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Editor: Paul L. Caron
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Thursday, December 11, 2014

The IRS Scandal, Day 581

IRS Logo 2Forbes:  Obama Justice Department Was Involved In IRS Targeting, Lerner Emails Reveal, by Robert W. Wood:

Sadly, the 18 month investigation into the IRS targeting of conservative groups isn’t over, and it may be worse than anyone thought. A federal judge has broken loose more emails that the DOJ had surely hoped would never surface. The picture it reveals isn’t pretty. The documents prove that Lois Lerner met with DOJ’s Election Crimes Division a month before the 2010 elections.

It has to be embarrassing to the DOJ, which may not be the most impartial one to be investigating the IRS. In fact, the DOJ withheld over 800 pages of Lerner documents citing “taxpayer privacy” and “deliberative privilege.” Yet these internal DOJ documents show Ms. Lerner was talking to DOJ officials about prosecuting tax-exempt entities (yes, criminally!) two years before the IRS conceded there was inappropriate targeting. ...

[I]t is getting harder and harder to simply accept President Obama’s ‘no smidgen of corruption’ remark made to Fox News in February, no matter how sincere and forthright his delivery.

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December 11, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

IRS Releases 2015 Standard Mileage Rates

IRS Logo 2The IRS today released  (IR-2014-114) the standard mileage rates for 2015 (Notice 2014-79,  2014-53 I.R.B. ___ (Dec. 29, 2014)):

Beginning on Jan. 1, 2015, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car (also vans, pickups, or panel trucks) will be:

  • 57.5 cents per mile for business miles driven [up 1.5 cents from 2014]
  • 23 cents per mile for medical or moving purposes [down 1/2 cent]
  • 14 cents per mile for charitable organizations [unchanged]

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

GAO: IRS's 24% Error Rate in Making $14 Billion/Year of Improper EITC Payments Is 2d Worst Among All Federal Programs, Violates Law

GAOGovernment Accountability Office, Improper Payments: Inspector General Reporting of Agency Compliance under the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act (Dec. 9, 2014):

Improper payments—such as duplicate or erroneous payments, payments to ineligible recipients, or payments for ineligible services—have been a long-standing challenge of the federal government and have annually totaled billions of dollars. For fiscal year 2013, federal agencies reported an estimated $105.8 billion in improper payments, a decrease of $1.3 billion from the prior year revised estimate of $107.1 billion. Based on our review of Office of Management and Budget (OMB) data, the $105.8 billion estimate was attributable to 84 programs across 18 agencies (see enc. I). Fiscal year 2013 marked the 10th year of implementation of the Improper Payments Information Act of 2002 (IPIA), Five programs accounted for approximately $82.9 billion, or 78 percent of the total improper payments estimate in fiscal year 2013 (see enc. II for a list of the five programs with the largest estimates for fiscal years 2011 through 2013).

EITC

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December 10, 2014 in Gov't Reports, IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Caron: Thomas Piketty and Inequality -- Legal Causes and Tax Solutions

Paul L. Caron (Pepperdine), Thomas Piketty and Inequality: Legal Causes and Tax Solutions, 64 Emory L.J. Online ___ (2015):

PikettyThomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-first Century has acted as an accelerant fueling the fiery public debate over increasing inequality in America and around the world. Piketty makes the provocative empirical claim that the rate of return to private capital inevitably exceeds the rate of economic growth (r > g) and thus leads to growing concentrations of wealth among the richest members of society. Piketty has spawned heated debates in newspapers, magazines, and blogs, which soon will continue in academic journals and law reviews. Shi-Ling Hsu is one of the first out of the gate with The Rise and Rise of the One Percent: Considering Legal Causes of Wealth Inequality, 64 Emory L.J. Online ___ (2015).

Hsu focuses on the interesting question of how law and legal institutions foster inflated returns on capital (Piketty's r). He also makes the important point that lawmakers often conflate Piketty's r with g (public economic growth), resulting in laws that boost the former with little discernible impact on the latter. The bulk of Hsu's argument is devoted to explaining how five areas of American law contribute to "the legal enrichment of the one percent": financial regulation, antitrust law, oil and gas subsidies, transition relief, and electric utility regulation. He concludes with a plea for greater federal funding of education to spur greater economic growth and bridge the deepening inequality chasm in America.

Hsu's essay is a significant contribution to what is certain to be an energetic debate over the implications of Piketty's work. The need to examine the impact of legal rules and institutions on both private capital returns and public economic growth will be an enduring contribution to future scholarship on the extent, consequences, and reduction of income and wealth inequality. I offer here two modest reactions to Hsu's essay: (1) recent inequality research has shifted the focus of high-end wealth concentration from the Top 1% to the Top 0.1% (and even the Top 0.01%), with important implications for the work of both Piketty and Hsu, including (2) the inquiry into whether policymakers should intervene before the fact to re-shape the distribution of the benefits and burdens of economic activity (Hsu's approach) or instead redistribute wealth after the fact (Piketty's approach).

In a recent essay, Joseph Bankman and I argued that tax scholars need to focus more of our work on how policymakers should address the federal government's unprecedented (and growing) fiscal imbalance. California Dreamin’: Tax Scholarship in a Time of Fiscal Crisis, 48 U.C. Davis L. Rev. 405 (2014). In Piketty terms, s (spending) > r (revenues). We proposed that California's recent tax increases on the wealthy should provide a template for the nation to bring r more into alignment with s.

Piketty's pioneering work provides added impetus for deploying the tax system in this effort. Increasing the tax burden on the wealthy would both raise revenue to meet the nation's spending needs and redistribute wealth to alleviate Gatsby-level inequality in America. Hsu’s proposed focus on the distributional impact of laws and legal institutions may prove to be helpful in the long run but a chimera in the short term as the nation's fiscal and inequality challenges demand solutions that only the tax system stands ready to provide. In short, raising taxes on the wealthy would both increase r (revenues) to better match s (spending) and decrease r (private capital returns) to better match g (public economic growth). 

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

Manhire: Do Tax Audits Matter?

J. T. Manhire (U.S. Treasury Department), Do Audits Matter?: A Speculative Theory on the Relation between Tax Audits and Underreporting:

The theory expressed in this paper stems from the conviction that the underreporting rate is discoverable if one understands the relationship between the audit perspective of the tax authority and the underreporting perspective of the population filing individual income tax returns. This theory, if correct, allows for an approximation of the underreporting rate given only enforcement statistics.

After deriving the hidden measure, the paper then approximates the underreporting rate for the categories of individual income tax return filers regularly published by the tax authority and correlates the published audit rates with the approximated underreporting rates. In an attempt to answer the question, “do audits matter for voluntary compliance?,” this paper hypothesizes that a negative correlation between audit and underreporting rates suggests that those categories of tax returns have a hypersensitivity to the audit rate and any underreporting is perhaps intentional. A positive correlation suggests underreported tax is more a result of ignorance or mistake due to a complex tax code and its administration. At a system (non-individual) level, audits appear to matter for certain categories of tax return filers. For other categories, audits appear to have no effect on voluntary compliance rates.

These results can be instructive for tax administration policymakers. For example, as increased investment in enforcement against the categories of returns that suggest underreporting might be intentional could yield more significant compliance effects than enforcement against those categories that contain underreporting as a result of mistake or ignorance. At the same time, an investment in taxpayer education could possibly yield more significant compliance effects for taxpayers in the latter category.

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

TIGTA: IRS Has 25-30% Error Rate In Refundable Child Tax Credits, Mistakenly Pays $6-7 Billion

TIGTA The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration yesterday released Existing Compliance Processes Will Not Reduce the Billions of Dollars in Improper Earned Income Tax Credit and Additional Child Tax Credit Payments (2014-40-093):

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) are refundable credits designed to help low-income individuals reduce their tax burden. The IRS estimated that it paid $63 billion in refundable EITCs and $26.6 billion in refundable ACTCs for Tax Year 2012. The IRS also estimated that 24 percent of all EITC payments made in Fiscal Year 2013, or $14.5 billion, were paid in error. ...

The IRS has continually rated the risk of improper ACTC payments as low. However, TIGTA’s assessment of the potential for ACTC improper payments indicates the ACTC improper payment rate is similar to that of the EITC. Using IRS data, TIGTA estimates the potential ACTC improper payment rate for Fiscal Year 2013 is between 25.2 percent and 30.5 percent, with potential ACTC improper payments totaling between $5.9 billion and $7.1 billion. In addition, IRS enforcement data show the root causes of improper ACTC payments are similar to those of the EITC.

New York Times, Billions in Child Tax Credits Were Invalid, U.S. Audit Finds

December 10, 2014 in Gov't Reports, IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

The IRS Scandal, Day 580

IRS Logo 2Judicial Watch:  Judicial Watch Lawsuit Forces Release of DOJ Emails Showing IRS’s Lois Lerner Met with DOJ Officials Just Before 2010 Elections:

Judicial Watch today released internal Department of Justice (DOJ) documents revealing that former IRS official Lois Lerner had been in contact with DOJ officials about the possible criminal prosecution of tax-exempt entities two full years before what the IRS conceded was its “absolutely inappropriate” 2012 targeting of the organizations. According to the newly obtained documents, Lerner met with top Obama DOJ Election Crimes Branch officials as early as October 2010. ...

“These new documents dramatically show how the Justice Department is up to its neck in the IRS scandal and can’t be trusted to investigate crimes associated with the IRS abuses that targeted Obama’s critics.  And it is of particular concern that the DOJ’s Public Integrity Section, which would ordinarily investigate the IRS abuses, is now implicated in the IRS crimes.  No wonder the Department of Justice under Eric Holder has done no serious investigation of the Obama IRS scandal,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “It is shameful how Establishment Washington has let slide by Obama’s abuse of the IRS and the Justice Department.  Only as a result of Judicial Watch’s independent investigations did the American people learn about the IRS-DOJ prosecution discussions of Obama’s political enemies and how the IRS sent, in violation of law, confidential taxpayer information to the FBI and DOJ in 2010.  Richard Nixon was impeached for less.”

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December 10, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (4)

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Sen. Coburn Releases 300-Page Tax Decoder


Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) today released Tax  Decoder:

This report, Tax Decoder, is intended to decode the tax code for every taxpayer. It reveals more than 165 tax expenditures costing over $900 billion this year and more than $5 trillion over the next five years.

It is nearly impossible to know who is benefiting from the tax code because it lacks any real transparency or accountability. This is not unintentional. The Senate Finance Committee recently rejected an amendment that would have required the recipients of some tax credits to be publicly listed in the USAspending.gov website.10 The recipients of these tax breaks know who they are, so it seems reasonable for those who are paying the taxes to provide the benefits should know as well. 

Tax Decoder attempts to provide a detailed and comprehensive overview of the code for all taxpayers. It includes the background, cost, and primary beneficiaries of each provision along with specific examples of some of the recipients of certain tax breaks. It covers well known tax provisions as well as others that are more obscure. ...

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December 9, 2014 in Congressional News, Gov't Reports, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

U.S. Sues Deutsche Bank Over $190 Million in Taxes

Call for Nominations: $12,500 IBFD Prize for International Tax Research

IBFD logoThe IBFD Frans Vanistendael Award for International Tax Law:

Call for applications: IBFD wishes to promote outstanding scientific research output on international tax law. For this purpose it has decided to introduce the IBFD Frans Vanistendael Award, named after its previous, esteemed Academic Chairman, Prof. Dr.Frans Vanistendael. With his academic production at the highest scientific standards, Professor Vanistendael has long distinguished himself as one of the most far-sighted scholars in the field of international tax law. 

I. Funding, focus and requirements
The proposed donation is EUR 10,000 plus a flat financial reimbursement for travel and accommodation expenses incurred to attend the award ceremony. Eligible publications are all articles and book chapters on international tax law (including EU tax law), in paper or digital format (with an ISBN or ISSN number), published in English between 1 January 2014 and 31 December 2014, which have provided an outstanding contribution to the development of international tax law. Applications may be submitted by anyone (therefore not just by the author) with a supporting statement of up to 100 words and an abstract of up to 100 words (prepared by the one submitting the application) until 31 January 2015 via email to academic@ibfd.org. The subject line should include “IBFD Frans Vanistendael Award”. There is no age limit for applicants.

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December 9, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

California Offers Budgetary Lessons For U.S. Government

Stanford Report, California Offers Budgetary Lessons For U.S. Government, Stanford Professor Says:

Once the fodder of late-night comedians, California's budgetary strategy is actually one that national lawmakers might emulate, a Stanford tax scholar says.

Just two years ago, California's budget situation was among the worst in the nation, wrote Joseph Bankman, a law professor at Stanford University, in a new journal article [California Dreamin': Tax Scholarship in a Time of Fiscal Crisis, 48 U.C. Davis L. Rev. 405 (2014):]. The Golden State's annual budget deficits soared past $20 billion, its net asset deficit was more than $127 billion, and the state legislature seemed dysfunctional.

Then, pushed to the brink with very real fears of cutbacks in state services, schools and escalating college tuition, California voters approved Proposition 30 in November 2012.

"California voters defied the conventional political wisdom in resoundingly embracing Prop. 30 by an over-10 percent point margin, 55.4 percent to 44.6 percent," wrote Bankman and his co-author Paul Caron, a law professor at Pepperdine University. ...

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December 9, 2014 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (4)

The IRS Scandal, Day 579

Horrible BossesForbes:  Horrible Bosses, IRS Edition, by Robert W. Wood:

People joked about horrible bosses long before Horrible BossesHorrible Bosses 2, and The Office. I’m guessing that at least some employees over at the IRS may not be too impressed with their own leadership. I mean big issues, not relatively harmless but kitschy things like Star Trek, Gilligan’s Island or line dancing videos. Perhaps there may have been some mistakes from regular employees, but the bosses surely have the most explaining to do.

The news that the lost or destroyed Lois Lerner emails were actually not lost or destroyed, for one. Remember, when the IRS brass said they looked really hard, and spent $10 million (of taxpayer money!) trying to find those emails? After a year of investigation, they belatedly said they were lost, hard drives were recycled, etc. Anyhow, now they will be sorted, cataloged and released, which is good.

Some people are upset that money is being spent on a ‘witch hunt’ that reveals not even a smidgen of corruption. Others aren’t so sure. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration has confirmed that, on top of the backed-up email horde, there are also nearly 2,500 documents relating to investigations of the improper disclosure of confidential taxpayer information by the IRS to the White House. ...

Lois Lerner–the former IRS official at the heart of Tea Party targeting–supposedly didn’t even direct them, though she remains silent. She was held in contempt of Congress for refusing to testify, but hasn’t been prosecuted. Yet after her long silence, in an exclusive interview with Politico she said did nothing wrong and considers herself the victim.She bristled at any suggestion she had anything to do with destroying emails, switching to texts, or letting her own political views influence her treatment of Tea Party “a__holes.”

In the midst of all this, many Americans could use a little reassurance on key points:

  • We Want To Be Dealt With Fairly ...
  • We Don’t Want Others To Get Away with Anything ...
  • We Want Our Private Information Kept Private ...
  • We Want IRS Employees To Be Policed ...
  • We Don’t Want More Complex Tax Laws ...

Since the IRS is made up of humans, sometimes the IRS is unreasonable or wrong. Richard Nixon supposedly asked the IRS to audit his political enemies. There has been no proof yet that President Obama tried to influence the IRS in the Tea Party targeting scandal. But it’s not unreasonable to want to get to the bottom of it once and for all. ...

The IRS has a very hard job to do, and in general, does it well and fairly. But that is precisely why this is so important. We need fairness and faith in the tax system restored. We shouldn’t need a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit to get it.

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December 9, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (4)

Monday, December 8, 2014

Raskolnikov: Law and Economics of Variable Sanctions

Alex Raskolnikov (Columbia), Six Degrees of Graduation: Law and Economics of Variable Sanctions:

From parking tickets to tax fines and punitive damages, legal sanctions matter in people’s lives. Yet neither the legal nor the economics literature offers a comprehensive treatment of sanctions. Their practical complexity is not well-understood and their theoretical analysis is fragmented. This essay prepared for an edited volume addresses both limitations. On the practical side, I highlight the complexity of sanctions using tax law as a primary example. The complexity exists because sanctions may (and do) vary along six different dimensions: aggressiveness, magnitude, culpability, effort to comply, likelihood of detection, and offense history. These six degrees of sanctions graduation are distinct, potentially independent, but often intertwined in obscure and perplexing ways. On the theoretical side, I review the economics literature in search of the reasons underlying each degree (or axis) of graduation. I conclude that three graduation axes of great practical significance — aggressiveness, culpability, and offense history — are the least developed theoretically. Two other dimensions — the likelihood of detection and the effort to comply with the law — are more conceptually advanced, although the theory is still fairly removed from the enforcement realities. In contrast, economic analysis reveals a good grasp of the magnitude axis and a clear path to modeling the real-life features that have remained overlooked thus far. By highlighting the complexity of sanctioning regimes and emphasizing the related theoretical successes and shortcomings, this essay identifies fruitful areas of future research, some of which I pursue in related work.

December 8, 2014 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Manhire: Reconsidering the Tax Compliance Puzzle

Florida Tax ReviewJ. T. Manhire (U.S. Treasury Department), There Is No Spoon: Reconsidering the Tax Compliance Puzzle, 17 Fla. Tax Rev. 1 (2014):

For over 40 years theorists have sought the effects of tax audits on voluntary compliance rates by studying individual taxpayer motivations. Yet no single theory has produced a taxpayer incentive model that both comports with experience and explains the effects of audits on compliance. This quandary is often termed the “tax compliance puzzle.” Consequently, some theorists have called for more capacious models that make room for the panoply of individual compliance motivations. This Article proposes that a more complex model is unnecessary. To the contrary, complex compliance and enforcement data can result from extremely simple behavioral rules of individual taxpayers and government examiners interacting over time.

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

NY Times op-ed: Why I Am Renouncing My U.S. Citizenship

New York Times op-ed:  Why I’m Giving Up My Passport, by Jonathan Tepper:

RenounceMy “in-person final loss of citizenship appointment” is scheduled for Jan. 14 at the United States Consulate here. My British passport, acquired in 2012, will be my only one.

Some 3,000 Americans gave up their citizenship last year, a tiny number that’s nevertheless been soaring. Yes, a few expatriates may be trying to avoid future taxes. ... But most, like me, are not tycoons. We’re responding to the burden and cost of onerous financial reporting and tax filing requirements that are neither fair nor just. ...

Some 7.6 million Americans live abroad — expats would be the 13th most populous state, if we were a state. Many are overseas temporarily, for work or study. But many others marry foreigners, start companies or have long-term overseas assignments. We are just like ordinary Americans — except that we lack representation.

The United States is an outlier: Its extraterritorial tax laws apply to American citizens and companies no matter where they are. We are the only country (except, arguably, Eritrea) that taxes all of its citizens on worldwide income rather than where the income is earned. Expatriate Americans have to pay taxes once, wherever they live, and then file again in the United States.

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

NY Times: The Ins and Outs of Perpetual Trusts

New York Times, The Ins and Outs of Trusts That Last Forever:

Most people struggle to plan their financial futures beyond the next decade, while those with money and foresight are likely to think well in advance about what they want to leave their children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren. But what about planning for eternity? It seems too long to contemplate.

Yet in the last several decades, states have begun competing with one another for the business of perpetual trusts, which are designed to last forever, or at least 1,000 years in the case of Wyoming.

And people have been putting their millions and billions into them, eschewing traditional trusts, which typically end after 100 years.

The reasons are both dynastic and technical. They allow trust creators to maintain some control beyond their lifetimes. And they help protect the fortunes from taxes and creditors. (States benefit from the fees and taxes they can charge the owners of the trusts.)

But now a Harvard Law School professor, Robert H. Sitkoff, has written an academic paper [Unconstitutional Perpetual Trusts, 67 Vand. L. Rev. 1769 (2014)] making the case that perpetual trusts are unconstitutional in some of the very states that have tried hardest to persuade people to establish them.

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December 8, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 578

IRS Logo 2Roll Call:  Fresh Round of Controversies for IRS:

The IRS faces growing pressure from critics on both sides of the aisle to come to grips with the role that tax-exempt “dark money” groups play in elections.

The challenge for the beleaguered IRS, which is bracing for a fresh round of controversies early in 2015, is that Republicans and Democrats regard both the problem and the solution in starkly opposing terms.

To Republicans, the problem is that the IRS has policed tax-exempt groups, particularly those run by conservative activists, too aggressively. Republicans on Capitol Hill are poised to redouble their investigation into the agency’s self-admitted targeting of tea party groups and others seeking tax-exempt status.

The GOP probe has been newly energized by a Treasury inspector general’s recent unearthing of thousands of emails previously declared “lost” from former senior IRS official Lois Lerner’s account. Also fueling the investigation is the GOP’s Senate takeover, and a conservative group’s recent lawsuit alleging the agency improperly shared taxpayer information with the White House.

To Democrats, the problem is that undisclosed political spending, popularly dubbed “dark money,” continues to soar. According to the latest estimate from the Center for Responsive Politics, political spending by outside groups that fail to publicly disclose some or all of their donors jumped to at least $219 million in this election cycle, up from $160.8 million in the 2010 midterms.

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December 8, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

TaxProf Blog Weekend Roundup

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Top 5 Tax Paper Downloads

SSRN LogoThere is a bit of movement in this week's list of the Top 5 Recent Tax Paper Downloads, with a new paper debuting on the list at #5. The #1 paper is now #101 in all-time downloads among 10,560 tax papers:

  1. [1281 Downloads]  A Compendium of Private Equity Tax Games, by Gregg D. Polsky (North Carolina)
  2. [395 Downloads]  Obama Care Fails the Origination Clause: Why Sissel and Hotze Should Be Reversed, by Steven J. WIllis (Florida) & Hans G. Tanzler (Florida)
  3. [386 Downloads]  Trying Times 2014: Important Lessons to Be Learned from Recent Federal Tax Cases, by Nancy A. McLaughlin (Utah) & Steven J. Small (Law Office of Stephen J. Small, Newton, MA)
  4. [262 Downloads]  A World Turned Upside Down: Reflections on the 'New Wave' Inversions and Notice 2014-52, by Reuven S. Avi-Yonah (Michigan)
  5. [219 Downloads]  Piketty in America: A Tale of Two Literatures, by Joseph Bankman (Stanford) & Daniel Shaviro (NYU)

December 7, 2014 in Scholarship, Tax, Top 5 Downloads | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 577

IRS Logo 2Town Hall:  IRS Scandals Update:, by Daniel J. Mitchell (Cato Institute):

I generally don’t feel a special degree of animosity for the internal revenue service. After all, it’s the politicians who have created the 74,000-plus page monstrosity of a tax code. Blaming the IRS for enforcing that system is like blaming the police for the drug war.

This isn’t to say the IRS is blameless. Just as cops sometimes take misguided laws and enforce them is bad ways, the IRS periodically will go beyond its legal mandate because of an enforcement-über-alles mentality.

But what gets me most upset is when the IRS allows itself – either with glee or reluctance – to become politicized. ...

For instance, the Washington Times reveals that the IRS may have violated taxpayer privacy by giving confidential taxpayer data to the political operatives in the White House. ...

One possible example deals with the Obama Administration’s attack on the Koch brothers. As the Washington Examiner reported, Obama’s top economist at the time was the subject of an investigation. ...

It’s worth noting, by the way, that this isn’t the first White House to get in trouble for using the IRS as a political weapon.

Section 6103 of the Internal Revenue Commission’s criminal code, which Congress enacted following revelations of President Nixon’s abuse of private tax information during the Watergate scandal. The second article of impeachment against Nixon in the House Judiciary Committee was based on those abuses.

So the ghost of Richard Nixon may approve of Obama, as suggested by this cartoon.

But this isn’t the only IRS scandal we need to monitor. Remember Lois Lerner, who became infamous for targeting the President’s opponents and then apparently losing her emails? Well, we have an update. The Wall Street Journal opines on the latest development in the IRS targeting scandal. ... One can’t help but wonder whether the delay in finding the emails and now the delay in turning them over to investigators is simply to allow time for smoking guns to be hidden. ...

Let’s close with a good cartoon about the IRS. By the way, if you enjoy anti-IRS cartoons, click here, here, and here for more examples. ...

P.P.S. I don’t want to end on a sour note, so here’s more examples of IRS humor from my archives, including a new Obama 1040 form, a death tax cartoon, a list of tax day tips from David Letterman, a cartoon of how GPS would work if operated by the IRS, an IRS-designed pencil sharpener, two Obamacare/IRS cartoons (here and here), a sale on 1040-form toilet paper (a real product), a song about the tax agency, the IRS’s version of the quadratic formula, and (my favorite) a joke about a Rabbi and an IRS agent.

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December 7, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The $100,000 Tax Flow Challenge

The Tax Flow Challenge:

The Tax Flow Challenge is awarding $100,000 to the best tool that will allow taxpayers to see a very detailed and accurate breakdown of how their taxes are used.

December 6, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 576

IRS Logo 2Forbes:  Recovered IRS Emails Can't Be Revealed Because Of Privacy...That Was Already Breached, by Robert W. Wood:

For over 18 months, we’ve been wondering about those ‘lost’ IRS emails. Would they surface and if so, what they would show? Targeting? Profanity? Nothing? It was a whole year into the Congressional investigation before the IRS first said they were ‘lost,’ a bizarrely belated “oh by the way….”

Think you could file your tax return a year late next year? Would the IRS show some compassion? Unlikely. Yet it turns out those lost, destroyed, found, and now warehoused emails still can’t be reviewed by the media or anyone else. Why? Because they contain confidential taxpayer information, that’s why.

So says the IRS watchdog known as TIGTA, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. The Inspector General has done great works this year and often pokes at the IRS behemoth to improve it. But the Inspector General is in a tough spot over this privacy issue.

We thought the news that the lost or destroyed Lois Lerner emails were actually not lost or destroyed meant we would get to the bottom of this once and for all. How else could we see if the President’s supporters are right? They say this is a ‘witch hunt’ that reveals not even a smidgen of corruption, a phrase Mr. Obama himself repeated to Fox News in February. But once again, we’re in the dark. Talk about a Catch-22. ...

A judge finally ruled that the IRS must turn over any relevant documents to Cause of Action. But that puts in Inspector General back in the hot seat. TIGTA admits it has thousands of pages of responsive documents. However, TIGTA says it can’t release them because they contain confidential taxpayer information. That sure sounds telling already, even if we can’t see them!

After all, why would communications between the IRS and the White House contain taxpayer information? A key question is whether any officials at the White House ever asked anyone at the IRS to transmit private taxpayer information to the White House in violation of law. Moreover, regardless of whether the White House asked for any taxpayer information, did the IRS ever transmit any?

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December 6, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (5)

Friday, December 5, 2014

Weekly Tax Roundup

Weekly SSRN Tax Roundup

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December 5, 2014 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Weekly Student Tax Note Roundup

December 5, 2014 in Scholarship, Tax, Weekly Student Tax Note Roundup | Permalink | Comments (0)

Newsweek Names Kleinbard's We Are Better Than This One of the Top Books of 2014

We Are Better Than This (2014)Newsweek,  Our Favorite Books of 2014: Newsweek Staff Picks:

We Are Better Than This: How Government Should Spend Our Money by Edward D. Kleinbard (Oxford University Press)

Americans feel the pain of an income tax system that raises twice as much as it actually does because of hidden spending through tax favors. This masterpiece on how we tax ourselves, and how Congress spends our money, explains why the mostly lightly taxed modern country feels so heavily burdened while offering workable solutions.

Drawing on insights from Adam Smith’s The Theory of Moral Sentiments, lawyer Edward D. Kleinbard shows how applying ancient financial and moral principles would make America happier, healthier and wealthier. Kleinbard spent two decades designing sophisticated tax avoidance strategies for rich clients before becoming a law school professor on a mission to expose the tax system’s flaws.

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December 5, 2014 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 575

The Hill, Watchdog: IRS Withholding Documents on Taxpayer Data Requests:

A watchdog group says the IRS is withholding documents between the agency and the White House that show inappropriate requests for taxpayer data, according to multiple reports.

The Treasury inspector general for tax administration has told the group that there are more than 2,000 documents potentially related to the request.

A court has said the agency must hand over the documents. But IRS officials have said that they will not release the documents, citing a part of the tax code that protects the confidentiality of individual tax returns.

It is not clear what is contained in the documents, but Cause of Action said they might be evidence of White House misdeeds.

“That indicates scandal,” said Daniel Epstein, a spokesman for the group. "Now, potentially, there's confidential tax information going from the IRS to the White House. Potentially — we don't know, we'd like to see," said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who has been a critic of the IRS under the Obama administration, said late Wednesday on Fox News.

The White House denied any wrongdoing to Fox News. “I can tell you that, as a rule, that the Obama administration has been very rigorous in following all of the rules and regulations that govern proper communication between Treasury officials and White House officials and the Internal Revenue Service,” press secretary Josh Earnest told the outlet.

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December 5, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Last Estate & Gift Tax Class of the Year

Today was my last Estate & Gift Tax class of the semester, which we celebrated over lunch at our on-campus home.  Kudos to the chef, whose 10-bean soup was again a big hit.

E&G Tax

December 4, 2014 in Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

U.K. Proposes 25% Google Tax

CRS: Federal Proposals to Tax Marijuana

CRS LogoCongressional Research Service:  Federal Proposals to Tax Marijuana: An Economic Analysis, by Jane G. Gravelle & Sean Lowry (R43785) (Nov. 13, 2014):

The combination of state policy and general public opinion favoring the legalizing of marijuana has led some in Congress to advocate for legalization and taxation of marijuana at the federal level. The Marijuana Tax Equity Act of 2013 (H.R. 501) would impose a federal excise tax of 50% on the producer and importer price of marijuana. The National Commission on Federal Marijuana Policy Act of 2013 (H.R. 1635) proposes establishing a National Commission on Federal Marijuana Policy that would review the potential revenue generated by taxing marijuana, among other things.

This report focuses solely on issues surrounding a potential federal marijuana tax. First, it provides a brief overview of marijuana production. Second, it presents possible justifications for taxes and, in some cases, estimates the level of tax suggested by that rationale. Third, it analyzes possible marijuana tax designs. The report also discusses various tax administration and enforcement issues, such as labeling and tracking.

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December 4, 2014 in Congressional News, Gov't Reports, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Wheels Are Falling Off the Wagon at the IRS

WheelsMichael Gregory, The Wheels Are Falling Off the Wagon at the IRS: An Open Letter to Patriotic Americans Concerned with the Federal Tax System (2014) (free download):

The IRS is falling apart. If the IRS falls apart the funding arm of the U.S. Government falls apart. If the U.S. Government falls apart what is next for the U.S.?

As a former IRS insider Mike Gregory shares insights from more than 30 years working with IRS employees as well as with taxpayers and practitioners.

This book describes how honest law-abiding taxpayers are now being seriously harmed while cyber-thieves steal from taxpayers and criminals promote illegal schemes that are not being prosecuted.

Mike argues that unless this situation is reversed immediately, the trust of the American people could be permanently broken. Once trust is broken our country could go the way of Greece with harsh economic consequences. This book is a candid tell-all and a call to action for the Congress to fully fund the IRS.

(Hat Tip: Mike Talbert.)

December 4, 2014 in Book Club, IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

IRS Issues Call for Tax Statistics Research Proposals

IRS Logo 2The IRS Statistics of Income Division has issued a call for proposals for research projects with potential to make significant contributions to tax administration.

The call for proposals describes the details of the program and the application process. Although all submissions will be considered, topics identified as especially relevant to researchers include:

  • Tax administration in a global economy
  • Taxpayer needs and behavior, particularly the roles of information, complexity, salience, engagement, and compliance costs
  • Filing, payment, and reporting compliance measures, behaviors, and drivers
  • Benefit participation measures, behaviors, and drivers, particularly related to the Affordable Care Act
  • Taxpayer response to policy changes, particularly taxpayer responses to changes in incentives
  • The role of complex business structures in tax planning

The due date for research proposal application is December 15, 2014.

December 4, 2014 in IRS News, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wells: Revisiting Section 367(d)

Florida Tax ReviewBret Wells (Houston), Revisiting Section 367(d): How Treasury Took the Bite Out of Section 367(d) and What Should Be Done About It, 16 Fla. Tax Rev. 519 (2014):

Section 367(d) seeks to prevent residual profits related to U.S. developed intangible assets from migrating out of the U.S. tax jurisdiction via the outbound contribution or transfer of intangibles to a foreign corporation. There has been a great hue and cry over the outbound migration of intangibles in recent years, which by implication has created significant agitation about whether section 367(d) is effective. For at least a decade, the Treasury Department and IRS have identified section 367(d) as an area in need of regulatory reform, and recent comments by government officials indicate that guidance may be forthcoming in the future. Concurrently, the Obama administration has proposed amendments to section 367(d) and the U.S. subpart F rules to address outbound migration of intangible value.

The debate over the efficacy of section 367(d) to prevent IP migration is being waged along two fronts. As to the first front of this debate, the central question is whether a fatal loophole (a “goodwill loophole”) exists within the architecture of section 367(d) that allows the outbound migration of intangible value under the protective cloak of “goodwill” with the consequence that a substantial portion of the ongoing residual profits related to the transferred goodwill items escape the application of section 367(d)’s super royalty obligation. In Subparts II.A. through II.B., this Article addresses why this “goodwill loophole” that has received so much attention is nonexistent. All that is needed is for the courts to correctly apply section 367(d) as it should be applied, and once this is done the “goodwill loophole” should be defrocked of all of its purported cloaking capabilities.

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December 4, 2014 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 574

IRS Logo 2Washington Free Beacon:  Treasury IG Blocking Release of Records on Leaks of Taxpayer Info to White House:

An IRS watchdog is refusing to release thousands of documents related to unauthorized leaks of confidential taxpayer information to the White House, citing privacy concerns.

In a letter to watchdog group Cause of Action on Tuesday, an attorney with the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) said the office had located “2,509 pages of documents potentially responsive to your request.” However, TIGTA said it barred by law from releasing them.

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December 4, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (6)

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

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

Gamage (2014)David Gamage (UC-Berkeley) presents Analyzing the Optimal Choice of Tax Instruments: The Case for Levying (all of) Labor-Income Taxes, Value-Added Taxes, Capital-Income Taxes, and Wealth Taxes, 68 Tax L. Rev. ___ (2014), at Harvard today as part of its Tax Law, Policy and Practice Workshop Series hosted by Daniel Halperin and Stephen Shay:

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

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

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December 3, 2014 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Experts Forum: Repatriated Profits

IGM Forum, Repatriated Profits:

Question A: Lowering the effective marginal tax rate on US corporations’ repatriated profits for a year would boost US capital investment significantly.

Q1

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December 3, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Avi-Yonah: The Rise and Fall of the Consumption Tax

Reuven S. Avi-Yonah (Michigan), The Rise and Fall of the Consumption Tax: A Historical Perspective:

This article will survey the great consumption vs. income tax debate from a historical perspective. The focus here is not on which tax base is better, but rather on how this debate evolved over time inside and outside legal academia. As we shall see, there was one point in which the consumption tax came close to being adopted - in 2005, when it was one of two alternatives recommended by the Bush tax reform panel. But the moment passed, and it seems unlikely to return.

December 3, 2014 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Call for Tax Papers: Yale/Stanford/Harvard Junior Faculty Forum

JuniorYale/Stanford/Harvard Junior Faculty Forum:

Yale, Stanford, and Harvard Law Schools announce the 16th session of the Yale/Stanford/Yale Junior Faculty Forum to be held at Harvard Law School on June 16-17, 2015 and seek submissions for its meeting.

The Forum’s objective is to encourage the work of scholars recently appointed to a tenure-track position by providing experience in the pursuit of scholarship and the nature of the scholarly exchange. Meetings are held each spring, rotating at Yale, Stanford, and Harvard. Twelve to twenty scholars (with one to seven years in teaching) will be chosen on a blind basis from among those submitting papers to present. One or more senior scholars, not necessarily from Yale, Stanford, or Harvard, will comment on each paper. The audience will include the participating junior faculty, faculty from the host institutions, and invited guests. The goal is discourse on both the merits of particular papers and on appropriate methodologies for doing work in that genre. We hope that comment and discussion will communicate what counts as good work among successful senior scholars and will also challenge and improve the standards that now obtain. The Forum also hopes to increase the sense of community among American legal scholars generally, particularly among new and veteran professors.

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December 3, 2014 in Legal Education, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Cauble & Polsky: The Problem of Abusive Related-Partner Allocations

Florida Tax ReviewEmily Cauble (DePaul) & Gregg D. Polsky (North Carolina), The Problem of Abusive Related-Partner Allocations, 16 Fla. Tax Rev. 479 (2014):

This Article highlights a flaw in the existing rules regarding partnership tax allocations that has not yet received sufficient attention by existing literature. Namely, the partnership tax allocation rules are implicitly premised on the assumption that partners are unrelated and, thus, transact with each other at arm’s length. As a result, related partners can and do devise tax allocation schemes that exploit the gap in the current partnership tax allocation rules to achieve unwarranted tax savings.

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December 3, 2014 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Holland & Hart Partner Named Director of Denver Graduate Tax Program

WilsonPress Release:

University of Denver Sturm College of Law Dean Martin Katz announced today that John Wilson has been appointed as the new director of the University’s Graduate Tax Program (GTP), effective December 8.

With more than 150 students, the GTP is one of the largest of its kind in the nation, and ranked among the top 20 best tax programs in the country according to U.S. News and World Report (2014). It is one of only a handful of graduate tax programs which brings together accountants and lawyers to study side-by-side, allowing students from each discipline to learn the skills and expertise of the other. ...

Wilson is a partner in the Denver office of Holland & Hart LLP, where he advises clients on complex corporate and individual tax matters, mergers and acquisitions, international business transactions, and IRS audits and appeals. He will remain a partner with the firm. Wilson received both his undergraduate and law degrees from Stanford University.

December 3, 2014 in Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 573

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Weisbach Presents The Use of Neutralities in International Tax Policy Today at Columbia

WeisbachDavid Weisbach (Chicago) presents The Use of Neutralities in International Tax Policy at Columbia today as part of its Tax Policy Colloquium Series hosted by Alex RaskolnikovDavid Schizer, and Wojciech Kopczuk:

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

December 2, 2014 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Inversions Shaved U.S. Tax Bills by $2 Billion in 2014

Bloomberg:  ‘Unpatriotic Loophole’ Targeted by Obama Costs $2 Billion, by Zachary R. Mider:

U.S. companies that have already carried out inversions are likely to cost the government a record $2.2 billion or more in lost tax revenue next year, double the amount in 2014, according to calculations based on companies’ financial results.

That doesn’t include the impact of companies that shift their legal addresses abroad in the future, which one Congressional study pegged at about $2 billion a year over the next decade. Since the first inversion in 1982, the deals have cost more than $9.8 billion in inflation-adjusted dollars, the calculations based on data compiled by Bloomberg show.

In an era when tax rates paid by U.S. companies overall have declined, those that inverted reduced their taxes far more than competitors did. They were able to lower their effective tax rates between 6.6 and 17.4 percentage points more than peers that didn’t take a foreign address, the calculations show.

The data highlight how the U.S. government is paying the price for inversions it allowed to happen years or decades earlier. Even if Congress or President Barack Obama, who has called inversions an “unpatriotic tax loophole,” were to stop them today, the erosion of the tax base by past deals will continue to accelerate.

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December 2, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Driessen: Corporate Tax Fate May Hinge on Modeling Omission

Tax Analysys Logo (2013)Patrick Driessen (former revenue estimator, Joint Committee on Taxation and Treasury Department), Corporate Tax Fate May Hinge on Modeling Omission, 145 Tax Notes 1043 (Dec. 1, 2014):

By omitting corporate income, traditional distribution models overstate the U.S. corporate tax rate and overall tax progressivity. The prevailing capital gains realization approach could be replaced by an inclusive corporate income method that would correctly show corporate equity owners as more lightly taxed than capital gains realization models indicate. That replacement would accord with how the individual tax is modeled for distribution as well as with results from corporate tax studies conducted outside the distribution context. Augmenting corporate income in distribution models would also enable proper reflection of proposals, such as corporate integration, and provide a better perspective on how much corporate tax is borne by labor.

(Hat Tip: David Cay Johnston.)

December 2, 2014 in Scholarship, Tax, Tax Analysts | Permalink | Comments (0)

2014 Tannenwald Tax Writing Competition Results

TannenwaldHere are the results in the 2014 Tannenwald Tax Writing Competition, sponsored by The Theodore Tannenwald, Jr. Foundation for Excellence in Tax Scholarship and the American College of Tax Counsel:

  • First Prize (tie) ($4,500):  Alex Levy (NYU), Believing in Life After Loving: IRS Regulation of Tax Preparers (Faculty Sponsor:  David Kamin)
  • First Prize (tie) ($4,500):  Mark C. Westenberger (Washington University), Tax-Exempt Hospitals and the Community Benefit Standard: A Flawed Standard and a Way Forward (Faculty Sponsor:  Cheryl Block)
  • Honorable Mention:  Nika Antonikova (San Diego), Real Taxes in Virtual Economies: What Does the IRS Say (Faculty Sponsor:  Brian Galle)
  • Honorable Mention:  Michael Daly (Georgetown University), Bound and Gagged: Making the Case for Congress Delegating Tax Policy to the Experts (Faculty Sponsor:  Tom Field)

December 2, 2014 in Legal Education, Scholarship, Tax, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)

Johnston: Real World (California, Kansas) Contradicts Right-Wing Tax Theories

Al Jazeera:  Real World Contradicts Right-Wing Tax Theories:  California Raised Taxes, Kansas Cut Them. California Did Better, by David Cay Johnston (Syracuse):

Ever since economist Arthur Laffer drew his namesake curve on a napkin for two officials in President Richard Nixon’s administration four decades ago, we have been told that cutting tax rates spurs jobs and higher pay, while hiking taxes does the opposite.

Now, thanks to recent tax cuts in Kansas and tax hikes in California, we have real-world tests of this idea. So far, the results do not support Laffer’s insistence that lower tax rates always result in more and better-paying jobs. In fact, Kansas’ tax cuts produced much slower job and wage growth than in California.

The empirical evidence that the Laffer curve is not what its promoter insists joins other real-world experience undermining the widely held belief that minimum wage increases reduce employment and income. 

Laffer

For more, see Joseph Bankman (Stanford) & Paul L. Caron (Pepperdine), California Dreamin': Tax Scholarship in a Time of Fiscal Crisis, 48 U.C. Davis L. Rev. 405 (2014)

December 2, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Casting Call: Love, Sex and the IRS

Love 2Backstage, Casting Notice:  Love, Sex and the IRS:

Company
The Norris Theatre

Production Description
Palos Verdes Performing Arts is casting Love, Sex and The IRS.

Rehearsal and Production Dates & Locations
Rehearsal for Love, Sex and The IRS begins Jan. 5, 2015; runs Jan. 23-Feb. 8, 2015 at the Norris Theatre in Rolling Hills Estate, CA.

Compensation & Union Contract Details
Pays $510/wk. min. Equity Guest Artist Tier 3 Contract.

Seeking Talent
Select a role below for more information and submission instructions.

December 2, 2014 in Book Club, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 572

IRS Logo 2Forbes:  Are Criminals Outsmarting The IRS?, by Robert W. Wood:

With the IRS scandals of the last 18 months, it might seem that we have lost control of our tax system. The IRS is an essential part of our government, which can’t run without taxes. So having it fairly and efficiently run is pretty important. More than 18 months ago, an angry President Obama sacked the IRS Chief, Steven Miller. That was inevitable after the story broke that Tea Party and other conservative groups were targeted for extra scrutiny. The cover-up was worse than the crime, especially for an agency that must rely on taxpayers self-assessing their taxes.

More than 18 months ago, Mr. Obama said (in this transcript) that the IRS needed new leadership while it faced a broad probe of its conduct. The President promised full cooperation with congressional investigations. For new leadership “that can help restore confidence,” President Obama picked John Koskinen as next Commissioner. He came to office having no tax knowledge and no tax experience, but was an avowed turnaround specialist.

Whatever Mr. Koskinen’s skills, the agency hasn’t yet come back to smooth sailing. With alleged targeting, bonus controversies, systemic lien and collection errors and more, the agency looks incompetent to many outsiders. Whatever one’s political views, it doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. The different stories surrounding the lost or destroyed Lois Lerner emails alone do not leave everyone as certain as the President that there is not a smidgen of corruption.Perhaps the President will be proven right–I hope so.

But it still is no way to run a railroad. Taxpayers deserve better, and so do the thousands of IRS honest and hard working IRS employees. The 18 months of dissembling started when a comparatively unknown Lois Lerner was speaking at a bar association meeting May 10, 2013. She planted a question in the audience so she could get out ahead of the TIGTA report documenting IRS targeting. It may have been well-intentioned but came off as duplicitous. 18 months later, we’re still waiting for the final word, though now we are told that 2,500 previously undisclosed documents may link to the White House.

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December 2, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

Monday, December 1, 2014

Yagan Presents Capital Tax Reform and the Real Economy Today at UC-Berkeley

YaganDanny Yagan (UC-Berkeley) presents Capital Tax Reform and the Real Economy: The Effects of the 2003 Dividend Tax Cut at UC-Berkeley today as part of the Robert D. Burch Center for Tax Policy and Public Finance Seminar:

Policymakers frequently propose to use capital tax reform to stimulate investment and increase labor earnings. This paper tests for such real impacts of the 2003 dividend tax cut -- one of the largest reforms ever to a U.S. capital tax rate -- using a quasi-experimental design and a large sample of U.S. corporate tax returns from years 1996-2008. I estimate that the tax cut caused zero change in corporate investment, with an upper bound elasticity with respect to one minus the top statutory tax rate of .08 and an upper bound effect size of .03 standard deviations. This null result is robust across specifications, samples, and investment measures. I similarly find no impact on employee compensation. The lack of detectable real effects contrasts with an immediate impact on financial payouts to shareholders. Economically, the findings challenge leading estimates of the cost-of-capital elasticity of investment, or undermine models in which dividend tax reforms affect the cost of capital. Either way, it may be di¢ cult for policymakers to implement an alternative dividend tax cut that has substantially larger near-term effects.

December 1, 2014 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Vanderbilt Symposium: The Role of Federal Law in Private Wealth Transfer

VandySymposium, The Role of Federal Law in Private Wealth Transfer, 67 Vand. L. Rev. 1531-2006 (2014):

December 1, 2014 in Conferences, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)