TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron
Pepperdine University School of Law

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Morse:  Safe Harbors, Sure Shipwrecks

Safe HarborSusan C. Morse (Texas), Safe Harbors, Sure Shipwrecks, 49 U.C. Davis L. Rev. 1385 (2016):

In law, a safe harbor describes behavior that will not be penalized, and leaves other facts that fall outside the safe harbor to be judged case-by-case. A sure shipwreck, as I call it, is the mirror image. It describes behavior that violates the law as a matter of rule, and leaves other conduct to be judged by a standard. Prior literature analyzes rules and standards at length. But it has largely missed safe harbors and sure shipwrecks, even though these hybrids are everywhere in statutory, regulatory and case law.

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

Leff:  Tax Benefits Of Government-Owned Marijuana Stores

CannabisBenjamin M. Leff (American), Tax Benefits of Government-Owned Marijuana Stores, 50 U.C. Davis L. Rev. ___ (2016):

Over a year ago (March 7, 2015), a little store called the Cannabis Corner opened up in the small town of North Bonneville, Washington, about an hour by car from Portland, Oregon. The Cannabis Corner is the first marijuana store to be operated by a “public development authority,” an independent entity created by a state or local government. Public development authorities are generally exempt from federal income taxes under section 115 of the Internal Revenue Code. For a marijuana business, this exemption is especially valuable because section 280E of the Code currently prevents marijuana businesses from deducting many of the ordinary expenses other businesses regularly deduct, resulting in extremely high federal income taxes.

This Article is the first to address whether independent governmental affiliates that sell marijuana are exempt from federal income tax under section 115 of the Internal Revenue Code.

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

Airbnb, Other Peer-To-Peer Companies Pay Out Billions Beneath IRS’s Radar

ShortchangedFollowing up on yesterday's post, The Tax Code Is Out Of Step With Today's On-Demand Platform Economy:  Bloomberg, Airbnb, Others Pay Out Billions Beneath IRS’s Radar, Study Finds:

The IRS has been so slow to adapt to the rapidly emerging peer-to-peer economy that billions of dollars in taxable income a year are probably going unreported every year, according to a study being delivered to Congress this week.

More than 2.5 million Americans earned income via on-demand platforms like Airbnb Inc., Etsy Inc. and Lyft Inc. in 2014, and the companies generated an estimated $15 billion in revenues. But the companies don’t withhold taxes on the income they pay to people who provide services or sell items via their platforms.

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

Duff:  Four Alternatives To The Estate And Gift

David G. Duff (British Columbia), Alternatives to the Gift and Estate Tax, 57 B.C. L. Rev. ___ (2016):

Following the near death experience of the federal gift and estate tax in 2010, the hundredth anniversary of the tax represents an ideal moment to reflect on the role of this tax and whether an alternative approach might be more desirable and sustainable. This Article examines four prominent alternatives to the current tax: an annual wealth tax, taxing unrealized gains at death, including gifts and inheritances in income, and a lifetime accessions tax that would apply to the cumulative value of gifts and inheritances received by individuals over their lifetimes.

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

Trump Eschews Using Voter Analytics In His Campaign, Will Rely Instead On Personality, Rallies To Win Presidency

FiveThirtyEight, Trump’s Scorning Of Data May Not Hurt Him, But It’ll Hurt The GOP:

Big DataData doesn’t win elections; candidates do. Presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump bet on that idea last week when he announced his plan to rely on his personality and rallies in the general election instead of collecting data on voters. Trump has a point: The effect of “big data” and improved analytics on elections is often overhyped. Even David Plouffe — the architect of President Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns, the most data-savvy in history — agreed that Obama’s “data processing machine” was not responsible for his wins.

But Republicans are worried, and for good reason: Trump’s assumption that the sole value of data is to win more votes is too narrow. His decision to limit the role of data probably won’t be the deciding factor in the 2016 election, but data organization and access are an investment in the future of the party. A presidential campaign presents a rare opportunity to cultivate the next generation of talent and collect a ton of new data on voters, and Trump’s refusal to do so means that Republicans may need to wait until 2020 or beyond to even the playing field with Democrats. ...

Democrats now hold a substantial expertise advantage in digital data-driven campaigning, and the GOP admitted as much in their 2012 election post-mortem. John McCain hired only 15 data staffers in 2008, compared with Obama’s 131. To his credit, Mitt Romney increased the number of data hires to 87 in 2012. (Obama had 342). In 2016, Republicans were positioned to build on this effort and narrow the analysis gap between the parties, pivoting off of two consecutive losses into an innovative data strategy — just like in 1964 and 2004.

But Republicans seem set to squander the opportunity. Trump currently employs as few as two staffers dedicated to data, according to reports.

Chart 2

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May 24, 2016 in Political News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

Senate Holds Hearing Today On Debt Versus Equity: Corporate Integration Considerations

Senate LogoThe Senate Finance Committee holds a hearing today on Debt versus Equity: Corporate Integration Considerations:

  • John Buckley (Former Chief Tax Counsel, House Ways & Means Committee)
  • Jody K. Lurie (Vice President, Janney Montgomery Scott (Philadelphia))
  • John McDonald (Partner, Baker & McKenzie (Chicago))
  • Alvin C. Warren, Jr. (Professor, Harvard Law School)

In connection with the hearing, the Joint Committee on Taxation has released Overview Of The Tax Treatment Of Corporate Debt And Equity (JCX-45-16):

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May 24, 2016 in Congressional News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1111

IRS Logo 2The House Judiciary Committee holds a hearing today on Examining the Allegations of Misconduct Against IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, Part I:

At the hearing, members of the House Judiciary Committee will examine the findings of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s investigation of IRS Commissioner Koskinen. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has investigated the targeting of conservative groups for several years and many of the Committee’s members have found that Commissioner Koskinen failed to comply with a congressional subpoena which resulted in destruction of key evidence, made false statements during his sworn congressional testimony, and did not notify Congress that Lois Lerner’s emails were missing.

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May 24, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Monday, May 23, 2016

Hayashi Reviews Marian's The State Administration Of International Tax Avoidance

Jotwell (Tax) (2016)Andrew Hayashi (Virginia), Putting a Face to International Tax Avoidance, JOTWELL (May 20, 2016) (reviewing Omri Marian (UC-Irvine), The State Administration of International Tax Avoidance, 7 Harv. Bus. L. Rev. ___ 2016)):

The world of international tax avoidance is a colorful one. There are the legal structures, with names like the “Double Irish Dutch Sandwich,” the exotic locales, like Bermuda and the Cayman Islands, and the identity crises presented by “hybrid” entities and financial instruments. But rarely does international tax avoidance have a human face and one could be forgiven for getting the impression that falling effective corporate tax rates are as inevitable as water flowing downhill. Corporations, acting in the interests of their shareholders, maximize their after-tax profits. States, acting in the best interests of their residents, set tax policies that are incongruous with the policies of other states. The “bad actors,” if there are any in this story, are corporate aggregates of one sort or another, multinational corporations and tax haven countries.

But the LuxLeaks scandal has given us one human face that stands out from the crowd of aggregates. This is the face of Marius Kohl or “Monsieur Ruling,” the former head of the Luxembourg agency, who gave rulings to taxpayers on the tax treatments of their proposed transactions. In The State Administration of International Tax Avoidance, Omri Marian does a wonderful job of explaining how this one bureaucrat acted to facilitate massive tax avoidance by engaging in “arbitrage manufacturing.” Marian argues that rogue individuals pose an ongoing threat to international tax cooperation. His paper clearly explains how arbitrage can be manufactured, documents how it was done in Luxembourg, and draws from the LuxLeaks episode an important lesson about the need to integrate micro reforms of tax administration into the macro project of international tax harmonization efforts. ...

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May 23, 2016 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Report:  The Tax Code Is Out Of Step With Today's On-Demand Platform Economy

KogodTax Policy Center, Kogod School of Business, American University,  Shortchanged: The Tax Compliance Challenges of Small Business Operators Driving the On-Demand Platform Economy

The last time Congress enacted substantial tax reform—in 1986—only 8.2% of American households owned personal computers. Today, more than 87% of American adults own a mobile phone and on-demand platforms like Uber, Etsy, Lyft, Airbnb, HomeAway, Amazon, and TaskRabbit have become household names by connecting businesses and consumers. Although millions of Americans are engaging in the on-demand platform economy every day as sellers and service providers, the tax compliance challenges this new frontier presents have gone relatively unnoticed. At the same time, these challenges will grow with this fastest growing segment of the labor economy— creating unnecessary and ongoing burdens for the small business operators who power the on-demand economy. 

This report, in keeping with the mission of the Kogod Tax Policy Center to conduct non-partisan research on tax issues specific to small businesses and entrepreneurs, identifies the tax compliance challenges the on-demand economy presents for its small business operators. Having spent more than a year investigating this growing problem, we report that:

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May 23, 2016 in Scholarship, Tax, Think Tank Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

2d Annual Mid-Career Tax Professors Workshop Kicks Off Today At UC-Davis

UC Davis Logo (2016)Panel #1:  Tax Administration

Susie Morse (Texas), Regulating by Example
Commentator: Emily Cauble (DePaul)

Sarah Lawsky (Northwestern), Picturing the Code
Commentator: David Gamage (Berkeley)

Will Foster (Arkansas), Uncoupling Competence
Commentator: Dennis Ventry (UC-Davis)

Panel #2:  International

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May 23, 2016 in Conferences, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Simkovic Presents What Can We Learn from Credit Markets At ALI

ALI Logo (2015)American Law Institute 93rd Annual Meeting:

[On] the last day of the Annual Meeting ... Young Scholar Medal Recipient Michael Simkovic of Seton Hall University School of Law presented What Can We Learn from Credit Markets. He opened with a quote from, Oliver Wendell Holmes from his address entitled The Path of the Law: “For the rational study of the law, the blackletter man may be the man of the present, but the man of the future is the man of statistics and the master of economics”:

My research uses economic analysis to explore how laws affect financial markets and how courts and regulators can use financial information to make legal and policy decisions. ...

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May 23, 2016 in Legal Education, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1110

IRS Logo 2USA Today op-ed:  When Leaders Cheat, Followers ... Follow, by Glenn Reynolds (Tennessee):

The trust that underlies a law-abiding society is rotting away thanks to double-dealing in Washington.

The state is “a gang of thieves writ large,” economist Murray Rothbard is said to have remarked. I’ve always viewed that sort of comment with a bit of skepticism. But now I’m beginning to wonder.

I wonder more when I read things like this report from the Washington Examiner: “The CIA's inspector general is claiming it inadvertently destroyed its only copy of a classified, three-volume Senate report on torture, prompting a leading senator to ask for reassurance that it was in fact ‘an accident.’”

Here’s a hint: It very likely wasn’t.

Is that unfair? I mean, it could have been an accident, right? Yeah it could have been. But it wasn’t. Accidents like that just don’t happen — or, when they do, they’re generally not accidents. And it’s right for people who have custody of evidence to know that any convenient “accidents” will give rise to the presumption that they had something pretty awful to hide, and that they hid it.

But, of course, the CIA’s “accident” was only the latest in a long rash of “accidental” losses of incriminating information in this administration. The IRS — whose Tea Party-targeting scandal is now over 1,100 days old without anyone being charged or sent to jail — seems to have a habit of ”accidentally” destroying hard drives containing potentially incriminating evidence. It has done so in spite of court orders, in spite of Congressional inquiries and in spite of pretty much everyone’s belief that these “accidents” were actually the deliberate, illegal destruction of incriminating evidence to protect the guilty.

Then there’s Hillary’s email scandal, in which emails kept on a private unsecure server — presumably to avoid Freedom of Information Act disclosures — were deleted. Now emails from Hillary’s IT guy, who is believed to have set up the server, have gone poof.

“Destroy the evidence, and you’ve got it made,” said an old frozen dinner commercial. But now that appears to be the motto of the United States government.

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

TaxProf Blog Weekend Roundup

Sunday, May 22, 2016

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 a new #1 paper new papers debuting on the list at #4 and #5:

  1. [372 Downloads]  The Panama Papers and Tax Morality, by Usman W. Chohan (University of New South Wales)
  2. [327 Downloads]  Google's 'Alphabet Soup' in Delaware, by Bret Bogenschneider (Vienna) & Ruth Heilmeier (Cologne)
  3. [264 Downloads]  New Prominence Of Tax Basis In Estate Planning, by Paul L. Caron (Pepperdine) & Jay A. Soled (Rutgers)
  4. [161 Downloads]  How Income Taxes Should Change during Recessions, by Zachary D. Liscow (Yale) & William A. Woolston (Stanford)
  5. [151 Downloads]  The Missing Tax Benefit of Donor-Advised Funds, by John R. Brooks (Georgetown)

May 22, 2016 in Scholarship, Tax, Top 5 Downloads | Permalink | Comments (0)

Late To The Ball:  Finding My (Tennis) Bliss

LateWall Street Journal:  A Sport for Life, Learned Late,  by Jason Gay:

Gerry Marzorati, author of the new book Late to the Ball, is trying to prove an avid tennis fan can become a successful tennis player in his mid-50s and beyond.

I don’t want to give the impression that Late to the Ball is a hardcore tennis book. Well, it sort of is: If you love tennis, you will geek out at Marzorati’s travels to supercamps, stroke gurus, and the Jedi-sounding United States Tennis Congress. But at its heart, Late to the Ball is a soulful meditation on aging, companionship and the power of self-improvement. I know that sounds like the kind of cheesy thing people say on the cover of book jackets. But it’s really true.

“The book was an opportunity to ponder these questions,” said Marzorati, a well-regarded writer and editor who retired last year from the New York Times, an adorable community newspaper which I believe publishes several times a week. Immersing himself in tennis, he said, was a way to test if it was possible, later in life, to “really fall in love with something—something you didn’t think was going to happen again.”

This is a common life crossroads, the author believes. Marzorati gave an example: former President George W. Bush’s recent immersion in oil painting. “I completely understand what he’s doing,” Marzorati said. “I know what he’s thinking, how much pleasure it gives him, and that he really wants to get better at it.”

I, too, picked up tennis in my mid-50s when I left Cincinnati for Pepperdine.  But I have found my tennis bliss and can now compete with the best Pepperdine faculty players, but not from "tennis gurus" or "supercamps."   This 2-minute video harkens back to John Wooden's life lesson about the importance of properly tying your sneakers and changed my (tennis) life:

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May 22, 2016 in Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1109

IRS Logo 2The Maddow Blog:  Republicans Get Serious About Impeachment, But Not Obama’s, by Steve Benen:

Quick quiz: when was the last time the U.S. Congress actually impeached an appointed executive branch official? It was 1876 – 140 years ago – when the House impeached Ulysses S. Grant’s War Secretary, William Belknap, over corruption allegations.

Nearly a century and a half later, House Republicans appear eager to give Belknap some company. The Washington Post reported yesterday:

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) introduced a resolution on Wednesday to censure IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, raising the stakes in the GOP war against the tax collector days before a hearing on whether to impeach him.

The four-page resolution seeks Koskinen’s resignation or removal by President Obama and calls on the IRS chief to forfeit his federal pension.

Chaffetz, the far-right chairman of the House Oversight Committee, explained in a statement yesterday, “I view censure as a precursor to impeachment.” He added a few weeks ago, “My foremost goal is impeachment and I’m not letting go of it.”

No, of course not. That might be responsible.

By any sane metric, the idea of congressional impeachment against the IRS commissioner is bonkers. House Republicans are apparently still worked up about an IRS “scandal” that doesn’t exist, and though Koskinen wasn’t even at the agency at the time of the alleged wrongdoing, GOP lawmakers want to impeach him because they disapprove of his handling of the imaginary controversy. ...

[G]iven the fact that Koskinen hasn’t actually committed any impeachable offenses, it’s hard not to get the impression that many House Republicans want to impeach someone, anyone, just for the sake of being able to say they impeached someone. ...

I continue to believe much of this is borne of partisan frustration: Republican investigations into Benghazi and other manufactured “scandals,” including the IRS matter itself, have effectively evaporated into nothing. That’s deeply unsatisfying to GOP hardliners, who remain convinced there’s Obama administration wrongdoing lurking right around the corner, even if they can’t see it, find it, prove it, or substantiate it any way.

Unwilling to move on empty handed, impeaching the IRS chief will, if nothing else, make Republican lawmakers feel better about themselves.

But that doesn’t change the fact that this partisan tantrum is indefensible. Koskinen took on the job of improving the IRS out of a sense of duty – the president asked this veteran public official to tackle a thankless task, and Koskinen reluctantly agreed. For his trouble, Republicans want to impeach him, for reasons even they’ve struggled to explain.

It’s ridiculous, even by the low standards of this Congress.

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May 22, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (6)

Saturday, May 21, 2016

This Week's Ten Most Popular TaxProf Blog Posts

The 10 Most-Cited Tax Faculty

Brian Leiter (Chicago) has updated his ranking of the Ten Most-Cited Tax Faculty to now cover the 2010-2014 period (2009-2013 data here):

Rank

Tax Prof

Citations

Age

1

David Weisbach (Chicago)

420

53

2

Michael Graetz (Columbia)

410

72

3

Reuven Avi-Yonah (Michigan)

360

59

4

Daniel Shaviro (NYU)

350

59

5

Lawrence Zelenak (Duke)

310

58

6

Leandra Lederman (Indiana)

300

50

7

Edward Zelinsky (Cardozo)

280

66

8

Victor Fleischer (San Diego)

270

45

9

Edward McCaffery (USC)

260

58

10

Joseph Bankman (Stanford)

230

61

Leiter also lists four highly-cited scholars who work partly in tax:

Rank

Tax Prof

Citations

Age

1

Louis Kaplow (Harvard)

1150

60

2

Brian Galle (Georgetown)

380

44

3

Kristin Hickman (Minnesota)

360

46

4

Mark Gergen (UC-Berkeley)

280

60

In our article, Ranking Law Schools: Using SSRN to Measure Scholarly Performance, 81 Ind. L.J. 83, 120-22 (2006), Bernie Black (Northwestern) and I examined the Top 25 tax faculty as measured by SSRN downloads, a practice I update monthly on TaxProf Blog.  Five of the most-cited tax faculty (Avi-Yonah, Fleischer, Kaplow, Shaviro, Weisbach) also are five of the most-downloaded tax faculty.

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May 21, 2016 in Legal Education, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Prof Rankings | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1108

IRS Logo 2Forbes:  IRS Commissioner's Smidgen Of Impeachment, by Robert W. Wood:

The House Judiciary Committee meets May 24, 2016 to consider IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. As Don Corleone said to the Heads of the Five Families, “How did things ever get so far?“ President Obama was less than convincing with his famous “not even a smidgen of corruption” remark about the IRS to Fox News in 2014. There were just some folks down at the IRS who were “confused” about how to implement the law governing tax-exempt groups. “Confused” sounded better than the one about the rogue IRS employees in Cincinnati. 

Now, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) introduced House Resolution 737 to censure IRS Commissioner Koskinen. The resolution offers Congressional condemnation and disapproval for what it claims is the IRS Commissioner’s pattern of conduct. It says that is inconsistent with the trust and confidence placed in him as an Officer of the United States. The resolution formally censures Mr. Koskinen, urges his resignation or removal, and even requires him to forfeit all rights to his government pension and other federal benefits. ...

This has been a long battle. Indeed, Chairman Chaffetz and 51 members of Congress sent a letter to President Obama in July of 2015 calling for the IRS Commissioner’s removal. On October 27, 2015, Chairman Chaffetz introduced H.J. Res. 494  to begin proceedings to impeach Koskinen. Referred to the House Judiciary Committee, it currently has 69 co-sponsors. The Committee even released a video with a timeline of key events in the IRS targeting scandal.

House Republicans still want action. Some of the anti-IRS movement is arguably due to the seething animosity some Republicans still have over the targeting, and the way the IRS chief handled it. A raft of scandals involving the IRS, poor and even evasive responses to Congress, bungled approaches to security, and a seeming diffidence to the public and concerned legislators have not won the IRS any friends. For Republicans, the IRS Commissioner has been a lightning rod. ...

Despite all the hoopla, Commissioner Koskinen is still probably safe. In the meantime, Republicans have pushed to pass laws slashing IRS power. President Obama has said he will veto bills that cut back on IRS budgets or power. Supporters say that the goal of such laws is to help improve customer service, prevent fraud, and ensure taxpayer dollars are being spent appropriately.

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May 21, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, May 20, 2016

Weekly Tax Roundup

Weekly SSRN Tax Roundup

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May 20, 2016 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Weekly Student Tax Note Roundup

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May 20, 2016 in Scholarship, Tax, Weekly Student Tax Note Roundup | Permalink | Comments (0)

Fordham Symposium:  We Are What We Tax

Fordham Law ReviewSymposium, We Are What We Tax, 84 Fordham L. Rev. 2413-2753 (2016):

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May 20, 2016 in Conferences, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

McGinnis:  The Case Against Disclosing Presidential Candidates’ Tax Returns

John O. McGinnis (Northwestern), The Case Against Disclosing Candidates’ Tax Returns:

I have previously expressed very substantial reservations about Donald Trump’s candidacy, but decline to join in the criticism about his refusal to release his tax returns. While a norm has developed suggesting that citizens have a right to see tax returns of presidential candidates and indeed candidates for some other offices, it is a bad norm. It invades privacy, discourages some people from entering politics, distracts from policy issues, and harms the prospects of those with complex financial affairs. ...

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May 20, 2016 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1107

IRS Logo 2Wall Street Journal:  The IRS’s Ugly Business as Usual: ‘How Much Has Really Changed?’ A Judge Asks. Answer: Not Much. The Scandal Goes On., by Kimberley A. Strassel:

Amid the drama that is today’s presidential race, serious subjects are getting short shrift. No one is happier about this than Barack Obama. And no agency within that president’s administration is more ecstatic than the Internal Revenue Service.

That tax authority’s targeting of conservative nonprofits ranks as one of the worst federal scandals in modern history. It is topped only by the outrage that no one has been held to account. Or perhaps by the news that the targeting continues to this day.

That detail became clear in an extraordinary recent court hearing, in front of a panel of judges for the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. The paired cases in the hearing were Linchpins of Liberty v. United States and True the Vote v. Internal Revenue Service. They involve several conservative nonprofits—there are 41 in Linchpin—that were, as they said, rounded up and “branded” by the IRS. The groups are still suffering harm, and they want justice.

A lower-court judge had blithely accepted the IRS’s claim that the targeting had stopped, that applications for nonprofit status had been approved, and that the matter was therefore moot.

The federal judges hearing the appeal, among them David B. Sentelle and Douglas H. Ginsburg, weren’t so easily rolled. In a series of probing questions the judges ascertained that at least two of the groups that are party to the lawsuit have still not received their nonprofit approvals. The judges determined that those two groups are 501(c)(4) social-welfare groups, which are subject to far less scrutiny than 501(c)(3) charities, yet are still being harassed by the IRS five years later. The judges were told that not only are the groups still on ice, but that their actions are still being “monitored” by the federal government.

As one lawyer for the plaintiffs noted, despite the IRS’s claim that it got rid of its infamous targeting lists, there is “absolutely no showing” that the agency has in fact stopped using the underlying “criteria” that originally “identified and targeted for mistreatment based on political views.”

The hearing also showed the degree to which the IRS has doubled down on its outrageous revisionist history, and its excuses. IRS lawyers again claimed that the whole targeting affair came down to bad “training” and bad “guidance.” They blew off a Government Accountability Office report that last year found the IRS still had procedures that would allow it to unfairly select organizations for examinations based on religious or political viewpoint. The lawyers’ argument: We wouldn’t do such a thing. Again. Trust us.

More incredibly, the IRS team claimed that the fault for some of the scandal rests with the conservative groups, for not pushing back hard enough during the targeting. In response to complaints that the groups had been forced to hand over confidential information (information the IRS now refuses to destroy), one agency lawyer retorted: “They didn’t have to give the information to the IRS if they thought it was inappropriate, they could have said so.” Really. ...

An IRS lawyer rolled out the defense used by former agency official Lois Lerner that the targeting was just the unfortunate use of “inappropriate” criteria, but Judge Sentelle reminded the lawyer of the IRS’s vindictiveness. He noted that on one occasion the IRS simply shelved the application of an organization that had sued it. The agency “came to Court not having done anything to eliminate” the problem, he said, so “It’s just hard to find the IRS to be an agency we can trust, isn’t it?”

Judge Sentelle said there is a “pretty good case” that “egregious violations of the Constitution” had been committed, and he dared an IRS lawyer to “stand there with a straight face” and say otherwise. Judge Ginsburg, who spent the hearing catching out the IRS’s conflicting statements, at one point simply asked: “How much has really changed?”

Answer: not much. It was good news, then, that the House Judiciary Committee recently announced it will hold two hearings to examine the conduct of IRS Commissioner John Koskinen in this matter. Donald Trump, as the presumptive GOP nominee, could do worse than to use his megaphone to draw attention to the hearings. The IRS scandal needs to remain a story.Answer: not much. It was good news, then, that the House Judiciary Committee recently announced it will hold two hearings to examine the conduct of IRS Commissioner John Koskinen in this matter. Donald Trump, as the presumptive GOP nominee, could do worse than to use his megaphone to draw attention to the hearings. The IRS scandal needs to remain a story.

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

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Elkins:  The Merits Of Tax Competition In A Globalized Economy

David Elkins (Netanya), The Merits of Tax Competition in a Globalized Economy, 91 Ind. L.J. 905 (2016):

Since the turn of the current century, leading transnational organizations and academic scholarship have identified tax competition among countries as one of the scourges of the international tax regime. Both the EU and the OECD have warned that tax competition erodes the tax bases of Member States and impedes their ability to provide essential services. Commentators have argued that unrestrained competition is driving tax rates on mobile sources of income to (or close to) zero, a process that jeopardizes the very existence of the welfare state, exacerbates problems of global poverty, and deprives developing countries of funds that they desperately need in order to improve their physical infrastructure and human capital. Tax competition is also said to misallocate economic resources by driving investment to where the tax rate is lowest rather than to where the return on investment is highest.

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May 19, 2016 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Book:  Bureaucratic Oppression And The Tax System

ABA Tax LawyerLeslie Book (Villanova), Bureaucratic Oppression and the Tax System, 69 Tax Law. ___ (2016):

Observers of the Internal Revenue Service’s administration of the earned income tax credit (EITC) have leveled one main criticism, that the Service has been unable to reduce stubbornly high error rates. Congress has generally focused attention on this problem with many legislative initiatives, including unprecedented (for the tax system) penalties for improper claims, special due diligence rules for preparers submitting returns with EITC claims, and a lessening of pre-assessment right to judicial review of Service rejections of EITC claims.

In this Article I wish to shift attention to the Service’s poor service to EITC claimants. In particular, I wish to broaden the inquiry to reflect the insights of nontax scholars who have looked at the ways that administrative agencies interact with low-income individuals who rely on benefits that agencies administer.

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May 19, 2016 in ABA Tax Section, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sugin:  Rhetoric And Reality In The Tax Law Of Charity

Linda Sugin (Fordham), Rhetoric and Reality in the Tax Law of Charity, 84 Fordham L. Rev. 2607 (2016):

The rhetoric of public purposes in charity law has created the mistaken impression that charity is public and fulfills public goals, when the reality is that charity is private and cannot be expected to solve the problems that governments can solve. The rhetoric arises from a combination of charity-law history and tax expenditure analysis. The reality follows the money and control of charitable organizations. On account of the mismatch of rhetoric and reality, the tax law of charity endorses an entitlement to pre-tax income and (ironically) creates a bias against taxation. This article reorients the project of defining public and private in the tax law by starting from a normative theory of government responsibility.

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May 19, 2016 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

TPC Study Fuels New Congressional Push To Integrate Corporate And Shareholder Taxes

Wall Street Journal, Fewer Shareholders Pay U.S. Taxes on Dividends: New Study Is Bolstering Drive to Shift Tax Burden From Corporations to Investors:

WSJ 2A new study showing that a shrinking fraction of shareholders of U.S. corporations pay taxes on dividends is bolstering a drive to revamp the corporate tax system. [Steven Rosenthal & Lydia Austin, The Dwindling Taxable Share of U.S. Corporate Stock, 151 Tax Notes 923 (May 16, 2016)]

The specter of double taxation, which animates complaints about today’s U.S. corporate tax code, is receding, according to a new study from the Tax Policy Center. Tax-exempt and tax-preferred entities—such as 401(k) plans and other retirement accounts—own more than 75% of U.S. corporate stock, nearly opposite the prevailing pattern from 50 years ago, the study said.

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May 19, 2016 in Congressional News, Scholarship, Tax, Think Tank Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Knoll & Mason:  Is The Philadelphia Wage Tax Unconstitutional?

Michael S. Knoll (Pennsylvania) & Ruth Mason (Virginia), Is the Philadelphia Wage Tax Unconstitutional? And If It Is, What Can and Should the City Do?, 164 U. Pa. L. Rev. Online 163 (2016):

Philadelphia has a complex and antiquated tax system that has long been criticized for driving employers and jobs away from Philadelphia by making it expensive to conduct business in the City. The centerpiece of the Philadelphia tax system is the Philadelphia wage tax, which raised more than $1.6 billion in 2014. That tax has been challenged as unconstitutional in light of the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision in Wynne v. Comptroller of Maryland, which struck down a structurally similar Maryland tax.

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May 19, 2016 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1106

IRS Logo 2H. Res. 737, 114th Cong., 2d Sess.:

RESOLUTION Condemning and censuring John A. Koskinen, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue. 

Whereas the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform issued a subpoena to John A. Koskinen, Commissioner, Internal Revenue Service, on February 14, 2014, which compelled him to produce, among other things, ‘‘all communications sent or received by Lois Lerner, from January 1, 2009, to August 2, 2013.’’;

Whereas on March 4, 2014, Internal Revenue Service employees in Martinsburg, West Virginia, magnetically erased 422 backup tapes, destroying as many as 24,000 of Lois Lerner’s emails responsive to the subpoena;

Whereas Commissioner Koskinen violated a congressional subpoena by failing to locate and preserve relevant records and by losing key pieces of evidence that were in the agency’s possession, and destroyed, on his watch;

Whereas Commissioner Koskinen betrayed the trust and confidence of the American people as an Officer of the United States;

Whereas Commissioner Koskinen failed to live up to the promise he made to the Senate Committee on Finance during his confirmation hearing to: ‘‘Be transparent about any problems we run into; and the public and certainly this committee will know about those problems as soon as we do.’’;

Whereas as early as February 2014, and no later than April 2014, Commissioner Koskinen was aware that a substantial portion of Lois Lerner’s emails were missing and could not be produced to Congress, but did not notify Congress of any problem until June 13, 2014, when he included the information on the fifth page of the third enclosure of a letter to the Senate Committee on Finance;

Whereas Commissioner Koskinen offered under oath a series of false and misleading statements utterly lacking in honesty and integrity;

Whereas on March 26, 2014, Commissioner Koskinen was asked during a hearing before the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, ‘‘Sir, are you or are you not going to provide this committee all of Lois Lerner’s emails?’’ and he falsely answered, ‘‘Yes, we will do that.’’;

Whereas on June 20, 2014, Commissioner Koskinen testified falsely that ‘‘since the start of this investigation, every email has been preserved. Nothing has been lost. Nothing has been destroyed.’’;

Whereas on June 20, 2014, Commissioner Koskinen testified falsely that the Internal Revenue Service had ‘‘confirmed that backup tapes from 2011 no longer existed because they have been recycled, pursuant to the Internal Revenue Service normal policy’’ and that ‘‘confirmed means that somebody went back and looked and made sure that in fact any backup tapes that had existed had been recycled.’’;

Whereas on June 20, 2014, Commissioner Koskinen testified that the Internal Revenue Service had ‘‘gone to great lengths’’ to retrieve all of Lois Lerner’s emails, but in fact failed to search disaster backup tapes, Lois Lerner’s Blackberry, the email server, backup tapes for the email server, and Lois Lerner’s temporary replacement laptop, which the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration subsequently found to contain more than 1,000 of Lerner’s emails;

Whereas Commissioner Koskinen’s false statements delayed and otherwise interfered with congressional investigations into the Internal Revenue Service targeting of Americans based on their political affiliation; and

Whereas the aforementioned conduct of Commissioner Koskinen caused the House of Representatives to lose confidence in his ability to administer and supervise the execution and application of the internal revenue laws: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That—  (1) the House of Representatives does hereby 3 censure and condemn John A. Koskinen for a pat-tern of conduct while Commissioner of Internal Revenue that is incompatible with his duties and inconsistent with the trust and confidence placed in him as an officer of the United States; and

(2) it is the sense of the House of Representatives that John A. Koskinen, Commissioner of Internal Revenue, should— (A) immediately resign from office, and if he does not so resign, the President should remove him from office; and (B) be required to forfeit all rights to any annuity for which he is eligible under chapter 83 or chapter 84 of title 5, United States Code.

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May 19, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (5)

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Tax Court:  Accountant Cannot Deduct Law School Tuition

Tax Court Logo 2Santos v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 2016-100 (May 17, 2016):

Santos earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting [from Indiana University (Bloomington)]. In 1990, he began working as a tax-return preparer. In 1995, he became an “enrolled agent”, a person authorized to represent taxpayers before the IRS. In 1996, Santos earned a master’s degree in taxation [from San Francisco State University]. He began offering other services to his clients, including accounting and financial planning.

At some point Santos enrolled in law school [John F. Kennedy University College of Law]. He was attending law school in 2010. During that year, he paid tuition and fees of $20,275. He graduated from law school in 2011. In July 2011, he took the California bar examination. ... In December 2014, he was admitted to the State Bar of California and admitted to practice before the U.S. Tax Court.

In 2015, Santos started a law firm, Santos and Santos Law Offices, with his father. The firm performs multiple services including legal representation, tax planning, accounting, and financial planning. ...

Whether Santos is entitled to a deduction of $20,275 for his law school tuition and fees remains at issue. ...

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May 18, 2016 in Legal Education, New Cases, Tax | Permalink | Comments (9)

Murphy Reviews Piketty's Capital In The Twenty-First Century

PikettyLiam Murphy (NYU), Why Does Inequality Matter?: Reflections on the Political Morality of Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century, 68 Tax L. Rev. 613 (2015):

In the Conclusion to Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Thomas Piketty issues a call for a political and historical economics. Like Marx and the political economists before him, Piketty is interested in how markets work because he is interested in the rights and wrongs of institutional, especially legal, design. His is book is guided by a clear sense that economic inequality, especially inequality of wealth, raises serious prima facie problems of social justice. This essay is a critical investigation into the political morality underlying Capital in the Twenty-First Century that unravels and evaluates the different ways in which economic inequality may or may not matter.

For my take, see Thomas Piketty and Inequality: Legal Causes and Tax Solutions, 64 Emory L.J. Online 2073 (2015).  Other reviews of Capital in the Twenty-First Century:

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May 18, 2016 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

Luke Reviews Kahng's Taxation Of Intellectual Capital

Charlene D. Luke (Florida), Illuminating the Dark Matter of Intellectual Capital, 66 Fla. L. Rev. F. 61 (2015):

Professor Lily Kahng’s article, The Taxation of Intellectual Capital, [66 Fla. L. Rev. 2229 (2014),] highlights the distortion contained in the current tax rules governing capitalization. Her article emphasizes that U.S tax law systematically fails to require capitalization for self-created, high-value intangible assets. Professor Kahng’s contribution is to situate the problem in a broader, interdisciplinary context and to use the knowledge gained from that context to suggest specific reforms. In the process, Professor Kahng explores the definitional boundaries of “intellectual capital” and considers potential objections to capitalization of the costs of intellectual capital. As a result, Professor Kahng’s article fosters a richer, contextualized conversation about a significant shortcoming of the tax system.

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

SSRN Tax Professor Rankings

SSRN LogoSSRN has updated its monthly rankings of 750 American and international law school faculties and 3,000 law professors by (among other things) the number of paper downloads from the SSRN database.  Here is the new list (through May 1, 2016) 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.)

56,012

Reuven Avi-Yonah (Mich.)

10,555

2

Michael Simkovic (S. Hall)

32,036

Michael Simkovic (S. Hall)

4479

3

Paul Caron (Pepperdine)

31,056

D. Dharmapala (Chicago)

3702

4

D. Dharmapala (Chicago)

26,620

Paul Caron (Pepperdine)

2461

5

Louis Kaplow (Harvard)

25,850

Richard Ainsworth (BU)

2366

6

Vic Fleischer (San Diego)

22,306

Jeff Kwall (Loyola-Chicago)

1892

7

James Hines (Michigan)

21,719

Nancy McLaughlin (Utah)

1850

8

Richard Kaplan (Illinois)

21,052

Louis Kaplow (Harvard)

1776

9

Ted Seto (Loyola-L.A.)

20,965

Omri Marian (UC-Irvine)

1759

10

Ed Kleinbard (USC)

19,768

Robert Sitkoff (Harvard)

1747

11

Katie Pratt (Loyola-L.A.)

18,807

Chris Hoyt (UMKC)

1688

12

Richard Ainsworth (BU)

17,814

Dan Shaviro (NYU)

1683

13

Carter Bishop (Suffolk)

16,933

David Weisbach (Chicago)

1670

14

Robert Sitkoff (Harvard)

16,913

Ed Kleinbard (USC)

1595

15

Brad Borden (Brooklyn)

16,799

Brad Borden (Brooklyn)

1575

16

David Weisbach (Chicago)

16,768

Jack Manhire (Texas A&M)

1554

17

Jen Kowal (Loyola-L.A.)

16,521

William Byrnes (Texas A&M)

1545

18

Chris Sanchirico (Penn)

16,385

Vic Fleischer (San Diego)

1482

19

Dennis Ventry (UC-Davis)

16,016

Katie Pratt (Loyola-L.A.)

1428

20

Francine Lipman (UNLV)

15,862

Richard Kaplan (Illinois)

1426

21

Bridget Crawford (Pace)

15,557

Yariv Brauner (Florida)

1387

22

David Walker (BU)

14,988

Steven Bank (UCLA)

1373

23

Dan Shaviro (NYU)

14,791

Chris Sanchirico (Penn)

1306

24

Steven Bank (UCLA)

13,314

Gregg Polsky (N. Carolina)

1273

25

Herwig Schlunk (Vanderbilt)

13,161

Francine Lipman (UNLV)

1246

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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May 18, 2016 in Legal Education, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Prof Rankings | Permalink | Comments (0)

Are We Ready To Raise Taxes On The Rich? History Says No.

Taxing the RichWashington Post op-ed:  Are We Ready to Raise Taxes on the Rich? History Says No., by Kenneth F. Scheve (Stanford) & David Stasavage (NYU):

Economic inequality is high and rising. At the same time, many governments are struggling to balance budgets while maintaining spending for popular programs.

That’s prompted some presidential candidates to argue it’s time to raise taxes on the rich. Bernie Sanders is leading the charge and would create a new top income tax rate of 54.2 percent, up from the current 39.6 percent. Hillary Clinton would institute the so-called “Buffett rule” to require individuals with adjusted gross incomes of more than $1 million to pay an effective rate of at least 30 percent, and she’d add a new 4 percent surcharge on anyone who pulls in $5 million or more.

As White House aspirants, other politicians and voters debate whether it’s time to once again soak the rich to spread their wealth around, it’s helpful to consider what prompted past governments — ours and others — to raise their taxes.

We investigated tax debates and policies in 20 countries from 1800 to the present for our new book, Taxing the Rich: A History of Fiscal Fairness in the United States and Europe [Princeton University Press, 2016] [blogged here]. Our research shows that it is changes in beliefs about fairness — and not economic inequality or the need for revenue alone — that have driven the major variations in taxes on high incomes and wealth over the past two centuries.

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May 18, 2016 in Book Club, Political News, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1105

IRS Logo 2Washington Post, Impeachment Hearings Are Latest Victory in Conservative War on IRS:

The House Judiciary Committee’s decision to hold hearings a week from today on whether to impeach IRS Commissioner John Koskinen is a victory for the chamber’s far-right caucus, still smarting over the agency’s treatment of conservative groups.

Over five years, House Republicans have slashed the IRS budget, passed bills banning employee bonuses and prohibiting employees fired for misconduct from getting rehired. The GOP has vowed to simplify the tax code, pounced on agency management failures and assailed customer service breakdowns caused by the budget cuts.

And last week, anti-IRS lawmakers persuaded previously hesitant House leaders to start the unusual process of removing the tax collector from office.

One of the biggest questions now is whether the 76-year-old tax commissioner will show up for the grilling. IRS officials said Monday they have made no decision on whether Koskinen will accept the Judiciary Committee’s invitation to appear May 24 and at a hearing in June.

Daily Kos, Republicans Move to Impeach Head of Government Agency for First Time Since 1876:

Suppose you hate taxes. And government. You could try to pass bills that cut taxes, scale back government … in short, do the things the extreme right Freedom Caucus says they want. Or you might simply make it impossible for the government to collect taxes by maneuvering to cripple the agency in charge, which is the approach conservatives radicals have actually taken.

The House Judiciary Committee’s decision to hold hearings a week from today on whether to impeach IRS Commissioner John Koskinen is a victory for the chamber’s far-right caucus, still smarting over the agency’s treatment of conservative groups.

The agency’s treatment of conservative groups. Which turned out to be pretty much the agency’s treatment of every sort of group. It was just that so many groups emerged from the tea party chaos, and so many of them blatantly did not know the difference between what was acceptable in a tax-exempt organization and what was not, that a high number of them became regulatory road kill.

But conservatives have never believed they have to play by the rules, and this scandal-that-wasn’t serves as sufficient pretext to carry on the teahad. ...

Oh, but do mark this down as a historic moment. It’s the first time anyone has tried to impeach the head of a government agency since the Grant administration. ... The real purpose of trying to impeach IRS Commissioner John Koskinen is to give the extremists in the GOP a distraction to talk about when they climb on the stage at rallies between now and November. The chances that they would actually remove Koskinen, who is set to leave in 2017 in any case, are somewhere between extremely slim and laughable. But he provides a demon to rail against. And his name isn’t Donald.

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May 18, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (8)

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Papers From The 2015 IRS-TPC Research Conference: Improving Tax Administration Through Research-Driven Efficiencies

TPCIRSThe IRS has released the papers from the 2015 IRS-TPC Research Conference: Improving Tax Administration Through Research-Driven Efficiencies:

2015 IRS Research Bulletin

Foreword

1. Innovative Methods for Improving Resource Allocation

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May 17, 2016 in IRS News, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Why Foreign Buyers Are Snapping Up U.S. Companies: Our Tax Code

Wall Street Journal op-ed:  Why Foreign Buyers Are Snapping Up U.S. Companies, by James Carter & Ernest Christian

No matter who is elected president in November, fixing America’s broken tax code should be a high priority. Laying the groundwork for tax reform, the House Ways and Means Committee recently held a hearing inviting “proposals for improvements to the U.S. tax system.” Here’s one that should head the list: Bring U.S. corporate taxes in line with the rest of the developed world.

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May 17, 2016 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Senate Holds Hearing Today On Integrating The Corporate And Individual Tax Systems

Senate LogoThe Senate Finance Committee holds a hearing today on Integrating the Corporate and Individual Tax Systems: The Dividends Paid Deduction Considered:

  • Michael J. Graetz (Columbia)
  • Judy A. Miller (American Society of Pension Professionals & Actuaries)
  • Steven M. Rosenthal (Tax Policy Center)
  • Bret Wells (Houston)

In connection with the hearing:

Michael J. Graetz (Columbia) & Alvin C. Warren, Jr. (Harvard) have published Integration of Corporate and Shareholder Taxes, 69 Nat'l Tax J. ___ (2016):

Integration of the corporate and individual income taxes can be achieved by providing shareholders a credit for corporate taxes paid with respect to corporate earnings distributed as dividends. When such integration was previously considered in the U.S., proponents emphasized that it could reduce or eliminate many of the familiar distortions of a classical corporate income tax. Integration would also provide a framework for addressing current concerns for tax incentives for U.S. companies to shift income to foreign affiliates in lower-taxed countries or to expatriate in "inversion" transactions. A recent Congressional proposal for a corporate dividend deduction coupled with withholding on dividends could achieve equivalent results, while also reducing effective U.S. corporate tax rates.

Steven M. Rosenthal & Lydia S. Austin (Tax Policy Center) have published The Dwindling Taxable Share of U.S. Corporate Stock, 151 Tax Notes 923 (May 16, 2016):

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May 17, 2016 in Congressional News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Coalition For Tax Competition Call On Congress To Eliminate Funding For OECD Due To BEPS Targeting Of American Corporations

BEPSThe Coalition for Tax Competition has sent this letter calling on Congress to stop funding the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) on the ground that its Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) project is undermining American interests:

With release of the final reports on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS), there can be no doubt that the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is no friend to the United States. For this reason it should no longer be subsidized by American taxpayers.

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May 17, 2016 in Congressional News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1104

IRS Logo 2Wall Street Journal editorial:  The IRS’s Donor Lists: Congress Should Keep the Names of Donors Out of Tax Returns:

Democratic Attorneys General in California and New York have been trying to get their hands on donor information in the tax returns of nonprofit groups. Their disclosure demands were recently shot down in a California federal court, but the better question may be why the IRS is even collecting the info.

Under the Tax Reform Act of 1969, 501(c) groups are required to file Form 990 Schedule B that lists the sources of donations of more than $5,000 in the previous calendar year. The lists are supposed to remain private, but this is the government we’re talking about. The National Organization for Marriage’s donor list leaked to the Human Rights Campaign in 2012, and the state of California recently posted some 1,400 Schedule Bs on Attorney General Kamala Harris’s public website, though they were quickly taken down.

Sloppy handling of data that includes home addresses threatens donors with potential harassment. In his April order in AFPF v. Harris, the case challenging Ms. Harris’s appeal to see unredacted donor information from nonprofits, federal Judge Manuel Real noted that the disclosures included donors for Planned Parenthood of California. “An investigator for the Attorney General,” Judge Real wrote, “admitted that ‘posting that kind of information publicly could be very damaging to Planned Parenthood.’”

That goes across the political spectrum, which may be why IRS head John Koskinen and Director of Exempt Organizations Tamera Ripperda have said even the IRS is debating whether the information is necessary for tax enforcement.

Meanwhile, Illinois Republican Peter Roskam’s bill to stop the IRS from collecting donor details of tax-exempt groups passed the Ways and Means Committee in late April. Progressive groups, such as Democracy 21 and Public Citizen, say Schedules Bs are important to protect against foreign donations to tax-exempt groups.

But dropping Schedule Bs wouldn’t change the law. There is no ban on foreign contributions to tax-exempt outfits—see the Clinton Foundation—but there is a blanket ban on foreign money being spent to influence U.S. elections. Audits can determine if foreign contributions are being channeled into politics. Lawbreakers trying to skirt election laws aren’t disclosing improper donations on tax returns in any case.

The real progressive interest in donor disclosure is to use the information as a political weapon. Leaked selectively, donor lists suppress the speech of political rivals. Mr. Roskam’s bill is worth moving to the House floor.

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May 17, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, May 16, 2016

Johnson Controls Shifts Tax Gears, Will Structure Spin-Off Of Auto Parts Business As Taxable Dividend But New London Company Will Be Taxed At Lower Rate

JCTFollowing up on my previous post, Johnson Controls To Renounce U.S. Corporate Citizenship In Tax-Driven Inversion With Tyco:  Wall Street Journal, Johnson Controls Merger Will Give Its Spinoff a U.K. Home; Filing Reveals Adient Shares “Will Be Treated as a Taxable Dividend” for Recipients:

When Johnson Controls spins off its big auto-parts business in October, shareholders won’t get the tax breaks they expected. Instead, they receive something that might be even better: a company with a London address and even lower taxes.

Milwaukee-based Johnson Controls recently disclosed in a regulatory filing that the auto-parts company, which will be known as Adient, will be based in London, and shares in the new company “will be treated as a taxable dividend” for recipients.

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May 16, 2016 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tennessee Man Convicted In Romney Tax Return Fraud And Extortion Scheme

Romney

Following up on my previous post, Report: Hackers Stole Mitt Romney's Tax Returns From PwC, Demand Ransom Payment: Department of Justice Press Release, Tennessee Man Convicted for Romney Tax Return Fraud and Extortion Scheme:

Michael Mancil Brown was found guilty late yesterday by a federal jury sitting in Nashville for engaging in an extortion and wire fraud scheme involving former Presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s tax returns, announced Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, First Assistant United States Attorney Jack Smith of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Tennessee and Special Agent in Charge Todd Hudson of the U.S. Secret Service’s Nashville Field Office.

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May 16, 2016 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Graetz:  'Death Tax' Politics

BCACTEC 2Michael J. Graetz (Columbia), 'Death Tax' Politics, 57 B.C. L. Rev. ___ (2016):

In his Keynote Address 'Death Tax' Politics at the October 2, 2015 Boston College Law School and American College of Trust and Estate Counsel Symposium, The Centennial of the Estate and Gift Tax: Perspectives and Recommendations, Michael Graetz describes the fight over the repeal of the estate tax and its current diminished state. Graetz argues that the political battle over the repeal of the estate tax reflects a fundamental challenge to our nation’s progressive tax system.

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

Chorvat:  Corporate Equities As Lotteries—Skewness And The Tax Preference For Corporate Debt

Terrence R. Chorvat (George Mason), Corporate Equities as Lotteries: Skewness and the Tax Preference for Corporate Debt:

The tax preference for interest payments by corporations as compared to dividend payments is a long surviving feature of many tax systems. Many have argued that there is no reason for this preference and so it distorts the capital structure of corporations needlessly. This article argues that because the returns to equity are more positively skewed as compared to debt, individual investors will tend to value equity more than they would value it given only its mean and variance characteristics.

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

The IRS Scandal, Day 1103

IRS Logo 2Wall Street Journal: Donald Trump’s Amazon Adventure, by Holman W. Jenkins, Jr.:

You might get some argument about exactly how illegal it is for politicians to use their law-enforcement powers to punish their political opponents.

But at least when Nixon sought to, he felt obliged to do so by secret memorandum. As keeper of the enemies list John Dean wrote, “This memorandum addresses the matter of how we can maximize the fact of our incumbency in dealing with persons known to be active in their opposition to our Administration; stated a bit more bluntly—how we can use the available federal machinery to screw our political enemies.”

As it happened, however, the IRS commissioner at the time, Donald Alexander, refused orders to carry out tax audits of the Nixon White House’s political enemies.

Today, nobody, not even his worst critics, expects to find a memo from President Obama instructing Lois Lerner at IRS to stonewall applications from conservative political groups for tax-exempt status.

His critics probably don’t even expect Mr. Obama to have muttered under his breath that such a thing would be desirable. Rather, Ms. Lerner, all on her own, seemingly decided as a loyal Democratic and ideological warrior that it would be a good thing to use her agency to hamper the president’s partisan antagonists. ...

Donald Trump, an innovator in all things, is now in the process of changing the rules in America with his threat to bring legal action against Amazon on antitrust grounds and, if we hear him correctly, on tax grounds as well.

Mr. Trump couldn’t have been clearer about his motivation. He complained about Washington Post reporters calling up and “asking ridiculous questions,” “all false stuff,” apparently related to Mr. Trump’s tax returns, which in defiance of all tradition he has refused to release, as well as Mr. Trump’s real-estate dealings.

Mr. Trump says the Post was purchased as “a toy” by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos (who bought the paper with his personal funds in 2013). Mr. Trump says the paper now is being used to attack Mr. Trump in order to protect Amazon’s alleged tax-dodging practices even though Amazon, after long resistance, has begun in recent years to collect state sales tax.

All this seems to arise because the Post, the dominant newspaper in the nation’s capital, has assigned reporters to investigate the business career of the candidate who champions his credibility to be president by referring to his business career. ...

Mr. Trump knows U.S. political culture well enough to know that gleefully, uninhibitedly threatening to use government’s law-enforcement powers to attack news reporters and political opponents just isn’t done.

Maybe he thinks he can get away with it. Maybe he’s trying to figure out how to disqualify himself for the presidency in a way that wouldn’t embarrass his fans or blow back on the business career that he always imagined he’d be returning to after the Republican convention at the latest. After all, one way to throw an election is to scare off donors (he needs about a billion dollars) by flaunting his inner Nixon.

Or maybe he really does want to be the American caudillo who flings American democratic and legal norms out the window and ushers in a new age of populist authoritarianism.

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May 16, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (4)

TaxProf Blog Weekend Roundup

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Larry Summers, Robert Rubin And The President's Authority To Tax Carried Interest As Ordinary Income

Following up on yesterday's post, The President's Authority To Unilaterally Raise Taxes

Business Insider, Larry Summers Just Threw Epic Shade About Tax Breaks Right in a Private-Equity CEO's Face:

On Wednesday morning, at the SkyBridge Alternatives hedge fund conference, Carlyle Group co-CEO David Rubenstein interviewed [former Treasury Secretary Larry] Summers alongside his Clinton administration colleague, Robert Rubin.

But at one point, Summers turned the tables on Rubenstein, with an assist from Rubin.

The interviewees noted that Rubenstein could teach the audience some lessons on influencing government, given his surprisingly successful record of fighting to retain the "carried interest" tax loophole, which gives private-equity and hedge fund managers a tax preference on their performance fees.

"Rarely has a policy existed so long with such weak arguments in its favor," said Summers, in backhanded praise of Rubenstein's lobbying skill. "It's the First Amendment, the Second Amendment, and carried interest, right?"

"Not necessarily in that order," Rubin added.

Rubenstein replied that, if Summers and Rubin thought the tax preference for carried interest was such bad policy, then they could have used executive action to eliminate it when they served in the Treasury Department.

"Not sure it works like that," Rubin replied.

He's right: You would need legislation to close the loophole, and that legislation has been stalled by private-equity-friendly members of Congress.

David Hemel (Chicago), Two-and-Twenty and Fifty-Fifty:

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May 15, 2016 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

The 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, with a new paper debuting on the list at #5:

  1. [863 Downloads]  Lexisnexis® Guide to FATCA Compliance: Chapter 1, by Willliam Byrnes (Texas A&M) & Robert J. Munro (Texas A&M)
  2. [352 Downloads]  Ownership of the Means of Production, by E. Glen Weyl (Chicago) & Anthony Lee Zhang (Stanford)
  3. [319 Downloads]  The Panama Papers and Tax Morality, by Usman W. Chohan (University of New South Wales)
  4. [205 Downloads]  Google's 'Alphabet Soup' in Delaware, by Bret Bogenschneider (Vienna) & Ruth Heilmeier (Cologne)
  5. [157 Downloads]  New Prominence Of Tax Basis In Estate Planning, by Paul L. Caron (Pepperdine) & Jay A. Soled (Rutgers)

May 15, 2016 in Scholarship, Tax, Top 5 Downloads | Permalink | Comments (0)