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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

SSRN Tax Professor Rankings

SSRN LogoSSRN has updated its monthly rankings of 944 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 August 1, 2014) 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.)

39,751

Reuven Avi-Yonah (Mich.)

6758

2

Paul Caron (Pepperdine)

26,455

Richard Ainsworth (BU)

2727

3

Louis Kaplow (Harvard)

22,821

Paul Caron (Pepperdine)

2672

4

D. Dharmapala (Chicago)

20,152

D.Dharmapala (Chicago) 

2537

5

Vic Fleischer (San Diego)

20,011

Richard Kaplan (Illinois)

1986

6

James Hines (Michigan)

19,710

Bridget Crawford (Pace)

1917

7

Ted Seto (Loyola-L.A.)

19,094

Omri Marian (Florida)

1868

8

Richard Kaplan (Illinois)

18,976

Katie Pratt (Loyola-L.A.)

1841

9

Katie Pratt (Loyola-L.A.)

16,044

Robert Sitkoff (Harvard)

1802

10

Dennis Ventry (UC-Davis)

15,375

Ed Kleinbard (USC)

1708

11

Carter Bishop (Suffolk)

15,025

Brad Borden (Brooklyn)

1596

12

Jen Kowal (Loyola-L.A.)

14,304

Jen Kowal (Loyola-L.A.)

1585

13

David Weisbach (Chicago)

14,244

Dick Harvey (Villanova)

1482

14

Chris Sanchirico (Penn)

14,190

Louis Kaplow (Harvard)

1474

15

David Walker (BU)

13,911

Jeff Kwall (Loyola-Chicago)

1448

16

Richard Ainsworth (BU)

13,907

James Hines (Michigan)

1436

17

Francine Lipman (UNLV)

13,819

Francine Lipman (UNLV)

1352

18

Bridget Crawford (Pace)

13,794

Ted Seto (Loyola-L.A.)

1338

19

Robert Sitkoff (Harvard)

13,744

Dan Shaviro (NYU)

1337

20

Brad Borden (Brooklyn)

13,725

David Gamage (UCBerkeley)

1330

21

Ed Kleinbard (USC)

12,950

Vic Fleischer (San Diego)

1268

22

Herwig Schlunk (Vanderbilt)

12,479

Carter Bishop (Suffolk)

1251

23

Dan Shaviro (NYU)

12,023

Dan Simmons (UC-Davis)

1248

24

Ed McCaffery (USC)

11,724

Brian Galle (Boston College)

1190

25

Wendy Gerzog (Baltimore)

11,715

David Weisbach (Chicago)

1179

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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August 27, 2014 in Legal Education, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Prof Rankings | Permalink | Comments (0)

Schizer Named to Ginsburg Visiting Chair in Taxation at Georgetown

Georgetown Press Release, Georgetown Law Appoints David Schizer to Ginsburg Chair:

SchizerGeorgetown University Law Center Dean William M. Treanor is pleased to announce the appointment of David Schizer to the Martin D. Ginsburg Chair in Taxation. Schizer will hold the chair as a visiting professor during the 2015 spring semester.

“David Schizer is an extraordinarily gifted scholar of tax law and policy and a wonderful teacher, and he left a great mark as dean at Columbia. We are delighted that he will be visiting at Georgetown, and he is the ideal choice to hold the Ginsburg Chair. Marty Ginsburg was an important mentor for David, who also clerked for Justice Ginsburg,” said Treanor. “We are deeply grateful to H. Ross Perot for his generosity in endowing this chair, a fitting tribute to Marty’s great contributions as a lawyer, a scholar and a teacher.”

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August 27, 2014 in Legal Education, Tax, Tax Prof Moves | Permalink | Comments (0)

E&Y The Outlook for Global Tax Policy in 2014

E&YErnst & Young, The Outlook for Global Tax Policy in 2014 (226 pages):

Taxes around the world are on the rise. But these rises may be a bit less obvious than in the past.

Governments are generally making fewer changes to headline corporate, personal and indirect tax rates in 2014 compared with 2013 and 2012. Instead, more are putting legislative changes in place that will adjust and expand the tax base for 2014 and beyond, often at the net expense of taxpayers.

Overall, just 10 countries of the 61 we surveyed have so far announced reductions to statutory corporate income tax (CIT) rates for 2014. Conversely, our respondents expect corporate tax burdens to be higher in 16 countries, although the increase in just 3 of those (France, India and Israel) can be attributed in part to a higher statutory rate. The higher burden forecast for the others stems from changes that broaden their tax base. The most common base-broadeners seen in new legislation so far include:

  • Increased tax enforcement, including more demands for disclosure and transparency, renewed focus on audit activities, and new or amended General Anti-Avoidance Rules (GAAR)
  • Changes to R&D tax incentives
  • Refinements to incentives designed to encourage capital investment
  • Changes to withholding taxes • Tighter transfer pricing regulations and oversight
  • Limits on interest and business expense deductibility, including a growing focus on payments made to “low tax” jurisdictions
  • Decreases to the statutory corporate income tax rate
  • Limitations to the tax treatment of losses
  • Tougher controlled foreign company (CFC) rules
  • More stringent thin capitalization rules

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

The IRS Scandal, Day 475

IRS Logo 2Real Clear Politics:  George Will on IRS: "It Is Off The Rails And It Is Now Thoroughly Corrupted":

I can just hardly wait until the IRS lawyers go into that courtroom and tell the judge that it would be too onerous to stop obstructing justice in this case. That's a really interesting defense. You know, Lily Tomlin, the comedian, used to have a character, the Bag Lady, who said, 'no matter how cynical you get you, just can't keep up.' And that's the way it was with the IRS.

Remember this thing began in deceit with Lois Lerner planting a question to reveal this getting ahead of the Inspector General of the IRS report. Then there were a few rogue agents in Cincinnati. The IRS is the most intrusive and potentially punitive institution of the federal government and it is a law enforcement institution and it is off the rails and it is now thoroughly corrupted.

People are saying, 'well, the Justice Department can take care of this.' There is a reason why Jack Kennedy had his brother [as] Attorney General. There is a reason why Richard Nixon had his campaign manager John Mitchell [as] Attorney General. It is an inherently political office and it can't be trusted in cases like this.

 

 

The order from U.S. District Court Judge Emmett Sullivan was certainly clear enough. In a landmark victory for Judicial Watch, the federal judge ordered the IRS to submit sworn declarations detailing what happened to Lois Lerner’s “lost” emails and what steps were being taken to find them. What was provided was a garbled explanation from no less than five IRS officials with more holes than a block of Swiss cheese. ...

These sworn declarations came from five IRS officials: Aaron G. Signor, John H. Minsek, Stephen L. Manning, Timothy P. Camus, and Thomas J. Kane.

We noted that the IRS and DOJ filings seem to treat as a joke Judge Sullivan’s order requiring the IRS to produce details about Lois Lerner’s “lost” emails and any efforts to retrieve and produce them to Judicial Watch as required under law.

This is the story we’re supposed to believe, according to these IRS officials: Lerner’s crashed drive was analyzed by two technicians who employed a variety of tech tactics to recover the data, to no avail. The drives – which, mind you, had no recoverable data according to these experts – were then “degaussed” (wiped clean) “to protect against any possible disclosure of… taxpayer information.” Anyone with even a passing familiarity with the IRS email scandal would have realized that these filings were a blatant continuation of the cover-up.

Well, if there’s one thing I know, it is that most federal courts don’t take kindly to being treated disrespectfully and expected to act like a somnolent member of Congress as administration officials mislead, omit, and play games.

Sure enough, in a stunning move, Judge Sullivan took the extraordinary step of launching an independent inquiry into the issue of Lerner’s missing emails. ...

Judicial Watch has filed hundreds of FOIA lawsuits. I have never seen this type of court action in all my 16 years at Judicial Watch.

Judge Sullivan has already authorized Judicial Watch to submit a request for limited discovery into the missing IRS records after September 10. So stay tuned for further details very soon.

Judge Sullivan took the additional step of appointing Magistrate Judge John M. Facciola to manage and assist in discussions between Judicial Watch and the IRS about how to obtain the missing records. Magistrate Facciola is an expert in e-discovery.

August 27, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Today Marks My 25th Year as a Law Professor

25 YearsToday I taught my first class of the 2014-15 academic year, my 25th year as a full-time law professor. Things certainly have changed in my Estate & Gift Tax course:

 

1990

2014

Exemption

$600,000

$5,340,000

Rate

55%

40%

Estates Subject to Tax

1.19%

0.15%

Annual Exclusion

$10,000

$14,000

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

Harvard Business Review: The Conversation We Should Be Having About Corporate Taxes

Harvard Business Review, The Conversation We Should Be Having About Corporate Taxes:

Harvard Business Review LogoThe corporate inversion — when a U.S. company takes on the legal identity of foreign subsidiary, usually in order to reduce its taxes — has become about as controversial as corporate finance topics get. President Obama has called such transactions “unpatriotic.” Others have defended them as a way for American companies to stay competitive in the face of a uniquely intrusive tax code.

Harvard Business School’s Mihir Desai and Bill George both fall mostly in the second camp, but with some surprising twists that came out when I spoke with them recently. Desai is a professor at Harvard Business School and Harvard Law School who has done a lot of research on corporate taxes, and wrote the July-August 2012 HBR article “A Better Way to Tax U.S. Businesses.” George is a professor at HBS and the former CEO of Medtronic, which has been involved in one of this year’s highest-profile inversion transactions, a merger with Ireland-based Covidien.

Part of our conversation was recorded for an HBR Ideacast, which you can listen to below. What follows that is an edited, much-condensed transcript of both the Ideacast and the progressively wonkier discussion that ensued after the podcast was done.

(Hat Tip: Bruce Bartlett.)

August 26, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Fleischer: In Burger King-Tim Hortons Inversion, Consumer Reaction Could Be Key

New York Times Deal Book:  In Burger King-Tim Hortons Deal, Consumer Reaction Could Be Key, by Victor Fleischer (San Diego):

BKTHBefore Burger King, there was Stanley Works.

The news that Burger King is merging with Tim Hortons should shift our attention to the voice of consumers in such cross-border deals. A new Canadian parent company would own both brands after the merger, technically making the deal an “inversion” and removing residual profits from the Burger King business out of the United States corporate tax base.

Deals are usually analyzed in terms of how they affect shareholders and managers. But consumers, and the politicians who represent them, can also make a deal stand or fall.

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August 26, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Rethinking the Temporary Taxation Debate

Frank Fagan (Erasmus University Rotterdam), The Fiscal Cliff as Reelection Strategy: Rethinking the Temporary Taxation Debate, 116 W. Va. L. Rev. 783 (2014):

Recent scholarship [Rebecca Kysar, Lasting Legislation, 159 U. Pa. L. Rev. 1007 (2011); Frank Fagan & Michael Faure, The Role of Lawmakers, Lobbyists, and Interest Groups in the Normative Evaluation of Timing Rules, 160 U. Pa. L. Rev. PENNumbra 61 (2011)] contends that temporary tax provisions are socially costly because they increase rent-seeking activity and create uncertain investment environments. This Article challenges that view, and shows that, while temporary tax provisions may increase rent-seeking activity, such activity is not always socially costly; and while temporary tax provisions may create uncertain investment environments, such environments are not always unfavorable for private investors. The real problem with temporary tax provisions, simply put, is that legislators use them to win reelection and externalize a number of costs in the process.

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

NY Times Debate: Should We Repeal the Corporate Tax?

New York Times:  One Way to Fix the Corporate Tax: Repeal It, by N. Gregory Mankiw (Harvard):

If tax inversions are a problem, as arguably they are, the blame lies not with business leaders who are doing their best to do their jobs, but rather with the lawmakers who have failed to do the same. The writers of the tax code have given us a system that is deeply flawed in many ways, especially as it applies to businesses.

The most obvious problem is that the corporate tax rate in the United States is about twice the average rate in Europe. National tax systems differ along many dimensions, making international comparisons difficult and controversial. Yet simply cutting the rate to be more in line with norms abroad would do a lot to stop inversions.

A more subtle problem is that the United States has a form of corporate tax that differs from that of most nations and doesn’t make much sense in the modern global economy.

A main feature of the modern multinational corporation is that it is, truly, multinational. It has employees, customers and shareholders around the world. Its place of legal domicile is almost irrelevant. A good tax system would focus more on the economic fundamentals and less on the legal determination of a company’s headquarters.

Most nations recognize this principle by adopting a territorial corporate tax. They tax economic activity that occurs within their borders and exclude from taxation income earned abroad. (That foreign-source income, however, is usually taxed by the nation where it is earned.) Six of the Group of 7 nations have territorial tax systems. Continue reading the main story Continue reading the main story.

The exception is the United States, which has a worldwide corporate tax. For companies incorporated in the United States, the tax is based on all income, regardless of where it is earned. Again, moving our tax code toward international norms would help slow corporate inversions.

Perhaps the boldest and best response to corporate inversions is to completely rethink the basis of corporate taxation. ... Major tax reform may be too much to hope for, given the current dysfunction in Washington. Nonetheless, it’s worth keeping the possibilities in mind. Corporate tax inversions aren’t the largest problem facing the nation, but they are a reminder that a better tax system is within reach, and that only politics stands in the way.

New York Times:  Cutting the Corporate Tax Would Grow Other Problems, by Jared Bernstein (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities):

The current debate over corporate inversions, in which American companies like Burger King consider renouncing their citizenship for tax-reduction purposes, is only the latest reminder that the United States corporate tax code has deep problems.

Ideas for reforming the business side of the tax code abound, but there are those on both the left and the right who argue that it cannot be salvaged and should simply be abolished. N. Gregory Mankiw made the argument from the right on Sunday in The Times.

The basic idea behind abolition is that the current corporate tax code is fraught with wasteful loopholes — each of which has politically power defenders — that both lose revenue and distort business decisions. The abolitionists ask: Why not give up on the fiction that we can adequately and efficiently tax companies and instead tax their shareholders at higher income-tax rates?

But as imperfect as the corporate tax may be, the end of it would create all kinds of problems and disadvantages. Here is a breakdown of those drawbacks: ...

Believe me, as someone who’s been debating this issue for decades, I recognize how tempting it is to just chuck the whole corporate code. But to do so now would only further encourage tax avoidance and erode an already diminished tax base.

August 26, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Call for Tax Papers and Panels: Law & Society Annual Meeting

SeattleNeil H. Buchanan (George Washington) has issued his annual call for tax papers and panels for next year's annual meeting of the Law & Society Association in Seattle (May 28-31, 2015):

For the eleventh consecutive year, I will organize sessions for the the Law, Society, and Taxation group (Collaborative Research Network 31).

Although there is an official call for papers, please remember that you are not bound by the official theme of the conference.  I will give full consideration to proposals in any area of tax law, tax policy, distributive justice, interdisciplinary approaches to tax issues, and so on.

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

The IRS Scandal, Day 474

IRS Logo 2Judicial Watch, Statement on Discovery of Backups for “Missing” Lois Lerner IRS Emails:

Department of Justice attorneys for the Internal Revenue Service told Judicial Watch on Friday that Lois Lerner’s emails, indeed all government computer records, are backed up by the federal government in case of a government-wide catastrophe.  The Obama administration attorneys said that this back-up system would be too onerous to search.  The DOJ attorneys also acknowledged that the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) is investigating this back-up system.

We obviously disagree that disclosing the emails as required would be onerous, and plan to raise this new development with Judge Sullivan.

This is a jaw-dropping revelation.  The Obama administration had been lying to the American people about Lois Lerner’s missing emails. There are no “missing” Lois Lerner emails – nor missing emails of any of the other top IRS or other government officials whose emails seem to be disappearing at increasingly alarming rate. All the focus on missing hard drives has been a diversion. The Obama administration has known all along where the email records could be – but dishonestly withheld this information. You can bet we are going to ask the court for immediate assistance in cutting through this massive obstruction of justice.

New York Observer:  IRS Shocker: Filing Reveals Lerner Blackberry Destroyed; The Device Was Wiped AFTER Congressional Inquiry Began:

The IRS filing in federal Judge Emmet Sullivan’s court reveals shocking new information. The IRS destroyed Lerner’s Blackberry AFTER it knew her computer had crashed and after a Congressional inquiry was well underway. As an IRS official declared under the penalty of perjury, the destroyed Blackberry would have contained the same emails (both sent and received) as Lois Lerner’s hard drive. ...

With incredible disregard for the law and the Congressional inquiry, the IRS admits that this Blackberry “was removed or wiped clean of any sensitive or proprietary information and removed as scrap for disposal in June 2012.” This is a year after her hard drive “crash” and months after the Congressional inquiry began.

The IRS did not even attempt to retrieve that data. It cavalierly recites: “There is no record of any attempt by any IRS IT employee to recover data from any Blackberry device assigned to Lois Lerner in response to the Congressional investigations or this investigation,” according to Stephen Manning, Deputy Chief Information Officer for Strategy & Modernization.

House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform:  Justice Dept’s IRS Representation Conducted by Former IRS Attorney Involved in Targeting of Conservatives Himself:

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Regulatory Affairs Subcommittee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) today sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder reiterating bipartisan calls for the appointment of a special counsel for the Administration’s Justice Department investigation of Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) targeting of conservative groups after new documents obtained by the Committee showed additional conflicts of interest within the Justice Department. Among other examples, a current Justice Department attorney who represented the IRS in litigation relating to the IRS’s targeting of conservatives was in fact previously an IRS employee and was involved in the IRS’s scheme to target conservatives.

The Committee has learned that Andrew Strelka, currently an attorney at the Justice Department’s Tax Division, worked from 2008 to 2010 at the IRS in the Exempt Organizations (EO) Division, formerly headed by Lois Lerner. Emails show that Strelka was directly involved in the IRS targeting of conservative tax-exempt applicants. In March 2010, Strelka received an e-mail from IRS manager Ronald Shoemaker directing him to “[b]e on the lookout for a tea party case.” Shoemaker directed Strelka: “If you have received or do receive a case in the future involving an exemption for an organization having to do with tea party let me know.”  Strelka also received an e-mail in June 2011 about the crash of Lois Lerner’s hard drive.  Until recently, Strelka represented the IRS in civil litigation relating to the IRS targeting.

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August 26, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Monday, August 25, 2014

Tax Dodge Used by Bain Escapes Scrutiny on Inversions

Bloomberg:  Tax Dodge Used by Bain Escapes Scrutiny on Inversions, by Zachary R. Mider:

Bain LogoConsider the business founded in 1916 as General Plate Co., a maker of sensors and controls for everything from Fords and Frigidaires to the spaceship that first carried Americans to the moon. While its top executives are still based in Attleboro, Massachusetts, it’s now known as Sensata Technologies Holding NV (ST) of the Netherlands.

Sensata didn’t become Dutch by using the strategy known as “inversion” that has alarmed President Barack Obama and that the U.S. Treasury Department and some Democrats in Congress are trying to curb. That technique, which involves reincorporating overseas without a change in majority ownership, has helped more than 40 U.S. companies lower their tax bills.

Instead, Sensata is one of at least 13 firms that have left the U.S. tax system through a sale to an investment fund, according to a tally by Bloomberg News. Although these companies have a combined market value of about $75 billion, this tax-avoidance strategy has gotten less attention in Washington than inversions and may be harder to discourage.

These buyouts mean profits for the U.S. private equity firms like Boston-based Bain Capital LLC that orchestrated them. Bain earned more than $3 billion after it took Sensata public as a Dutch company in 2010, with an effective tax rate about one-tenth of some competing manufacturers.

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August 25, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Inversion Express Slows to Crawl as Obama Condemns CEOs

Bloomberg, Inversion Express Slows to Crawl as Obama Condemns CEOs:

President Barack Obama’s full-throated denunciation of overseas mergers that lower U.S. companies’ taxes is throwing cold water on potential deals.

On July 24 Obama referred to companies looking to shift their domicile as “corporate deserters” and aides pledged to curtail the practice with or without Congressional approval. Since then, no companies have announced any of these deals -- known as inversions -- and it’s no coincidence, according to lawyers and investment bankers. The presidential rhetoric has caused several companies exploring inversions to put on the brakes to see what emerges from the political debate, people familiar with the preparations said. ...

“Tax-inversion deals is a topic that companies are quite worried about because of the political risk,” said Colin Mayer, a professor of management studies at Said Business School at Oxford. “The issue is now much more politically sensitive, especially after Pfizer’s attempt to buy AstraZeneca.”

August 25, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Who Is the Vanguard Tax Whistleblower?

VanguardFollowing up on my previous posts:

Philadelpha Inquirer, Who Is Whistle-blower David Danon, Who Is Suing Vanguard?:

Who is David Danon, and what drove him to take on his old bosses at Vanguard Group Inc., alleging that its nearly $3 trillion in assets were built on an illegal tax strategy? ...

The struggle with Vanguard, where he worked for nearly five years as a tax lawyer, is Danon's toughest fight. In a lawsuit made public in July, Danon alleged that Vanguard's tax avoidance and a lack of regulatory oversight have cost federal and state governments more than $1 billion. Danon told the Securities and Exchange Commission that the company fired him after he refused to go along with wrongful practices. He has also told his story in complaints to the Internal Revenue Service and in a New York State whistle-blower lawsuit.

To Vanguard, the nation's largest mutual fund group and the largest business employer in Chester County, with about 10,000 workers at its Malvern campus, Danon is a turncoat employee whose "theft and disclosure" of secret company tax and financial documents breached the attorney-client privilege that keeps internal corporate matters private, according to an Aug. 15 court filing in the New York case. Vanguard also wants its documents back.

Danon and his attorney, Brian Mahany, say he is protected by whistle-blower laws that rate disclosure of illegal activity above attorney-client privilege. ...

In 1995, he enrolled in Fordham University's law school, where he says he won honors as the top first-year student, top tax graduate, top contracts student, and a member of the law review and the honor society Order of the Coif. "He was great. Very bright. That's why he ended up at Sullivan & Cromwell," said Fordham professor Jeffrey Colon, referring to one of the nation's top financial-law firms.

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

Disclosure of Tax Returns of Publicly-Traded Companies

Washington Post op-ed:  Shareholders, Public Deserve Tax Transparency, by Catherine Rampell:

Tax inversions. Double Irish with a Dutch sandwich. Spinning off tangible assets into real estate investment trusts. Son-of-BOSS shelters.

These are among the array of eye-glazingly complicated tax avoidance strategies adopted by America’s biggest companies. Each gets a moment in the sun when some enterprising journalist stumbles upon a particularly egregious example of its use; the public expresses outrage; policymakers denounce the behavior, which they themselves have incentivized; and then maybe Congress plays whack-a-mole trying to close the loophole. Then the public forgets, firms come up with inventively aggressive new strategies, and the pattern repeats.

Here’s a proposal to try to curb this cycle: Require all publicly traded companies to make their tax returns public. Period.

This is not a new idea. In fact, when the modern federal corporate income tax was introduced in 1909, it came with a requirement to disclose the returns. Such transparency mandates were fought over bitterly for the next couple of decades, and U.S. returns have been confidential since 1935.

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August 25, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Microsoft Admits Keeping $92 Billion Offshore to Avoid Paying $29 Billion in U.S. Taxes

International Business Times, Microsoft Admits Keeping $92 Billion Offshore to Avoid Paying $29 Billion in U.S. Taxes:

MicrosoftMicrosoft Corp. is currently sitting on almost $29.6 billion it would owe in U.S. taxes if it repatriated the $92.9 billion of earnings it is keeping offshore, according to disclosures in the company’s most recent annual filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The amount of money that Microsoft is keeping offshore represents a significant spike from prior years. ...

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August 25, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

The IRS Scandal, Day 473

IRS Logo 2Personal Liberty Digest: IRS Answers Due Today In Lawsuit Over Missing Lerner Emails:

The Internal Revenue Service is expected to present sworn testimony today to a federal judge who cracked down on the agency after it offered dismissive responses to a previous discovery order aimed at explaining how Lois Lerner’s infamous “lost” emails went missing. ...

Judicial Watch’s lawsuit against the IRS is faring better than a similar one filed by Texas-based conservative group True the Vote. Earlier this month, federal judge Reggie Walton denied True the Vote’s request for an independent forensic audit of IRS computers connected with Lerner’s emails, saying it would only duplicate the investigative efforts of the government’s Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

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August 25, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

TaxProf Blog Weekend Roundup

Sunday, August 24, 2014

WSJ: Bull Market, Possible Cutbacks in Charitable Deduction & Spate of Inversions Drive Surge in Donor-Advised Funds

Wall Street Journal:   Tax-Smart Philanthropy Made Easy: Many Donors Should Consider a 'Charitable Gift Trust' or 'Donor Advised Fund', by Laura Saunders:

FidelityWhat do the bull market, booming mergers and acquisitions, and possible changes to the tax laws have in common? They all signal that it is a good time to open a charitable-gift fund—or add to one that already exists.

Also called donor-advised funds, the accounts offer charitably-minded investors an easy, low-cost and tax-favored way to manage their giving—and even to maximize it.  ... Charitable-gift funds enable investors to earmark funds for gifts and get an immediate tax deduction, while allowing them to postpone making decisions about specific recipients. Meanwhile, the money is invested and grows tax-free until it's disbursed. ...

[M]ore than 200,000 donors have accounts with more than 1,000 sponsors of charitable-gift funds, according to the most recent survey by National Philanthropic Trust, an administrator of the funds. Grants made from donor-advised funds still amount to less than 5% of total giving in the U.S., though such funds are by far the fastest-growing charitable vehicle. New contributions to them at the four largest sponsors, which account for half the total, rose to $7.4 billion for the fiscal year ended June 30, more than triple the amount for 2009. Last year Fidelity Charitable's gift fund by itself ranked as the second-largest U.S. charity by contributions, after the United Way.

WSJ 1

For people who are charitably inclined, the advantages of donor-advised funds boil down to their ease of use, especially in capturing tax benefits. Here's how they work: A person opens an account with a fund sponsor and makes an irrevocable gift of an asset, which can range from cash to stock to a "complex" asset such as shares of a private business or an ownership interest in a racehorse (which the Fidelity fund once accepted). Because the donor can't get the asset back, he gets an immediate tax deduction for the gift. The cash or proceeds from an asset's sale go into the donor's account, where the money is invested as he directs. There it grows tax-free until the donor "recommends" (translation: designates) one or more tax-exempt charities to receive grants of specified amounts, which the sponsor sends to the groups. There isn't any additional tax deduction, even if the account has grown in value.

Wall Street Journal:  A Charitable Escape Hatch for Investors With ‘Inversion’ Tax Woes, by Laura Saunders:

Special accounts for charitable giving can help ease the tax sting for stockholders in “inversion” merger deals.

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August 24, 2014 in 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 #1 and rocketing to #29 in all-time downloads among 10,253 tax papers:

  1. [2446 Downloads]  'Competitiveness' Has Nothing to Do with it, by Edward D. Kleinbard (USC)
  2. [409 Downloads]  Guide to FATCA Compliance (Chapter 1, Background and Current Status of FATCA) (LexisNexis 2d ed. 2014), by William Byrnes (Thomas Jefferson), Denis Kleinfeld, & Alberto Gil Soriano
  3. [216 Downloads]  Unconstitutional Perpetual Trusts, by Steven Horowitz (Sidley Austin, Chicago) & Robert Sitkoff (Harvard)
  4. [166 Downloads]  The Futility of Tax Protester Arguments, by Allen D. Madison (South Dakota)
  5. [142 Downloads]  The Most Critical Issue Facing Tax Administration Today -- And What to Do About It, by George K. Yin (Virginia)

August 24, 2014 in Scholarship, Tax, Top 5 Downloads | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 472

IRS Logo 2The American Thinker: IRS E-mails: The Perfect Storm:

August 22 is another deadline for the Obama administration’s IRS officials to come clean about their clear malfeasance in office. Judge Emmet Sullivan, who has acted sua sponte to compel IRS officials to provide all the details surrounding the “lost” e-mails, has the reputation of a judicial pit bull, a federal judge who insists that his orders and his office be treated with proper respect.

This is a scandal ordinary Americans can completely grasp in all its incarnations. The Obama administration picks out its political opponents for particular persecution. The organ of federal power chosen for this persecution, the IRS, is despised and feared by millions of Americans. Did Obama’s flacks forget that the last major congressional action to rein in the IRS, the IRS Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998, passed the Senate by a vote of 97 to 0 and the House by a vote of 402 to 8, and was signed into law by Bill Clinton? ...

The explosion of information technology expertise among ordinary Americans means that even the relatively apolitical snicker at the hapless efforts of the IRS bosses to pretend that all the e-mail records have been lost. Most Americans use e-mails all the time and know just how difficult it would be to utterly scrub forever even casual e-mails sent to friends and acquaintances. Most Americans in their ordinary lives assume that an e-mail they send will exist in myriad places, and that if their computers crash, this will not affect these independent records of e-mails sent.

The scandal then is the perfect storm of political corruption. Obama’s IRS partisans do something very bad. They complement this misbehavior with condescending e-mails that seem to relish their abuse of political opponents. When confronted by the proper regulating agency within our constitutional system, Congress, they smirk, dissemble, rebel, and ignore. These bad folks then assume that ordinary Americans know much less about information technology than they do and think that they can lie with impunity. When the third branch of government, the Judicial Branch, is brought into the argument, these IRS clowns lie and hide again. ...

What all this means is that when these records appear – and with a federal judge threatening IRS employees with jail time, these records will appear – then the whole sordid mess will implode like a deck of cards. The depth of corruption, like the depth of corruption in the VA scandal, will be impossible to fob off as rogue employees acting badly. Heads will have to roll, and this grim knowledge will move those who know the truth – very likely people we have not heard of yet – to come out of the shadows and to spill their guts to save themselves. It is the perfect storm, and it is coming up fast.

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

Saturday, August 23, 2014

IRS Releases 2012 Individual Income Tax Return Data

IRSThe IRS yesterday released  (IR-2014-83) Publication 1304, Individual Income Tax Returns 2012:

U.S. taxpayers filed 144.9 million individual income tax returns for tax year 2012, down 0.3 percent from 2011. The adjusted gross income less deficit reported on these returns totaled $9.1 trillion, which is an 8.7-percent increase from the prior year.

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August 23, 2014 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 471

IRS Logo 2Washington Examiner op-ed:  The Case for Impeaching Lois Lerner and Other Lawbreakers at the IRS, by Ken Cuccinelli & Mark Fitzgibbons:

In April, the House Ways and Means Committee referred Lois Lerner to the Department of Justice for criminal prosecution. Nothing has come of it. Given the politicization and lawlessness of the DOJ under Attorney General Eric Holder, nothing likely will.

The House should move to impeach Lerner instead, and other IRS officials who have broken the law. Federal bureaucrats need to be sent a message that lawbreaking is not part of their job descriptions, and that notwithstanding our recalcitrant Justice Department, our constitutional system provides this remedy against executive branch officials gone rogue under the law.

More importantly, Americans deserve to know that lawbreaking within their own government will have consequences. ... If criminal conduct within the IRS and the federal bureaucracy won’t be prosecuted, our Constitution at least gives our elected representatives a check of impeachment on unelected “civil officers.”

Impeaching Lerner and others may actually help restore some faith that someone in government takes the rule of law seriously.

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August 23, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, August 22, 2014

Weekly Tax Roundup

Weekly Roundup

August 22, 2014 in Tax, Weekly Tax Roundup | Permalink | Comments (0)

Weekly SSRN Tax Roundup

August 22, 2014 in Scholarship, Tax, Weekly SSRN Roundup | Permalink | Comments (0)

Weekly Student Tax Note Roundup

Distribution of Household Wealth in the U.S.: 2000 to 2011

Census Bureau, Distribution of Household Wealth in the U.S.: 2000 to 2011:

Median household net worth decreased by $5,046, or 6.8 percent, between 2000 and 2011. ... Between 2000 and 2011, experiences of households varied widely depending on their net worth quintile (See Figure 1). Median household net worth decreased by $5,124 for households in the first (bottom) net worth quintile, $7,056 (or 49.3 percent) for the second quintile, and $5,072 (or 6.9 percent) for the third quintile. Median household net worth increased by $18,433 (or 9.8 percent) for households in the fourth quintile, and by $61,379 (or 10.8 percent) for households in the highest (top) quintile.

Census Bureau

(Hat Tip: Bruce Bartlett.)

August 22, 2014 in Gov't Reports, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

LLCs: The Hot New Trend Among Sole Proprietors

Small Business Trends, LLCs are a Hot New Trend Among Sole Proprietors:

llcs are a new trend

Unless you are an accountant specializing in small business, you may not be aware of a new trend in the world of sole proprietorships: registering with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as a limited liability company (LLC). While LLCs have been around since 1977, their popularity among sole proprietors has accelerated in the past decade, data from the IRS reveals.

The figure above shows the fraction of sole proprietorships organized as LLCs along with their share of the revenues of all Schedule C filers from 2001, when the IRS first began to provide these data, and 2011, the most recent year for which these numbers are available.

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August 22, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 470

Thursday, August 21, 2014

DOJ Allows Bank of America to Deduct $12 Billion of $17 Billion Settlement

Wall Street Journal, BofA Could See $4 Billion in Tax Savings From $16.65 Billion Settlement; Parts of Settlement Reached Over Soured Mortgage Securities Will Be Tax Deductible:

BOA Logo (2014)Bank of America will pay roughly $4 billion less to the government after-tax than the $16.65 billion it agreed to in a settlement over soured mortgage securities, because parts of the settlement will be tax deductible, the bank said Thursday.

The bank has already taken some of the savings from the settlement's tax deductions in previous quarters, so the savings won't all come in the current third quarter. But tallying the total tax savings to roughly $4 billion "would be fair," a bank spokesman said.

Federal law allows companies to deduct large portions of the costs of settling with federal agencies on their tax returns. But that effectively shifts part of the settlement's burden to taxpayers, and some lawmakers and consumer advocates have expressed concerns that the public can be misled when regulators tout giant settlement amounts that companies aren't fully paying. ...

Fines and penalties imposed as part of a settlement can't be deducted, so that knocks out the $5.02 billion in fines Bank of America agreed to pay. But other amounts paid can be deducted as ordinary business expenses—including the $4.63 billion in compensatory payments that Bank of America agreed to pay, and the costs it incurs in providing $7 billion in mortgage modifications for struggling homeowners and other consumer relief.

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August 21, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

ObamaCare Tax Forms Pose Challenge for Enrollees, Exchanges

Washington Times, Obamacare Tax Forms May Pose Challenge for Enrollees, Exchanges:

Obamacare customers won’t be able to file their tax returns next year until the government sends them a form detailing their coverage and tax credits, and if those forms are late some taxpayers could face a delay in seeking their refunds.

1095A

Federal and state officials said they’re working on the forms, known as the 1095A, and vowed to meet the Jan. 31 deadline for issuing them. But some tax professionals are skeptical, citing the administration’s iffy track record on being able to meet other deadlines in the massive health overhaul law. “It really strains credulity to think 1095A is not going to be a big problem,” said George Brandes, vice president for health programs at Jackson Hewitt Tax Service.

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August 21, 2014 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tax Profs on Twitter

August 21, 2014 in Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

The Deductibility of $100 Charitable Contributions to ALS in the Ice Bucket Challenge

Forbes:  Could The IRS Disallow Ice Bucket Challenge Charitable Contributions?, by Tony Nitti:

IceSo let’s say you were challenged via social media to either take the Ice Bucket Challenge or contribute to ALS. Assume further that you are unable or unwilling to get cold and wet, and choose instead to donate to ALS. Do you possess the necessary donative intent if you otherwise wouldn’t have contributed to the cause, and are doing it merely to avoid being publicly chastised by your Facebook friends? Did you make the donation with the anticipation of receiving the benefit of, you know…not having to dump a freezing bucket of water on your head?

OK, rest easy; the IRS isn’t coming after your ALS donation. While the principle of donative intent is very real, in recent years, the courts have tied this principle to a “quid pro quo test,” which states that in order for a donation to lack donative intent, the donor must anticipate receiving a financial benefit from the contribution commensurate with the value the donor transferred to the charity. Because an ice bucket dodger has received no financial benefit, but rather merely a physical one, the contribution is (should be) immune to attack. Plus, I think I’ve read somewhere that the IRS is dealing with a bit of a public perception problem these days, so attacking contributions to a horrible disease is probably not in its best interest.

August 21, 2014 in Celebrity Tax Lore, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

The IRS Scandal, Day 469

IRS Logo 2Breitbart:  Federal Judge Takes Extraordinaru Steps in IRS Lawsuit:

The order from U.S. District Court Judge Emmett Sullivan was certainly clear enough. In a landmark victory for Judicial Watch, the federal judge ordered the IRS to submit sworn declarations detailing what happened to Lois Lerner’s “lost” emails and what steps were being taken to find them. What was provided was a garbled explanation from no less than five IRS officials with more holes than a block of Swiss cheese. ...

These sworn declarations came from five IRS officials: Aaron G. Signor, John H. Minsek, Stephen L. Manning, Timothy P. Camus, and Thomas J. Kane.

We noted that the IRS and DOJ filings seem to treat as a joke Judge Sullivan’s order requiring the IRS to produce details about Lois Lerner’s “lost” emails and any efforts to retrieve and produce them to Judicial Watch as required under law.

This is the story we’re supposed to believe, according to these IRS officials: Lerner’s crashed drive was analyzed by two technicians who employed a variety of tech tactics to recover the data, to no avail. The drives – which, mind you, had no recoverable data according to these experts – were then “degaussed” (wiped clean) “to protect against any possible disclosure of… taxpayer information.” Anyone with even a passing familiarity with the IRS email scandal would have realized that these filings were a blatant continuation of the cover-up.

Well, if there’s one thing I know, it is that most federal courts don’t take kindly to being treated disrespectfully and expected to act like a somnolent member of Congress as administration officials mislead, omit, and play games.

Sure enough, in a stunning move, Judge Sullivan took the extraordinary step of launching an independent inquiry into the issue of Lerner’s missing emails. ...

Judicial Watch has filed hundreds of FOIA lawsuits. I have never seen this type of court action in all my 16 years at Judicial Watch.

Judge Sullivan has already authorized Judicial Watch to submit a request for limited discovery into the missing IRS records after September 10. So stay tuned for further details very soon.

Judge Sullivan took the additional step of appointing Magistrate Judge John M. Facciola to manage and assist in discussions between Judicial Watch and the IRS about how to obtain the missing records. Magistrate Facciola is an expert in e-discovery.

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August 21, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Which States Give You the Biggest Bang For Your Buck?

ABA Tax Section Publishes Summer 2014 Issue of News Quarterly

ABA News QuarterlyThe ABA Tax Section has published 33 News Quarterly No. 4 (Summer 2014):

August 20, 2014 in ABA Tax Section, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Law Professor Blogs Network Launches Legal Technology Blog

LPBN LogoThe Law Professor Blogs Network is thrilled to announce the launch of Legal Technology Blog, edited by Jeanne Eicks (Vermont), Oliver Goodenough (Vermont), Stephanie Kimbro (Stanford), and Michele Pistone (Villanova). From their inaugural post:

What will law practice look like in the next decade? What should legal professionals know about technology to be competent and profitable in legal practice? How will we educate the next generation of lawyers entering a legal field deeply altered by technology? Who are these legal entrepreneurs changing the face of law – and should we fear them or emulate them? Will innovation happen at a stately pace, trimming the edges of inefficiency and risk aversion in legal practice? Or will innovation happen disruptively as technology entrepreneurs make an end-run around the more deliberate pace of legal practitioners? To borrow from Richard Susskind, a visionary in this field, who are tomorrow’s lawyers and how will they be trained?

We seek answers to these questions and more. This blog will focus on the topics at the nexus of law, legal practice and legal education and technology. Welcome.

With the support of our sponsor, Wolters Kluwer Law & Business/Aspen Publishers, the Network is seeking to expand in two ways.

First, I am actively recruiting law professors to launch blogs in other areas of the law school curriculum not currently covered by the Network, including Administrative Law, Bankruptcy, Intellectual Property, National Security, Native American Law, Race and the Law, and Trial Advocacy.

Second, I am actively recruiting law professors to affiliate their existing blogs with the Network, like Brian Leiter's Law School Reports, Brian Leiter's Law School Rankings, Mirror of Justice, REFinBlog, The Right Coast, and Sentencing Law and Policy

The Network offers law professors the premier blogging platform and the opportunity to share in growing sponsorship and advertising revenues. For more information about these opportunities, see here.

August 20, 2014 in About This Blog, Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tax Profs Debate President Obama's Authority to Stop Tax Inversions

Following up on my previous posts:

Wall Street Journal editorial, Beltway 'Strip' Club: Democrats Imagine New Ways to Raise Taxes on Corporations:

Washington's tax collectors fear that foreign firms may fund their U.S. subsidiaries with debt so these U.S. units can deduct the interest payments. The foreign parent companies can then receive these interest payments. With more debt held in the U.S., the firms may be able to boost the profits of their overseas units and pay less in taxes, since taxes are lower nearly everywhere else in the world than in the U.S. ...

The White House is nonetheless looking to raise corporate taxes administratively while Mr. Schumer seeks to do so legislatively. Team Obama was thrilled by a recent paper from former Treasury official and current Harvard Law School professor Stephen Shay. Mr. Shay claims that without any change in the law the Administration can simply overturn years of precedent by declaring that some debt will now be treated as equity, and voila, higher tax bills.

This would involve claiming authority under a provision of law known as Section 385 that was not intended to stop corporate inversions, but rather to define generally what is stock and what is debt. As Mr. Shay admits, "Section 385 is not normally thought of as an antiabuse provision (indeed, it has hardly been thought of at all since it was amended in 1992) and this proposal is to apply it to only a subset of related party cases—those involving expatriated entities."

No doubt a wave of lawsuits would follow. But if Treasury is looking for a short-term political victory it could issue a temporary regulation, avoid the usual notice and comment period, and earn headlines by interrupting pending inversion deals. Another full election cycle might pass before the courts rule on the legality of this tax grab.

The Harvard Law brand might seem to lend some heft to this novel idea, but in his paper Mr. Shay credits the intellectual contributions of two, er, scholars from Change to Win, the advocacy shop funded by labor unions. And nobody does disinterested legal analysis like the Teamsters. ...

Bloomberg BNA, Executive Action on Inversions? Not So Fast:

Can President Obama deal with corporate inversions-which occur when a U.S. company merges with a foreign competitor in order to create a parent organization with a tax residency abroad--on his own?

After pressure from his fellow Democrats, Obama and the Department of Treasury have said they're looking into it. Some former officials -- including Stephen Shay, a professor of law at Harvard University and a former deputy assistant secretary at Treasury -- have suggested that Obama can use his executive authority to deal with earnings stripping, one of the chief incentives for inversion deals.

The dynamic might make it seem like the issue is mainly a political one -- that, as with immigration and climate change, the main consideration for the White House is whether the policy goal is worth enraging Congress even further.

But, in fact, the legal authority for Obama or the Treasury Department to act is far from certain. In fact, many tax experts -- some who share the goal of cracking down on inversions -- believe the president has very little leeway to act without support from Congress.

"The arguments for Treasury regulation are based on laudable policy instincts, which I share. But they are very strained readings of the relevant regulatory authority," said Edward Kleinbard, a professor of law at the University of Southern California and the former chief of staff for the U.S. Congress Joint Committee on Taxation. "In fact, they are so strained, I think in the long term they would do more harm than good in terms of Treasury's ongoing relationships with Congress, and its ability to take courageous stands through regulation in the future." ...

"My reading of this rule is that they are authorized to have a general rule that distinguishes debt from equity," said Reuven Avi-Yonah, director of the international tax LL.M. program at the University of Michigan Law School. "If they try to do that, I think the companies would sue them." ...

Ultimately, the statement that Treasury was looking into possible anti-inversion regulations may be more important than any actual regulations the department might issue. "I frankly think it's a question of whether they could make enough noise to scare people," said Willard Taylor, an adjunct professor of law at New York University, who has written about inversions in the past. "As to specific options, I really don't see very much there."

August 20, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

The IRS Scandal, Day 468

IRS Logo 2Wonkette:  Laura Ingraham Explains That Thugs Gonna Thug:

What do you think would have happened, guys, if tea party activists, right, came to Washington D.C. after the IRS scandal broke and decided to start smashing windows, rampaging through neighborhoods, throwing fire bombs. What do you think Eric Holder and Barack Obama would do? Would they start saying, ‘Well, we understand that people are angry, we really get your emotion here, but this isn’t acceptable. Do you really think there would have been this nuanced language, this emoting that has become the pastime of this administration?

Washington Times:  Intolerance on the Left: The Marketplace of Ideas Can’t Function Without Civility:

We often hear those on the right branded as “intolerant.” We’re all a bunch of extremists who just want to shut down the other side, right? We’re unlike those on the left, who welcome debate and want to give all viewpoints a respectful hearing.

Or so we’re told. We might even start to believe it — until we encounter the oh-so-tolerant voices of our loyal opposition. Voices such as: ...

Lois Lerner: According to emails written by the former Internal Revenue Service official, conservatives are “crazies” and another word too obscene to quote. Conservatives who dare to criticize the government, in her view, want to “take us down.” Small wonder that the agency targeted conservative groups during Ms. Lerner’s tenure.

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August 20, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

NY Times: Tax Burden in U.S. Not as Heavy as It Looks, Kleinbard Says

New York Times DealBook:  Tax Burden in U.S. Not as Heavy as It Looks, Report Says, by Andrew Ross Sorkin:

NY Times Dealbook (2013)For years, chief executives have complained bitterly about the United States corporate tax code, arguing that it is too complicated and that rates are too high. The issue has reached a near boiling point this summer as many large American companies have sought to buy smaller foreign rivals so they can renounce their United States corporate citizenship and reincorporate overseas to lower their tax bills. Others are considering the move, known as an inversion.

Again and again, we hear that these deals are being driven by an effort to make our companies more competitive globally and that unless we “reform” our tax system — which is code for “lower our corporate tax rate” — we will lose business to foreign rivals.

It is a compelling narrative. But it may be wrong.

Edward D. Kleinbard, a professor at the Gould School of Law at the University of Southern California and a former chief of staff to the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation, makes a captivating argument in an academic paper ['Competitiveness' Has Nothing to Do With It] that the United States tax code — counter to the conventional wisdom — is not impeding global competitiveness. In fact, the opposite is true.

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August 19, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Perkins: Salience and Sin -- Designing Taxes in the New Sin Era

Rachelle Holmes Perkins (George Mason), Salience and Sin: Designing Taxes in the New Sin Era, 2014 BYU L. Rev. 143 (2014):

Tax salience reflects the extent to which consumers take into account the after-tax cost of a good or service prior to making their consumption decision. Recent empirical work on tax salience has revealed something that is perhaps intuitive, but nevertheless important to the design of sin taxes. Taxpayers are more likely to make consumption decisions based on pre-tax rather than post-tax prices when the salience, or visibility, of a tax is diminished. Thus, consumers are less likely to change their demand for a particular product if shelf prices are tax-exclusive rather than tax-inclusive. Economically, this makes low salience taxes mimic some of the benefits of taxes on inelastically demanded goods. Because a taxpayer’s demand change in response to a tax increase is diminished, the deadweight loss generated by the imposition of the tax can be reduced. Notwithstanding the potential for efficiency gains, politicians and academics alike have expressed various fairness, distributional, and normative concerns regarding the use of low salience taxes. In fact, a number of countries already require tax-inclusive pricing for consumer products in order to purportedly preserve consumer awareness and transparency.

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August 19, 2014 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

TIGTA: ObamaCare Medical Device Tax Is Raising 25% Less Revenue Than Expected, IRS Administration of Tax Is Rife With Errors

TIGTA The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration today released The Affordable Care Act: An Improved Strategy Is Needed to Ensure Accurate Reporting and Payment of the Medical Device Excise Tax (2014-43-043):

The Affordable Care Act includes a tax provision that provides for an excise tax equal to 2.3 percent of the sales price for medical devices sold beginning January 1, 2013. Manufacturers, producers, and importers are responsible for collecting the medical device excise tax and must file a Form 720, Quarterly Federal Excise Tax Return. The Joint Committee on Taxation estimated revenues from the medical device excise tax of $20 billion for Fiscal Years 2013 through 2019. ...

Our review found that both the number of Forms 720 filed reporting the medical device excise tax and the amount of the associated revenue reported are lower than estimated. The IRS is attempting to develop a compliance strategy to ensure that businesses are compliant with medical device excise tax filing and payment requirements and has taken several measures to advise medical device manufacturers of the new excise tax. However, the IRS cannot identify the population of medical device manufacturers registered with the Food and Drug Administration that are required to file a Form 720 and pay the excise tax.

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August 19, 2014 in Gov't Reports, IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Taxing the Rich Can Strengthen Democracy

Washington Post:  Can Taxing the Wealthy Strengthen Democracy?, by Deborah Boucoyannis (Virginia):

“Taxing the rich” has emerged as a controversial proposal on how to deal with the historic rise in inequality of the last few decades. Thomas Piketty recently recommended taxing the top 1 percent globally to redistribute wealth, reduce inequality and provide a generous social safety net. The policy has been attacked on both the left and the right as unfeasible, unpredictable in its effects, even unconstitutional, and in any case inadequate to address the needs of a welfare state, although other research powerfully contradicts them.

The historical record, however, suggests that taxing the wealthiest does have an important, but different, consequence: making the wealthy vested in the common good. In fact, taxing the wealthy was crucial for the emergence of representative government itself. ...

“[T]axing the rich” can actually help democracy. When the government is strong enough to impose a substantial obligation on the richest people, they are inclined to lobby the government to ensure those funds are efficiently spent. This is quite different than the pattern that mostly occurs today, where the wealthy lobby the government for tax breaks or private interests—and the state is too weak or too unwilling to resist. “Taxing the rich something more than in proportion” to their wealth is what Adam Smith himself still praised about the English system of taxation many centuries after its Parliament was born.

August 19, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Obama's Use of Executive Authority: Could a Republican President Refuse to Enforce the Estate Tax?

New York Magazine:  Obama's Immigration Plan Should Scare Liberals, Too, by Jonathan Chait:

What if a Republican president announced that he would stop enforcing the payment of estate taxes?

The New Republic, The Liberal Fear of Obama's Executive Action Is Irrational, by Brian Beutler:

[L]et’s look at the estate tax. First, it’s important to note that Obama isn’t proposing to “suspend” immigration law. It’s impossible to reconcile Chait’s admission that the action Obama’s considering is legal with the suggestion that he will be suspending the law. He’s rather proposing to direct resources toward enforcing the law against higher-priority offenders. Washington Post reporter Greg Sargent’s expert sources have more here. So the proper comparison isn’t to a Republican president who suspends the estate tax, but to a Republican president who decides to enforce the estate tax against the highest priority offenders—the super-duper rich—rather than the merely exorbitantly wealthy.

I can’t claim to know (yet) whether a presidential administration has identical discretion over tax law as it does over immigration law, so I don’t know whether this would pass the threshold test of legality. I suspect the president has more discretion over the latter than the former, and if deferred action for recently deceased wealthy people were slam-dunk illegal, I would oppose it on those grounds. But assuming President Ted Cruz could plausibly shield estates valued below, say, $20 million from tax, within the bounds of the law, my instinct would neither be to scream “Caesar!” nor to blame Obama for setting a bad precedent, but to note that Cruz was insane. It’d be crazy for any president to apply tax law more leniently to people who hit the estate tax threshold than to regular people who don't accrue much if any wealth, and I believe they’d ultimately lose that fight in the political realm, either through legislation or at the ballot or upon the election of a Democratic president who would resume strict enforcement. ...

If Ted Cruz becomes president and his Republican Congress gets to work on a comprehensive tax reform plan that would (among other things) abolish the estate tax, a decision to defer estate tax enforcement through 2017 might make sense (again, assuming legality) to avoid penalizing people who have the misfortune of dying before Cruz can sign the bill. If that bill were to fail, enforcement would surely resume at some point. Norms wouldn't have very much to do with it.

The Daily Caller:  Nice Try, New Republic, by Micky Kaus:

[V]irtually any categorical we-won’t-prosecute-you decree will serve the interests of “consistency” and “predictability.” Take the hypothetical that Obama’s defenders seem to have the most trouble dealing with: Imagine Mitt Romney, campaigning on a platform of raising the limit on taxable estates to $20 million dollars (from the current $5.3 million).  Romney wins the election. He’s President! But he can’t get his estate tax bill through Congress. He decides he can’t wait! If Congress won’t act to boost the incentives to “job creators,” he will! His IRS announces that, as a matter of “prosecutorial discretion,” no estates under $20 million that fail to pay estate tax will be pursued by the IRS.  Romney could grant case by case leniency power to IRS auditors and lawyers — but a blanket categorical free pass makes the law so much more predictable, don’t you think? And predictability is important for job creators!  They have investments to make. You wouldn’t want an IRS with the leeway to play favorites — going soft on Republicans, or Romney donors, while coming down hard on dead multimillionaire Democrats. ...

President Romney, for example, could cite the Internal Revenue Code’s goal of increasing tax receipts and spurring economic growth — and argue that because a zero capital gains rate would encourage revenue-producing asset sales, he would now exercise his discretion to avoid punishing people who don’t pay their (legislated) capital gains taxes as well as most of  those who duck their estate taxes. Jonathan Chait is right to be worried.

P.S.: TNR‘s Brian Beutler takes a simpler approach. He appears to argue that, if there aren’t statutory provisions that would make a Romney estate-tax move “slam-dunk illegal” (which there probably aren’t) then Romney is free to go ahead. He’d be “insane,” Beutler says. The voters would probably reinstall the Democrats at the next election. But democracy itself would provide the limit.

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August 19, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

Johnston: Kinder Morgan’s Evolving Tax Strategy

Tax Analysys Logo (2013)David Cay Johnston (Syracuse), Kinder Morgan’s Evolving Tax Strategy, 144 Tax Notes 881 (Aug. 18, 2014):

Johnston looks at Kinder Morgan’s recent announcement that it would be folding two master limited partnerships into a C corporation holding company.

August 19, 2014 in Scholarship, Tax, Tax Analysts | Permalink | Comments (0)

NY Times: Behind Closed Doors, Obama Crafts Executive Action on Tax Inversions

Following up on yesterday's post, WSJ: Meet the Law Professor Who’s Crashing the Inversion Party: New York Times, Behind Closed Doors, Obama Crafts Executive Actions:

When President Obama announced in June that he planned to bypass congressional gridlock and overhaul the nation’s immigration system on his own, he did so in a most public way: a speech in the White House Rose Garden.

Since then, the process of drafting what will likely be the only significant immigration changes of his presidency — and his most consequential use of executive power — has been conducted almost entirely behind closed doors, where lobbyists and interest groups invited to the White House are making their case out of public view.

Mr. Obama’s increasingly expansive appetite for the use of unilateral action on issues including immigration, tax policy and gay rights has emboldened activists and businesses to flock to the administration with their policy wish lists. It also has opened the president, already facing charges of executive overreach, to criticism that he is presiding over opaque policy-making, with the potential to reward political backers at the expense of other interests, including some on the losing side who are threatening to sue. ...

Consumer groups and organized labor want the Treasury Department to act on its own to limit financial incentives for companies that move overseas for tax breaks and stop so-called inversions. ... One group, Change to Win, a labor union-backed consumer advocacy organization that has pressed for congressional action to block corporate inversions, sought out a legal expert with Obama administration ties, Stephen E. Shay, to press its case.

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August 19, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tax Inversions Often Don't Produce Big Returns for Investors

Reuters,  When Companies Flee U.S. Tax System, Investors Often Don't Reap Big Returns:

Establishing a tax domicile abroad to avoid U.S. taxes is a hot strategy in corporate America, but many companies that have done such "inversion" deals have failed to produce above-average returns for investors, a Reuters analysis has found.

Looking back three decades at 52 completed transactions, the review showed 19 of the companies have subsequently outperformed the Standard & Poor's 500 index, while 19 have underperformed. Another 10 have been bought by rivals, three have gone out of business and one has reincorporated back in the United States. ...

It is impossible to know how the companies might have fared in the market had they not inverted. Innumerable factors other than taxes influence a stock's performance, and no two of these deals are identical, complicating simple comparisons. But the analysis makes one thing clear: inversions, on their own, despite largely providing the tax savings that companies seek, are no guarantee of superior returns for investors.

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August 19, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 467

IRS Logo 2Forbes:  Are 'Expendables 3' & IRS Equally Expendable?, by Robert W. Wood:

The Expendables 3 is a little like the IRS. Did we need this third installment of the action movie franchise? It had a lackluster opening weekend and tepid reviews, so perhaps with ‘Expendables 3′ the Third Time’s Not a Charm. But it may have a hidden message.

An expendable movie about a cadre of aging action stars is a little like the sagging IRS. The IRS may never have been a star, but its star has fallen in recent years. For over a year now, it has been plagued by scandal and what sometimes seems like downright arrogance at the top. Even in the face of these sad developments, some claim there is not a ‘Smidgen Of Corruption’ at the IRS.

Like an aging action star demanding too much money and being frozen out, such behavior doesn’t bode well for the IRS. ... Expendables—the IRS—features an agency that collects billions and is charged with administering the nation’s tax laws. Make no mistake, that’s no easy job. Yet on the whole, I still think the IRS does a generally good job (no hate mail please). That is why it’s so terribly important that we restore some trust and accountability. ...

Does our our country have more important problems? Sure we do. But it’s still wrong that we cannot seem to get straight answers. The latest order from Judge Emmet G. Sullivan in the litigation filed by Judicial Watch asks for answers about the recently ‘lost’ emails of Lois Lerner and other IRS officials. See Judicial Watch v. IRS (No. 1:13-cv-1559).

The fact that a federal judge has had to launch this inquiry into the issue of the missing emails is a sad day for the IRS, regardless of whether the IRS realizes it. The IRS filings were at least lackluster and seemed not to take seriously the judge’s request for sworn declarations about the IRS email issue. The judge really means it.

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August 19, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 18, 2014

Ajay Mehrotra's Making the Modern American Fiscal State Wins 2014 U.S. Intellectual History Book Award

Ajay2014 Society for U.S. Intellectual History Book Award Winner:

We are pleased to announce our selection of Ajay K. Mehrotra’s Making the Modern American Fiscal State: Law, Politics, and the Rise of Progressive Taxation, 1877-1929 (Cambridge University Press, 2013) as this year’s winner of the S-USIH annual book award for 2014.

Mehrotra’s important and ambitious book chronicles the early 20th-century transformation in American tax policy and public finance. It analyzes the shift from the nineteenth-century “regime of indirect, hidden, partisan, and regressive taxes” to the “direct, transparent, professionally administered, and progressive tax system” we know today. A book on taxation may well seem a curious choice for an intellectual history prize, but we were struck by how successfully Mehrotra weaves together the intellectual, legal, administrative threads of his argument. Mehrotra takes ideas seriously. He traces legal and administrative change to a prior “conceptual revolution,” wrought primarily by a cohort of professionally trained intellectuals, including Henry Carter Adams, Richard Ely, and Edwin R.A. Seligman. And he shows how notions of economic justice, political obligation, ethical duty, and democratic reciprocity underwrote the new progressive conception of what Mehrotra aptly labels “fiscal citizenship.” He also shows what happened to those ideas as they traveled through a contested political process and were embodied in a complex administrative apparatus with paradoxical and often unintended consequences. Mehrotra’s book is thus a history of ideas in action. It makes a signal contribution to the field by demonstrating how even the most seemingly mundane features of our world have strikingly rich intellectual histories.

August 18, 2014 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Johnston: Income of Highest Earners Fell From 2000 to 2012

Al Jazeera:  Highest Earners Making Less, Social Security Data Show, by David Cay Johnston (Syracuse):

It is getting much harder to earn big bucks in America, my new analysis of official wage data shows.

The number of workers making $2 million or more per year declined almost 5 percent, from 39,650 in 2000 to 37,714 in 2012. This decline is especially remarkable, given 11 percent population growth.

These top jobs paid less too, despite 22 percent real growth in the economy over those 12 years. Measured in 2012 dollars, average pay at the top was $5.04 million, down from $5.27 million in 2000. That’s 4.3 percent less pay per top worker.

Combined, the decline in big bucks jobs and average pay meant top earners got a smaller slice of the national wage pie. The pie grew 7.2 percent. But the $2 million and up workers saw their slice shrink from 3.4 percent to 2.9 percent. ...

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August 18, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)