downloads]  2013 Developments in Connecticut Estate and Probate Law, by Jeffrey A. Cooper (Quinnipiac) & John R. Ivimey (Reid and Riege, Hartford)
  3. [252 Downloads]  Public Pressure and Corporate Tax Behavior, by Scott Dyreng (Duke), Jeffrey Hoopes (Ohio State) & Jaron Wilde (Iowa)
  4. [185 Downloads]  The OECD'S Flawed and Dated Approach to Computer Servers Creating Permanent Establishments, by Monica Gianni (Florida)
  5. [121 Downloads]  Rights Without Remedies, by Matthew L. M. Fletcher (Michigan State)

September 28, 2014 in Tax, Top 5 Downloads | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 507

IRS Logo 2The Daily Signal:  Eric Holder’s 7 Worst Actions as Attorney General:

3. Failure to conduct a real, criminal investigation of the IRS targeting of conservative organizations and to enforce the contempt citation issued by the House of Representative against Lois Lerner.

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September 28, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, September 27, 2014

NY Times: Profits Made in the USA, but Banked Overseas

New York Times:  Made in the U.S.A., but Banked Overseas, by Floyd Norris:

MadeImagine how frustrating it would be to have billions of dollars in cash but be unable to spend it as you wish unless you paid a large part to the Internal Revenue Service.

That could be your problem if you were running a large multinational corporation based in the United States.

Profitable companies that operate only in this country have some tax breaks available and so often pay considerably less than the statutory corporate tax rate of 35 percent. But they still face a significant tax bill.

It is a different story for United States companies that operate internationally.

“U.S. multinational firms have established themselves as world leaders in global tax avoidance strategies,” said Edward D. Kleinbard, a former chief of staff of Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation who now teaches tax law at the Gould School of Law at the University of Southern California. In a recent article, he sarcastically added that those companies “are burdened by tax rates that are the envy of their international peers.”

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September 27, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morgan Stanley on Income and Wealth Inequality

Morgan Stanley LogoWall Street Journal, Why Wall Street Cares About Inequality:

First, it was Standard & Poor’s. Now, Morgan Stanley weighs in on income inequality in a new report. Why are these Wall Street institutions, normally focused on macroeconomic issues directly related to gross domestic product forecasts, suddenly chiming in on the issue?

Morgan Stanley

Morgan Stanley 2

(Hat Tip: Bruce Bartlett.)

September 27, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 506

Friday, September 26, 2014

Shay Presents Tax Inversions -- The Problem and Possible Solutions Today at San Diego

Shay (2014)Stephen E. Shay (Harvard) presents Mr. Secretary, Take the Tax Juice Out of Corporate Expatriations, 144 Tax Notes 473 (July 28, 2014), at San Diego today as part of its Tax Law Speaker Series:

This article describes the principal tax benefits companies seek from expatriating and outlines regulatory actions that can be taken without legislative action to materially reduce the tax incentive to expatriate. These proposals for regulations are supported by existing statutory authority. They would be good policy and consistent with, or easily integrated with, publicly proposed tax reform proposals.

Prior TaxProf Blog coverage:

September 26, 2014 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Blair-Stanek Presents Crisis-Proofing Tax Law Today at Michigan State

Blair-Stanek (2013)Andrew Blair-Stanek (Maryland) presents Crisis-Proofing Tax Law at Michigan State today as part of its Junior Faculty Workshop:

Tax law should borrow from tort law’s doctrine of necessity to respond better to future financial crises. Tort law gives dock owners a “property rule” right to exclude unwanted boats. But when storms arise, dock owners are protected by only a “liability rule”: they cannot exclude an unwanted boat, but the boat’s owner must compensate the dock owner. This rule creates optimal incentives to minimize storm damage, while also preventing windfalls to boat owners.

Tax law also has both property rules and liability rules. When a taxpayer violates a tax-law requirement, the result is either additional tax proportionate to the harm (a liability rule) or a draconian penalty such as losing a favorable tax status entirely (a property rule).

During the 2008-09 financial crisis, a number of financially-distressed taxpayers found themselves unable to meet tax-law requirements protected by property rules. Failing these requirements would have pushed the taxpayers into financial death spirals. Several of the IRS’s ad hoc responses to the crisis unwittingly borrowed from tort law’s doctrine of necessity, moving from a draconian property rule to a proportional liability rule to prevent tax law from worsening the taxpayer’s situation. But other IRS responses simply moved from property rules to non-enforcement, resulting in large windfalls to some taxpayers, to the Treasury’s detriment. Counterintuitively, because non-enforcement created such windfalls, the IRS kept such responses so narrowly tailored that many taxpayers got no relief at all.

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September 26, 2014 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Weekly Tax Roundup

September 26, 2014 in Tax, Weekly Tax Roundup | Permalink | Comments (0)

Weekly SSRN Tax Roundup

September 26, 2014 in Scholarship, Tax, Weekly SSRN Roundup | Permalink | Comments (0)

Call For Tax Papers: Summer 2015 SEALS Annual Conference

SEALs Logo (2013)Jennifer Bird-Pollan (Kentucky) has issued a call for tax papers for the 2015 SEALS Annual Conference to be held July 27 - August 2 in Boca Raton, Florida:

Although summer 2015 seems miles away, it is already time to submit proposals for the next SEALS conference, to be held July 27 - August 2, 2015. As I have done in years past, I am happy to organize and submit for consideration panels and discussion sessions on tax topics. For the past several years we have had successful Tax Policy Discussion groups, consisting of 10 to 12 tax scholars presenting for only 5 to 10 minutes each, but then participating as a group in a larger discussion of issues in tax policy, broadly defined. In addition, there have been several tax panels each year, consisting of 4 to 5 panelists discussing a more narrow tax topic. If you are interested in participating in a Tax Policy Discussion Group, or if you have a paper you’d like to present as part of a panel, but are looking for others to join with you, please let me know. Proposals are due at the end of October, so if you could let me know of your potential interest by Friday, October 10, that would be great.

September 26, 2014 in Conferences, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Nine Law Schools Offer Online Tax LL.M. Degrees

National JuristAccording to the National Jurist and other sources, nine law schools now offer an online Tax LL.M. degree:

September 26, 2014 in Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Why is Thomas Piketty's 700-Page Book a Bestseller?

PikettyThe Guardian, Why is Thomas Piketty's 700-Page Book a Bestseller?:

Thomas Piketty is a French economist whose Capital in the Twenty-First Century has swept American discourse. Four experts – Brad DeLong, Tyler Cowen, Stephanie Kelton and Emanuel Derman – take on why that is.

There’s been a bizarre phenomenon this year: a young, little-known French economist has written a 700-page tome about economic inequality – dense with data, historical examples from France, and a few literary references to Jane Austen.

That’s not the strange part. This is: it’s a bestseller.

Somehow, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty has become a conversation piece among well-read people. Its graphic red-and-ivory cover is inescapable. Early in its launch, it hit No 1 on Amazon’s bestseller list and the paper version – a doorstop in punishing, heavy hardcover – sold out in major bookstores.

Piketty’s main argument is this: that invested capital – in the stock market, in real estate – will grow faster than income.

The implications of that are deep: to have invested capital, you must have money already. If you rely on income, as most people do, you will likely never catch up to the wealth of people who are already rich. The 1% and the 99% enshrined by Occupy are not an anomaly of our time, Piketty’s research suggests. It’s a structural feature of capitalism. Piketty’s work – which has been in progress for over a decade – is a natural pairing with the Occupy movement, which also questions the premises of capitalism.

You can see the appeal of such an argument, which has driven the book to become a cultural touchpoint. Seattle quoted Piketty in its minimum-wage law. The book has had so many reviews and articles that it’s possible for someone to feel as if they have read it even without cracking the cover.

Which raises the question: why this book? The themes that Piketty brings up have been enshrined in discussion about progressive economists for decades. No fewer than three Nobel Prize winners – Joseph Stiglitz, Paul Krugman and Robert Solow – have all devoted much of their careers to studying inequality. On Friday, 19 September, I moderated a panel at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth that included Solow as well as economists Brad DeLong, Tyler Cowen and Russ Roberts. For 90 minutes, they hammered out the implications of Piketty’s work -- and the discussion ended with much more to say.

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September 26, 2014 in Book Club, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

The IRS Scandal, Day 505

IRS Logo 2Washington Free Beacon:  Politico's Epic Fail in Their Lois Lerner Interview, by Larry O'Connor:

Unrepentant political hack Lois Lerner finally broke her 16-month silence by granting Politico an exclusive interview Monday. She was flanked by not one, but two lawyers running interference for any challenging questions from reporter Rachael Bade.

However, if Politico had been more diligent in approaching their “big get” with a reporter who was well versed in the charges against Lerner and the conflicting narratives that have been floated by the IRS, Department of Justice, and the administration since May 2013, they would have had a fantastic interview with a plethora of challenging moments that might have ended with Lerner’s lawyers shutting down the interview before it could end.

Instead, Lerner had the opportunity to tell her story without the benefit of a real challenge on the facts of the case and how they conflict with the carefully crafted narrative told to Ms. Bade during the headline-grabbing exclusive.

Probably the most glaring example of Politico letting Lerner lie about her involvement in the IRS scandal and the subsequent cover-up comes in one of Lerner’s rhetorical tricks involving the mysteriously crashed hard-drives that contained emails related to the scandal.

Lerner is allowed to pose a rhetorical question that Ms. Bade (and apparently her editors at Politico) cannot or refuse to answer for their readers:

“How would I know two years ahead of time that it would be important for me to destroy emails, and if I did know that, why wouldn’t I have destroyed the other ones they keep releasing?”

We, the reader, never hear Ms. Bade’s answer and her editors never research the issue in any real way to inform us of the facts behind Lerner’s supposed “gotcha” moment.

The truth is divulged in a Wall Street Journal analysis of evidence uncovered via a congressional investigation, not a puff piece bit of rah-rah “journalism.” (emphasis mine)

As to Ms. Lerner’s behavior, consider that House Ways & Means Chairman Dave Camp first sent a letter asking if the IRS was engaged in targeting in June, 2011. Ms. Lerner denied it. She engineered a plant in an audience at a tax conference in May 2013 to drop the bombshell news about targeting (maybe hoping nobody would notice?). She has subsequently asserted a Fifth Amendment right to silence in front of the only people actually investigating the affair, Congress. Now we learn that her hard drive supposedly defied modernity and suffered total annihilation about 10 days after the Camp letter arrived.

The answer to Lerner’s suggestion is pretty simple. “Ms. Lerner, there is a letter from Chairman Camp asking you about the tea party group targeting in June of 2011. Your hard drives ‘crashed’ ten days after you received that letter. Why are you pretending you didn’t learn about the targeting until 2013”

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September 26, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Columbia Journal of Tax Law Publishes New Issue

Columbia Journal of Tax Law LogoThe Columbia Journal of Tax Law has published  Vol. 5, No. 2:

September 25, 2014 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tax Man Uses Drones to Root Out Wealthy Tax Evaders

DroneThe Telegraph, Argentina Uses Drones to Root Out Wealthy Tax Evaders:

The Argentine government has used drones to catch out wealthy tax evaders who had not declared mansions and swimming pools.

Unmanned aircraft were dispatched over an upper class area of Buenos Aires and discovered 200 homes and 100 pools that had not been detailed on returns.

Tax officials said the drones took pictures of luxury houses standing on lots registered as empty.

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September 25, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Kahng: Tax, Incest, and Big (Gay) Love

Lily Kahng (Seattle), Next Up, Incest (Jotwell) (reviewing Anthony C. Infanti (Pittsburgh), Big (Gay) Love: Has the IRS Legalized Polygamy?, 92 N.C. L. Rev. Addendum ___ (2014)):

Big LoveGay marriage opponents love to fear monger about the slippery slope of extending marriage beyond the legal union between one man and one woman. They prophesy that if we allow marriage between two men or two women, we will descend into a Gomorrah of incest, adultery, polygamy, and animal love. In his essay, Big (Gay) Love: Has the IRS Legalized Polygamy?, Anthony Infanti makes subversive use of this repugnant meme to advance his view that tax results should not depend on marriage in the first place. ...

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September 25, 2014 in Legal Education, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

McMahon: Rethinking Taxation of Privately Held Businesses

Martin J. McMahon Jr. (Florida), Rethinking Taxation of Privately Held Businesses:

This article proposes the repeal of current Subchapters K and S, as well as the removal from the ambit of Subchapter C of all privately held corporations and the replacement of the current tax regime for privately held business with a new regime under which all privately held businesses (including wholly owned corporations and limited liability companies, and unorganized sole proprietorships) would be taxed at the entity level under a uniform rate schedule, regardless of the form of organization. (All publicly traded companies, and their controlled corporate subsidiaries, would continue to be governed by all of the structural rules of Subchapter C (and any other relevant Code sections outside of Subchapter C.)) Nevertheless, the profits of privately held companies subject to the entity level tax would not be double taxed upon distribution. Rather, a single level tax, at the owners’ tax rates would be achieved by applying the imputation-credit model for corporate tax integration to all distributions (including profits of a sole proprietorship that have not been reinvested) to the equity owners of the entity. As a consequence of the abolition of pass-through taxation and the imposition of an entity-level tax, entity losses no longer could be passed through to the entity’s owners to offset positive income from other sources. This proposal emanates from decades-long problems with the administration of Subchapter K, governing the taxation of partnerships, and the incoherence of having three separate regimes—Subchapter C, Subchapter K, and Subchapter S—apply to closely held businesses depending of the form of organization and available elections. While it does not originate as a refinement of recent proposals to reduce the corporate tax rate and to clean up the base, its adoption would facilitate such a move. Because such a high percentage of U.S. business income is now earned by unincorporated business it would avoid increased distortions in the choice of business entity due solely to tax planning.

September 25, 2014 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

U.S. and International Tax Rates of the S&P 100

Wallet HubWallet Hub, S&P 100 Tax Rate Report:

Concerns over the proper role of taxation lie at the very foundation of United States history. They haven’t gone away either. In fact, matters of tax reform are set to play a central theme in this year’s midterm elections, fueling partisan discussions of economic patriotism as well as debates over whether Main Street or millionaires should foot more or less of the bill.

In the spirit of advancing the discussion, WalletHub analyzed annual reports for the S&P 100 – the largest and most established companies on the stock market – in order to determine the rates at which they pay taxes at the state, federal and international levels as well as how their tax burdens compare to those of American individuals.

WalletHub

Table 2

The complete data on all S&P 100 companies are here.  For Tax Prof commentary on the corporate tax, see:

(Hat Tip: Bruce Bartlett.)

September 25, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 504

IRS Logo 2Daily Caller:  500 Days After IRS Scandal Broke, Reporter Still Refuses To Pay His Taxes, by Patrick Howley:

This week the IRS conservative targeting scandal turned 500 days old. It’s been 500 days since we learned that Lois Lerner’s former agency targeted right-leaning groups applying for nonprofit status and audited ones that already exist. And it has been 500 days since I righteously decided to stop paying my taxes.

500 days later, the IRS still hasn’t produced emails from Lerner and the more than 20 other IRS employees whose computers allegedly crashed, whose Blackberries were thrown away and “upgraded,” and, in Lerner’s case, whose hard drive was “scratched” and destroyed. But we know that Lerner exchanged confidential taxpayer information on conservatives with top White House adviser Jeanne Lambrew during the 2012 election cycle. We know that Lerner and her White House-visiting underling Nikole Flax were involved in a “secret research project” involving conservative donor information that was approved by then-IRS commissioner Steven T. Miller. President Barack Obama first called the whole thing “outrageous.” Then he said there’s “not a smidgen of corruption.”

How much longer will this go on? New IRS chief John Koskinen said that “hard drive crashes continue as we speak.” Lerner is giving softball interviews with Politico about how conservatives (who she once called “assholes”) are trying to ruin her life. The White House has yet to be subpoenaed for the emails it exchanged with Lerner. Same goes for the Department of Justice. ...

500 days ago, we learned that the most powerful tax-collecting agency in the United States has been turned into a political weapon and their enemy is average hardworking American citizens. When people find out such a thing, it tends to lead to feelings of hopelessness. It makes people cynical. Important institutions have been corrupted and there’s nothing we can do about it because they claim that the computers crashed and that’s the end of it? And 500 days later, we still don’t have the emails?

This 500-day mark should be the point where we as Americans decide we’re not going to take it anymore, when we demand answers, when we try to get basic information out of our government so we can have just one tiny fragment of justice and decency and common sense back in our lives. But it doesn’t feel like it. It feels instead like the force of 315 million people shrugging. It feels like a country accepting that we’re circling the drain as a free-market democracy, putting their headphones in and going back to looking down at their not-at-all-private cell phones. 500 days of this. 500 days.

I did not pay my taxes this year. I will not pay my taxes until every single Lois Lerner email is released and the people who planned and carried out this governmental travesty are held accountable. So start watching that clock, John Koskinen, if you think you’re going to get my overdue money, and every day this goes on is another day I’m not giving you a dime (soon it will hit 619 days, one for every hard-earned dollar I “owe.”)

Go ahead and take me to court, federal government. I’m not giving you $619 I need so I can subsidize a fraction of a new salary bonus for some unethical bureaucrat who audited my friends and fellow countrymen. Your corruption cast a hopeless pall over this great but troubled country and its great but jaded people.

I will not pay, IRS. Because America already did.

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September 25, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Columbia Journal of Tax Law's Tax Matters: Tax Inversions

Columbia Journal of Tax Law LogoThe Columbia Journal of Tax Law has published a new issue of its Tax Matters feature, with three short pieces by tax practitions responding to a specific cutting-edge tax law issue posed by a tax academic.  This issue's prompt is by Robert Scarborough (Columbia):

United States taxation of worldwide income combined with a high corporate tax rate disadvantages US-headed multinational groups compared with groups with the same income mix but a non-US parent. The disadvantage has become more pronounced in recent years as more countries move to territorial systems and lower rates.

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September 24, 2014 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Michael 'The Situation' Sorrentino Has a Tax Situation

U.S. Department of Justice Press Release, Michael "The Situation" and Marc Sorrentino indicted for Tax Crimes Involving $8.9 Million Income:

The SituationTelevision personality Michael “The Situation” Sorrentino and his brother Marc Sorrentino are expected to appear in federal court this afternoon to face an indictment alleging they did not properly pay taxes on $8.9 million in income Michael Sorrentino received from promotional activities, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.

Michael Sorrentino and his brother Marc Sorrentino are charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States. Marc and Michael Sorrentino also are charged with three and two counts, respectively, of filing false tax returns for 2010 through 2012. Michael Sorrentino faces an additional count for allegedly failing to file a tax return for 2011.

According to the indictment returned today:

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September 24, 2014 in Celebrity Tax Lore, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

More Commentary on the Treasury Department's Action to Rein in Tax Inversions

Treasury Department SealFollowing up on yesterday's post, Treasury Department Takes Action to Rein in Tax Inversions:

New York Times editorial:  Cracking Down on Corporate Tax Games:

New rules from the Treasury Department are likely to slow the offensive practice that allows American companies to avoid taxes by merging with foreign rivals. Known as corporate inversions, these are complex, modern variations on the practices of yesteryear, when companies dodged their taxes by moving their addresses to post office boxes in the Caribbean. ...

The rules do not stop all abuses, including, for instance, earnings stripping. That is the practice in which a foreign parent deducts the company’s interest payments against the income generated by a United States subsidiary, thus lowering the American tax bill. Buried deep in the new rules is an indication that the Treasury Department plans to devise additional rules to stop the practice. The sooner the better.

Nor can the rules do what only Congress can do — namely pass a law to stop tax-motivated corporate inversions completely. That could be accomplished by simply mandating that any tax-deferred stashes held in foreign accounts become taxable as soon as a company inverts.

Everyday taxpayers face similar “taxable events” routinely. When you withdraw money from a tax-deductible retirement account, for instance, you owe tax. If you don’t withdraw the money, you owe tax when you reach a certain age. The reason corporations don’t face the same kinds of rules is that Congress doesn’t impose them.

New York Times DealBook:  Treasury Takes a Modest Step on Inversions, by Victor Fleischer (San Diego):

The Treasury Department’s notice of proposed regulations to curb so-called inversions is smart and narrowly tailored. The new rules would take away some — but not all — of the reasons that a company might want to give up United States citizenship.

Indeed, most proposed inversions are likely to go forward, especially those that make sense as a business matter above and beyond the tax benefits, some of which the new rules will curtail.

Companies still searching for a suitable foreign merger partner will find it harder make a match. And in some cases, the loss of tax benefits will mean the search is not lucrative enough to be worth the bother. ...

In sum, the proposed regulations will deter future inversions where the primary motivation is tax savings. Where there is a significant business reason for the merger, however, the new rules will most likely not affect the deal. Burger King’s proposed merger with Tim Hortons is a good example.

It is harder to predict what might happen with deals that appear to be mostly motivated by taxes, like Medtronic’s proposed merger with Covidien. The deal documents include an “out” if new rules would treat the inverted company as a United States corporation. But that is not the effect of the new rules. Instead, the rules would reduce the effectiveness of the inversion by denying access to Medtronic’s offshore cash.

Whatever happens with the inversions that have already been proposed, the new rules will help deter new deals that lack a real business purpose.

Wall Street Journal editorial, Can Jack Lew Add? Corporate Tax Revenue Is Rising Nicely Despite Inversions:

WSJMany economists are downgrading their expectations for U.S. growth. So naturally the Obama Treasury this week rolled out a plan to discourage investment in America.

The regulations are ostensibly to prevent so-called corporate inversions, in which U.S. companies acquire foreign firms and then relocate their legal headquarters offshore for tax purposes. But the practical impact will be to make it harder to make money overseas and then bring it back here.

For those who haven't studied this issue, Monday's Treasury announcement clarifies that the point is not to ensure that U.S. business profits will continue to be taxed. Such profits will be taxed under any of the inversion deals that have received so much recent attention. The White House goal is to ensure that the U.S. government can tax the foreign profits of U.S. companies, even though this money has already been taxed by the countries in which it was earned, and even though those countries generally don't tax their own companies on profits earned in the U.S. ...

Speaking of the legislature, even the White House admits that changes in tax law ought to involve Congress. So how does Mr. Lew's Treasury propose to change the rules on its own? Regular readers may be interested to know that the new Treasury plan does not include the so-called Section 385 gimmick we analyzed recently under which Mr. Lew would have magically reclassified debt as equity. But the sections of the law that Treasury cited on Monday in claiming the authority to rewrite business tax rules are still a unilateral diktat designed solely with an election in mind.

Mr. Lew was installed at Treasury as a political cipher, and he has delivered for the White House if not the economy. But outside of Washington we notice that no one is complaining about recent merger announcements involving foreign firms buying U.S. companies. These foreign firms don't suffer the same IRS penalty as U.S. businesses that want to take money earned elsewhere and invest it in the U.S. We're all for foreign investment, but should Washington be punishing U.S. companies that wish to do the same?

Additional press commentary:

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September 24, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Lederman: Restructuring the U.S. Tax Court

Leandra Lederman (Indiana), Restructuring the U.S. Tax Court: A Reply to Stephanie Hoffer & Christopher Walker's 'The Death of Tax Court Exceptionalism', 99 Minn. L. Rev. Headnotes ___ (2014):

Stephanie Hoffer and Christopher Walker’s excellent Minnesota Law Review article, The Death of Tax Court Exceptionalism, analyzes the topical and important question of whether the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) governs the standard and scope of review the Tax Court applies to Internal Revenue Service (IRS) decisions. The APA contains provisions for court review of agency decisions but the Tax Court has repeatedly stated that the APA does not apply to it. As a result, the Tax Court has accorded less across-the-board deference to the IRS than APA standards call for.

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September 24, 2014 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Johnston Reviews Kleinbard's We Are Better Than This

David Cay Johnston (Syracuse), Book Review: Edward D. Kleinbard, We Are Better Than This: How Government Should Spend Our Money (Oxford University Press, 2014), 144 Tax Notes 1465 (Sept. 22, 2014):

KleinbardWe Are Better Than This: How Government Should Spend Our Money (Oxford University Press, 2014) by Edward D. Kleinbard is a comprehensive, thoughtful, and informed volume on taxation and government spending.

This masterpiece of tax, fiscal, and economic policy is richly endowed with philosophical insights from Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments and holds the potential to change our often dogmatic and sometimes toxic public debate over how we tax ourselves and spend our tax dollars into a conversation about how to raise more money with less pain and spend in ways that will produce a happier America.

Kleinbard's book is especially useful in proposing a new way to measure capital incomes and a much smarter way to tax corporate profits. ...

The book challenges bedrock tax policy assumptions -- the marginal utility of income theory; the value of progressive taxation; the idea that regressive taxes are bad and should not be used to fund universal services like healthcare, education and infrastructure; the way we tax capital incomes, especially now that most businesses are pass-through entities, which he calls incoherent.

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September 24, 2014 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

60 Minutes: Is It Too Easy to Become a Tax Preparer?

(Click here to view video directly on CBS to avoid interruption caused by blog's refresh rate.)

September 24, 2014 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)