TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron
Pepperdine University School of Law

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Amazon Beats IRS In $1.5 Billion Tax Court Case

Amazon logoSeattle Times, Amazon Wins $1.5 Billion Tax Battle With IRS:

Amazon.com scored a big victory Thursday against the IRS in a case that the company says could have cost it about $1.5 billion [Amazon.com v. Commissioner, 148 T.C. No. 8 (Mar. 23, 2017)].

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March 25, 2017 in IRS News, New Cases, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Hickman Presents Restoring The Lost Anti-Injunction Act At British Columbia

Hickman (2017)Kristin Hickman (Minnesota) presented Restoring the Lost Anti-Injunction Act, 103 Va. L. Rev. __ (2017) (with Gerald Kerska (J.D. 2017, Minnesota)), yesterday at University of British Columbia Allard School of Law as part of its Tax Law and Policy Workshop Speaker Series:

Should Treasury regulations be eligible for pre-enforcement review? The D.C. Circuit’s recent decision in Florida Bankers Association puts its interpretation of the Anti-Injunction Act at odds with both general administrative law norms in favor of pre-enforcement review of final agency action and also the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the nearly identical Tax Injunction Act in Direct Marketing Association v. Brohl. In fact, cases interpreting the Anti-Injunction Act more generally are fragmented and inconsistent.

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March 25, 2017 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1416:  The Root Problem Is The Law, Not The IRS

Hackney (2017)Philip Hackney (LSU) delivered the Norman A. Sugarman Memorial Lecture in Nonprofit Law at Case Western yesterday on Improving IRS Charity Oversight: Responsible Congressional Delegation, Responsive IRS Rulemaking:

Whether you think it fair or unfair, there is a large segment of American society who believes the IRS targeted conservative groups trying to obtain tax-exempt status from at least 2011-2013, leading to explosive accusations on the professional integrity and political bias of the agency.

In this lecture, Professor Hackney, James E. & Betty M. Phillips Associate Professor of Law, LSU Law Center, will clarify how this charge is unfair or at the least deeply misguided, explaining that root problem is not the alleged political litmus test by the IRS in considering tax exempt status in the charitable sector, but rather the law — both in its construction and implementation.

Congress has provided vague legal standards for the IRS to implement in the tax exempt arena, resulting in costly enforcement attempts that have undermined the public’s confidence that the laws are being enforced in a fair and impartial manner. To solve this issue, Congress should enact standards in this arena, but that the Treasury Department and the IRS ought to implement rules.

This lecture will consider the political, legal, and technical challenges to adopting such a rule-based regime for charity oversight.

See Philip Hackney, Charitable Organization Oversight: Rules v. Standards, 13 Pitt. Tax Rev. 83 (2015).

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March 25, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Friday, March 24, 2017

Weekly Tax Highlight And Roundup

This week, Joe Kristan (CPA & Shareholder, Roth & Company (Des Moines, Iowa); Editor, Tax Update Blog) discusses a recent Tax Court case denying a couple's claimed $18,000 charitable deduction for used clothing donated to their church.

KristanDeducting that gold mine in your closet.

Thrift shop values. Tax pros might expect Goodwill and Salvation Army to be the largest industrial enterprises in the nation, going by the values clients provide for used clothing they give away. The Tax Court gave us a lesson last week on the sort of tax value you can squeeze out of last year’s wardrobe.

A Colorado couple must have really cleared out the closets and attic in 2013, as they claimed a charitable donation of $18,000 for donation of used clothing to a church. Unfortunately, the court record is light on just what those clothes were:

Other than generalized references to various clothing designers and the quality of the items petitioners claimed to have donated, no details as to the number of specific items donated or the value of any specific item have been provided. Petitioners did not present any written substantiation for the charitable contribution deduction, nor could petitioner recall how the value of the donations was calculated.

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March 24, 2017 in Tax, Weekly Tax Roundup | Permalink | Comments (0)

Weekly SSRN Tax Article Review And Roundup

This week, Daniel Hemel (Chicago) reviews a new paper by Wei Cui (University of British Columbia), Taxation Without Information: The Institutional Foundations of Modern Tax Collection.

HemelWei Cui’s new paper, Taxation Without Information: The Institutional Foundations of Modern Tax Collection, challenges the now-conventional wisdom that effective tax collection depends upon third party reporting. Cui suggests that effective tax collection in fact depends upon the existence of business firms for whom compliance with the law—tax as well as non-tax—is the norm. Cui argues that this insight should lead us to rethink our assumptions not only about modern tax collection, but also about modern business firms: “we should stop thinking of business firms as ‘fiscal intermediaries,’” Cui writes, and instead “conceive of firms as sites of social cooperation under the rule of law” (p. 3).

Cui’s paper is ambitious, important, and—I think—largely right. He has persuaded me that third party reporting is not nearly as integral to tax collection as I previously believed. If there is a weak point in his argument, it is this: the evidence he produces in support of his “social cooperation” theory is equally consistent with the claim that business firms facilitate legal compliance precisely because they fail to engender close cooperation among their members.

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March 24, 2017 in Scholarship, Tax, Weekly SSRN Roundup | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tax Policy In The Trump Administration

Tulane Hosts 7th Annual Tax Roundtable

Tulane (2015)7th Annual Tulane Tax Roundtable:

Lily Batchelder (NYU)
Accounting for Behavioral Considerations in Business Tax Reform: The Case of Expensing
Discussant:  Steve Sheffrin (Tulane)

Daniel Hemel (Chicago)
The Federalist Safeguards of Progressive Taxation
Discussant:  Lily Faulhaber (Georgetown)

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March 24, 2017 in Conferences, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1415:  ‘Media Attention’ And IRS Abuse

IRS Logo 2Wall Street Journal op-ed: ‘Media Attention’ and IRS Abuse: A Simple Rule Fix Could End Partisan Targeting Tomorrow, by John J. (President & CEO, Cause of Action Institute):

The Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of Americans for their political views may have ended with the Obama administration — or even with its exposure in 2013. But it could easily recur. Even now, an internal IRS rule singles out applicants for nonprofit status who might be tied to anything newsworthy.

The genesis of the targeting scandal was Section 7.29.3 of the Internal Revenue Manual. As noted in a report my organization is issuing Wednesday, this manual dictates how IRS employees handle everything from customer service to criminal investigations. This particular section tells them to flag for further review any application for tax-exempt status that might “attract media or Congressional attention.”

That’s a broad, vague and subjective command that career IRS employees are nevertheless required to follow. Emails between IRS personnel make clear that low-level employees were guided by this rule throughout the targeting scandal. They repeatedly cited “media attention” on the Tea Party as the reason to single out and delay applications from conservative groups.

This rule means that IRS enforcement reflects the ideological biases of the media. Aside from a small number of groups related to the Occupy Wall Street movement and the defunct advocacy group Acorn, libertarian and free-market groups were almost exclusively targeted.

These provisions of the IRS manual have nothing to do with the merits of a nonprofit application and everything to do with keeping the agency from looking bad. It is inappropriate for a group’s tax-exempt status to be deep-sixed because of negative publicity. In the targeting scandal, this approach allowed partisan concerns to overtake the application process, resulting in the unfair treatment of political viewpoints at odds with the Obama administration.

Equal justice under the law demands that the IRS abandon the “newsworthy” criterion. To date, however, the agency has promised only to stop making lists of targeted groups “until further notice.” Even if the halt were permanent, it wouldn’t be enough. IRS officials are still required to follow the manual and pull high-profile applications for enhanced scrutiny.

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March 24, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Robinson Presents State Income Tax Law In The Shadow Of The Internal Revenue Code Today At Indiana

Robinson (2017)Mildred Robinson (Virginia) presents Irreconcilable Differences?: State Income Tax Law in the Shadow of the Internal Revenue Code at Indiana-Bloomington today as part of its Tax Policy Colloquium Series hosted by Leandra Lederman:

[T]his paper will proceed in four parts. Part I provides a brief history of states’ experience with taxing incomes beginning prior to the enactment of the 16th amendment to the United States constitution and ending with the present. I will touch upon early individual state efforts to tax personal incomes. A salient part of this discussion will highlight the political factors likely to have contributed to states’ decisions to conform to (and not piggy-back onto) the federal internal revenue code. This part will also highlight the ways in which state codes began to depart from the federal code with emphasis on those differences contributing even early on to the regressive effect captured by data currently analyzed by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.

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March 23, 2017 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Rossi:  Carbon Taxation By Regulation

Jim Rossi (Vanderbilt), Carbon Taxation by Regulation, 102 Minn. L. Rev. ___ (2018):

This Article argues that, even though a carbon tax remains politically elusive, “carbon taxation by regulation” has begun to flourish as a way of financing carbon reduction. For more than a century, energy rate setting has been used to promote public good and redistributive goals, akin to general financial taxation. Various non-tax subsidies in customer energy rates have enormous untapped potential for promoting low-carbon sources of energy, while also balancing broader economic and social welfare goals.

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March 23, 2017 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

NPR:  Joe Bankman, Tax Hero

BankmanNPR Planet Money, Tax Hero:

Imagine if you had to pay your credit card bill the way you pay your taxes.

Each month, Visa would send you a blank form. The form would instruct you to gather all your receipts, write down every purchase you had made, and calculate the total amount you owed Visa.

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March 23, 2017 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (4)

Gamage & Shanske:  Why A State-Level Carbon Tax Can Include Border Adjustments

David Gamage (Indiana) and Darien Shanske (UC-Davis), Why a State-Level Carbon Tax Can Include Border Adjustments, 83 State Tax Notes 583 (Feb. 13, 2017):

This essay argues that U.S. state governments can permissibly levy state-level carbon taxes with border tax adjustments.

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March 23, 2017 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Ring Presents Leak-Driven Law Today At Boston College

Ring (2017)Diane Ring (Boston College) presents Leak-Driven Law, 65 UCLA L. Rev. __ (forthcoming 2018) (with Shu-Yi Oei (Tulane; moving to Boston College)) at Boston College today as part of its Tax Policy Workshop Series:

Over the past decade, a number of well-publicized data leaks have revealed the secret offshore holdings of high-net-worth individuals and multinational taxpayers, leading to a sea change in cross-border tax enforcement. Spurred by leaked data, tax authorities have prosecuted offshore tax cheats, attempted to recoup lost revenues, enacted new laws, and signed international agreements that promote “sunshine” and exchange of financial information between countries.

The conventional wisdom is that data leaks enable tax authorities to detect and punish offshore tax evasion more effectively, and that leaks are therefore socially beneficial from an economic welfare perspective. This Article argues, however, that the conventional wisdom is too simplistic.

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March 22, 2017 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Shanske Presents Equitable Apportionment And The State Corporate Income Tax Today At Duke

Shanske (2017)Darien Shanske (UC-Davis) presents Equitable Apportionment and the State Corporate Income Tax: Past, Present and Possible Future at Duke today as part of its Tax Policy Workshop Series hosted by Lawrence Zelenak:

What a tough break for formulary apportionment. We are at a moment when there is apparently a real interest in reforming the federal corporate income tax in a way that, at least in theory, would broaden the base of the tax and encourage exporters. Shifting to the use of formulary apportionment with a single sales factor (SSF) could theoretically achieve these goals and there is at least one well-developed reform proposal to that end on the table. Moreover, over 40 states impose a corporate income tax and they have used formulas for a very long time, and so there is a track record and case law to work with. But this is not — yet — formulary apportionment’s moment.

This is the moment for the Destination-Based Cash Flow Tax (DBCFT), which relies on border tax adjustments (BTAs).

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March 22, 2017 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Yariv Brauner Named To Hugh Culverhouse Eminent Scholar Chair At Florida

BraunerYariv Brauner has been named to the Hugh Culverhouse Eminent Scholar chair at Florida:

Professor Brauner has been a member of the UF Law faculty, teaching in the Graduate Tax Program, since 2006. Prior to joining UF, he taught at the Arizona State University College of Law, Northwestern University School of Law, and New York University School of Law, from which he received both an LL.M. in International Taxation and an S.J.D. degree.

A prolific scholar focusing principally on international taxation, Professor Brauner is the author of more than 60 books and articles and has presented papers at over a hundred conferences and law schools around the world.

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March 22, 2017 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Avi-Yonah Posts Two Tax Papers on SSRN

Reuven S. Avi-Yonah (Michigan) & Haiyan Xu (Michigan), A Global Treaty Override? The New OECD Multilateral Tax Instrument and Its Limits:

The new OECD Multilateral Instrument to amend tax treaties (MLI) is an important innovation in international law. Hitherto, international economic law was built primarily on bilateral treaties (e.g., tax treaties and BITs) or multilateral treaties (the WTO agreements). The problem is that in some areas, like tax and investment, multilateral treaties proved hard to negotiate, but only a multilateral treaty can be amended simultaneously by all its signatories.

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March 22, 2017 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Schmalbeck, Soled & Thomas:  The Case For A Carryover Tax Basis Regime

Richard Schmalbeck (Duke), Jay A. Soled (Rutgers) & Kathleen DeLaney Thomas (North Carolina), Advocating A Carryover Tax Basis Regime (At Least for Now), 92 Notre Dame L. Rev. ___ (2017):

For close to a century, an important (but unfortunate) feature of the Internal Revenue Code has been a rule that the tax basis of any asset is made equal to its fair market value at death. Notwithstanding the substantial revenue losses associated with this rule, Congress has retained it for reasons of administrative convenience.

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March 22, 2017 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (6)

Byrnes & Munro:  Background And Current Status Of FATCA

LexisWilliam Byrnes (Texas A&M) & Robert J. Munro (Texas A&M), Background and Current Status of FATCA, in LexisNexis Guide to FATCA & CRS Compliance (5th ed., 2017):

The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, referred to as FATCA, does not operate in a global tax vacuum. It is nearly impossible to comprehend fully its impact unless its highly technical procedural provisions are viewed in context. This introductory chapter will provide certain background information necessary to understand FATCA, its offspring like the OECD's CRS, and the impact of these initiatives.

FATCA's ostensible purpose was to act as an additional tax revenue source to offset additional spending in the HIRE Act of 2010. FATCA was passed on the unsubstantiated basis that “each year, the United States loses an estimated $100 billion in tax revenue due to offshore tax abuses.” However, the total amount of the offset revenue from FATCA was only projected to $8.714 billion for the ten year period of 2010 to 2020. This chapter explores the revenue raised until 2017 and the offsetting compliance costs.

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March 22, 2017 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Hemel Presents The Federalist Safeguards of Progressive Taxation Today At Georgetown

HemelDaniel Hemel (Chicago) presents The Federalist Safeguards of Progressive Taxation at Georgetown today as part of its Tax Law and Public Finance Workshop Series hosted by John Brooks and Itai Grinberg.

This essay considers the distributional consequences of the Supreme Court’s federalism jurisprudence over the past quarter century, focusing specifically on the anticommandeering, anti-coercion, and state sovereign immunity doctrines. The first of these doctrines prevents Congress from compelling the states to administer federal programs; the second prevents Congress from achieving the same result through offers that for practical purposes the states cannot refuse; the third prohibits Congress from abrogating state sovereign immunity outside a limited class of cases. These doctrines vest the states with valuable entitlements and allow the states to sell those entitlements back to Congress for a price. In this respect, the doctrines have an intergovernmental distributional effect, shifting wealth from the federal government to the states.

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March 21, 2017 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Bird-Pollan:  Utilitarianism And Wealth Transfer Taxation

Jennifer Bird-Pollan (Kentucky), Utilitarianism and Wealth Transfer Taxation, 69 Ark. L. Rev. 695 (2016):

This article is the third in a series examining the continued relevance and philosophical legitimacy of the United States wealth transfer tax system from within a particular philosophical perspective [Death, Taxes, and Property (Rights): Nozick, Libertarianism, and the Estate Tax, 66 Maine L. Rev. 1 (2013); Unseating Privilege: Rawls, Equality of Opportunity, and Wealth Transfer Taxation, 59 Wayne L. Rev. 713 (2014);]. The article examines the utilitarianism of John Stuart Mill and his philosophical progeny and distinguishes the philosophical approach of utilitarianism from contemporary welfare economics, primarily on the basis of the concept of “utility” in each approach.

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March 21, 2017 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Best And Worst States For Business: 90% Of The Top 10 Voted For Trump; 80% Of The Bottom 10 Voted For Clinton

Robert W. McGee (Fayetteville State University), The First McGee Annual Report on the Best and Worst States for Business:

This study is the first annual McGee Report on the best and worst states for business. The fifty states are ranked based on the extent to which they facilitate business creation and expansion. This study incorporated the data collected from five other studies, which included the examination of hundreds of variables. Utah was found to be the most business friendly state; California was least business friendly. States that voted Republican in the 2016 presidential election tended to be more business friendly than states that voted Democratic.

Top 10

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March 21, 2017 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (29)

Kleinbard Presents The Economic And Social Consequences Of Tax Reform At Loyola

Kleinbard (2015)Edward Kleinbard (USC) presented The Economic and Social Consequences of Tax Reform last night at Loyola Marymount University College of Business Administration's Center for Accounting Ethics, Governance, and the Public Interest's Distinguished Speaker Series (flyer):

Wide-ranging tax reform is a tax priority for Congressional Republican leaders and President Trump. Professor Kleinbard will discuss the implications of proposed tax changes for the economy, social programs, and inequality.

March 21, 2017 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 20, 2017

Hemel Presents The Federalist Safeguards of Progressive Taxation Today At NYU

HemelDaniel Hemel (Chicago) presents The Federalist Safeguards of Progressive Taxation at NYU today as part of its Tax Policy Colloquium Series hosted by Daniel Shaviro and Rosanne Altshuler:

This essay considers the distributional consequences of the Supreme Court’s federalism jurisprudence over the past quarter century, focusing specifically on the anticommandeering, anti-coercion, and state sovereign immunity doctrines. The first of these doctrines prevents Congress from compelling the states to administer federal programs; the second prevents Congress from achieving the same result through offers that for practical purposes the states cannot refuse; the third prohibits Congress from abrogating state sovereign immunity outside a limited class of cases. These doctrines vest the states with valuable entitlements and allow the states to sell those entitlements back to Congress for a price. In this respect, the doctrines have an intergovernmental distributional effect, shifting wealth from the federal government to the states.

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March 20, 2017 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Fewer Than 1,000 Taxpayers Come Clean To The IRS On Virtual Currency Transactions

Bitcoin IRSFortune, Only 802 People Told the IRS About Bitcoin—Lawsuit:

The Internal Revenue Service revealed new details about its investigation into tax evasion related to bitcoin, filing court documents that suggest only a tiny percentage of virtual currency owners are reporting profits or losses in their annual returns.

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March 20, 2017 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Kamin & Setser:  The House Plan's Bad Math — Over-Estimates Of Revenue From A Border Adjustment

David Kamin (NYU) & Brad Setser (Council on Foreign Relations), House Plan's Bad Math: Over-Estimates of Revenue from a Border Adjustment:

One of the largest revenue raisers in the House Republicans’ framework for business tax reform is a “border adjustment.” However, projections of revenue from the border adjustment overstate revenue in two ways.

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March 20, 2017 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1411: Why Did Donald Trump Fire Sally Yates And Preet Bharara, But Not John Koskinen?

IRS Logo 2

Washington Examiner, Why Is Trump Afraid of Draining the Swamp at the IRS and Firing John Koskinen?:

Political cartography in Washington can be difficult. After three months in office, it's clear President Trump doesn't believe the D.C. bog includes the federal building at the corner of 12th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue. He won't drain the swamp at the Internal Revenue Service.

Famous for firing people, Trump has disrupted the status quo in the nation's capital with his personnel decisions. He quickly terminated Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, then sacked 46 federal prosecutors. But he won't ax IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.

Conservatives have been gunning for the tax chief's scalp for years. To no avail, they've tried shaming, officially censuring, and impeaching Koskinen. But now that Trump's in the White House, they're wondering why the president is sheltering the taxman. ...

The Trump White House keeps dodging the question. On Friday, press secretary Sean Spicer referred curious reporters inquiring about Koskinen's fate to the Treasury Department, even after it came to light that the agency still has 7,000 unreleased documents related to the scandal. ...

Trump has every reason to dismiss the tax agent. With Koskinen at the helm, the IRS was able to cover up its targeting scandal. Brought in by President Obama to clean up the agency's image, he turned a blind eye as the IRS covered up its scandal and continued to violate citizen's First Amendment rights.

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March 20, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (5)

TaxProf Blog Weekend Roundup

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Top 5 Tax Paper Downloads

SSRN LogoThis week's list of the Top 5 Recent Tax Paper Downloads is the same as last week's list. The #1 paper is now #112 in all-time downloads among 12,595 tax papers:

  1. [1,590 Downloads]  The Known Unknowns of the Business Tax Reforms Proposed in the House Republican Blueprint, by Michael J. Graetz (Columbia)
  2. [525 Downloads]  How Donald Trump can Keep His Campaign Promises, Grow the Economy, Cut Tax Rates, Repatriate Offshore Earnings, Reduce Income Inequality, Keep Jobs in the United States, and Reduce the Deficit, by David S. Miller (Proskauer, New York)
  3. [424 Downloads]  Accounting for Behavioral Considerations in Business Tax Reform: The Case of Expensing, by Lily L. Batchelder (NYU)
  4. [346 Downloads]  Predicting Stock Market Prices with Physical Laws, by Jack Manhire (Texas A&M)
  5. [253 Downloads]  Important Developments in Federal Income Taxation, by Edward A. Morse (Creighton)

March 19, 2017 in Scholarship, Tax, Top 5 Downloads | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1410: Judicial Watch Forces Disclosure Of New Documents

IRS Logo 2

Breitbart op-ed: Obama IRS Scandal Continues – Judicial Watch Forces IRS to Disclose New Documents, by Tom Fitton (President, Judicial Watch):

We have no intention to allow the extra-legal activities of former President Obama’s administration to fade into the sunset now that he is out of office. Particularly egregious was his use of the might of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to target groups that disagreed with his political views.
And heel-dragging at the IRS continues.

Last week, Judicial Watch reported that the agency informed the U.S. District Court that it located “an additional 6,924 documents of potentially responsive records” relating to our 2015 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit regarding the Obama IRS targeting scandal.

The lawsuit at issue sought records about the IRS selection of individuals and organizations for audits based upon applications requesting non-profit tax status filed by Tea Party and other 501(c)(4) tax-exempt organizations (Judicial Watch v. Internal Revenue Service (No. 1:15-cv-00220)). ...

The corruption at the IRS is astounding. Our attorneys knew that there were more records to be searched, but the Obama IRS ignored this issue for years.

Remember that in July 2015, we released Obama IRS documents confirming that the agency used donor lists of tax-exempt organizations to target those donors for audits. The documents also show that IRS officials specifically highlighted how the U.S. Chamber of Commerce may come under “high scrutiny” from the IRS.

In September 2014, another JW FOIA lawsuit forced the release of documents detailing that the IRS sought, obtained, and maintained the names of donors to tea party and other conservative groups. IRS officials acknowledged in these documents that “such information was not needed.” The documents also show that the donor names were being used for a “secret research project.”

The Obama IRS scandal continues, and President Trump needs to clean house at the IRS as quickly as possible.

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March 19, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Saturday, March 18, 2017

This Week's Ten Most Popular TaxProf Blog Posts

Republicans Keep Repeating The Same Tax Mistake

Laffer Curve (2017)Bloomberg View:   Republicans Keep Repeating the Same Tax Mistake, by Megan McArdle:

It looks as if Governor Sam Brownback may be leaving Kansas to take up a job at the United Nations. Brownback’s critics, of which there are many, charge that having led his state into a fiscal crisis, he’s bailing out on the wagon train while the rest of his party staggers onward over the cliff. “Brownback would be fleeing a political and economic crisis,” writes Alan Pyke of ThinkProgress, “leaving about 3 million Kansans behind in a budgetary inferno of his own devising.”

You can certainly see why Brownback would want to get out. After Republicans pushed through aggressive tax cuts in 2012 and 2013, the state keeps coming up with deep budget holes that have to be patched in an annual scramble. This year’s drama is still being played out after the governor vetoed a plan to raise taxes, and the state Senate responded by crushing Brownback’s proposed alternative.

For budget wonks, the saga of the Kansas budget will be reminiscent of the Reagan years, when supply-side tax cuts resulted in big deficits. The administration had hoped that the tax cuts could be paid for by a combination of faster economic growth unleashed by lower marginal rates, and the infamous “magic asterisk” (in which unidentified spending cuts were promised, details to come later).

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March 18, 2017 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1409:  'After School Satan Club' Granted Tax-Exempt Status In 10 Days While Conservative Groups Waited Years

IRS Logo 2

Judicial Watch Press Release, IRS Gives “After School Satan Club” Tax-Exempt Status in 10 Days:

While the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) makes conservative groups wait years for tax-exempt status an “After School Satan Club” launched to hinder Christian-based counterparts got its nonprofit ranking in just ten days, records obtained by Judicial Watch show. The classification is offered to charitable, religious and educational organizations that operate as nonprofits. Under the Obama administration IRS political appointees illegally targeted conservative groups, either making them wait up to seven years for tax-exempt status or denying their application altogether. Judicial Watch uncovered that scandal and has obtained piles of government records showing how the IRS illegally colluded with another federal agency to single out groups with conservative-sounding terms such as patriot and Tea Party in their titles when applying for tax-exempt status.

In the meantime, leftist groups like the Satan club got fast tracked. The principle goal of establishing the Satan clubs in public schools throughout Washington State appears to be to counter existing enterprises operated by a Christian-based group. Documents obtained by Judicial Watch include the process of establishing an after-school Satan club at Point Defiance Elementary in Tacoma. The entity behind the club is a nonprofit called Reason Alliance, which is based in Somerville, Massachusetts, and operates in Washington State as the Satanic Temple of Seattle. Its director, Lilith X. Starr, established the Point Defiance Elementary Satanic club, the records show. In its application the club states that its purpose is “character development” and that adult instructors are vetted by the Satanic Temple’s “Executive Ministry.” Children ages 5-12 will develop basic critical reasoning, character qualities, problem solving and creative expression, according to the Satanic Temple filings included in the documents. The club logo is a pencil with devil’s horns. Records obtained by Judicial Watch from the Treasury Department show that the Satanic cult applied for tax-exempt status on October 21, 2014 and received it on October 31, 2014.

The parent permission forms ask for the name of the child’s church and pastor, the records show. They also reveal that Starr, the Seattle Satanic Temple director, told Tacoma School District Superintendent Carla Santorno that the clubs are led by “caring Satanists” and each child receives a membership card. Starr also tells the superintendent that the effort to establish after-school Satan clubs in Tacoma schools is in direct response to the Christian-based Good News Clubs operating in campuses throughout the district. This ignited concern among some Tacoma district officials, the records show. In one electronic mail exchange, Tacoma Schools official Andrea O-Brien-Henley sends colleague Paul Koch a citation from the Satanic Temple’s website noting that the temple only wants to establish after-school Satan clubs in school districts with Christian Good News Clubs. O’Brien-Henley notes that it’s odd that the Satanic Temple only targets schools that have Good News Clubs, writing to hear colleague: “If they really want to get their message out to kids it seems kind of odd that they would only be targeting schools with a Good News Club; one would think that they would want to start clubs anywhere there is an *interest* in them.”

Here’s the citation that O’Brien-Henley forwarded to fellow school district official Koch from the Satanic Temple’s website: “How do I start an After School Satan Club in my school district? If there isn’t a chapter of The Satanic Temple near you, but you’re interested in starting and After School Satan Club in your school district, please contact The Satanic Temple. Please keep in mind that the Satanic Temple is not interested in operating After School Satan Clubs in school districts that are not already hosting the Good News Club. However, The Satanic Temple ultimately intends to have After School Satan Clubs operating in every school district where the Good News Club is represented.”

In another exchange, the Executive Director of Communications for the Tacoma School District, Dan Voelpel, expresses concern to colleagues that people will confuse the school district’s message of tolerance toward the Satan Club with tolerance toward alleged “hate-related activities around the country in the wake of the presidential election.” In the records the principal of Point Defiance Elementary reveals that, two weeks after the Satan club was launched, no one had signed up for it. The fact remains however, that the IRS fast-tracked a deranged Satanic cult to operate as a nonprofit in taxpayer-funded elementary schools.

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March 18, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (8)

Friday, March 17, 2017

Weekly Tax Highlight And Roundup

This week, Joe Kristan (CPA & Shareholder, Roth & Company (Des Moines, Iowa); Editor, Tax Update Blog) discusses a recent Tax Court case highlighting the difficulty S corporation shareholders face in overcoming the way an item is characterized on a K-1.  

KristanDon’t let the K-1 hit you on the way out the door.

Sometimes people become shareholders of S corporations without really understanding what they are getting into. Yesterday the Tax Court dealt with an S corporation shareholder who apparently didn’t understand just what he was getting out of.

The taxpayer owned 50% of Resort Builders, a construction company, with his brother, John. They operated as an S corporation, with the corporate earnings being taxed on the owner 1040s based on Forms K-1 allocating the corporation income.

Over time the brothers had a falling out. Judge Vasquez explains:

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March 17, 2017 in Tax, Weekly Tax Roundup | Permalink | Comments (0)

Weekly SSRN Tax Article Review And Roundup

This week, David Gamage (Indiana) reviews a new draft article by John R. Brooks (Georgetown), The Definitions of Income, 71 Tax L. Rev. __ (forthcoming).

Gamage (2017)The question of “what is income” is often the starting point for law school tax courses. This question has also been the subject of a number of great debates in tax legal scholarship over the past century. Assessing some of these debates, Brooks argues that “income is not a pure, external concept, but actually a constructed concept that necessarily embodies policy, and therefore political, goals.” As Brooks explains, this conclusion echoes and builds on the arguments of prior giants of tax legal scholarship—especially Boris Bittker.

Brooks’s article makes valuable contributions in summarizing and assessing the intellectual history of debates over the “what is income” question.

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March 17, 2017 in Scholarship, Tax, Weekly SSRN Roundup | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tax Policy In The Trump Administration

Hemel & Herzig:  The GOP Health Care Plan’s Fatal Flaw

New York Times op-ed:  The G.O.P. Health Care Plan’s Fatal Flaw, by Daniel Hemel (Chicago) & David Herzig (Valparaiso):

[N]early seven years after his death, Senator Byrd may ensure that the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, lives another day. One of Byrd’s many legislative accomplishments over a half-century in the Senate was the eponymous “Byrd rule,” which governs the process of budget reconciliation. Republicans on Capitol Hill are trying to use the reconciliation process to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. The Byrd rule stands in their way.

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March 17, 2017 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1408: Why Won't The Media Cover It?

IRS Logo 2

The Hill op-ed: Why Won't the Media Cover IRS Scandals?, by Jenny Beth Martin (President & Co-Founder, Tea Party Patriots):

Sometimes the most insidious attack on our individual liberty arises not from the government’s wholesale trampling on those rights, but instead from a widespread chilling effect, in which individuals “self-police” or regulate their behavior out of fear of the government’s retaliation.

The years-long IRS scandal surrounding its abuse of power when it engaged in a systematic targeting of conservatives is a powerful example of the government’s ability to initiate a chilling effect on free speech.

It has been nearly four years since the IRS admitted in May of 2013 to singling out and targeting conservative groups, especially tea party groups, for additional scrutiny, onerous paperwork, and even audits. The IRS’s abusive targeting, which lasted for years, was entirely motivated by political animus and caused untold — incalculable, even — devastation to conservatives and to conservative groups. ...

After meeting with, and speaking with, hundreds of local tea party organization members in 2013, I was convinced of three key points: 1) the IRS’s targeting scandal had had a profound impact on organizations’ abilities to attract new members, fundraise, and engage on important policy battles; 2) the chilling effect of the federal government’s actions was real, devastating, and impossible to calculate; and 3) the American public needed to know the full extent of the targeting scandal so we could ensure it would never happen again.

When news of the targeting became public, the media was completely disinterested. And, now, four years later, it seems, not much has changed with the media’s interest levels.

Just this past week, the IRS revealed that it had found nearly 7,000 documents potentially related to the targeting of tea party groups. Yes, the agency that has stone-walled Congress for four years, lost computers and hard drives and tens of thousands of emails, just discovered 6,924 documents in response to an ongoing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request from Judicial Watch.

Mainstream media outlets have barely reported on this latest revelation at all. And why should they? It’s only the latest chapter in a tome the media has made clear it has no intention of sharing with the American public. ...

Two hallmarks of a free society are that individuals do not have to live in fear that their political views or activities will cause them to be subjected to abuse by the federal taxing agency, and that the press holds government accountable when it becomes abusive to its citizens. It seems, in both areas, we have a lot more work to do.

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March 17, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (6)

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Tax Prof Wedding: Tessa Davis

WeddingContinuing a joyous TaxProf tradition (see individual wedding links below):  Tax Prof Tessa Davis (South Carolina) and Jon Huggett were married on March 11:

We held the wedding at a beautiful old home by a pond just outside of Columbia, South Carolina. As my position at South Carolina was what brought us here from New Orleans (where we met) it was really meaningful to get married in our new home city. A number of Jon's friends from New Orleans stood up with him, as did his brother. My side consisted of five bridesmaids and two bridesmen, all friends from childhood or college. The day, though a bit chillier than expected, was perfect. We had about 100 guests made up of family and friends from the many places we've lived. The ceremony was wonderfully true to us and officiated beautifully by my brother (a law prof at UC-Irvine). There was a even a Code head joke! We couldn't have hoped for a better celebration!

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March 16, 2017 in Legal Education, Tax, Tax Prof Weddings, Tax Profs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Joint Tax Committee:  Overview Of The Federal Tax System

Joint Committee on Taxation, Overview Of The Federal Tax System As In Effect For 2017 (JCX-17-17) (March 15, 2017):

This document ... provides a summary of the present-law Federal tax system as in effect for 2017. The current Federal tax system has four main elements: (1) an income tax on individuals and corporations (which consists of both a “regular” income tax and an alternative minimum tax);  (2) payroll taxes on wages (and corresponding taxes on self-employment income) to finance certain social insurance programs; (3) estate, gift, and generation-skipping taxes, and (4) excise taxes on selected goods and services. This document provides a broad overview of each of these elements.

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March 16, 2017 in Congressional News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Kleinbard:  Trump's Reckless Spending And Tax Cuts

CNN op-ed:  Trump's Reckless Spending and Tax Cuts, by Edward D. Kleinbard (USC):

President Trump's budget outline combines a surge in military spending with massive tax cuts, purportedly in the name of stimulating our stagnant economy. This strategy follows closely the fiscal agenda of Ronald Reagan — modern history's most fiscally irresponsible President.

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March 16, 2017 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Making Tax Evasion Great: The $100 Billion Giveaway

Democracy Logo (2018)Democracy: A Journal of Ideas: Making Tax Evasion Great: The $100 Billion Giveaway, by Robert Gordon & David Kamin (NYU):

The President may talk about “law and order,” but apparently he excludes tax law.

President Trump’s Office of Management and Budget has proposed a 14.1 percent cut in funding for the Internal Revenue Service. If made permanent, we conservatively estimate that this cut will cost the Treasury $60 billion, just from direct revenue loss due to reduced enforcement (and netting out the reduced spending on IRS enforcement). This new cut follows a more than 20 percent real reduction in resources for IRS enforcement since 2010. Undoing that reduction could save the federal government an additional $30 to $40 billion. All together, the President’s failing to restore these previous cuts and then cutting even more allows handouts to tax evaders costing the Treasury about $100 billion over ten years.

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March 16, 2017 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1407: NY Post Editorial, Fire The IRS Chief Already, Mr. President

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New York Post Editorial, Fire the IRS Chief Already, Mr. President:

Why is IRS Commissioner John Koskinen still in office? A growing number of Capitol Hill Republicans want to know — and they have good reason to be troubled.

When he took over in 2013, Koskinen was supposed to “fix” the IRS — and in particular get to the bottom of the scandal in which the agency deliberately held up approvals for 75 conservative and Tea Party groups that had applied for legitimate tax exemptions.

Instead, what Congress and the public got from him was obstruction, open defiance and a refusal to discipline anyone at the agency. Indeed, he seemed most concerned with running interference to shield the Obama administration from any embarrassment.

Nor was he alone: The Obama Justice Department refused to bring criminal charges against anyone at the IRS. To date, no one has been held accountable for what even liberal legal icon Laurence Tribe has called “inexcusable abuse.” ...

It’s clear there’ll be no IRS reforms while Koskinen is in office. He’s the No. 1 candidate in Washington for President Trump’s signature line: “You’re fired.”

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March 16, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Smart Presents Why The Dividend Tax Credit? Today At Toronto

Smart 2Michael Smart (Toronto) presents Why the Dividend Tax Credit? at Toronto today as part of its James Hausman Tax Law and Policy Workshop Series:

In this paper, I discuss the tax treatment of personal dividend income in Canada. Incorporating the changing parameters of the dividend gross-up-and-credit system since 1972, including provincial credits, I estimate the effective tax rate on eligible and ordinary dividend income of taxable investors, and compare it to that applying to other income sources. The effective tax rate on dividend income has decreased substantially and, since the 2006 enhancement of the dividend tax credit, dividend taxes in Canada have been fully integrated or overintegrated for taxable investors. Based on a new methodology, I estimate the fiscal cost of the system to federal and provincial governments. The cost of the DTC has increased markedly since the 2006 reform and is large. About 70 per cent of the tax benefit accrues to taxpayers in the top 10 per cent of the income distribution and, for shareholders in this group, the impact on overall progressivity of the tax system is substantial.

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March 15, 2017 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

IRS Strips Tax-Exempt Status From Richard Spencer's White Nationalist Nonprofit

NPI 3Following up on my previous post, Alt-Right Group Has Not Filed Form 990s Due To IRS Error, Allowing Group's Finances To Escape Scrutiny:  Los Angeles Times, IRS Strips Tax-Exempt Status from Richard Spencer's White Nationalist Nonprofit:

The nonprofit run by one of America’s most prominent white nationalists, Richard Spencer, has lost its tax-exempt status for failing to file tax returns with the federal government, according to Internal Revenue Service records.

An inquiry by The Times also raised questions about whether Spencer had properly filed paperwork allowing the National Policy Institute to raise funds in Virginia, its primary place of business, and whether Spencer, a Donald Trump supporter, had flouted federal rules that forbid nonprofits from supporting or opposing political candidates.

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March 15, 2017 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

How Federal Tax Law Rewards Segregation

Michelle D. Layser (Georgetown), How Federal Tax Law Rewards Segregation, 93 Ind. L.J. ___ (2018):

Residual, de facto segregation is among the most enduring barriers to equal opportunity in America. Nearly five decades after the Fair Housing Act of 1968, Blacks and Latinos still tend to live in neighborhoods where the majority of residents are people of color. Such racial segregation is often accompanied by economic segregation. Meanwhile, sociologists, housing law scholars, and poverty law experts have stressed the importance of residential location to the impact of poverty and the potential for upward economic mobility. But an unlikely source of federal housing law—the tax code—may interfere with efforts to promote more integrated communities.

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March 15, 2017 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

2018 U.S. News Tax Rankings

2018 U.S. News LawHere are the new 2018 U.S. News Tax Rankings, along with last year's rankings:

2018

Rank

 Tax

Program

2017

Rank

1

NYU

1

2

Georgetown

2

3

Florida

3

4

Northwestern

4

5

Virginia.

6

6

Loyola-L.A.

5

7

UCLA

9

8

Boston University

8

8

Harvard

7

10

Columbia

9

11

San Diego

12

12

Miami

12

12

Texas

15

14

Michigan

9

15

USC

12

16

Duke

18

16

Pennsylvania

18

18

Yale

20

19

Chicago

22

20

Boston College

17

20

Villanova

24

20

U. Washington

16

23

Indiana

20

23

Stanford

24

25

Denver

n/r

26

Washington U.

n/r

The biggest upward moves:

  • +4:  Villanova (#20)
  • +3   Texas (#12), Chicago (#19)
  • +2:  UCLA (#7), Duke (#16), Pennsylvania (#16), Yale (#18)
  • Denver (#25) and U. Washington (#26) were unranked last year

The biggest downward moves:

  • -5:  Michigan (#14)
  • -4:  U. Washington (#20)
  • -3:  USC (#12), Boston College (#20), Indiana (#23)
  • Florida State (#23 last year) is unranked this year

Here are the rankings of the graduate tax programs, along with last year's rankings.

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March 15, 2017 in Law School Rankings, Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Donald Trump's 2005 Tax Return (Form 1040)

Trump 2005 Tax Return (Clip)

Trump

Adam Chodorow (Arizona State), The Sliver of Trump’s Tax Return That MSNBC Obtained Tells Us Almost Nothing About His Finances. Demand More.:

On Tuesday evening, MSNBC began to tout what seemed to be a major scoop: It had a Trump tax return. The investigative journalist David Cay Johnston had received documents in the mail, and Rachel Maddow would tell all at the appointed hour. A previous leak during the campaign, to the New York Times, suggested that Trump had taken a $1 billion tax loss in the 1990s under circumstances that suggested aggressive tax planning at the best and flat-out cheating at the worst. However, we didn’t have the full returns to figure out what had actually happened.

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March 15, 2017 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (17)

Florida Law School Rankings War Intensifies: UF Marches Toward Top 35, FSU Says It Is Best Law School In State And Aims For Top 4 National Public Law School (With Michigan, UC-Berkeley & Virginia)

UFFSUFollowing up on last year's post, Laura Rosenbury Stakes Her Deanship On Raising Florida's Ranking To #35; Amidst Claims Of Sexism, Her Regime Comes Under Fire, With The Graduate Tax Program Its Flashpoint:  Florida Dean Laura Rosenbury is already halfway toward her goal of being a Top 35 law school with a 7-point improvement in its U.S. News ranking, to #41.

University of Florida Press Release, UF Law Jumps Seven Spots in U.S. News Rankings:

The University of Florida Levin College of Law climbed seven spots in the latest U.S. News & World Report rankings of the nation’s best law schools, placing at No. 41 overall. This rise is the largest year-to-year increase in over 20 years and is the second largest improvement of any law school ranked in the top 50. The Graduate Tax Program held its spot as the No. 1 program among public law schools and No. 3 overall. ...

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March 15, 2017 in Law School Rankings, Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (4)

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Kamin Presents Getting Americans To Save: In Defense Of (Reformed) Tax Incentives Today At Tulane

KaminDavid Kamin (NYU) presents Getting Americans to Save: In Defense of (Reformed) Tax Incentives, 70 Tax L. Rev. ___ (2017), at Tulane today as part of its Workshop on Regulation and Coordination Series:

According to the most recent literature, one of the primary systems for getting Americans to save more — a system of tax-preferred retirement accounts — is fundamentally broken and should be abandoned. This system of 401(k)s, Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs), and other tax-preferred accounts cost the government about $80 billion per year, and influential new research by Raj Chetty, John Friedman, and co-authors — among others — suggests that tax incentives like these are unable to substantially increase private saving. However, this case against tax incentives is overstated.

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March 14, 2017 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Gamage & Shanske:  Tax Cannibalization And Fiscal Federalism

David Gamage (Indiana) & Darien Shanske (UC-Davis), Tax Cannibalization and Fiscal Federalism in the United States, 111 Nw. U. L. Rev. 295 (2017):

The current structure of U.S. federal tax law incentivizes state governments to adopt tax policies that inflict costs on the federal government, at the expense of national welfare. We label this the “tax cannibalization problem.”

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March 14, 2017 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)