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Tuesday, September 16, 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 September 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.)

40,041

Reuven Avi-Yonah (Mich.)

6669

2

Paul Caron (Pepperdine)

26,595

Ed Kleinbard (USC)

4504

3

Louis Kaplow (Harvard)

22,889

Richard Ainsworth (BU)

2695

4

D. Dharmapala (Chicago)

20,320

Paul Caron (Pepperdine) 

2627

5

Vic Fleischer (San Diego)

20,071

D. Dharmapala (Chicago)

2509

6

James Hines (Michigan)

19,825

Omri Marian (Florida)

1977

7

Ted Seto (Loyola-L.A.)

19,186

Robert Sitkoff (Harvard)

1949

8

Richard Kaplan (Illinois)

19.073

Richard Kaplan (Illinois)

1915

9

Katie Pratt (Loyola-L.A.)

16,168

Katie Pratt (Loyola-L.A.)

1801

10

Ed Kleinbard (USC)

15,859

Bridget Crawford (Pace)

1794

11

Dennis Ventry (UC-Davis)

15,397

Brad Borden (Brooklyn)

1588

12

Carter Bishop (Suffolk)

15,140

Jen Kowal (Loyola-L.A.)

1558

13

Jen Kowal (Loyola-L.A.)

14,418

Jeff Kwall (Loyola-Chicago)

1497

14

David Weisbach (Chicago)

14,359

Dick Harvey (Villanova)

1436

15

Chris Sanchirico (Penn)

14,253

Louis Kaplow (Harvard)

1434

16

Richard Ainsworth (BU)

14,065

James Hines (Michigan)

1407

17

Robert Sitkoff (Harvard)

13,974

Francine Lipman (UNLV)

1375

18

David Walker (BU)

13,935

Dan Shaviro (NYU)

1348

19

Francine Lipman (Chapman)

13,921

Ted Seto (Loyola-L.A.)

1335

20

Bridget Crawford (Pace)

13,883

David Gamage (UCBerkeley)

1313

21

Brad Borden (Brooklyn)

13,853

Vic Fleischer (San Diego)

1276

22

Herwig Schlunk (Vanderbilt)

12,507

Carter Bishop (Suffolk)

1251

23

Dan Shaviro (NYU)

12,101

David Weisbach (Chicago)

1186

24

Ed McCaffery (USC)

11,748

Gregg Polsky (North Carolina)

1167

25

Wendy Gerzog (Baltimore)

11,733

Chris Sanchirico (Penn)

1129

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

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September 16, 2014 in Scholarship, Tax, Tax Prof Rankings | Permalink | Comments (0)

U.S. Ranks 32nd (out of 34 OECD Countries) in International Tax Competitiveness

Tax Foundation, 2014 International Tax Competitiveness Index:

Tax Foundation logoThe Tax Foundation’s International Tax Competitiveness Index (ITCI) measures the degree to which the 34 OECD countries’ tax systems promote competitiveness through low tax burdens on business investment and neutrality through a well-structured tax code. The ITCI considers more than forty variables across five categories: Corporate Taxes, Consumption Taxes, Property Taxes, Individual Taxes, and International Tax Rules. The ITCI attempts to display not only which countries provide the best tax environment for investment but also the best tax environment to start and grow a business.

Tax Foundation

Wall Street Journal editorial, We're Number 32! A New Global Index Highlights the Harm From the U.S. Tax Code.:

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September 16, 2014 in Tax, Think Tank Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 495

IRS Logo 2Wall Street Journal editorial:  Covering for the IRS:

The IRS targeting of conservative groups has now become a story about the cover-up. More than a year after the scandal became public, the most transparent Administration in history has done everything in its power to spin the story, stymie Congressional investigators and run out the clock.

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September 16, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 15, 2014

Benzarti Presents How Taxing is Tax Filing? Today at UC-Berkeley

UC Berkeley Primary Logo Berkeley BlueYoussef Benzarti (UC-Berkeley, Department of Economics) presents How Taxing is Tax Filing? Leaving Money on the Table Because of Compliance Costs at UC-Berkeley today as part of the Robert D. Burch Center for Tax Policy and Public Finance Seminar:

I use a quasi-experimental design to estimate the burden of complying with the tax code. Employing a sample of US income tax returns, I observe the preferences of taxpayers over itemizing deductions or claiming the standard deduction. Treated taxpayers forgo $800 on average to avoid the cost of itemizing. A revealed preference argument implies that itemizing deductions is as painful as working more than 17 hours at one’s regular job. The amount of foregone benefits is larger for richer households, consistent with the fact that the value of time increases with income. I explore two explanations of the magnitude of the estimates. First, it could be due to an extreme aversion to filing taxes. Such aversion implies that itemizing deductions imposes an aggregate compliance cost of 0.24% of GDP and an extrapolation to filing federal taxes implies that the overall cost of compliance is 1.55% of GDP. Second, if taxpayers are time-inconsistent the revealed preference argument fails, introducing a wedge between foregone benefits and compliance costs. Being present-biased leads taxpayers to forego large benefits even when compliance costs are relatively small. I provide evidence of taxpayers being present-biased. Both explanations - whether driven by preferences or mistakes - suggest that the burden imposed on society by tax compliance is significantly larger than previously estimated. I discuss policy implications of the result.

September 15, 2014 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Shurtz Presents Long-Term Care and the Tax Code: A Feminist Perspective Today at Loyola-L.A.

ShurtzNancy Shurtz (Oregon) presents Long-Term Care and the Tax Code: A Feminist Perspective at Loyola-L.A. today as part of its Tax Policy Colloquium Series:

Long-term care is a feminist issue. Not only do women live longer but we suffer more from a multitude of degenerative physical and mental ailments that require supervised and concentrated care. We comprise 70% of the unpaid caregiver and over 90% of the paid caregiver. Because of low wages, interruptions in work for care of children and parents, lower pensions, women have fewer resources and thus may not adequately save or plan for expensive future long-term care expenses. Consequently, women are more likely to use social insurance (Medicare, Medicaid) and long term care insurance. From home care, adult care, continuing care to nursing home care, the tax code provides numerous but ineffective and inequitable subsidies. The tax system favors the purchase of long-term care insurance over savings, fails to value the unpaid caregiving services of family members, and inadequately supports the low-wage care worker. This paper suggests tax reform in addition to non tax reform. The Community Living Assistance Support and Services (CLASS) Act of the Affordable Care Act should be reinstated and funded and the Family Medical Leave Act should be modified and expanded. Eventually, the federal government will probably need to institute a Medicare tax on workers to fund the growing problem of financing and supporting elder care in America.

Vivian Wu (USC) is the commentator.

September 15, 2014 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

State Tax Fairness Rankings

Wallet Hub, 2014′s Most & Least Fair State Tax Systems:

Fair TaxAs a follow up to our 2014 Tax Fairness Survey which focused largely on federal tax policy, WalletHub has analyzed and ranked the 50 states based on the fairness of their state and local tax systems. To rank the states, Wallethub conducted a nationally representative online survey of 1,050 individuals to assess what Americans think a fair state and local tax system looks like. Our analysts then compared what Americans think is fair to data on the real structure of tax systems in all 50 states. We believe this is the first ever ranking of state and local tax fairness that matches representative data on what Americans think is fair with real data on the structure of state and local tax systems.

WalletHub

 

Most Fair Tax Systems

 

Least Fair Tax Systems

 

1

Montana

 

41

Tennessee 

 

2

Oregon

 

42

Texas 

 

3

South Carolina 

 

43

Arizona 

 

4

Delaware 

 

44

Mississippi 

 

5

Idaho 

 

45

Indiana 

 

6

Virginia 

 

46

Florida

 

7

Minnesota 

 

47

Illinois 

 

8

California 

 

48

Arkansas 

 

9

Maryland 

 

49

Hawaii 

 

10

Vermont 

 

50

Washington 

(Hat Tip: Bruce Bartlett.)

September 15, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Understanding Thomas Piketty and His Critics

PikettyThe Heritage Foundation: Understanding Thomas Piketty and His Critics, by Curtis S. Dubay & Salim Furth:

Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century is a treatise on how wealth inequality evolves in capitalistic economies. Piketty uses data stretching back to the 18th century to describe the historical evolution of wealth and inequality, proposes a model that matches the data, and uses that model to predict rising wealth inequality in the 21st century. He recommends punitive taxes on high incomes and wealth to prevent the scenario that he predicts. However, the best critiques of Piketty have shown that most of the links in his argument are broken. Piketty’s model does not match his data as well as he claims. His prediction of permanently rising wealth inequality rests on two implausible modeling assumptions. And his recommendation of punitive taxes is based on the glib assumption that capital accumulation is unimportant for wage growth, an assumption at odds with the data and even with his own model. As a result, almost nothing in Capital in the Twenty-First Century can be applied usefully to policymaking.

Heritage

September 15, 2014 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Blanchard Takes Issue With Kleinbard's Call for Anti-Inversion Legislation

Tax Analysys Logo (2013) Kimberly S. Blanchard (Weil, Gotshal & Manges, New York), Blanchard Argues Against More Anti-Inversion Rules, 144 Tax Notes 1335 (Sept. 15, 2014):

I write to comment on Edward D. Kleinbard's recent article ['Competitiveness' Has Nothing to Do With It, 144 Tax Notes 1055 (Sept. 1, 2014)] on the subject of "inversions." Kleinbard is, as usual, erudite and funny, but all the erudition and humor in the universe cannot hide the hole in his argument.

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September 15, 2014 in Scholarship, Tax, Tax Analysts | Permalink | Comments (0)

NY Times: Jeers and Cheers Over Tax Inversions

New York Times:  Jeers and Cheers Over Tax Inversions, by Jeff Sommer:

[M]ost American consumers, investors and politicians have tacitly accepted that if a company is profitable, doesn’t violate the law and produces appealing products and services, it can operate wherever and however it likes. That’s why the furor over tax inversions is so intriguing. ...

Investors appear to like tax inversions. After Burger King said it would embark on one, its shares rose an astonishing 19.5 percent in a single day. No wonder that earlier this month, Newedge USA, a unit of Société Générale, said that “the rising tide of opposition in Washington, D.C., toward reincorporating for tax reasons may, in fact, accelerate deal-making as companies rush to complete conversions and other tax strategies before legislative changes.”

After years of a rising stock market and buoyant profits, much of them held abroad, American companies are engaging in a spree of mergers and acquisitions. And the United States is nearly alone among major industrialized nations in taxing — or, more realistically, trying to tax — all the worldwide income of corporations domiciled within its territory. Canada, Switzerland and nearly every place else tax only the income earned in their own territories. This makes tax planning much simpler. ...

[I]nversions may make it much easier to reduce American corporate taxes, Edward Kleinbard, a professor of law and business at the University of Southern California, said in a recent report. He opposes inversions, saying they are stripping the United States of its tax base. ... 

In a study of “the first wave of tax inversions” — those that took place before Congress tightened the rules in 2004 — [Elizabeth Chorvat, a visiting professor at the University of Illinois college of business] found that companies that moved their tax domiciles outperformed the overall stock market. It’s too early to tell whether the current wave will be similarly lucrative, she said, but corporate motivations are clear. While inversions prompt immediate tax bills for some shareholders, she said, they often end up being beneficial.

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September 15, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 494

IRS Logo 2The Hill:  Rand Paul Jokes He's 'Really Worried' About Anthony Weiner:

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) poked some fun at former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) over his sexting scandal on Thursday.

“How many people here have a cellphone?” Paul asked an audience in New Hampshire, according to Breitbart News. “How many people think it’s none of the government’s damn business what you have on your cellphone?”

“I’ve been thinking that’s true,” Paul continued. “But I’m really, really worried about Anthony Weiner. Because you know he likes to take his selfies, and he’s had trouble finding a place to put them where the government can’t find them. So I’m thinking maybe Anthony Weiner should put his selfie in Lois Lerner’s emails.”

New York Post:  5 Lies That Have Shaped the Obama Presidency:

3. “Not even a smidgen of corruption.”

Obama said this in response to Bill O’Reilly’s question about the IRS scandal: “You’re saying no corruption?”

If there were not even a “smidgen of corruption,” as Obama insisted, it is hard to understand what outraged him, or at least seemed to, when news of the IRS scandal first broke. “It’s inexcusable, and Americans are right to be angry about it, and I am angry about it,” Obama said in May 2013. Obama routinely expressed anger when some new scandal erupted on his watch — IRS, the failed ObamaCare website, the VA scandal, Fast and Furious — but never before had he shoved a scandal down the memory hole so quickly.

And how could Obama know there wasn’t a smidgen of corruption before the investigation was even over? Perhaps because the administration knew that any proof of that was gone with deleted e-mails and destroyed hard drives?

The Wall Street Journal Report:

Paul Gigot: New developments in the ongoing investigation into the targeting of conservatives groups by the IRS, with the tax agency revealing last week that it lost the emails of five more employees, including a senior aide to Lois Lerner, the former official at the center of the scandal. That news comes amid fresh claims by House Oversight Committee chair, Darrell Issa, that Eric Holder's Justice Department is improperly collaborating with congressional Democrats in its own IRS probe. And this time, he says he has a phone call to prove it. ...

Kim Strassel: I think what you're seeing over the past week, and especially because of the latest revelation about the Justice Department--remember, the Justice Department is supposed to be investigating this IRS scandal. And instead, what we've got as an accumulation over the last few weeks is a bunch of evidence that suggests the IRS and Justice Department and other departments of the Obama administration instead appear to have been spending the past year doing everything they possibly can to impede congressional investigators in getting to the bottom of this affair.

So not just coordinating with Democrats. We now have news about Lois Lerner's BlackBerry being wiped. This happening after Congress had already starting investigating, after the Treasury inspector general had begun his investigation. You have the emails of other critical people in this scandal gone as well, at least five of them.

You have redactions in documents that are being sent so the investigators can't actually see the core conversations. And by the way, I should also note, the only reason we even know any of this is because of outside litigation, which has enlisted the help of the judicial branch, and judicial branch has been forcing the IRS and others to come clean with some stuff. That's why we're finding out they haven't been clean with congressional investigators.

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September 15, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

TaxProf Blog Weekend Roundup

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Truthdigger of the Week: David Cay Johnston

TruthdigTruthdigger of the Week: David Cay Johnston:

Every week the Truthdig editorial staff selects a Truthdigger of the Week, a group or person worthy of recognition for speaking truth to power, breaking the story or blowing the whistle. It is not a lifetime achievement award. Rather, we’re looking for newsmakers whose actions in a given week are worth celebrating.

Since Ronald Reagan and his successors in government began restructuring the tax code, American society has become increasingly unfair. Because of wide-ranging investigative reporters like David Cay Johnston, those of us with time and concern have the opportunity to learn a little about it.

A Pulitzer Prize-winning author who has covered economic and tax matters for major newspapers and other media over the last four decades, Johnston had the cover story in Newsweek magazine in late August and early September for two weeks running. The first account detailed the serial fabulism of widely respected late celebrity biographer C. David Heymann (as well as the complicity of his publisher Simon & Schuster and its parent company CBS). The second, which makes up the substance of this article, examines some of the ways in which Congress helps major corporations and investors reap huge profits by turning tax bills into zero-interest loans subsidized multiple times over by the American taxpayer, and includes a description of how such loopholes were used to help finance the recent tax-avoidance merger of fast food chains Tim Hortons of Canada and Burger King. ...

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September 14, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

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 #20 in all-time downloads among 10,292 tax papers:

  1. [2901 Downloads]  'Competitiveness' Has Nothing to Do with it, by Edward D. Kleinbard (USC)
  2. [326 Downloads]  2013 Developments in Connecticut Estate and Probate Law, by Jeffrey A. Cooper (Quinnipiac) & John R. Ivimey (Reid and Riege, Hartford)
  3. [205 Downloads]  The Futility of Tax Protester Arguments, by Allen D. Madison (South Dakota)
  4. [200 Downloads]  Public Pressure and Corporate Tax Behavior, by Scott Dyreng (Duke), Jeffrey Hoopes (Ohio State) & Jaron Wilde (Iowa)
  5. [159 Downloads]  The OECD'S Flawed and Dated Approach to Computer Servers Creating Permanent Establishments, by Monica Gianni (Florida)

September 14, 2014 in Scholarship, Tax, Top 5 Downloads | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 493

IRS Logo 2The Blaze:  Lois Lerner Fallout: GOP Looks to Stop IRS Workers From Using Personal Email at Work:

The Republican House next week plans to take up three IRS-related bills, including one that would prevent all IRS officials from using their personal email while at work.

The issue has come up in the GOP investigation of former IRS employee Lois Lerner and her role in the IRS targeting scandal. Not only has the IRS said it lost more than two years’ worth of Lerner’s emails, but it has become clear that Lerner used her personal email for work purposes.

The legislation from Rep. Charles Boustany (R-La.) is just one simple line prohibiting this practice: “No officer or employee of the Internal Revenue Service may use a personal email account to conduct any official business of the government,” the bill reads.

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September 14, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Clark Redux: Recovery From Accountants for Disallowed Tax Shelter Constitutes Nontaxable Recovery of Capital

In Tax Court Logo 2Cosentino v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 2014-186 (Sept. 11, 2014), the Tax Court followed Clark v. Commissioner, 40 B.T.A. 333 (1939), Concord Instruments Corp. v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 1994-248, and Rev. Rul. 57-47, 1957-1 C.B. 23, in holding that $375,000 received by the taxpayers in settlement of a lawsuit against their accountants for advising them to purchase an abusive tax shelter constituted a return of capital and did not have to be included in income:

All of the damages that petitioners alleged in the complaint were damages that they sought in order to compensate themselves for the loss that they suffered because the accountants were negligent and breached their fiduciary duties to petitioners by erroneously advising them to use the tax-avoidance plan in order to dispose of the rental property. The $375,000 payment that petitioners received in settlement of the lawsuit was to compensate them for a loss that is similar to the respective losses in Clark, Concord Instruments, and Rev. Rul. 57-47.

Update:  Forbes, Client Sues Tax Advisor For Bad Advice: Is The Settlement Payment Tax-Free?, by Tony Nitti

September 13, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Craig Boise Named to Chair at Cleveland-Marshall

Press Release:

BoiseCleveland-Marshall College of Law is pleased to announce the appointment of Dean Craig M. Boise to the Joseph C. Hostetler – Baker & Hostetler Chair in Law.  The Chair in Law was created through generous gifts from John D. Drinko, a former managing partner of the firm, and other donors, and is the first chaired professorship created at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law.

Hewitt B. Shaw, Managing Partner of BakerHostetler’s Cleveland office, said “BakerHostetler is honored to have our firm’s name closely identified with the innovative and progressive leadership demonstrated by Dean Boise.”

Dean Boise noted that BakerHostetler has been a strong supporter of Cleveland-Marshall over the years, having previously underwritten visiting professors, named professors, annual lectures, and student scholarships. “We are grateful for BakerHostetler’s many generous contributions to the law school, and I am honored to be connected to the long tradition of excellence and innovation at the firm through the Chair in Law.”

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September 13, 2014 in Legal Education, Tax, Tax Prof Moves | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 492

Friday, September 12, 2014

Gamage Presents Analyzing the Optimal Choice of Tax Instruments Today at UCLA

Gamage (2014)David Gamage (UC-Berkeley) presents The Case for Levying (all of) Labor-Income Taxes, Value-Added Taxes, Capital-Income Taxes, and Wealth Taxes: Applying a Framework for Analyzing the Optimal Choice of Tax Instruments, 68 Tax L. Rev. ___ (2014), at UCLA today as part of its Faculty Workshop Series:

Economic analyses of taxation have largely focused on the problems of labor-to-leisure and saving-to-spending distortions. Based on these analyses, the prior literature has generally treated labor-income and consumption taxes as being essentially equivalent, and has also treated capital-income and wealth taxes as being essentially equivalent. Further, based on these analyses, the dominant view in the prior literature has been that neither capital income nor wealth should be taxed.

This Article expands on these prior analyses by incorporating a variety of tax-gaming responses and also administrative and compliance costs. By doing so, this Article argues that it is probably optimal for governments to levy some version of (all of) labor-income taxes, value-added taxes, capital-income taxes, and wealth taxes.

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September 12, 2014 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Weekly Tax Roundup

September 12, 2014 in Tax, Weekly Tax Roundup | Permalink | Comments (0)

Weekly SSRN Tax Roundup

September 12, 2014 in Scholarship, Tax, Weekly SSRN Roundup | Permalink | Comments (0)

Bird-Pollan: A Check-the-Box Style Regime for Same-Sex Couples’ Tax Filing Status

Jennifer Bird-Pollan (Kentucky), Electing Fairness: A Check-the-Box Style Regime for Same-Sex Couples’ Tax Filing Status, 6 Elon L. Rev. 251 (2014):

This Essay proposes a new regulatory regime in response to the Supreme Court decision in U.S. v. Windsor, overturning Section Three of DOMA. By analogy to the check-the-box regulations, allowing a regulatory election in the face of incongruities in state law, this proposal would allow taxpayers who live in states that do not recognize same-sex marriage to elect to be treated as married for federal tax purposes. While the IRS's issuance of Rev. Rul. 2013-17 allows taxpayers who travel to a so-called "recognizing state" to have a same-sex marriage ceremony performed to be treated as married for tax purposes, there is still a requirement that those taxpayers travel to a state that has same-sex marriage before they can claim the federal tax benefits. This will be especially burdensome to low-income taxpayers, for whom the costs may be prohibitive. These same low-income taxpayers would be especially helped by the tax benefits available in certain instances to taxpayers filing jointly. The Essay considers potential objections to the proposal, and ultimately finds that the proposed regulatory regime, while hopefully only necessary for the short time (as more states enact same-sex marriage laws) will cure an inequity in the tax law.

September 12, 2014 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Columbia Law Prof Is Victim of a 'Practice Audit'

Philip Hamburger (Columbia), Victim of a Practice Audit:

Audit 3Over at Instapundit, I read yesterday that the IRS defended its Breitbart audit with this statement: “The IRS stresses that audits are based on the information related to tax returns and the underlying tax law — nothing else.”

Glenn aptly writes “And who could hear this without laughing?” Actually, I know from personal experience it is false, because a while back I was subject to a “practice audit.”

It began with a notice that I was being audited for my charitable contributions. This was puzzling as my contributions were entirely in cash. To be sure, I was ashamed that they were pitifully low that year, but this made the audit all the more curious. Dutifully, I trekked up from the South Side to the federal building in downtown Chicago, and my accountant came in from out of state! ...

[The IRS man] asked some perfunctory questions and then turned to my charitable contributions. He looked at my embarrassingly low contributions, he examined my proof of having made them, and then seemed to weigh some profound question of tax law. The moment of truth had arrived.

At this point, however, I could not help myself. Being a former tax lawyer, but now being merely a client, I foolishly asked the idiotically simple question that had been bugging me all along: “Why am I being audited for cash contributions?”

The IRS man looked at us. Then, calmly and without discomfort, said, “It is a practice audit.”

Instinctively, I leaned forward and exclaimed, “WH . . . .” I never finished. My accountant, a well-built guy, was a step ahead of me. I felt his left arm pushing me back into my seat, while he said, “Thank you for sharing that. I assume then that this matter is closed.” The IRS man promptly agreed and that was that. ...

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September 12, 2014 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (4)

Hungerford: Policy Responses to Corporate Inversions

Thomas L. Hungerford (Economic Policy Institute), Policy Responses to Corporate Inversions; Close the Barn Door Before the Horse Bolts:

This report examines some of the issues and policy options regarding corporate inversions. It explains what corporate inversions are, explores common tax features of proposed inversions, analyzes why many corporations are now pursuing inversions, and assesses various policy options to prevent inversions. The report’s main conclusions are:

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September 12, 2014 in Scholarship, Tax, Think Tank Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 491

Thursday, September 11, 2014

September 11th Remembrance at Pepperdine

Waves

Annual Waves of Flags Display Pays Tribute to 9/11 Victims:

Seven years after the debut of the meaningful and moving tribute to the victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks, Pepperdine University continues to honor those lives lost with a stunning display of flags on the expansive lawn at Alumni Park, Malibu. Each flag, reflecting each victim's nationality, represents each of the nearly 3,000 victims of that tragic day.

The installation of the flags, which will be on display until Monday, Sept. 22, was conceived and led by the University's chapter of the College Republicans in 2008. Since that time, the display has come to be a focal point in the Malibu community to gather in remembrance and meditation of the innocent lives lost on 9/11, including Tom Burnett, alumnus of Pepperdine's Graziadio School of Business and Management. ...

As it has annually since September 2001, the Office of the Chaplain, the Department of Public Safety, and the Office of the President will host a brief memorial service at 12:15 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 11, at the Heroes Garden, a 14,880-square-foot outdoor sanctuary that overlooks the Pacific Ocean on one of the highest bluffs on the Malibu campus. The garden serves as a public space to pause, reflect, and honor those who sacrificed their lives on 9/11, including Burnett.

Heores Garden

September 11, 2014 in Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

S&P: Tax Inversions May Lead to Credit Downgrades

S&PStandard & Poor's, Inversions Lower Tax Liabilities, But Also Can Impair Credit Ratings:

Tax-driven corporate inversion strategies, in which U.S. companies seek to acquire entities in countries with lower tax rates and reincorporate overseas, account for a small but growing fraction of mergers and acquisitions (M&A) in 2014. A significant proportion of pending large inversion transactions will likely hurt credit ratings if completed. Standard & Poor's Ratings Services' view is that the credit positives of these inversions, including lower taxes and increased access to offshore cash and investments, is often outweighed by negative credit consequences, including higher leverage and the initiation of shareholder-friendly activities, which can undermine liquidity.

September 11, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Weisbach: The Use of Neutralities in International Tax Policy

David Weisbach (Chicago), The Use of Neutralities in International Tax Policy:

This paper analyzes the use of neutrality conditions, such as capital export neutrality, capital import neutrality, capital ownership neutrality, and market neutrality, in international tax policy. Neutralities are not appropriate tools for designing tax policy. They each identify a possible margin where taxation may distort business activities. Because these neutralities cannot be all satisfied simultaneously, however, they do not allow analysts to determine the appropriate trade-offs of these distortions, unlike deadweight loss measures used in other areas of tax policy. International tax policy should instead be tied directly to the reasons for taxing capital income, reasons which are derived from optimal tax or similar models.

September 11, 2014 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Remus Reviews Rostain & Regan's Confidence Games

ConfidenceDana A. Renus (North Carolina), Confidence Breach: A Breakdown in Professional Self-Regulation, 92 Tex. L. 1599 (2014) (reviewing Tanina Rostain (Georgetown) & Milton C. Regan, Jr. (Georgetown), Confidence Games: Lawyers, Accountants, and the Tax Shelter Crisis (MIT Press, 2014)):

At the turn of the twenty-first century, lawyers at several of the country’s most prestigious law and accounting firms participated in a fraudulent tax shelter scandal that cost the U.S. Treasury billions of dollars. It was not the first time lawyers had participated in a high-profile corporate scandal, nor would it be the last. What was unique was the extent and nature of the lawyers’ involvement. As Mitt Regan and Tanina Rostain explain in their new book, Confidence Games: Lawyers, Accountants, and the Tax Shelter Industry, “[lawyers’] fingerprints were everywhere: on the shelters they designed, the promotional materials they prepared, the client pitches they made, and the opinion letters they drafted and signed.” The resulting scandal, the authors argue, “likely represents the most serious episode of lawyer wrongdoing in the history of the American bar.”

In Confidence Games, Regan and Rostain set out to explain how and why such widespread and pervasive wrongdoing occurred. They challenge the narratives that laid blame on a finite number of bad actors and seek to offer a more comprehensive account of the actors and events that gave rise to the scandal. One of their core insights is that a complete understanding must account for institutional factors and not just individual actors. The authors focus on three factors in particular—a lax regulatory environment, a competitive global economy, and intense organizational pressures within law and accounting firms. In exploring these related causes, Regan and Rostain offer valuable insights on how the structures and cultures of the implicated law and accounting firms undermined and distorted lawyers’ professional judgment. They conclude Confidence Games with promising proposals for improving the regulation of tax practice.

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September 11, 2014 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Return of Class in American Tax Policy

Guy Charlton (City University of Hong Kong) & Peter Skilling (Auckland University of Technology), Legal and Policy Narratives and the Return of Class in American Tax Policy, 47 Creighton L. Rev. 219 (2014):

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, tax politics were structured by a bitter class struggle. Much of this struggle revolved around the government's competence to ensure the appropriate liberty, equality of opportunity and fairness to individuals, and the use of governmental power to ameliorate social and economic problems. For much of the 20th century, however, income tax was framed in a “hegemonic logic” in which re-distributive concerns were subordinated to an assumption of the shared benefits of economic growth. This Article discusses the recent return of a class-based politics to income tax politics in the United States. Drawing on the problem definition and narrative analysis literature, it argues that despite the recent resurgence of class-based rhetoric and political action, it is unlikely that America will return to the redistributive zero-sum income tax policies advocated prior to the 1920s. The underlying premises of the historical American liberal state, as evidenced in early substantive due process decisions: liberty, equality, and a distrust of governmental authority, which suggest a continuous fear of governmental power being used to interfere with individual liberty, circumscribes the debate over tax policy and lessens its class basis.

September 11, 2014 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

State Tax Haven Laws

Tax Analysys Logo (2013) Daniel M. Dixon, Michael A. Jacobs, Michael I. Lurie & Jack Trachtenberg (all of Reed Smith), To Blacklist or Not to Blacklist -- The Trend Toward State Tax Haven Laws, 73 State Tax Notes 635 (Sept. 8, 2014):

In this article, the authors discuss tax havens and how states are cracking down on multinational corporations that are perceived as abusing the tax laws of tax haven nations. The authors argue that both of the tax haven tests used by states -- the factor test and tax haven blacklist -- have constitutional issues.

September 11, 2014 in Scholarship, Tax, Tax Analysts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Fifth Circuit Denies Dow Chemical's $2 Billion Tax Shelter Deduction

DowThe Fifth Circuit yesterday disallowed $2 billion in deduction claimed by Dow Chemical in a tax shelter promoted by Goldman Sachs and King & Spalding.  Chemtech Royalty Associates v. United States, No. 13-30887 (5th Cir. Sept. 10, 2014). For more, see Reuters.

September 11, 2014 in New Cases, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 490

IRS Logo 2Commentary:  Is Eric Holder Trying to Protect the IRS?:

[I]t looks like Holder’s Department of Justice is seeking to help the IRS and the Democrats protecting the IRS. And the only reason the public knows about it is that Holder’s office accidentally called the wrong phone. Oops.

The left’s response to the IRS targeting scandal has morphed over time as more information has come to light. Mostly gone are the truthers who think nothing unethical happened or that this is an aimless witch hunt. It’s now clear to any sentient person that the IRS was indeed engaged in this targeting scheme ahead of a presidential election. Additionally, as I wrote last week, it’s since been revealed that the IRS began destroying evidence once the investigation into the targeting began.

That particular destruction of evidence concerned Lois Lerner, the former official at the center of the scandal, in order to get rid of her email correspondence. The media yawned at the revelation of the destruction of evidence, apparently tiring of this story. So the same day of Fallon’s phone call to Issa’s staff, the IRS admitted it lost the email of “five more workers who figure in the investigation into the alleged targeting of conservative nonprofit groups,” as the Wall Street Journal reported.

The Democratic response to the investigation has thus gone from the eminently silly denial that anything untoward took place to actively trying to thwart the investigation and run interference for the IRS–which, in its targeting scheme, was only following the pronouncements of high-level congressional Democrats, after all. And those Democrats have gotten quite uncomfortable with the investigation. Democratic Sen. Carl Levin has put together a report attacking the inspector general conducting the investigation.

Such interference and/or stonewalling wouldn’t be out of character for this DOJ. As the Washington Examiner reported yesterday, according to the department’s inspector general “Department of Justice senior officials have barred or delayed the inspector general there from gaining access to documents crucial to high-visibility investigations.”

The “nothing to see here” brigade has lost any semblance of credibility. In response, they’d like to make sure there’s actually nothing to see by the time investigators come looking for it.

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September 11, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Edwards Presents Does Earnings Lockout Make U.S. Multinationals Attractive to Acquirers? Today at Toronto

EdwardsAlex Edwards (University of Toronto, Rotman School of Management) presents Does Earnings Lockout Make U.S. Multinationals Attractive to Acquirers? at Toronto today as part of its James Hausman Tax Law and Policy Workshop Series:

The ability for deferral of home country taxation on multinationals’ foreign earnings within the U.S. tax code creates an incentive for firms to avoid or delay repatriation of earnings to the U.S. Consistent with this notion, prior research has documented a substantial lockout effect resulting from the current U.S. worldwide tax and financial reporting systems. We hypothesize and find that U.S. domiciled M&A target firms with more locked-out earnings are more attractive M&A targets for foreign bidders and are more likely to be acquired by foreign bidders, compared to domestic bidders. The effect is economically significant; a standard deviation increase in our proxy for locked-out earnings is associated with a 14% relative increase in the likelihood that an acquirer is foreign. We also examine the impact of the home country tax system of the foreign acquirers. Because multinationals facing territorial tax systems are able to shift income to save taxes to a greater extent than firms domiciled in worldwide countries, the advantages for a foreign firm acquiring a U.S. target with locked-out earnings are potentially greater when the foreign firm operates under a territorial tax system. We find that foreign acquirers of U.S. target firms with locked-out earnings are more likely to be residents of countries that use territorial tax systems.

September 10, 2014 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

It's Time to End the 'Philanthropic Gamesmanship' of Donor-Advised Funds

Following up on my previous posts (links below):  New York Review of Books, Stop the Misuse of Philanthropy!, by Lewis B. Cullman (Author, Can’t Take It With You—The Art of Making and Giving Money (2014)):

Can'tAt ninety-five, as a businessman and philanthropist, I want to call attention to little-known ploys in US philanthropy that rob our society of hundreds of millions of dollars earmarked for important charitable causes—leaving money stashed away in financial institutions and doing no good for anyone except money managers and other financial intermediaries.

In the past twenty years, I’ve given away close to $500 million of my own money. ... I saw how private foundations were able to take unfair advantages of the charitable deduction. ... But now I want to complain about a newer wrinkle that makes me even more indignant, one I deem “philanthropic gamesmanship.”

The more aggressive game in philanthropy I have in mind, one with a soothing but misleading name, is called Donor-Advised Funds (DAFs). Back in 1991, the Boston-based Fidelity Investments applied to the Brooklyn IRS and got a ruling that drastically changed the tax landscape governing charitable donations. Donors get the same tax benefits when they give to a DAF that they would get by contributing to a museum, soup kitchen, university, or any other federally accepted charity. But rather than having the gift made directly to a charity, the funds can simply sit in the account awaiting instructions from the donor. If the donor never gets around to making distributions, they stay in the account earning substantial fees for investment managers. Recently, mutual fund management companies such as Fidelity, Vanguard, and Charles Schwab have set up separate charity accounts to compete for funds.

These funds can provide such tax benefits because the donor must give up all legal control over his or her money when the transfer is made to a DAF. The control is transferred to the administrators of the DAF. ...

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September 10, 2014 in Book Club, Conferences, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

ABA Tax Section Releases 2014-15 Law Student Tax Challenge Problem

Lstc-14thThe ABA Tax Section has released the J.D. Problem (rules; entry form) and LL.M. Problem (rules; entry form) for the 14th Annual Law Student Tax Challenge (2014-2015):

An alternative to traditional moot court competitions, the Law Student Tax Challenge asks two-person teams of students to solve a cutting-edge and complex business problem that might arise in everyday tax practice. Teams are initially evaluated on two criteria: a memorandum to a senior partner and a letter to a client explaining the result. Based on the written work product, six teams from the J.D. Division and four teams from the LL.M. Division receive a free trip (including airfare and accommodations for two nights) to the Section of Taxation 2015 Midyear Meeting, January 29-31 in Houston, TX, where each team will defend its submission before a panel of judges consisting of the country’s top tax practitioners and government officials, including tax court judges. The competition is a great way for law students to showcase their knowledge in a real-world setting and gain valuable exposure to the tax law community. On average, more than 60 teams compete in the J.D. Division and more than 40 teams compete in the LL .M. Division. For examples of the "Best Written" winners from past competitions, please click here.

IMPORTANT DATES

  1. Submission Deadline: November 7, 2014
  2. Notification of Semifinalists and Finalists: December 19, 2014
  3. Semifinal and Final Oral Defense Rounds: January 30, 2015 in Houston, TX

September 10, 2014 in ABA Tax Section, Legal Education, Tax, Tax Analysts, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tax Prof Moves, 2014-15

Moves VAP Hire

  • Julian Fray (Boston University Tax LL.M.) to Northeastern

Entry Level Hires

  • Tessa Davis (VAP, Tulane) to South Carolina
  • Erin Scharff (VAP, NYU) to Arizona State
  • Bernard Schneider (Tax LL.M., NYU) to Queen Mary University of London

Lateral Moves

Promotions, Tenures, Chairs, and Professorships

  • Jordan Barry (San Diego) to Professor of Law with Tenure
  • Jennifer Bird-Pollan (Kentucky) to James and Mary Lassiter Associate Professor of Law with Tenure
  • Craig Boise (Dean. Cleveland-Marshall) to Baker & Hostetler Chair in Law
  • Sam Brunson (Loyola-Chicago) to Associate Professor of Law with Tenure
  • Roger Colinvaux (Catholic) to Professor of Law with Tenure
  • Rebecca Kysar (Brooklyn) to Professor of Law with Tenure
  • Shu-Yi Oei (Tulane) to Hoffman F. Fuller Associate Professor of Tax Law with Tenure
  • Bret Wells (Houston) to Associate Professor of Law with Tenure

Administrative Appointments

Visits

  • Jennifer Bird-Pollan (Kentucky) to Vienna University (Fulbright) (2014-15)
  • John Brooks (Georgetown) to Columbia (Spring 2015)
  • Danshera Cords (Albany) to Pittsburgh (2014-16)
  • Cliff Fleming (BYU) to Vienna University (Oct. 2013), Central European University (Apr. 2015)
  • David Herzig (Valparaiso) to Louisville (2014-15)
  • Tracey Kaye (Seton Hall) to University of Luxembourg (Fulbright) (Fall 2014)
  • Michelle Kwon (Tennessee) to SMU (Fall 2014)
  • John Miller (Idaho) to UC-Hastings (Spring 2015)
  • Ann Murphy (Gonzaga) to Shanghai University (Fulbright) (2014-15)
  • Shu-Yi Oei (Tulane) to UC-Hastings (Fall 2014)
  • Gregg Polsky (North Carolina) to Duke (2014-15)
  • James Puckett (Penn State) to Alabama (Fall 2014)
  • Tracey Roberts to UC-Hastings (2014-16)
  • David Schizer (Columbia) to Georgetown (Spring 2015)
  • Michael Simkovic (Seton Hall) to North Carolina (Fall 2014), Fordham (Spring 2015)
  • Larry Zelenak (Duke) to Northwestern (2014-15)

Retirements

  • Ron Chester (New England)
  • Joseph Dodge (Florida State)
  • Ron Pearlman (Georgetown)
  • Gail Richmond (Nova)
  • Dan Schneider (Northern Illinois)
  • Bill Turnier (North Carolina)

For prior years' Tax Prof Moves, see:

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September 10, 2014 in Legal Education, Tax, Tax Prof Moves | Permalink | Comments (1)

The U.S. Virgin Islands: A Made-in-America Offshore Tax Haven

NewsweekNewsweek:  A Made-in-America Offshore Tax Haven, by Lynnley Browning:

Each month, millions of Americans send a check to Ocwen Financial Corp., a little-known giant in the lucrative if unglamorous business of processing and servicing home mortgages.

Handling loan payments, modifying soured mortgages and foreclosing on borrowers is a profitable line of work. But Ocwen’s success has been turbocharged by its subsidiaries in an unlikely offshore tax haven: the United States Virgin Islands. It is a slice of paradise that some experts consider the nation’s one and only, officially sanctioned, full-blown offshore tax shelter.

Tax shelters are perfectly legal and certainly commonplace, but the recent merger of Burger King and Tim Hortons, the Canadian coffee and doughnut chain, has sparked public anger about U.S. companies lowering their tax bills by moving profits abroad. What’s lost in the debate, however, is that Congress—both directly and indirectly—not only tolerates but actually encourages corporations to take advantage of these arrangements. And that’s especially true if the tax haven in question is an American territory.

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September 10, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Call for Tax Papers: Akron Law Review

AkronFrom Rich Lavoie:  The Akron Law Review is seeking tax articles for its annual tax issue (formerly the  stand-alone Akron Tax Journal).  For more information or to submit an article, contact Nathaniel Tucker.

September 10, 2014 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 489

IRS Logo 2Washington Post:  IRS Chief’s Legal Adviser Spread Word of Missing E-mails to Treasury Lawyer:

Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen testified this summer that he played no part in spreading word of the agency’s controversial missing e-mails to the Treasury Department or the White House. But one of his closest advisers apparently did.

Transcripts of closed-door testimony with the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee show that IRS attorney Catherine Duval acknowledged telling Treasury legal counsel Hannah Stott-Bumsted about the matter. A Fox News affiliate first revealed the testimony in a report Monday.

Washington Post:  Issa Accuses Holder Spokesman of Attempting to ‘Conspire’ With Democrats on IRS Documents:

Attorney General Eric Holder’s communications director is being accused of calling the House Oversight Committee Republican staff and asking for help spinning a story. The twist? The GOP staff alleges that Holder’s spokesman thought he was talking to the Democrats.

Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) sent a letter to Holder on Monday about the incident, saying he was “extremely troubled” that the Justice Department may have been trying to coordinate with the minority staff on the release of documents to the committee regarding the Internal Revenue Service targeting certain political groups.

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September 10, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Zelinsky Presents The Proposed Minnesota Snowbird Tax Today at Minnesota

ZelinskyEdward Zelinsky (Cardozo) presents Apportioning State Personal Income Taxes to Eliminate the Double Taxation of Dual Residents: Thoughts Provoked by the Proposed Minnesota Snowbird Tax, 15 Fla. Tax Rev. 533 (2014), at Minnesota today as part of its Perspectives on Taxation Lecture Series hosted by Kristin Hickman:

In the last two budget cycles, Governor Mark Dayton has proposed what has become known as the “snowbird tax,” suggesting that Minnesota alter its rules governing state income taxation to allow the state to collect more taxes on income realized by individuals who divide their time between Minnesota and another state. Although the Minnesota legislature has not enacted Governor Dayton’s proposal, Professor Zelinsky will use the proposal as a springboard for arguing that states should revisit the laws governing state personal income tax apportionment. In doing so, Professor Zelinsky will contend that states should tax income with respect to which they have source jurisdiction irrespective of residence and income over which they have only residence-based jurisdiction proportionally, based on the part of the year a dual resident spends in each state.

September 9, 2014 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Clausing: Swift, Targeted Action Is Needed to Stem Tax Inversions

Kimberly A. Clausing (Reed College), Corporate Inversions:

Recently, there has been a spate of corporate inversions, where U.S. multinational corporations have combined with foreign companies, arranging their corporate structure to locate the residence of the resulting corporation in a foreign country with an attractive corporate tax climate. Several features of the U.S. tax system provide strong incentives for corporate inversion: a high statutory tax rate, a worldwide system of taxation, and limits on income shifting. Corporate inversions allow more flexible access to foreign cash stockpiles and easier shifting of income out of the U.S. tax base. The recent surge in inversions has likely resulted from the large accumulation of unrepatriated foreign cash together with pessimism about the prospect of policy changes that would reduce the U.S. tax burden associated with cash repatriations. If unfettered, corporate inversions are likely to undermine the U.S. tax base, so swift policy action is likely warranted. Inversions can be effectively addressed in a targeted fashion.

September 9, 2014 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Call for Papers: BC-ACTEC Symposium on The Centennial of the Estate Tax: Perspectives and Recommendations

BC ACTEC 2Boston College Law School and The American College of Trust and Estate Counsel have issued a Call for Papers  for a symposium on The Centennial of the Estate Tax: Perspectives and Recommendations, to be held at Boston College Law School on Friday, October 2, 2015:

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September 9, 2014 in Conferences, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

COD Income and Student Loan Debt Forgiveness

Tax Analysys Logo (2013)Kiran Sheffrin, Trapped by Forgiveness: Taxing COD Income, 144 Tax Notes 1191 (Sept. 8, 2014):

In this article, Sheffrin discusses the student loan debt crisis and problems with the current proposals for reform. She identifies two ways that the tax treatment of forgiven student loans can be used to achieve policy goals: partial recognition of cancellation of indebtedness income based on a household’s ability to pay, and spreading the payment of amounts owed over a fixed number of years.

September 9, 2014 in Scholarship, Tax, Tax Analysts | Permalink | Comments (1)

CPAs File Class Action Against IRS Seeking Recovery of $150 Million in Fees Paid by Tax Practitioners

Press Release, CPAs File Class Action Seeking Recovery of More Than $150 Million in Fees Collected by IRS From Tax Practitioners:

RTRPTwo certified public accountants (CPAs) filed a class action complaint in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia earlier today challenging Internal Revenue Service (IRS) regulations requiring tax practitioners to annually register and pay a fee to the agency to obtain and maintain a preparer tax identification number (“PTIN”).  The class action involves more than 700,000 individual practitioners.  It seeks an injunction barring collection of the fee and recovery of the more than $150 million in fees the IRS has collected since 2010.

The challenged regulations were issued several years ago as part of a broad IRS initiative to radically expand its oversight of attorneys, accountants, and other tax return preparers who prepare tax returns for compensation.  Earlier this year, the D.C. Circuit Court ruled that large portions of the regulations issued by the IRS were invalid because the IRS lacked statutory authority to issue the regulations. Loving v. United States, 742 F.3d 1014 (D.C. Cir. 2014). 

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September 9, 2014 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Is Beyoncé's Birthday a Valid Excuse for a Student to Miss Class?

The IRS Scandal, Day 488

IRS Logo 2New York Observer: Will Orange Be the New Black for IRS Chief Lois Lerner?, by Sidney Powell:

With five more Computer Crashes, a “pattern of racketeering activity” may be emerging.

Late last Friday afternoon, in a blatant “late news dump” to avoid making headlines about the Internal Revenue’s witch hunt against conservative non-profits, the IRS disclosed to Congress that five more of the IRS computers containing relevant records had mysteriously crashed. Those computers belonged to colleagues of Lois Lerner, whose conduct is at the center of the investigation.

Perhaps there is some strange computer virus that selectively trashes records inconvenient to incumbents, like the “glitch” that erased part of Nixon’s tapes. How else to explain the fact that this is the fourth announcement of an ever-expanding computer calamity connected to Lois Lerner to emerge from the IRS? First it was just Lerner’s computer that was affected, then those of her closest co-conspirators, then “no more than twenty” computers, and now an ever larger batch of burned out workstations.

Even more interesting, the IRS has apparently not yet shared this newest tidbit with Judge Emmet G. Sullivan, the distinguished and courageous jurist presiding over Judicial Watch’s Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. Judge Sullivan has made the most progress so far in uncovering the conspiracy among Lerner and friends to target, harass and illegally obtain information from conservative non-profit organizations to benefit Mr. Obama’s reelection campaign—for which the law firm of Ms. Lerner’s husband, Michael Miles, also hosted a voter registration event. ...

While the agency continues to blame “computer crashes” for the now more than 20 people whose emails are “missing,” no IRS official has yet to identify when or how each computer crashed—much less why. We know Lois Lerner’s hard drive, which was “scratched” only a matter of days after receiving a letter from Congress requesting her emails. The IRS then destroyed it. The IRS followed a year later with the destruction of her unimpaired Blackberry containing emails for the same period. As we reported first, it made no effort whatsoever to obtain information from the Blackberry—despite being well into the Congressional inquiry. That is obstruction of justice and destruction of evidence—worse than the conduct for which Leslie Caldwell, now head of the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice, destroyed Arthur Andersen LLP and its 85,000 jobs.

Any number of federal criminal statutes might apply to these facts, including Title 18 of the United States Code, Section 1343—Wire Fraud; Section 1503—Influencing officer generally; 1505—Obstruction of proceedings before department, agencies and committees; and Section 1519—Destruction, alteration, or falsification of records in federal investigations. Sections 1343 and 1503 are also predicate offenses for the federal Racketeering Statute, Section 1961, which provides that a “pattern of racketeering activity” can be proved by committing two predicate acts. These statutes are punishable by terms of imprisonment varying from five to twenty years. ...

So yet again, the IRS simply creates more questions and at least five more reasons for Judge Sullivan to name a special prosecutor. When did each of the now more than 20 computer crashes occur—by date and time? How could that possibly happen? Why did the IRS prematurely cancel its longstanding contract for backup? Why did it take this long to find out that 5 more had “crashed?” Where is the Blackberry or other device for each of the persons whose computer crashed? What servers are implicated? Whose resignations are forthcoming? Why is Koskinen still there? Who is on Emmet Sullivan’s short list to be the special prosecutor?

Evidence is mounting by the day that Lois Lerner and her co-conspirators abused the power of the sovereign, violated the trust of the people, lied to Congress, destroyed documents and evidence of their wrongdoing, and violated multiple criminal statutes.

With the revelations of this last week, Lois Lerner and the IRS might as well be sitting on a ticking bomb . . . and it’s about to explode.

Forbes:  IRS Loses Emails Of 5 More Key Employees, Including Lois Lerner's Aide, by Robert W. Wood:

The IRS announced that it lost emails from five more IRS workers relevant to the ongoing investigation into whether the IRS targeted conservative groups. It’s a new black eye for an agency that has had many. It was only a few months ago that the IRS revealed that Lois Lerner’s emails were gone.

Lerner remains the key figure at the heart of the controversy. Now, in another belated announcement, the “we lost five more too” raises new questions why no one seems to know very much. Or maybe they won’t say. When the whole mess came to light, Mr. Lerner refused to testify and was held in contempt of Congress. She could be prosecuted and face jail, though that’s unlikely.

The five employees include a senior aide to Ms. Lerner. Two of the latest 5 IRS employees with “computer crashes” worked in the Cincinnati IRS office processing applications for tax-exempt status. The Cincinnati office, it’s worth remembering, was where those “rogue” employees of the IRS were off supposedly doing their own thing without the say-so of their bosses at the headquarters of the IRS in DC.

(Image credit: grassfire.com)

(Demand an IRS Independent Prosecutor Petition available at http://grassfire.com/2014/06/irs-independent-prosecutor/. Image credit: grassfire.com)

Again blaming computer crashes, the IRS said it found no evidence that anyone deliberately destroyed evidence. But Rep. Darrell Issa (R., Calif.), chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and he isn’t so sure.

“First it was only Lois Lerner,” Rep. Issa said. “Now we learn there are 5 others, several months after the administration supposedly came clean about email losses. To the contrary.… each of the five hard drive issues resulting in a probable loss of emails substantially predates the onset of the investigations in 2013.”

The IRS had a backup tape system, but officials have said the agency routinely recycled the tapes. Besides, some of the real juice may be in text or instant messages. In 2013 when the IRS targeting scandal was already brewing, Ms. Lerner asked an IRS IT specialist if the IRS saved texts. No, they are not automatically saved, came back the response. The IT person went on to say that saving them was possible, though, so be careful.

“Perfect,” came Ms. Lerner’s reply. Congressional investigators, Judicial Watch and others doubtless want emails and texts, especially since it now appears that there was a little more off-the-grid mentality when it came to texts. Many Republicans think former IRS official Lois Lerner knows a lot.

USA Today:  E-mails Show IRS Attempts at Damage Control:

Lerner has emerged as the central figure in the IRS' handling of tax-exemption applications by conservative groups before the 2012 election. The Exempt Organizations office she headed subjected groups with names such as "Tea Party" and "Patriots" to more scrutiny and longer wait times than similar liberal advocacy groups, according to congressional Republicans.

The Democratic-controlled Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations released the documents Friday along with a report finding that mismanagement, and not political bias, was responsible for the targeting.

The documents show Lerner's efforts to persuade Treasury auditors that there was no institutional bias at the IRS, the agency's attempts to head off a damaging investigation with a pre-emptive apology, and Lerner's pep talk to her staff after the apology.

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September 9, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, September 8, 2014

The 100 Most Influential People in Tax and Accounting

100 Most InfluentialI am honored to be included on the list of Accounting Today's 100 Most Influential People in Tax and Accounting for the ninth year in a row:

Caron once stood out as one of the few serious tax bloggers out there; now that there are a lot more tax blogs online, he stands out even more -- because they all refer to him and his near-comprehensive content.

Near-comprehensive?  In any event, I am flattered to be on the list with such high-powered people in the tax and accounting worlds, including:

(2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014)

September 8, 2014 in About This Blog, Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (4)

Hauer Presents The Virtues of Dual Tier Capital Taxation Today at UC-Berkeley

UC Berkeley Primary Logo Berkeley BlueAndreas Hauer (University of Munich) presents Reforming an Asymmetric Union: On the Virtues of Dual Tier Capital Taxation at UC-Berkeley today as part of the Robert D. Burch Center for Tax Policy and Public Finance Seminar:

The tax competition for mobile capital, in particular the reluctance of small countries to agree on measures of tax coordination, has ongoing political and economic fallouts within Europe. We analyse the e ects of introducing a two tier structure of capital taxation, where the asymmetric member states of a union choose a common, federal tax rate in the rst stage, and then non-cooperatively set local tax rates in the second stage. We show that this mechanism e ectively reduces competition for mobile capital between the members of the union. Moreover, it distributes the gains across the heterogeneous states in a way that yields a strict Pareto improvement over a one tier system of purely local tax choices. Finally, we present simulation results, and show that a dual structure of capital taxation has advantages even when side payments are feasible.

September 8, 2014 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Democrats' Anti-Inversion Tax Plan Could Reach Back to 1994

Bloomberg:   Schumer Anti-Inversion Tax Plan Could Reach Back to 1994, by Richard Rubin:

A proposal from a top Senate Democrat could limit deductions for companies that moved their tax addresses out of the U.S. as long ago as 1994, according to a draft obtained by Bloomberg News.

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September 8, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

ABA Tax Section Accepting Nominations for 2015-2017 Public Service Fellowships


ABA Tax Section (2014)The ABA Tax Section is accepting applications for Public Service Fellowships for 2015-2017:

The Christine A. Brunswick Public Service Fellowships provide salaries and benefits, as well as law school debt assistance, by means of charitable contributions to the sponsoring organizations to fellows selected. The Section plans to award two fellowships each year.

Applications must be received by November 14, 2014, to be considered. Interviews will be conducted during the Section’s Midyear Meeting in Houston on January 29-31, 2015. The Section will cover the cost of travel and accommodations for applicants selected for interviews.

To apply for the ABA Tax Section Public Service Fellowships, please click here.

The 2014-2016 Christine A. Brunswick Public Service Fellowship class:

September 8, 2014 in ABA Tax Section, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)