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Friday, January 30, 2015

Weekly Tax Roundup

Corporate Profits Soar, Average Incomes Plummet

Al Jazeera, Economy Grows, Incomes Shrink: Americans Continue to Lose Money While Corporate Profits Soar, by David Cay Johnston (Syracuse):

The first data on 2013 incomes show continuing bad news for Americans, my analysis of a new Internal Revenue Service report shows. Average income fell 2.6 percent in 2013, even though the economy grew 3.2 percent in real terms over 2012. Average inflation-adjusted income in 2013 was 8 percent lower than in 2007, the last peak economic year, and 6.9 percent less than in 2000, the year President George W. Bush set as the standard to evaluate the effect of his tax cuts and regulatory policies.

This is the latest sign of a disturbing trend. An ever-shrinking share of national income flows to individuals while corporate profits expand. In fact, profits hit a record high in 2013 both in absolute terms and as a share of the economy. By both measures, profits have continued rising. By contrast, labor’s share of national income has been trending downward since 1980, except for a spike during the second term of President Bill Clinton. The decline accelerated after the Bush tax cuts took effect, retroactively, to the first day of 2001.

Johnston

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January 30, 2015 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

Weekly SSRN Tax Roundup

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January 30, 2015 in Scholarship, Tax, Weekly SSRN Roundup | Permalink | Comments (0)

Weekly Student Tax Note Roundup

January 30, 2015 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

UCLA & Tax Policy Center Host Conference Today on International Tax Reform

UCLAUCLA and the Tax Policy Center host a conference today on International Tax Reform from 9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. PST (webcast here):

Panel #1:  Political Economy of International Tax Reform

Presenters:  Alan Auerbach (UC-Berkeley), Jon Talisman (Capitol Tax Partners)
Commentator:  Jason Oh (UCLA)

Panel #2:  Inversions: Where Do We Go From Here?

Presenters:  Mihir Desai (Harvard), Victor Fleischer (San Diego)
Commentator:  Larry Stein (Latham & Watkins)

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January 30, 2015 in Conferences, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

IRS Low Income Taxpayer Clinic Program Releases Annual Report

LITC CoverIR-2015-13, Low Income Taxpayer Clinic Program Reports on Activities (Jan. 29, 2015):

The Internal Revenue Service’s Low Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC) Program Office has issued its annual program report, which describes how LITCs have assisted thousands of low income taxpayers nationwide with free or low-cost representation, education and advocacy services.

LITCs provide free or low-cost assistance to low income individuals who have tax disputes with the IRS, such as an audit, appeals hearing, collection matter or litigation. LITCs also conduct education and outreach to taxpayers who speak English as a second language (ESL). In addition, they advocate for low income taxpayers and highlight the need to change administrative practices and procedures that cause their clients hardship. 

The report explains how LITCs help low income and ESL individuals understand and exercise their rights as U.S. taxpayers. The report also provides an overview and history of the LITC program, discusses the type of cases that LITCs work, and reports the results that LITCs achieve on behalf of their clients.

LITC

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January 30, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 631

IRS Logo 2Judicial Watch, Obama Administration Refuses to Release Time Records of Key Attorney in IRS Scandal Investigation:

Judicial Watch announced today that the Obama Department of Justice (DOJ) is going to extreme lengths to keep from the public the number of hours DOJ Attorney Barbara Bosserman expended on the investigation of the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservative organizations.  The DOJ has claimed no less than four separate privileges in federal court to keep secret Bosserman’s hours. In doing so, the DOJ has confirmed that the criminal investigation into the IRS’ abuses is ongoing and that Bosserman, a major donor to Obama’s political campaigns and Democratic National Committee, continues to be part of the team of lawyers criminally investigating the issue.  The developments come in a lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch against the Justice Department to obtain the information about Bosserman’s activities. ...

“All Judicial Watch wants is the number of hours that the Obama donor/Justice Department lawyer has spent investigating the worst IRS abuse in American history,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “That the Justice Department has violated the law to keep this information secret is further confirmation that President Obama’s Justice Department is hopelessly conflicted in the IRS scandal.  Thanks to Judicial Watch, the public knows that the Justice Department and the FBI are co-conspirators with the IRS – and planned to prosecute citizens on Obama’s political hit list.  Obama’s IRS abuse is far worse than Nixon’s.  And as with Watergate, the public interest and basic legal ethics principles require that the U.S. Attorney General appoint special counsel to investigate the IRS scandal.  The U.S. Senate should ask Loretta Lynch, the president’s nominee to replace the disgraced Eric Holder as U.S. Attorney General, about this issue.”

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January 30, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Three Cheers for the Death Tax!

The Daily Beast, Three Cheers for the Death Tax!, by Michael Tomasky:

Of all the Obama proposals unveiled in the State of the Union address, the one that’s probably drawn the most right-wing fire is the one that would close an inheritance capital-gains tax loophole. ... Undertaxing inherited wealth is ... immoral. ...

[T]he estate tax doesn’t start until $5.43 million per person or $10.86 million per couple. That’s high enough that only the wealthiest .15 percent of Americans pay any estate tax. Among the 3,780 U.S. households that owed any estate tax in 2013, their average tax rate was 16.6 percent.

Center for American Progress, Report of the Commission on Inclusive Prosperity (Jan. 15, 2015):

Combined with the United States’ generous estate tax structure, the step-up in basis rule creates very low effective tax rates on inherited wealth. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the step-up in basis rule will reduce federal revenues by $644 billion over 10 years, with 21 percent of that subsidy going to the top 1 percent of income earners.

Basis

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January 29, 2015 in Tax, Think Tank Reports | Permalink | Comments (2)

The Super Bowl and Tax

Super BowlForbes, Super Bowl XLIX Tax Tale Of The Tape: Who Ya' Got?, by Tony Nitti:

Do me a favor. Put down the Form 1040 you’re working on, take a good look in the mirror, and be brutally honest with yourself: are you a typical tax accountant?

Do you find yourself noticing the time of day, or the exit number on the highway, and thinking, “that’s a great Code section!”

Is your sense of humor limited to giggling uncontrollably at tax-themed double entendres like “hot assets” and “dynamic scoring?”

Did you name your sibling labradors Bitker and Eustice?

If so, that’s OK. You are what you are. ... [F]or 4-6 hours this weekend, you’re going to have to pretend that you’re not the introverted, odd person you clearly are. And that isn’t going to be easy.

But I can help.

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January 29, 2015 in Celebrity Tax Lore, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Borden: Rethinking the Tax-Revenue Effect of REIT Taxation

Florida Tax ReviewBradley Borden (Brooklyn), Rethinking the Tax-Revenue Effect of REIT Taxation, 16 Fla. Tax Rev. ___ (2015):

Real estate investment trusts (REITs) have recently made headlines in major media outlets and have caught the attention of lawmakers and analysts because they erode the corporate tax base. REITs are not subject to the entity-level tax that typically applies to corporations. To avoid being taxed on real-estate income, some corporations spin off real estate into REITs. After a REIT spinoff, such corporations rent the real estate from the REIT and continue to use it in their operations. Thus, a mere change in corporate form removes taxable income from the corporation (i.e., erodes the corporate tax base) and eliminates the entity-level tax on income from the spun-off real estate. This erosion of the corporate tax base concerns lawmakers (who have proposed prohibiting tax-free REIT spinoffs), some economists, and the media. Another concern is that the IRS has extended REIT classification to entities that hold non-traditional real estate, such as telecommunications infrastructure, billboards, oil and gas pipeline systems, timber, casinos, prisons, and data centers. The extension of REIT taxation to nontraditional real estate may not erode the corporate tax base because the assets may come from non-corporate entities. Thus, the tax-revenue effect of REIT taxation extends beyond REIT spinoffs and the erosion of the corporate tax base. Nonetheless, intuition suggests that more REIT spinoffs, the expansion of REIT taxation, and the growth of the REIT industry must erode the corporate tax base and significantly reduce government tax revenue. This Article challenges that intuition and presents two counterintuitive findings. First, it shows that REIT spinoffs can actually increase tax revenue even though they erode the corporate tax base. Second, it reveals that loss of tax revenue from REIT taxation primarily results from REITs forming from partnerships, not from REIT spinoffs. The Article concludes by recommending how these findings should influence discussions of REIT reform.

January 29, 2015 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Murphy: Pragmatic Administrative Law and Tax Exceptionalism

Richard Murphy, Pragmatic Administrative Law and Tax Exceptionalism, 64 Duke L.J. Online 21 (2014):

This Essay responds to the 2014 Duke Law Journal Administrative Law Symposium. Its principal contention is that courts and other commentators should give due weight to the history and virtues of the evolution of administrative law in the United States—and consider embracing the pragmatism and flexibility that it enables—in applying general principles of administrative law in the tax context.

January 29, 2015 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Going Clear, Scientology, and the IRS

Slate, What Sundance Favorite Going Clear Tells Us About Scientology:

Going Clear [review here] ends by noting that the church has fewer than 50,000 members but still possesses more than $3 billion in assets. Most of this wealth can be attributed to Scientology’s long, tortured, and ultimately triumphant battle with the IRS to be deemed a non-profit, tax-exempt organization. That victory is perhaps Miscavige’s keystone achievement: as the film details, and as the New York Times reported in 1997, Miscavige used a combination of lawsuits, backroom negotiations, and private investigators digging up dirt on IRS officials to secure Scientology’s status as a religion.

January 29, 2015 in Book Club, IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Pierce: Which Institution Should Determine Whether an Agency’s Explanation of a Tax Decision is Adequate?

Richard J. Pierce, Jr. (George Washington), Which Institution Should Determine Whether an Agency’s Explanation of a Tax Decision is Adequate?: A Response to Steve Johnson, 64 Duke L.J. Online 1 (2014):

This Essay responds to Professor Steve Johnson’s Article for the 2014 Duke Law Journal Administrative Law Symposium, Reasoned Explanation and IRS Adjudication [63 Duke L.J. 1771 (2014)]. I first describe the ways in which courts have added burdensome procedures that are not required by the APA for the notice and comment process. Next, I explain why the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) is better than courts at reviewing the adequacy of agency reasons for issuing a rule. Finally, I explain how courts can eliminate judicial review for the adequacy of the reasons IRS gives for issuing a rule by applying the traditional broad interpretations of the Anti-Injunction Act and the tax exception to the Declaratory Judgment Act.

January 29, 2015 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 630

IRS Logo 2Bloomberg, Ted Cruz Leads the New Conservative Crusade Against the IRS:

Though the first day of Loretta Lynch's AG hearings went as well as Democrats might have wanted, Senator Ted Cruz managed to steal the spotlight on an issue near and dear to the hearts of many conservatives: reforming the Internal Revenue Service. ...

Cruz asked Lynch if she'd appoint an attorney to independently investigate whether the IRS had targeted Americans over their political beliefs.

"Is it consistent with fairly and impartially enforcing the law to have an investigation into abuse of power at the IRS headed by a major Democratic donor?" asked Cruz.

"My view is that the department has career prosecutors who are devoted to the Constitution," said Lynch, otherwise ignoring the implication of the question.

"Would you commit to this committee to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the IRS abuse of power, who at the very least is not a major Obama donor?" asked Cruz.

Lynch, who according to biographical material submitted to the committee was not born yesterday, declined to take the bait. "My understanding is that the matter has been considered and the matter has been resolved," she said.

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January 29, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Slack Presents The Political Economy of Property Tax Reform Today at Toronto

Enid SlackEnid Slack (Toronto) presents The Political Economy of Property Tax Reform at Toronto today as part of its James Hausman Tax Law and Policy Workshop Series:

Property taxes are generally considered by economists to be good taxes, and many countries are being advised to increase and improve their property taxes. In practice, however, property tax reforms have often proved to be difficult to carry out successfully. This paper discusses why property taxes are particularly challenging to reform and suggests several ways in which efforts to reform this tax may become more successful in the future. After a brief introductory section on the ‘disconnect’ between the economics and the politics of property tax reform, Section 2 summarizes recent experiences in five OECD countries with property tax reform. Against this background, Section 3 sets out the key elements of a good property tax reform and Section 4 discusses several aspects of property tax reform that seem to have derailed or distorted reforms in practice. Unfortunately, some of the solutions countries have adopted to deal with such problems are themselves problematic, either because they do not really solve the problem or because they hamper rather than work towards the establishment of a good property tax. Fortunately, as Section 5 outlines, it is possible to devise strategies for property tax reform that incorporate more acceptable solutions to most problems. As Section 6 concludes, good property tax reform is not easy. But it can definitely be achieved if an appropriately designed reform package is properly introduced and implemented.

January 28, 2015 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

New Emmanuel Saez Data: Gains From Economic Recovery Still Limited to the Top 1%

New York Times:  Gains From Economic Recovery Still Limited to Top One Percent, by Justin Wolters:

Emmanuel Saez, the economics professor who crunches these numbers based on data provided by the Internal Revenue Service, has just released preliminary estimates for 2013. The share of total income (excluding capital gains) going to the top 1 percent remains above one-sixth, at 17.5 percent. By this measure, the concentration of income among the richest Americans remains at levels last seen nearly a century ago.

It is tempting to note that the latest reading is somewhat below the 18.9 percent share that was recorded in 2012. But Professor Saez warns against reading too much into this year-to-year change. The problem is that his estimates rely on tax data, and tax rates on the rich rose sharply in 2013, leading many to shift taxable income out of 2013, and into 2012. Thus, the latest estimate is probably too low, just as the previous year’s number was probably too high.

Saez Table 1

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January 28, 2015 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Fleming, Peroni & Shay: Formulary Apportionment in the U.S.

J. Clifton Fleming (BYU), Robert J. Peroni (Texas) & Stephen E. Shay (Harvard), Formulary Apportionment in the U.S. International Income Tax System: Putting Lipstick on a Pig?, 36 Mich. J. Int'l L. ___ (2015):

Perhaps surprisingly, this Article has shown that the debate over formulary apportionment is little more than an alternative path to the larger debate over worldwide taxation versus territorial taxation. The present U.S. international income tax regime for U.S. MNEs is an implicit, overly-generous, and incoherent quasi-territorial system that relies on residence rules, source rules, and the arm’s-length approach to apportion international business profits between domestic income that is currently taxable by the United States and foreign income that is effectively exempt, or nearly so, from U.S. taxation because of deferral and cross-crediting. This version of territoriality is quite ugly because it is highly complex and it imposes only modest restraints on the ability of U.S. MNEs to shift income out of the U.S. tax base to low-tax foreign countries.

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January 28, 2015 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Cockfield: David Foster Wallace on Tax Policy

Pale KingArthur J. Cockfield (Queen's University), David Foster Wallace on Tax Policy, How to Be an Adult, and Other Mysteries of the Universe, 15 Pitt. Tax Rev. ___ (2015):

As one of the most highly acclaimed fiction writers of his generation, David Foster Wallace had many things to say on a seemingly endless variety of topics. In his last work, the unfinished novel The Pale King, he chose to elaborate on, of all things, tax policy and tax administration. Wallace directed tax topics at one of the novel’s main themes: true adulthood often involves overcoming boredom in the workplace to derive a sense of community and care for others. In a sense, the book serves as a guide on how to become a reasonably happy and fulfilled adult. This Essay integrates archival research from the Collected Works of David Foster Wallace at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin.

Prior TaxProf Blog coverage:

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January 28, 2015 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

SSRN Tax Faculty 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 January 1, 2015) 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.)

43,117

Reuven Avi-Yonah (Mich.)

6916

2

Paul Caron (Pepperdine)

27,472

Ed Kleinbard (USC)

5242

3

Louis Kaplow (Harvard)

23,393

D. Dharmapala (Chicago)

2884

4

D. Dharmapala (Chicago)

21,429

Gregg Polsky (N. Carolina) 

2754

5

Vic Fleischer (San Diego)

20,438

Paul Caron (BU)

2705

6

James Hines (Michigan)

20,255

Richard Ainsworth (BU)

2487

7

Ted Seto (Loyola-L.A.)

19,490

Robert Sitkoff (Harvard)

1935

8

Richard Kaplan (Illinois)

19.282

Omri Marian (Florida)

1855

9

Ed Kleinbard (USC)

17,106

Katie Pratt (Loyola-L.A.)

1776

10

Katie Pratt (Loyola-L.A.)

16,735

David Gamage (UCBerkeley)

1681

11

Dennis Ventry (UC-Davis)

15,532

Dan Shaviro (NYU)

1658

12

Carter Bishop (Suffolk)

15,471

Jeff Kwall (Loyola-Chicago)

1563

13

Jen Kowal (Loyola-L.A.)

14,902

Jen Kowal (Loyola-L.A.)

1529

14

David Weisbach (Chicago)

14,770

DIck Harvey (Villanova)

1456

15

Richard Ainsworth (BU)

14,728

Brad Borden (Brooklyn)

1437

16

Brad Borden (Brooklyn)

14,634

Louis Kaplow (Harvard)

1426

17

Chris Sanchirico (Penn)

14,618

James Hines (Michigan)

1305

18

Robert Sitkoff (Harvard)

14,485

Francine Lipman (UNLV)

1272

19

Francine Lipman (UNLV)

14,242

Vic Fleischer (San Diego)

1269

20

David Walker (Boston Univ.)

14,190

Bridget Crawford (Pace)

1240

21

Bridget Crawford (Pace)

14,142

Chris Sanchirico (Penn)

1241

22

Dan Shaviro (NYUt)

12,693

Ted Seto (Loyola-L.A.)

1178

23

Herwig Schlunk (Vanderbilt)

12,604

Carter Bishop (Suffolk)

1167

24

Wendy Gerzog (Baltimore)

11,898

Christopher Hoyt (UMKC)

1131

25

Ed McCaffery (USC)

11,865

Steve Willis (Florida)

1106

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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January 28, 2015 in Law School Rankings, Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

BP Can Deduct 80% of Gulf Oil Cleanup Payments

BP Logo (2015)U.S. PIRG, Real Value of Deepwater Horizon Disaster Payments Depend on BP’s Tax Deductions:

As British Petroleum (BP) goes through the final phases of closing out its liabilities under the Clean Water Act, public understanding of the real value of the corporation’s payments to address the damage caused by the Deepwater Horizon disaster must include the tax deductions BP has taken and will likely take by writing the payments off as ordinary costs of doing business. ...

Over 80 percent of the total money BP has paid in connection with the Gulf oil spill so far qualifies for tax deductions. Only the Department of Justice’s $4 billion criminal fine and the SEC’s $535 million penalty were explicitly non-deductible by law. Any Clean Water Act payments will likely be non-deductible, because they will qualify as legal penalties, and the EPA, unlike many agencies, tends to be explicit that such payments be regarded as penalties. ...

Type of Payment

Tax Status

Amount Paid

Potential Tax Deduction

Damages paid to individuals/businesses

Deductible

$13 billion

$4.55 billion

Penalties to the DOJ and SEC

Non-deductible

$4.5 billion

0

Cleanup Costs

Deductible

$15 billion

$5.25 billion

Anticipated future damages

Deductible

Estimated $18 billion

$6.3 billion

Anticipated NRDA payments

Deductible

Estimated $1 billion

$350 million

Anticipated Clean Water Act penalties

Non-deductible

Maximum $13.7 billion

0

January 28, 2015 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Yahoo To Avoid Billions In Taxes By Spinning Off Alibaba Stake

The IRS Scandal, Day 629

IRS Logo 2Power Line, Sharyl Attkisson to Testify on Lynch Confirmation, But Why?:

Loretta Lynch, President Obama’s nominee for Attorney General, will testify tomorrow before the Senate Judiciary Committee. It should be an interesting day. ... Its witness list includes Sharyl Attkisson and Catherine Engelbrecht. Both have grievances against the Obama administration. Attkisson says the Justice Department hacked her electronic devices when she was investigating “Fast and Furious.” Engelbrecht says the administration unfairly targeted her group, True the Vote. Both have filed lawsuits. Engelbrecht’s has been dismissed.

Both sets of grievances should be taken seriously, but I don’t understand how they materially bear on Lynch’s confirmation. The problems with the Holder Justice Department extend far beyond the particular concerns of Attkisson and Engelbrecht. Republican members presumably take it as a given that if they can expect a repeat performance under Lynch, then she is not a suitable replacement.

The key, then, is not to attack Holder but to test the extent to which Lynch professes allegiance to his policies. Whatever her private views, Lynch will not endorse, as a general matter, hacking journalists’ computers or having the IRS target conservative advocacy groups.

The Hill, Stonewalled author Attkisson to Testify on Obama’s AG Nominee:

Also testifying will be Catherine Engelbrecht, the founder of the Tea Party-aligned True the Vote, which was unfairly targeted by the IRS, she has said, when it attempted to seek tax-exempt status. ...

The inclusion of Attkisson and Engelbrecht points to a fiery hearing that could turn into a referendum on Holder's time at the helm of the Justice Department. Conservatives accused Holder of politicizing his post to help Obama, and have pointed to the alleged hacking of Attkisson’s devices and the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups as evidence

Newsmax, The Hill: Sharyl Attkisson to Testify at AG Nominee Hearing:

Catherine Engelbrecht, the founder of the tea party-aligned True the Vote, will also be testifying, according to The Hill, which noted that the group had claimed in a lawsuit that it was unreasonably targeted by the IRS when it attempted to seek tax-exempt status.

A federal judge threw out the case against the government brought by Engelbrecht and other conservative groups last October. The proposed testimony of Attkisson and Engelbrecht suggests that the hearing could turn into a contentious affair with the GOP and Democrats battling over Holder's term in charge of the Justice Department.

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January 28, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Kamin Presents Designing Legislation That Responds to Fiscal Uncertainty Today at NYU

Kamin (2015)David Kamin (NYU) presents In Good Times and Bad: Designing Legislation That Responds to Fiscal Uncertainty at NYU today as part of its Tax Policy Colloquium Series hosted by Daniel Shaviro and Alan Viard:

Congress often moves slowly to change tax and spending laws when circumstances change, but there are ways to design legislation to anticipate and prevent the tendency towards “policy drift.”

Enactment of major pieces of legislation tends to be followed by periods of legislative stasis, even when economic conditions change. Policies during the Great Recession are an example of this. The Great Recession proved significantly deeper than forecasters had predicted, when the American Recovery And Reinvestment Act was enacted, but but as new information became available, Congress did little to alter the fiscal stimulus in response, other than to continue some expiring provisions.

There are ways to design legislation to anticipate and prevent the tendency towards “policy drift.” This paper identifies four mechanisms: delegation of legislative authority to administrative agencies, triggers that either automatically adjust policy for changed circumstances or try to force an issue onto Congress’s agenda, expirations of legislation that sunset laws on a predetermined date, and indexing to adjust policy in discrete increments in response to changes in conditions.

 
Responsive to Economic Conditions
Easy for Congress to Initiate
Reduces Uncertainty
Holds Congress Accountable
1. Delegation of legislative authority
2a. Automatic-adjustment triggers
2b. Alarm Bell Triggers
3. Expiration Dates for Legislation
4. Indexing
= Yes     = No     = Mixed    

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January 27, 2015 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

TPC Program on Dynamic Scoring: Now What?

The Tax Policy Center hosted a program yesterday on Dynamic Scoring: Now What? (video here):

On January 26, the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center and the Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy at Brookings took a close look at how dynamic scoring is done, the models that JCT and CBO use for macroeconomic analysis of tax bills and other major legislation (immigration, Affordable Care Act, infrastructure), and how to communicate this analysis accurately.

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January 27, 2015 in Conferences, Congressional News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

CBO Projects Tepid Economic Growth, Rising Deficits Despite Rising Revenues

McCormack: (Over-)Taxing the Working Family

Shannon Weeks McCormack (University of Washington), Uncle Sam and the Childcare Squeeze: (Over-)Taxing the Working Family:

Today, it is more common for families to consist of two earners than one, and parents increasingly report that they require two incomes to make ends meet. But parents lucky enough to find themselves employed will also find themselves in the “childcare squeeze.” With childcare costs representing one of the highest costs incurred by young families, today’s working parents spend a strikingly large percentage of their income on childcare in order to work away from the home. Worse still, other families find themselves “squeezed out” entirely, unable to find employment with wages high enough to pay soaring childcare expenses. This Article describes the role that two provisions of the Internal Revenue Code have played in creating and aggravating these hardships and provides a blueprint for meaningful reform that will prevent the pervasive over-taxation of the working family.

January 27, 2015 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Blair-Stanek: Intellectual Property Law Solutions to Tax Avoidance

Andrew Blair-Stanek (Maryland), Intellectual Property Law Solutions to Tax Avoidance, 62 UCLA L. Rev. 2 (2015):

Multinational corporations use intellectual property (IP) to avoid taxes on a massive scale, by transferring their IP offshore for artificially low prices. Economists estimate that this abuse costs the U.S. Treasury as much as $90 billion each year. Yet tax policymakers and scholars have been unable to devise feasible tax-law solutions to this problem. This Article introduces an entirely new solution: change IP law rather than tax law. Multinationals’ tax-avoidance strategies rely on undervaluing their IP. This Article proposes extending existing IP law so that these low valuations make it harder for multinationals subsequently to litigate or to license the IP. For example, transferring a patent for a low price to a tax-haven subsidiary should make it harder for the multinational to demonstrate the patent’s validity, a competitor’s infringement, or entitlement to any injunctions. The low transfer price should also weigh toward lower patent damages and potentially even a finding of patent misuse. Extending IP law in such ways would deter multinationals from using IP to avoid taxes. Both case law and IP’s theoretical justifications support this approach, which also has the counterintuitive benefit of encouraging the flourishing of creative professionals such as inventors and authors.

January 27, 2015 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 628

IRS Logo 2National Review, The Attkisson File:

Attkisson is a dogged reporter, and Stonewalled is a gripping book, organized around the Obama-administration scandals she covered at CBS News. With the exception of the IRS scandal, she covered just about all of them: Fast and Furious, green-energy crony capitalism, Benghazi, and Obamacare. Attkisson devotes a chapter to her work on each one.

Each of the scandals falls into a larger pattern of scandal management practiced by the Obama White House. (The reader can infer how the IRS scandal fits the pattern precisely to a T.) Her book is invaluable for how it analyzes and exposes this pattern, combining her reportage and her behind-the-scenes work at CBS News.

The pattern begins with blatant denials — bald lies — and stonewalling. ... Next in the pattern, when the lies fail, comes the attribution of responsibility to the lowest level of bureaucrat. ... Attkisson also shows how the administration, using a technique she calls “controversialization,” disparages any sources and reporters who move the story forward. ...

Stonewalled covers two kinds of scandal: first, the various scandals within the Obama administration; second, the scandalous treatment of these White House scandals by CBS News. With each White House scandal, Attkisson demonstrates the success, more or less, of the Obama administration’s scandal management inside the newsroom at CBS.

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January 27, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (4)

Monday, January 26, 2015

NY Times: Middle Class Continues to Shrink Under President Obama

New York Times, Middle Class Shrinks Further as More Fall Out Instead of Climbing Up:

The middle class that President Obama identified in his State of the Union speech last week as the foundation of the American economy has been shrinking for almost half a century.

In the late 1960s, more than half of the households in the United States were squarely in the middle, earning, in today’s dollars, $35,000 to $100,000 a year. Few people noticed or cared as the size of that group began to fall, because the shift was primarily caused by more Americans climbing the economic ladder into upper-income brackets.

But since 2000, the middle-class share of households has continued to narrow, the main reason being that more people have fallen to the bottom. At the same time, fewer of those in this group fit the traditional image of a married couple with children at home, a gap increasingly filled by the elderly. 

NY Times Chart 2

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January 26, 2015 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

How Yahoo Might Sell Billions in Alibaba Stock and Pay No Taxes

YahooBloomberg,  How Yahoo Might Sell Billions in Alibaba Stock and Pay No Taxes, by Jesse Drucker:

Yahoo! on Tuesday is expected to reveal something most companies usually try to keep secret: how it plans to avoid a multibillion-dollar tax bill.

The Web portal has spent more than a year figuring out how to cash out a chunk of its $40 billion stake in China-based Alibaba. Typically, a U.S. company faces a federal tax bill of about 35 percent when it sells stock in another enterprise for cash.

Yahoo took a $3 billion tax hit last year when it sold about $10 billion in Alibaba shares. This time around, activist investors are leaning on the Sunnyvale, California-based company to be more savvy.

Marissa Mayer, Yahoo’s chief executive officer, probably will maintain at least part of the Alibaba holding to keep a finger in China’s fast-growing Web market. Were Yahoo to sell the entire stake, it could face a federal tax bill of as much as $14 billion.

Here are some of Yahoo’s options to avoid capital-gains tax, both legal:

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January 26, 2015 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

FBA Tax Section Hosts Tax Practice & Procedure Monthly Roundtable Today

FBA Tax SectionThe Federal Bar Association Tax Section hosts its free Tax Practice & Procedure Monthly Roundtable today from 1:00-2:00 p.m. EST (dial-in number: 866-690-2070; Password:  3008455329):

Auditing of Large Partnerships
Monte Jackel, Jackel Tax Law

The GAO recently issued a report on the audit of large partnerships. There was also a panel discussion on the topic at the most recent University of Chicago Tax Institute. The GAO report concludes that the audit rate is very low. But that is not really where the problem is. Monte Jackel, who has spent decades working on partnership issues on behalf of the government and the IRS, will address the significance of the developing IRS approach to auditing partnership returns

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January 26, 2015 in Conferences, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Reynolds: Obama's Proposed Tax Increases Target the Middle Class

USA Today op-ed:  Middle-class Savings Like Blood in the Water, by Glenn Reynolds (Tennessee):

Bank robber Willie Sutton is said to have explained his career this way: "That's where the money is." Whether Sutton ever really said that, it's an aphorism that, according to Bloomberg's Megan McArdle, explains President Obama's plans to go after middle class assets like 529 college savings plans and home appreciation.

Though millions of Americans have been putting money into "tax free" 529 plans to save for their children's increasingly expensive college educations, President Obama would change the law so that withdrawals from the plans to fund college would be taxed as ordinary income. So while you used to be able to get a nice tax benefit by saving for college, now you'll be shelling out to Uncle Sam every time you withdraw to pay for Junior's dorm fees.

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January 26, 2015 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 627

IRS Logo 2Commentary, Contentions Obama Administration Again Proves It Cannot Be Trusted with Your Data:

Yesterday’s important ObamaCare revelation was the latest in a series of Obama-era developments in which big-government projects prove their conservative critics correct. This particular aspect of the administrative state is, however, worse than incompetence. It’s yet another proof that the government cannot be trusted with the private information it gathers from the public.

This has been an ongoing debate that conservatives have lately been winning handily. Democrats moved to require more transparency in those who make political donations, though the Democrats sought to protect major liberal donor groups like unions. Conservatives said the information would be used to harass and target donors. The Obama administration then promptly proved conservatives right, by doing just that.

Then the IRS scandal came to light. Conservative and pro-Israel groups were targeted for nonprofit status, and part of the targeting was invasive questioning. It was unnecessary and unfairly applied, but conservatives also said the IRS couldn’t be trusted with the information. The IRS then proved them right, going on a leaking spree and releasing confidential information, in some cases to ideological allies for cooperative (and very much illegal) targeting. Concerns about government use of private information have infused opposition to gun-control legislation as well.

And now comes perhaps the least surprising entry in the list: the government’s ObamaCare website is sharing insurance customers’ personal information with advertisers.

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January 26, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

TaxProf Blog Weekend Roundup

Sunday, January 25, 2015

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

  1. [230 Downloads]  The Rise and Fall of the Consumption Tax: A Historical Perspective, by Reuven Avi-Yonah (Michigan)
  2. [216 Downloads]  Important Developments in Federal Income Taxation (2014), by Edward A. Morse (Creighton)
  3. [169 Downloads]  Do Audits Matter?: A Parallax Theory of the Relation between Tax Enforcement and Underreporting, by J. T. Manhire (U.S. Treasury Department)
  4. [139 Downloads]  Thomas Piketty and Inequality: Legal Causes and Tax Solutions, by Paul L. Caron (Pepperdine)
  5. [139 Downloads]  Return on Political Investment in the American Jobs Creation Act of 2004, by Hui Chen (Zurich), Katherine Gunny (Colorado) & Karthik Ramanna (Harvard)

January 25, 2015 in Scholarship, Tax, Top 5 Downloads | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 626

IRS Logo 2Commentary, Contentions Obama Administration Again Proves It Cannot Be Trusted with Your Data:

Yesterday’s important ObamaCare revelation was the latest in a series of Obama-era developments in which big-government projects prove their conservative critics correct. This particular aspect of the administrative state is, however, worse than incompetence. It’s yet another proof that the government cannot be trusted with the private information it gathers from the public.

This has been an ongoing debate that conservatives have lately been winning handily. Democrats moved to require more transparency in those who make political donations, though the Democrats sought to protect major liberal donor groups like unions. Conservatives said the information would be used to harass and target donors. The Obama administration then promptly proved conservatives right, by doing just that.

Then the IRS scandal came to light. Conservative and pro-Israel groups were targeted for nonprofit status, and part of the targeting was invasive questioning. It was unnecessary and unfairly applied, but conservatives also said the IRS couldn’t be trusted with the information. The IRS then proved them right, going on a leaking spree and releasing confidential information, in some cases to ideological allies for cooperative (and very much illegal) targeting. Concerns about government use of private information have infused opposition to gun-control legislation as well.

And now comes perhaps the least surprising entry in the list: the government’s ObamaCare website is sharing insurance customers’ personal information with advertisers.

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January 25, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Maine Governor Proposes Taxing Large Charities

Wall Street Journal, Maine Gov. LePage Wants to Tax Big Nonprofits:

A sweeping proposal to cut taxes for Maine families and businesses could upend one of the most widely accepted practices in the country: the property-tax exemption for nonprofit organizations.

A recent budget plan by Republican Gov. Paul LePage calling for an overhaul of individual, corporate and sales taxes also would make Maine the first state in the nation to require colleges, hospitals and other large charities to go on the property-tax rolls in their municipalities.

“It would be a stunning development,” said Daphne Kenyon, a fellow at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy in Cambridge, Mass. “I think there would be all kinds of reaction, from litigation to nonprofits’ possibly moving.”

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January 24, 2015 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (10)

The IRS Scandal, Day 625

IRS Logo 2OpenSecrets.org, In the Garden of Dark Money, the Thorny Case of Rosebush Corp.:

Ever since news broke in 2013 that the IRS had targeted the exemption applications of tea party and some other politically-oriented groups for extra scrutiny, conventional wisdom had it that the agency throws up roadblocks for organizations trying to obtain its seal of approval.

But much evidence indicates the IRS backs down without much fuss when groups seeking 501(c)(4) “social welfare” status come calling.

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January 24, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, January 23, 2015

Weekly Tax Roundup

Weekly SSRN Tax Roundup

C-Span: Economic Inequality and the U.S. Tax System

C-Span Washington Journal, Economic Inequality and the U.S. Tax System:

Edward Kleinbard talked about his book, We are Better Than This: How Government Should Spend Our Money.  He spoke about why the government should do more, including increasing the size of the tax system, to improve the economy and combat income inequality. (Click on button on bottom right to view video directly on C-Span to avoid interruption caused by blog's refresh rate.)

January 23, 2015 in Book Club, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

Tax Court: Payments for Donations of Eggs to Infertile Couples Constitute Income, Not Damages Excludable Under § 104

EggFollowing up on my previous posts (links below):  Perez v. Commissioner, 144 T.C. No. 4 (Jan. 22, 2014):

We acknowledge that this case has received some publicity in tax and nontax publications, which is why it is important to state clearly what it does not concern. It does not require us to decide whether human eggs are capital assets. It does not require us to figure out how to allocate basis in the human body, or the holding period for human-body parts, or the character of the gain from the sale of those parts. Fn.4

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January 23, 2015 in New Cases, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

ITPF, TPC Conference Today on Corporate Inversions and Tax Policy

TPC 2The International Tax Policy Forum and Tax Policy Center are co-hosting a conference today at the Brookings Institution from 8:50 - 11:15 a.m. (webcast here) on Corporate Inversions and Tax Policy:

Corporate inversions, which change the tax home of a multinational corporation by merging it with a foreign company that then becomes the parent of the multinational group, received considerable attention in 2014, including from the IRS, which in September released a notice describing regulations the government intends to issue to reduce the tax benefits of future inversion transactions. Corporate inversions elicit strong reactions: some call U.S. companies involved in these transactions “unpatriotic,” while others view them as symptomatic of an out-of-step U.S. corporate tax system, with its high rate and worldwide reach that differs from the territorial taxes widely used by other countries. These inversions are also not unique to the U.S, with firms in the United Kingdom and elsewhere also using them during periods when their foreign incomes were subject to high rates of domestic taxation.

On Friday, January 23rd, the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center and the International Tax Policy Forum will co-host a conference examining the history, causes, and consequences of corporate inversions, the policy response in the United Kingdom, and what actions the U.S. should take. Experts from a variety of backgrounds will share their perspectives, and Senator Orrin Hatch will give keynote remarks at the close of the event.

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January 23, 2015 in Conferences, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

TurboTax Apologizes for Bait-and-Switch, Provides $25 Refunds to Customers

Turbo Tax (2015)Following up on last week's post, TurboTax Customers Angry Over Change In Tax Return Software:  USA Today, TurboTax 'Messed Up,' Refunds Customers:

Investors outraged by TurboTax’ recent change that forced them to pay 50% more for the tax preparation software: put down your pitchforks. TurboTax isn’t just apologizing, but will refund your money.

Beginning Friday, TurboTax’ maker Intuit will issue $25 refunds back to any TurboTax customer forced to buy the most expensive version of the company’s software this year after buying the less-costly Deluxe version last year. Intuit will put a link up on its Web site on Jan. 23 where TurboTax customers can claim their refund. ...

In addition to refunding $25 to affected customers, TurboTax General Manager Sasan Goodarzi is issuing a lengthy written apology to TurboTax customers for the change.

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January 23, 2015 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (15)

Living Amidst Wildlife in Malibu

LionMy wife and I were watching our DVR'd Saturday Night Live Wednesday night in bed when we received an email warning us that a mountain lion had been spotted on campus a few hundred yards from our home. Pepperdine helpfully included an Emergency Preparedness Guide with specific safety guidelines for encountering a mountain lion: 

Should you encounter a mountain lion, take the following actions:

  • If you see a mountain lion, maintain eye contact and back away slowly. Do not run; the lion’s instinct will be to chase you. Appear as large, loud, and powerful as possible and yell and throw stones. ...
  • If attacked, fight back. Under no circumstances should you fall to the ground or roll into a fetal position. Hit as hard as possible, especially around the animal’s head. If you are attacked from behind, try to reposition yourself to meet the cat face to face.

SNL guest host Kevin Hart apparently lives near us (click on YouTube button on bottom right to view video directly on YouTube to avoid interruption caused by blog's refresh rate):

January 23, 2015 in Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

The IRS Scandal, Day 624

IRS Logo 2Wall Street Journal, 7 Down, 1 to Go: An Ungracious Address Even By This President’s Standards, by James Taranto:

In four of the past six midterm elections, voters have administered what is sometimes called a “shellacking” or a “thumpin’ ” to the sitting president’s party. In 1994, 2006, 2010 and 2014, the president’s party lost seats in both houses of Congress and the majority in at least one. In 1995, 2007 and 2011 the president began his State of the Union address with an acknowledgment of the other party’s electoral success. ...

This year’s State of the Union was an ungracious address even by this president’s standards. There was no word of congratulation for the Republicans or even for the new Congress. Worse, Obama extemporaneously taunted his adversaries about his own past electoral success.

“I have no more campaigns to run,” the president declared during the speech’s coda. One suspects that was not intended as an applause line, but applaud some in the audience did. Obama began reading his next sentence, then interrupted with a #humblebrag: “My only agenda—I know because I won both of them.”

To which we add the obligatory asterisk: While it is true without qualification that he won the first one, the second came with the assistance of the Internal Revenue Service’s suppression of his opponents. To be sure, one cannot rule out the possibility that he would have won a licit campaign. But then again, it’s not as if it was a 45-7 blowout.

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January 23, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (5)

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Knoll Presents Balancing State Sovereignty and Interstate Commerce Today at Northwestern

KnollMichael Knoll (Pennsylvania) presents Striking a Balance Between State Sovereignty and Interstate Commerce, 75 State Tax Notes ___ (2015) (with Ruth Mason (Virginia)), at Northwestern today as part of its Tax Colloquium Series hosted by Lawrence Zelenak:

This Article discusses Wynne v. Comptroller, a dormant Commerce Clause case against Maryland pending before the Supreme Court. We use economic analysis to rebut Maryland’s claim that its tax regime does not discriminate against interstate commerce. We also argue that the parties’ framing of the central issue in the case as whether the Constitution requires states to relieve double taxation draws focus away from the discrimination question, and therefore could undermine the Wynnes’ case and lead to unjustified narrowing of the dormant Commerce Clause. We also show how our approach to tax discrimination resolves many of the issues that seemed to trouble the Justices at oral argument.

January 22, 2015 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

D.C. Tax Law Gave Washington Nationals Unique Advantage in Inking Max Scherzer to $210 Million Deal

MaxWashington Post, Can Max Scherzer’s Contract be a Model for Other Superstars Thinking of Washington?:

Washington may have at least one advantage over other pro sports cities when it comes to wooing high-priced free agent talent: the District’s tax laws.

Scott Boras, the agent for pitcher Max Scherzer and several other Nationals stars who has negotiated some of the biggest contracts in sports, said local tax laws allowed Scherzer and the Nationals to hammer out a creative contract that could provide a blueprint of sorts for other area teams courting big-name talent. That includes the kind of deals that likely would be required for the Wizards to lure, say, Kevin Durant back to his home town or for the Nationals to keep slugger Bryce Harper. ...

Boras said Scherzer’s $210 million contract is not only historic in terms of its size but noteworthy in structure. The deal takes advantage of District tax laws to save Scherzer money — possibly in the seven or eight figures — and keeps the team’s annual salary payments down. It would not have worked in New York, Los Angeles or most other baseball cities, he said. ...

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January 22, 2015 in Celebrity Tax Lore, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Herzig: Supreme Court Will Approve Same-Sex Marriage for Tax Reasons

MarriageSlate:  A Taxing Decision, by David Herzig (Valparaiso):

For years people have been trying to predict what the Supreme Court will do about same-sex marriage. That speculation has intensified now that the Supreme Court has decided to hear marriage cases originating in the 6th Circuit that upheld the state-level bans against same-sex marriage and recognition. How will the Supreme Court decide this crucial issue? In fact, it has already tipped its hand on the outcome. To understand why, you have to understand tax law.

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January 22, 2015 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Ryan: Merger Is Indirect Gift In Cavallaro

Kerry A. Ryan (Saint Louis), Merger is Indirect Gift in Cavallaro, 146 Tax Notes 139 (Jan. 5, 2015):

In Cavallaro v. Commissioner, [T.C. Memo. 2014-189,] the Tax Court held that a merger of two family-owned businesses resulted in a substantial taxable gift. The taxpayers avoided penalties by demonstrating that they relied in good faith on the mistaken advice of competent tax advisers.

January 22, 2015 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)