TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron
Pepperdine University School of Law

Friday, August 26, 2016

Weekly SSRN Tax Roundup 2.0

SSRN LogoNote from Paul Caron:  As I explained on August 1, due to my growing other commitments, I have taken steps to reduce the amount of time I devote to TaxProf Blog. Six weeks ago, I stopped doing the weekly tax, legal education, SSRN, and student tax note roundups. I previously announced that Scott Fruehwald of our sister Legal Skills Prof Blog has agreed to take over the weekly legal education roundup. Today, I am pleased to announce that David Gamage (UC-Berkeley), Ari Glogower (Ohio State), and Daniel Hemel (Chicago) have agreed to share responsibility for the weekly SSRN tax roundup:

In addition to a list of newly posted papers, we’ll also include a write-up about at least one of the week’s additions. A quick administrative note: The best way to make sure we see your paper is to use the JEL code K34 (Tax Law) when you upload to SSRN. (If your reaction is “what’s a JEL code?”, check out  Lea-Rachel Kosnik’s overview. And for a fascinating read on the tangled history of JEL codes, see Beatrice Cherrier’s article.)

If you would like to take over the weekly tax roundup as a service to the tax community, either alone or as part of a group of co-editors, please let me know.

This week, Daniel Hemel highlights a new paper by David Hasen (Colorado), Accretion-Based Progressive Wealth Taxation, which is forthcoming in the Florida Tax Review:

HemelDavid Hasen's excellent article emphasizes the distinction between an “excise tax,” which “applies to or is triggered by a transfer or other event,” and an “accretion tax,” which “appl[ies] to the ‘same’ item over time.” Examples of “excise taxes” include consumption taxes, realization-based income taxes, and estate and gift taxes. Examples of “accretion taxes” include real property taxes, mark-to-market income taxes, and periodic wealth taxes. Hasen argues that “a federal accretion-type, progressive wealth tax would appropriately supplement either an income tax or a consumption tax and would do so more effectively than our existing excise wealth tax regime, the federal estate and gift tax.” In the following post, I'll walk through (parts of) Hasen's argument and then explain why I'm not entirely persuaded that an accretion-type wealth tax is the way to go.

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August 26, 2016 in Scholarship, Tax, Weekly SSRN Roundup | Permalink | Comments (0)

What Is The Authority Of A Tax Opinion Written By A Judge Under IRS Audit Who Later Was Indicted For Tax Fraud?

TCGFollowing up on my previous post, Retired U.S. Tax Court Judge Indicted For Tax Evasion While She Sat On The Court:  Tax Controversy 360, Taxpayer Argues First Circuit Should Not Follow Tax Court Decision by Judge Indicted for Tax Fraud:

On August 15, 2016, the taxpayer in Santander Holdings USA filed its brief to the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in its case involving what the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has labeled a “foreign tax credit generator” transaction. The taxpayer prevailed at the district court level and the IRS appealed that decision, arguing that the lower court’s opinion was contrary to existing precedent in the Tax Court and other appellate courts. Much has been written about these cases and the issue presented, but this post focuses on an interesting argument raised by the taxpayer regarding the weight to be afforded to a prior Tax Court opinion.

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August 26, 2016 in IRS News, New Cases, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Ayres & McGuire:  Using The False Claims Act To Remedy Tax Expenditure Fraud

Ian Ayres (Yale) & Robert A. McGuire III, Using the False Claims Act to Remedy Tax Expenditure Fraud:

The federal False Claims Act (FCA) might be used to combat fraudulent claims regarding tax expenditures. The FCA has been used to protect the public fisc by imposing liability upon anyone who makes a false or fraudulent claim relating to an expenditure of federal funds. A substantial share of government spending is implemented through tax credits and deductions granted to individuals and entities for taking particular actions promoted through the Tax Code. Government funds dedicated to such tax incentives — so-called “tax expenditures” — are themselves potentially subject to false claims — for example, when a borrower makes a false representation that a mortgage relates to a principle or second residence in order to claim a home mortgage interest deduction. This article explores how the FCA as currently enacted might be invoked to combat fraud that targets tax expenditures, as well as doctrinal counter-arguments to such application.

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August 26, 2016 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 25, 2016

First Circuit: Puerto Rico's Special 100% Tax Imposed Only On Wal-Mart Is Unconstitutional

Walmart Logo (2013)Reuters, Puerto Rico Cannot Enforce a Wal-Mart Tax: U.S. Appeals Court:

A U.S. appeals court on Wednesday said cash-strapped Puerto Rico cannot force Wal-Mart's  affiliate on the island to pay a special corporate tax that the retailer claimed was discriminatory and violated the U.S. Constitution.

The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston upheld a lower court order blocking Puerto Rico from imposing its alternative minimum tax against Wal-Mart Puerto Rico Inc. [Wal-Mart Puerto Rico, Inc. v. Zaragoza-Gomez, No. 16-1370 (1st Cir. 2016)]

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August 25, 2016 in New Cases, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

More On Donald Trump's Tax Returns

House Republican To Unveil Sales Tax Plan for Purchases Across State Lines

Wall Street Journal, Key House Republican to Unveil Sales Tax Plan for Purchases Across State Lines:

A top House Republican will release a new proposal in coming days that attempts to resolve the long-running dispute among retailers, state governments and online retailers over how to tax purchases made across state lines.

The discussion draft from House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R., Va.) would introduce a new legal framework for cross-border sales, largely replacing the current system that relies on whether a seller has a physical presence in a state.

Instead, sales would be taxed according to the tax base of the retailer and a single tax rate chosen by the consumer’s state, a Judiciary Committee aide said. So, for example, an Ohio company shipping a pair of pants to Maryland would use Ohio’s rules for taxing clothing and Maryland’s tax rate. Currently, that seller only collects

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August 25, 2016 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Clinton, Trump, Taxes, And Silicon Valley

Silicon ValleyBloomberg: Trump’s Offshore Tax-Cut Pitch Falls Flat in Silicon Valley, by Lynnley Browning:

Republican Donald Trump is proposing a big tax cut for companies like Apple Inc., which would see its tax rate slashed on about $200 billion of profit it keeps offshore. Yet Apple’s boss is co-hosting a fundraiser on Wednesday for Trump’s Democratic opponent for the White House.

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August 25, 2016 in Political News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

WSJ:  The Joy Of Working At 4:00 A.M.

4 amWall Street Journal, Why 4 A.M. Is the Most Productive Hour:

Most people who wake up at 4 a.m. do it because they have to—farmers, flight attendants, currency traders and postal workers. Others rise before dawn because they want to.

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August 25, 2016 in Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (6)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1204

IRS Logo 2New York Post editorial, A Liberal Legal Icon Condemns the IRS’ Abuses:

One of the leading liberal lights of American law now says the “IRS is engaged in unconstitutional discrimination against conservative groups and must be halted.”

To be clear, Harvard prof Laurence Tribe is a convert: Early in the week, he sent out a tweet dismissing the idea of an IRS scandal as long-debunked.

But, as the Cato Institute’s Walter Olson noted at Overlawyered, for once social media actually shed light on a dispute: Others asked Tribe to read this month’s DC Circuit Court of Appeals ruling against the IRS in the case — and he did.

That unanimous decision, reinstating lawsuits against the IRS for its targeting of righty groups, noted that there’s “little factual dispute” about the targeting and the “unequal treatment” of conservatives. More, it’s “plain . . . the IRS cannot defend its discriminatory conduct on the merits.”

Tribe read that, plus a key Inspector General report, and tweeted, “I confess error [with regard to] IRS ideological targeting. The IG report and the [DC Circuit] decision seems right to me. Inexcusable abuse.”

If a liberal icon can see the serious abuse, there’s hope for the House drive to impeach IRS chief John Koskinen for his scorched-earth defense of the cancer in his agency.

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August 25, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Hemel And Maynard Push Boundaries Of Equity In Ohio State Tax Workshops

HMStephanie Hoffer (Ohio State), Hemel and Maynard Push Boundaries of Equity in Recent Workshops:

As part of its summer workshop series, Ohio State’s Moritz College of Law invites junior scholars to present works-in-progress.  This summer, we had the pleasure of hosting both Daniel Hemel, an assistant professor at the University of Chicago Law School and Goldburn Maynard, an assistant professor at the University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law.  Both junior tax scholars are challenging the ways in which tax policy makers think about equity in the context of distributive justice.

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August 24, 2016 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Treasury Department White Paper:  The European Commission And Transfer Pricing

Treasury Department (2016)U.S. Department of the Treasury White Paper, The European Commission's Recent State Aid Investigations of Transfer Pricing Rulings (Aug. 24, 2016):

The U.S. Department of the Treasury (“U.S. Treasury Department”) shares the European Commission’s (“Commission”) concern with tax avoidance by multinational firms. The international community, including the European Union (“EU”) and its Member States, has long recognized the need to address this issue multilaterally. For more than two decades, the U.S. Treasury Department has worked closely as part of the international community to achieve a collective solution to this global problem.

Beginning in June 2014, the Commission announced that certain transfer pricing rulings given by Member States to particular taxpayers may have violated the EU’s restriction on State aid. These investigations, if continued, have considerable implications for the United States— for the U.S. government directly and for U.S. companies—in the form of potential lost tax revenue and increased barriers to cross-border investment. Critically, these investigations also undermine the multilateral progress made towards reducing tax avoidance.

In light of these consequences, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Jacob J. Lew sent a letter on February 11, 2016, to Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker describing the U.S. Treasury Department’s principal concerns with the Commission’s recent State aid investigations. This White Paper provides additional detail regarding Secretary Lew’s concerns, focusing primarily on the following issues:

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August 24, 2016 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Congressional Staffer Charged With Failure To File Tax Returns On $170,000 Salary For Five Years

DOJ Logo (2016)Department of Justice Press Release, Congressional Staffer Charged with Failure to File Tax Returns for Five Years:

A congressional staffer was charged yesterday with five counts of willfully failing to file a tax return, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Caroline D. Ciraolo, head of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and U.S. Attorney Dana J. Boente for the Eastern District of Virginia.

According to the criminal information and affidavit, Isaac Lanier Avant of Arlington, Virginia, is a staff member employed by the U.S. House of Representatives since approximately 2002. For tax years 2009 through 2013, Avant earned annual wages of over $170,000, but did not timely file a personal income tax return for any of those years. In May 2005, Avant filed a form with his employer that falsely claimed he was exempt from federal income taxes. Avant did not have any federal tax withheld from his paycheck until the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) mandated that his employer begin withholding in January 2013.

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August 24, 2016 in Congressional News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (7)

Sturgeon:  Doing Law School (And Life) In Lane 8

Lane 8Starting to Look Up:  Life in the Outside Lane, by Al Sturgeon (Pepperdine):

Anyone with track and field experience knows that the 400 meters is a brutal, gut-wrenching, death sprint, and those same people know that the absolute worst draw is the outside lane, that lonely place where the only sounds one hears after the starter’s gunfire are screaming lungs and the invisible footsteps of your competitors—invisible until that terrible moment when they enter your peripheral vision stage left and you realize all is lost.

Which is why South African Wayde Van Niekirk’s world record in the Rio Olympics is so remarkable: his shocking destruction of the seventeen-year-old record occurred in lane eight.  Afterward, ESPN.com quoted the new world-record holder as saying, “I was running blind all the way . . . and it gave me motivation to keep on pushing.”

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August 24, 2016 in Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Clinton’s Punitive ‘Exit Tax’: 'Banana Republic Economics'

Wall Street Journal editorial, Clinton’s Punitive ‘Exit Tax’:

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are having a tax debate of sorts, with the Democrat wheeling out the familiar class-warfare artillery. Mr. Trump hasn’t replied on the specifics, but the irony is that his reform would solve the problem that Mrs. Clinton claims to be angry about—namely, the wave of American companies fleeing for foreign tax climes.

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August 24, 2016 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1203

IRS Logo 2CDN, Trump Wants to ‘True the Vote’:

[S]tanding up for electoral integrity can get you noticed—in a bad way.

“My life before I spoke out for good government stands in stark contrast to the life I now lead,” says Catherine Engelbrecht, founder of the anti-voter fraud organization True the Vote.

In her 2014 testimony before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, she said:

“Shortly after filing IRS forms to establish 501 (c)(3) and 501 (c)(4), an assortment of federal entities including law enforcement agencies and a Congressman from Maryland [Democrat], Elijah Cummings came knocking at my door … my private businesses, my nonprofit organizations, and family have been subjected to more than 15 instances of audit or inquiry by federal agencies.”

Representative Cummings vehemently denied Engelbrecht’s charge, but subpoenaed emails from former IRS Exempt Organizations Director Lois Lerner showed that he and his staff did ask Lerner to give True the Vote extra special attention.

Lerner, like Clinton, never faced charges for mishandling sensitive information. Although ethics charges were filed against Cummings for “weaponizing government” on behalf of his party, nothing ever came of them.

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August 24, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Marty McMahon Named Director Of Florida Graduate Tax Program; Florida To Hire Three New Tax Faculty

McMahonUniversity of Florida Levin College of Law Names Martin J. McMahon as Director of the Graduate Tax Program:

The University of Florida Levin College of Law has announced that Martin J. McMahon, the James J. Freeland Eminent Scholar in Taxation has been appointed to succeed Michael K. Friel as Director of the Graduate Tax Program. Professor Friel stepped down as Director of the Director of the Graduate Tax Program when he retired at the end of the 2016-2017 academic year after serving as the Director for more than 25 years. Emeritus Professor Friel will continue to teach in the Graduate Tax Program as an adjunct professor, as have Lawrence Lokken, Emeritus Hugh Culverhouse Eminent Scholar in Taxation and Emeritus Professors David Hudson and Patricia Dilley. Professor McMahon has been a member of the faculty of the UF Graduate Tax Program since 1997.

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August 23, 2016 in Legal Education, Tax, Tax Prof Jobs, Tax Prof Moves | Permalink | Comments (3)

Clinton Proposes Small Business Standard Tax Deduction

Hillary Logo (2016)Factsheet, Hillary Clinton Will Make Life Easier for Small Business at Every Step of the Way:

Work to create a new standard deduction for small businesses—like the one available to individual filers. This proposal will vastly simplify filing for small businesses and entrepreneurs—whether they’re running a business out of their own home, managing a shop on Main Street, or selling online through platforms like Etsy and eBay. Rather than having to track and file forms documenting their overhead costs—potentially including transportation, computer and phone use, maintaining an office, and more—a small business would be offered the option of taking a single, simple deduction. Hillary will ask her Treasury Department to bring together small business owners and leading experts to design this new standard deduction, including its limits and parameters, which existing expenses could voluntarily be replaced, and measures to prevent gaming and abuse—all to advance the goal of making it far easier for small businesses to file their taxes. This proposal would be focused on true small businesses, with restrictions preventing larger businesses or high-income taxpayers from claiming it. Small businesses could still opt to track and deduct their expenses individually, just like individual filers.

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August 23, 2016 in Political News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Republican Congressional Tax Writers Oppose Proposed Debt-Equity Regs

IRS Launches Sharing Economy Website For Airbnb Hosts, Uber Drivers

AUIRS, Sharing Economy Tax Center:

If you use one of the many online platforms available to rent a spare bedroom, provide car rides, or to connect and provide a number of other goods or services, you’re involved in what is sometimes called the sharing economy.

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August 23, 2016 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1202

IRS Logo 2Roll Call, Freedom Caucus' Jordan Eyes Another Push to Oust IRS Chief:

Rep. Jim Jordan and other conservatives are reviving efforts to press the House to impeach IRS Commissioner John Koskinen as the embattled agency head tries to woo Democrats and undecided Republicans.

The Ohio Republican, chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, said in an interview that he and other allies were weighing the use of procedural tactics similar to the July bid by Louisiana GOP Rep. John Fleming to bring up an impeachment resolution as a privileged measure bypassing committee consideration. The measure calls for formal impeachment of Koskinen for misstatements and a failure to cooperate with a House investigation of the IRS' handling of tax-exempt status requests from conservative groups.

Congress didn't act on the measure before it left for a seven-week recess. And because the House did not take it up within two legislative days, Fleming would have to offer another one after Labor Day.

"We may have to bring that up again. We'll see," Jordan said. He said members of the Freedom Caucus and other conservatives would keep the pressure on Speaker Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin and others in leadership to take action when Congress returns after Labor Day.

"We are committed to holding John Koskinen and the IRS accountable for what took place there. So, we can do that in a formal way, which is through hearings … and vote it out of the Judiciary Committee and move that direction, or we can look at going to the floor," Jordan said.

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August 23, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, August 22, 2016

What Is Amazon’s Core Tech Worth? Depends On Which Taxman Asks

Amazon logoBloomberg: What Is Amazon’s Core Tech Worth? Depends on Which Taxman Asks, by Gaspard Sebag & David Kocieniewski:

Jeff Bezos’s relentless focus on user experience has helped him make Amazon the most valuable e-commerce company in the world. But regulators in Europe and the U.S. say that the value Amazon places on the technology behind that experience varies radically depending on which side of the Atlantic it’s on—and which appraisal will lower its tax bill.

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August 22, 2016 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

WSJ:  Republicans Take New Tack On Taxing Companies’ Overseas Profits

Wall Street Journal, Republicans Take New Tack on Taxing Companies’ Overseas Profits:

President Ronald Reagan once chided government’s approach to the economy as following this mantra: “If it moves, tax it.”

Today’s Republicans are following Mr. Reagan’s ideas by trying the exact opposite approach. The tax plans from House Republicans and presidential candidate Donald Trump stop aiming at the moving target of U.S. companies’ foreign profits. Their plans would alter existing rules so thoroughly that companies would get little advantage from cross-border tax maneuvers they perfected over decades and move the U.S. toward taxing immobile parts of the economy.

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August 22, 2016 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

U.S. Corporate Tax Rate Is Third Highest In World Among 173 Countries, Behind Only Chad, United Arab Emirates

Tax Foundation logoTax Foundation, Corporate Income Tax Rates around the World, 2015:

It is well known that the United States has the highest corporate income tax rate among the 34 industrialized nations of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). However, it is less well known how the United States stacks up against countries throughout the entire world. Expanding the sample of countries and tax jurisdictions to 173, the U.S.’s corporate tax rate of 39 percent is the third highest in the world, tied with Puerto Rico and lower only than the United Arab Emirates and Chad, which have rates of 55 and 40 percent, respectively. The U.S. tax rate is 16 percentage points higher than the worldwide average of 22.8 percent and a little more than 9 percentage points higher than the worldwide GDP-weighted average of 29.8 percent. As with the average tax rate among industrialized nations, the average worldwide tax rate has been declining in the past ten years, pushing the United States farther from the norm. This worldwide decline in corporate tax rates can been seen in all regions of the world.

Table 1

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August 22, 2016 in Tax, Think Tank Reports | Permalink | Comments (3)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1201: Larry Tribe Says 'IRS Is Engaged In Unconstitutional Discrimination Against Conservative Groups And Must Be Halted'—'Inexcusable Abuse'

IRS Logo 2Overlawrered: Tweet of the Day: Laurence Tribe on IRS Ideological Targeting, by Walter Olson:

Yesterday Harvard law professor Larry Tribe sent out a tweet brusquely dismissing the IRS targeting episode as a debunked non-scandal. I and others promptly took issue with him, and pointed him toward the August 5 D.C. Circuit opinion laying out the scandal’s genuineness. (I also referenced my Ricochet article summarizing the decision and citing the Inspector General report from Treasury.)

Within an hour or two Prof. Tribe sent this tweet very graciously conceding error, along with several similar.

Tribe

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August 22, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (11)

TaxProf Blog Weekend Roundup

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Clinton, Trump Tax Plan News

The Top 5 Tax Paper Downloads

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

  1. [439 Downloads]  Dark Pools, High-Frequency Trading, and the Financial Transaction Tax: A Solution or Complication?, by Doron Narotzki (Akron)
  2. [315 Downloads]  The True Economic Effects of Corporate Inversions, by Doron Narotzki (Akron)
  3. [246 Downloads]  Property Is Another Name for Monopoly Facilitating Efficient Bargaining with Partial Common Ownership of Spectrum, Corporations, and Land, by Eric A. Posner (Chicago) & E. Glen Weyl (Yale)
  4. [228 Downloads]  The Trojan Horse of Corporate Integration, by Edward D. Kleinbard (USC)
  5. [218 Downloads]  Executive Pay: What Worked? , by Steven A. Bank (UCLA), Brian R. Cheffins (Cambridge) & Harwell Wells (Temple)

August 21, 2016 in Scholarship, Tax, Top 5 Downloads | Permalink | Comments (0)

What 'Hamilton' Teaches Lawyers About Telling Our Story

HamiltonABA Journal: What 'Hamilton' Teaches Lawyers About Framing a Story, by Philip N. Meyer (Vermont):

Hamilton is a smash. We all know the story by now. Lin-Manuel Miranda recasts Ron Chernow’s life of Alexander Hamilton as a rap musical tipping the white elitist world of the founders upside down, reinventing the story with a freakishly compelling score and a superb cast of beautiful and talented multi-ethnic actors and actresses. We embrace Miranda’s adaptation because, despite the “tragic” ending, the story is basically an affirmative story wedded to a reimagined version of American history fitting our own time—a narrative that speaks to our best vision of ourselves. Miranda’s Hamilton is the outsider’s assimilationist story, a genius-immigrant’s heroic self-reinvention—as someone with the artistic ability to employ and transform words into the currency of ideas and ideals rising on the meritocratic intellectual and social landscape of the new America. Hamilton’s ascendency, like his hubristic downfall, occurs at the precise historical moment when the country was freeing itself and reinventing itself too.

Miranda’s own genius, and what lawyers can most learn from him, is in his fearless adaptations.

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August 21, 2016 in Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1200

IRS Logo 2Canada Free Press, Judicial Watch: IRS Buried Conservative Groups’ Tax-Exempt Applications:

Judicial Watch released more FBI documents demonstrating that the Obama administration deliberately slow-rolled the tax-exempt status applications filed by Tea Party and conservative groups, Truth Revolt reports.

From the start of 2010 and “lasting through the Obama reelection campaign in 2012, the IRS orchestrated a deliberate policy of burying conservative groups’ tax exemption applications in bureaucratic delays,” the watchdog group said.

Group 7822 was a place where applications were sent to gather dust.

Whenever Cincinnati IRS employees took in applications from right-leaning groups,  they were “automatically denied approval and assigned to a special ‘Group 7822’ for an extended ‘inventory’ process while waiting for decisions from IRS headquarters in Washington, DC.”

IRS employees were instructed to delay conservative and Tea Party applications until after President Obama was safely reelected in November 2012. “The strategy relied upon the IRS’ multi-tier “bucketing” system that determined from the time an application was received whether it would be quickly approved or indefinitely delayed,” the Judicial Watch report states.

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August 21, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (5)

Saturday, August 20, 2016

This Week's Ten Most Popular TaxProf Blog Posts

Pass-Through Income And The Top 1%

The IRS Scandal, Day 1199

IRS Logo 2Salt Lake City Tribune, Chaffetz Wants to Topple America’s Top Taxman, But Are His Motives Pure?:

The Salt Lake Tribune published an editorial recently that scolded Rep. Jason Chaffetz for trying to punish the IRS through the budgeting process because Commissioner John Koskinen won't resign.

The editorial noted that the Utah Republican, by suggesting budget-cutting threats to force Koskinen's hand, could hurt thousands of IRS employees and, by extension, the American people by diminishing the agency's efforts to collect unpaid taxes.

It also called Chaffetz's tactics a form of blackmail to force the commissioner's resignation. Chaffetz asserts that Koskinen should step down because he lied to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which the Utahn heads, about the agency's targeting of conservative groups for audits.

The panel's ranking Democrat, Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, has called Chaffetz's allegations against Koskinen false. And the Utahn's call for impeachment proceedingsagainst the IRS boss — a procedure almost unheard of for an agency head — seems to be going nowhere.

So Chaffetz is urging Koskinen to bow out for the good of the people and the agency. But I suspect a more sinister motive is at play.

The four-term Utah congressman wants to add to his trophy case, much like the hunters who pay guides thousands of dollars to help them gun down exotic animals so they than can mount heads on their walls.

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August 20, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Friday, August 19, 2016

NY Times, WSJ: Race Is On For Valuation Discounts In Family Limited Partnerships Before Effective Date Of New Regulation

DiscountsFollowing up on my previous post, Treasury Issues Proposed Regs To Limit Valuation Discounts For Fractional Interests

New York Times:  Treasury Wants to End Tax Deal for Some Family-Owned Businesses, by Paul Sullivan:

The Treasury Department has moved a step closer to tightening the way family limited partnerships are valued for tax purposes. And the prospect that the tax code could be changed by the end of this year has tax planners pushing their clients to consider stepping up estate and business planning, or risk paying more taxes.

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August 19, 2016 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Call For Participants In Tax Discussion Group: Summer 2017 SEALS Annual Conference

SEALs Logo (2013)From Alyssa DiRusso (Cumberland);

I am in the process of proposing a discussion group for SEALS 2017 to discuss assessment and pedagogy in tax courses. Because this will be a discussion group and not a “panel,” participants are still permitted to join a panel presentation as well. Please let me know if you are tentatively interested in being part of the discussion group for purposes of the proposal. You do not need to be a member of SEALS to participate, so long as at least half of the group consists of members. The annual meeting of the Southeastern Association of Law Schools will be held at The Boca Resort in Boca Raton, Florida, from July 30-August 6. Here is the draft of the discussion group proposal:

Discussion Group: Pedagogy and Assessments in Tax Courses

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August 19, 2016 in Conferences, Tax, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)

Seto:  Thinking In More Nuanced Ways About Income And Wealth Inequality

Jotwell (Tax) (2016)Theodore Seto (Loyola-L.A.), Thinking in More Nuanced Ways About Income and Wealth Inequality (Jotwell) (reviewing Bariş Kaymak (Université de Montréal) & Markus Poschke (McGill University), The Evolution of Wealth Inequality over Half a Century: The Role of Taxes, Transfers and Technology, 77 J. Monetary Econ. 1 (2016)):

In his book Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Thomas Piketty did us the great service of bringing the problems of wealth and income inequality to the fore. In the process, however, he also may have performed a bit of a disservice – making those problems seem simple, a mere function of the inequality r > g, where r is the rate of return to capital and g is the rate of economic growth. The solution, he suggested, was equally simple: a tax on wealth.

Bariş Kaymak and Markus Poschke, in The Evolution of Wealth Inequality over Half a Century: The Role of Taxes, Transfers and Technology, offer a more complex picture. They construct a general equilibrium model of the U.S. economy over the past half-century, incorporating (1) reduced income taxes on top earners (from a 45% effective rate for the top 1% in 1960 to a 33% effective rate in 2004, and from a 71% effective rate for the top 0.1% in 1960 to a 34% effective rate in 2004), (2) expansion of government transfers from 4.1% to 11.9% of GDP over the same period, and (3) higher pre-tax wage inequalities, which they attribute to technological change. (For these purposes, effective rate is defined as income taxes paid as a percentage of taxable income.) The question they ask and attempt to answer is: To what extent were the observed increases in wealth and income inequality over that period attributable to each of these changes or trends? ...

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August 19, 2016 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Pro Publica:  IRS Loophole Rewards Excessive Water Use In Drought-Stricken West

Pro PublicaPro Publica, Gimme a Break! IRS Tax Loophole Can Reward Excessive Water Use in Drought-stricken West:

ProPublica’s reporting on the water crisis in the American West has highlighted any number of confounding contradictions worsening the problem: Farmers are encouraged to waste water so as to protect their legal rights to its dwindling supply in the years ahead; Las Vegas sought to impose restrictions on water use while placing no checks on its explosive population growth; the federal government has encouraged farmers to improve efficiency in watering crops, but continues to subsidize the growing of thirsty crops such as cotton in desert states like Arizona.

Today, we offer another installment in the contradictions amid a crisis.

In parts of the western U.S., wracked by historic drought, you can get a tax break for using an abundance of water.

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August 19, 2016 in Tax, Think Tank Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1198

IRS Logo 2Washington Times, IRS Vows Action on Tea Party Applications Long Held Up by Targeting:

Under pressure from the federal courts, the IRS did an abrupt about-face this week and said it will finally begin processing some of the tea party applications it has blocked for years — but the agency still refuses to say what the new process will be.

The Texas Patriots Tea Party, which first applied for tax-exempt status more than four years ago and has been blocked ever since, received a notice from the Justice Department on Tuesday saying it is finally going to see some action.

But the department’s attorney, Joseph A. Sergi, said he didn’t have any more details to provide, leaving it unclear whether the agency will move quickly, what sorts of standards it will impose and whether it will require another round of questions for the groups to answer.

“The IRS has decided that it will process the applications of plaintiffs whose applications remain outstanding, including the application for We the People of Texas (Texas Patriots Tea Party). We will be in further contact regarding the application process once we have heard from the IRS,” Mr. Sergi said in a brief note to the tea party group’s attorney.

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August 19, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, August 18, 2016

NY Times:  Hillary Clinton Twists The Knife In Donald Trump’s Tax Proposals

Hillary Trump (2016)New York Times, Hillary Clinton Twists the Knife in Donald Trump’s Tax Proposals:

Hillary Clinton leaned into her plans to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans on Wednesday, denouncing Donald J. Trump’s tax proposals as a boondoggle for billionaires.

“We’re going to tax the wealthy who have made all of the income gains in the last 15 years,” Mrs. Clinton told a crowd in Cleveland. “The superwealthy, corporations, Wall Street,” she declared emphatically, “they’re going to have to invest in education, in skills training, in infrastructure.”

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August 18, 2016 in Political News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Galle:  The Law Review Submission Process—A Guide For The Perplexed

Brian Galle (Georgetown), The Law Review Submission Process: A Guide for (and by) the Perplexed:

No one really understands the law review publication process. I certainly don’t. But I do have opinions. Some of them are even informed by data. ... So let’s answer some questions.

The Basics
Q: Since you brought it up, when exactly is the best time to submit?
Q: Sure. First, when do journals actually consider submissions?
Q: It seems like the fall season is kind of short
Q: So how can I tell when the particular journal I want to submit to is open?
Q: Well, is there any downside to submitting too early?
Q: Let’s back up. What are these Expresso and Scholastica thingies?

Strategy: Timing and Expedites
Q: How do I decide which journals to submit to, and when?
Q: Ok. Can you explain what expedited review is?
Q: Does requesting expedited review affect my chances of getting an offer at another journal?
Q: So I don’t necessarily want to request expedited review at Yale after my offer at the Poughkeepsie Journal of Bridge Law?
Q: It sounds like that could take a while. What happens if time runs out on my existing offer before I get any other offers?
Q: What if I just go radio silent for an extra day or two?
Q: Can I pile up offers just to extend my deadline?
Q: Should I expect to hear back from the journals where I request expedited review?
Q: So, I had a deadline from Journal X on Sunday. Journal Y claimed they would reach a decision by Sunday. It’s Sunday night and I’ve heard nothing from Journal Y. What should I do?
Q: A journal told me that they would do a “board review” two days after my deadline expires. Should I turn down the offer in hand?
Q: Should I submit to all the journals at once, or in stages?

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August 18, 2016 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

'Byzantine Tax Tactics' May Shield Gawker's Assets From Hulk Hogan's $140 Million Judgment

Fortune, Can Tech’s Tattle Tycoon Trump Thiel?:

A Fortune investigation into Gawker Media’s finances reveals that though [founder Nick] Denton is down, he is not out. As the company’s websites assailed tech giants like Alphabet, Apple, and Facebook for byzantine schemes meant to reduce their tax burden, Gawker Media quietly played the same game. Our investigation reveals that Denton is as much a creature of the tech industry as he is a critic—and that Gawker’s slippery but legal tactics may, in the end, help Denton survive Thiel’s crusade with funds to spare.

Gawker

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August 18, 2016 in Celebrity Tax Lore, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

IRS Migration Data: Taxpayers Leave NY, IL & CA For TX, FL & SC

California GoodbyeFollowing up on my previous post, Skyrocketing Housing Costs, 'Endless' Taxes Prompt Exodus Of Californians; Inequality Worsens As Middle Class Jobs Are 'Vaporized':  Breitbart, California’s Top Export Continues to Be Its Middle Class:

In the latest update by the IRS for the period of 2013 to 2014, California exported a net 57,900 citizens, whose average incomes were $7,100 higher than the state’s average.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) just released its July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014 migration data, which “approximates the number of individuals” who moved between states in the U.S.

California was the third largest net exporter of citizens behind Illinois (82,000) and New York (126,800). ...

Texas had the highest net domestic migration in the 2013 to 2014 period, with 229,300. Florida was ranked second in net domestic migration, with 114,400 — which was nearly 4 times as large as third ranking South Carolina (30,100). Colorado followed closely, at 29,500 net domestic migrants, with Washington placing fifth with 27,000.

New Geography, Still Migrating to Texas and Florida: 2013-2014 IRS Data:

The states with the largest net domestic migration losses are no surprise. New York, which has led net domestic out-migration in most recent years, did so again, with the loss of 126,800. Illinois lost the second greatest number of domestic migrants at 82,000. California ranked third, with a loss of 57,900.

Chart 2

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August 18, 2016 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (5)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1197

IRS Logo 2Forbes: Prediction: Clinton Foundation Will Pass IRS Investigation Just Fine, by Robert W. Wood:

After considerable prodding, the IRS has said—seemingly begrudgingly—that it is looking into the Clinton Foundation. Even before the latest email revelations, Republicans have criticized the Foundation and the unparalleled access they say donors have had to government policymakers. The unsavory “pay to play” label has often been used to describe the Foundation headed by a former President and Secretary of State. House Republicans formally asked the IRS to review whether the Clinton Foundation is complying with the rules governing its tax-exempt status.

More recently, Judicial Watch released a new batch of State Department emails showing close and sometimes overlapping interests between the Clinton Foundation and the State Department while Hillary Clinton served as Secretary of State. The documents raise new questions about whether the Clinton Foundation ever rewarded donors with access and influence at the State Department. It is a charge Mrs. Clinton has faced in the past, and has always denied. Judicial Watch President Tom Filton said in a press release that Clinton “hid” the emails on purpose. ...

The newly released emails give new impetus to Republican requests to audit the Clinton Foundation. IRS Commissioner Koskinen wrote that the IRS was looking into it. Mr. Koskinen is the same IRS official Republicans have been trying to impeach over the IRS targeting scandal. Mr. Koskinen denies any wrongdoing. As discussed here, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), lead the push for the IRS to investigate. One of the complaints dates to the Peter Schweizer book, “Clinton Cash.” It says that Hillary’s State Department funneled at least $55 million to Laureate Education Inc. Laureate donated between $1 million and $5 million to the Clinton Foundation. ...

[I]t seems hard to imagine that this Foundation will face serious scrutiny. Even if there is official criticism, it will surely come post-election. Some questions relate to pay to play donations said to facilitate access to Mrs. Clinton. Moreover, there have long been complaints that the Clintons have not defined how they decide to designate speaking fees as their own income or as assigned to the Foundation. The tax system generally does not allow that kind of choice without tax consequences. In any event, the part of the IRS investigating the Clinton Foundation is the Exempt Organizations Division, the unit formerly run by Lois Lerner. She took the Fifth, retired and faced no charges over the targeting of conservative organizations.

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August 18, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (5)

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Akron Law Review Publishes Annual Tax Issue

South Dakota Seeks To Hire A Tax Clinic Director

South Dakota Law School LogoThe University of South Dakota School of Law invites applications for the position of Low Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC) Director:

The position is non-tenure track and paid out of a federal grant beginning no later than January 2017. Continued employment is contingent on availability of grant funding.

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August 17, 2016 in Legal Education, Tax, Tax Prof Jobs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Federal Taxes Are Very Progressive

Tax Vox: Federal Taxes Are Very Progressive, by Robertson Williams:

The US federal tax system is highly progressive, primarily because individual income tax rates rise sharply with income and refundable tax credits lead to negative income taxes for households with low income. Updated estimates from the Tax Policy Center project that effective federal tax rates this year will range from 3.5 percent for households in the lowest-income quintile (or fifth) to 33.0 percent for those in the top 1 percent.

The effective federal tax rate for all households—including individual and corporate income taxes, payroll taxes, excise taxes, and estate and gift taxes—will average 19.9 percent in 2016. Individual income taxes will account for half of total revenue (9.9 percent of income) and payroll taxes will provide just over a third (6.9 percent of income). Most of the rest will come from corporate income taxes (2.1 percent of income) with just 5 percent coming from excise and estate and gift taxes (a combined 1 percent of income).

Vox

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August 17, 2016 in Tax, Think Tank Reports | Permalink | Comments (6)

Student Loan Derivatives:  Improving On Income-Based Approaches To Financing Law School

Benjamin M. Leff (American) & Heather Hughes (American), Student Loan Derivatives: Improving on Income-Based Approaches to Financing Law School, 61 Vill. L. Rev. 99 (2016):

Despite extensive public discussion of the high cost of legal education and student debt levels, too few critics show creativity in thinking about the optimal mechanism for funding a legal education. This Article proposes — and explores the legal and practical implications of — a new model of law-school financing called an income-based repayment swap (“IBR Swap”). The IBR Swap is a student loan derivative: a novel idea that improves upon existing income-share contracts. Under an IBR Swap, students still borrow money from a bank or the government to pay for their legal educations. But students then enter into contracts with a financial institution under which the institution agrees to make the students’ loan payments and the students agree to pay the institution a percentage of income. An IBR Swap is a student’s exchange of a fixed obligation to lenders for an income-based obligation to a financial institution. The parties exchange no money upfront, which distinguishes this form of transaction from existing income-share and “human capital” contracts that face barriers to enforcement.

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August 17, 2016 in Legal Education, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1196

IRS Logo 2Breitbart, ‘The Intimidation Game’: IRS Scandal Looms over Next Administration:

In June, Hillary Clinton warned that Donald Trump was a would-be dictator who could not be trusted with the powers of the presidency. “Imagine if he had not just Twitter and cable news to go after his critics and opponents, but also the IRS, or for that matter our entire military,” she said. “Given what we have seen and heard, do any of us think he’d be restrained?”

How ironic, given that she served in the Obama administration while it abused the powers of the IRS to target conservative groups. ...

Hillary can be expected to pass some version of the DISCLOSE Act, a Democratic Party initiative to flush out the political views of federal contractors, and could revive proposed IRS regulations that would effectively legalize the targeting that was done in the IRS scandal.

Trump has been combative with the press, but there is nothing to suggest that he would pursue, or sanction, the kinds of abuse that Hillary Clinton and her party have been eager to encourage in the recent past. In fact, only a Trump presidency holds out the possibility of bringing the perpetrators of the IRS scandal to justice. In contrast, a Clinton win could see a renewed effort to target conservatives for the “crime” of dissent.

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August 17, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Clinton v. Trump: What Happens To Your Income Taxes?

Hillary Trump (2016)David Cay Johnston, Clinton vs. Trump: What Happens to Your Income Taxes?:

Let’s look at a few of the more curious aspects of the Clinton and Trump plans for individual income tax now that both candidates have put out reasonably comprehensive proposals they promise to take to Congress next year. The bottom line: Clinton and Trump both offer conventional, predictable and minimally significant changes, not reform. ...

The reality is that Congress, not presidents, sets tax rules and rates. The proposals by Clinton and Trump – while quite different – are just tinkering around the edges and vote-seeking, not real reform of a system that has become so complex, burdensome and capricious in how it treats taxpayers with the same income that no politicians defend the system as it exists.

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August 16, 2016 in Political News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (4)

Kleinbard:  The Trojan Horse Of Corporate Integration

Edward D. Kleinbard (USC), The Trojan Horse of Corporate Integration, 152 Tax Notes 957 (Aug. 15, 2016):

The U.S. Senate Finance Committee has invested significant resources, including hearings and staff reports, to make the case for an unusual form of corporate dividend integration – a corporate dividends-paid deduction, combined with a universal shareholder dividend withholding tax collected from the firm. This proposal would not reduce the cash tax outlays of U.S. corporations in respect of distributed or retained earnings. It would not reduce the aggregate tax burdens imposed on most shareholders, and in many plausible circumstances would raise those tax costs. It is a poorly targeted response to design weaknesses in the U.S. international corporate tax system. Its efficiency gains are undeveloped and largely overstated.

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August 16, 2016 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Taxation And The Allocation Of Talent

Benjamin B. Lockwood (Pennsylvania), Charles Nathanson (Northwestern) & E. Glen Weyl (Yale), Taxation and the Allocation of Talent (supplemental appendix):

Taxation affects the allocation of talented individuals across professions by blunting material incentives and thus magnifying non-pecuniary incentives of pursuing a “calling.” Estimates from the literature suggest high-paying professions have negative externalities, whereas low-paying professions have positive externalities. A calibrated model therefore prescribes negative marginal tax rates on middle-class incomes and positive rates on the rich. The welfare gains from implementing such a policy are small and are dwarfed by the gains from profession-specific taxes and subsidies. These results depend crucially on externality estimates and labor-substitution patterns across professions, both of which are very uncertain given existing empirical evidence.

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August 16, 2016 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)