TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron
Pepperdine University School of Law

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Sugin:  Rhetoric And Reality In The Tax Law Of Charity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Knoll & Mason:  Is The Philadelphia Wage Tax Unconstitutional?

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

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

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

The IRS Scandal, Day 1106

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Tax Court:  Accountant Cannot Deduct Law School Tuition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luke Reviews Kahng's Taxation Of Intellectual Capital

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

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

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

SSRN Tax Professor Rankings

SSRN LogoSSRN has updated its monthly rankings of 750 American and international law school faculties and 3,000 law professors by (among other things) the number of paper downloads from the SSRN database.  Here is the new list (through May 1, 2016) of the Top 25 U.S. Tax Professors in two of the SSRN categories: all-time downloads and recent downloads (within the past 12 months):

 

 

All-Time

 

Recent

1

Reuven Avi-Yonah (Mich.)

56,012

Reuven Avi-Yonah (Mich.)

10,555

2

Michael Simkovic (S. Hall)

32,036

Michael Simkovic (S. Hall)

4479

3

Paul Caron (Pepperdine)

31,056

D. Dharmapala (Chicago)

3702

4

D. Dharmapala (Chicago)

26,620

Paul Caron (Pepperdine)

2461

5

Louis Kaplow (Harvard)

25,850

Richard Ainsworth (BU)

2366

6

Vic Fleischer (San Diego)

22,306

Jeff Kwall (Loyola-Chicago)

1892

7

James Hines (Michigan)

21,719

Nancy McLaughlin (Utah)

1850

8

Richard Kaplan (Illinois)

21,052

Louis Kaplow (Harvard)

1776

9

Ted Seto (Loyola-L.A.)

20,965

Omri Marian (UC-Irvine)

1759

10

Ed Kleinbard (USC)

19,768

Robert Sitkoff (Harvard)

1747

11

Katie Pratt (Loyola-L.A.)

18,807

Chris Hoyt (UMKC)

1688

12

Richard Ainsworth (BU)

17,814

Dan Shaviro (NYU)

1683

13

Carter Bishop (Suffolk)

16,933

David Weisbach (Chicago)

1670

14

Robert Sitkoff (Harvard)

16,913

Ed Kleinbard (USC)

1595

15

Brad Borden (Brooklyn)

16,799

Brad Borden (Brooklyn)

1575

16

David Weisbach (Chicago)

16,768

Jack Manhire (Texas A&M)

1554

17

Jen Kowal (Loyola-L.A.)

16,521

William Byrnes (Texas A&M)

1545

18

Chris Sanchirico (Penn)

16,385

Vic Fleischer (San Diego)

1482

19

Dennis Ventry (UC-Davis)

16,016

Katie Pratt (Loyola-L.A.)

1428

20

Francine Lipman (UNLV)

15,862

Richard Kaplan (Illinois)

1426

21

Bridget Crawford (Pace)

15,557

Yariv Brauner (Florida)

1387

22

David Walker (BU)

14,988

Steven Bank (UCLA)

1373

23

Dan Shaviro (NYU)

14,791

Chris Sanchirico (Penn)

1306

24

Steven Bank (UCLA)

13,314

Gregg Polsky (N. Carolina)

1273

25

Herwig Schlunk (Vanderbilt)

13,161

Francine Lipman (UNLV)

1246

Note that this ranking includes full-time tax professors with at least one tax paper on SSRN, and all papers (including non-tax papers) by these tax professors are included in the SSRN data.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The IRS Scandal, Day 1105

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

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

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

2015 IRS Research Bulletin

Foreword

1. Innovative Methods for Improving Resource Allocation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In connection with the hearing:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The IRS Scandal, Day 1104

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 16, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

Tennessee Man Convicted In Romney Tax Return Fraud And Extortion Scheme

Romney

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

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

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

Graetz:  'Death Tax' Politics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The IRS Scandal, Day 1103

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TaxProf Blog Weekend Roundup

Sunday, May 15, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Not necessarily in that order," Rubin added.

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

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

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

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

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

The Top 5 Tax Paper Downloads

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

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

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

The IRS Scandal, Day 1102

IRS Logo 2Erick Erickson, House GOP to Consider Impeaching IRS Commissioner. Trump Complicates Things.:

House Republicans are going to consider impeaching the IRS Commissioner, Commissioner John Koskinen. The IRS is accused of targeting conservative groups for harassment. Likewise, the IRS is accused of dragging its feet on giving non-profit status to conservative groups. Based on an inspector general investigation into the IRS and subsequent congressional hearings, the accusations appear legitimate.

Koskinen, as head of the IRS, has not seemed interested in actually dealing with the IRS’s stalling and apparent cover up as the investigations continued. He deserves to be impeached.

Donald Trump, however, neutralizes the GOP’s talking point on the IRS. Just the other day he threatened Jeff Bezos and Amazon, suggesting Trump would support internet taxation to hurt Amazon, among other things, because of the Washington Post’s investigative reporters looking into Trump.

If the GOP has a candidate who implies or directly suggests he might use the government against his opponents, it will be really hard for them to distinguish what the IRS did from what their own Presidential nominee wants to do.

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May 15, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (4)

Saturday, May 14, 2016

This Week's Ten Most Popular TaxProf Blog Posts

Hemel & Galle:  The President's Authority To Unilaterally Raise Taxes

Following up on Monday's post, Taxing Carried Interest As Ordinary Income Through Executive Action:

Daniel Hemel (Chicago), The President’s Power To Tax Doesn’t Stop at Carried Interest:

No one can predict with complete confidence whether a court would uphold as-yet-unwritten Treasury regulations addressing carried interest, but I agree with Morgenson (and with the tax experts she cites) that such regulations — if written carefully and finalized after notice and comment — quite likely would pass judicial muster. What Morgenson doesn’t mention, though, is that when it comes to tax reform measures that the Obama administration could implement on its own, carried interest is just the tip of the iceberg. President Obama might not be able to make much of a dent in income inequality without legislative action, but he could raise billions of dollars in revenue while addressing some of the most objectionable tax avoidance strategies employed by U.S. corporations and high-net-worth individuals.

In a forthcoming Cornell Law Review article, The President’s Power To Tax, I set out a list of tax reform measures that the Obama administration could accomplish without an act of Congress.

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May 14, 2016 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1101

IRS Logo 2Press Release, House Judiciary Committee to Examine Misconduct by IRS Commissioner:

The House Judiciary Committee today announced that it will hold two full committee hearings to examine misconduct by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Commissioner John Koskinen.

At the first hearing, which will take place on Tuesday, May 24 at 10:00 a.m., members of the House Judiciary Committee will hear from a witness panel presenting the findings of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s investigation of IRS Commissioner Koskinen. The House Judiciary Committee will also invite IRS Commissioner Koskinen to testify. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has investigated the targeting of conservative groups for several years and many of the Committee’s members have found that Commissioner Koskinen failed to comply with a congressional subpoena which resulted in destruction of key evidence, made false statements during his sworn congressional testimony, and did not notify Congress that Lois Lerner’s emails were missing.

At the second hearing, which will take place in June, members of the House Judiciary Committee will invite outside experts to comment on the findings presented in the first hearing and whether further congressional action is warranted. Witnesses for both hearings will be announced at a later date.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) issued the statement below on the Committee’s upcoming hearings:

The fact that officials at the IRS wielded their power to target certain Americans for their political views is both outrageous and contrary to our nation’s values. Our government is supposed to work for all Americans, not for a particular partisan agenda. As a result of the IRS’ targeting, conservative groups were singled out across the nation, resulting in lengthy paperwork requirements, overly burdensome information requests, and lengthy, unwarranted delays in their applications.

Despite repeated congressional efforts to get to the bottom of this matter, Obama Administration officials, including the IRS Commissioner, have consistently undermined the investigation. Over the coming weeks, the House Judiciary Committee will closely examine Commissioner Koskinen’s misconduct and the implications of his actions.

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May 14, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Friday, May 13, 2016

Pepperdine 3Ls Receive Two of The Eight Available Merit Scholarships To Attend NYU Graduate Tax Program

PeppNYUCongratulations to Pepperdine 3Ls Brady Cox and David Khanjyan, who will be attending the #1 ranked NYU Graduate Tax Program in 2016-17.  They received two of the eight 50% merit scholarships available from NYU and will be serving as Graduate Editors of the Tax Law Review.  I was fortunate to have both Brady and David in my tax classes, and I can personally attest to their bright tax futures.  I am proud to be part of the tax faculty at Pepperdine that offers a robust tax curriculum to prepare our students for exciting tax careers. 

May 13, 2016 in Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Weekly Tax Roundup

Weekly SSRN Tax Roundup

Weekly Student Tax Note Roundup

Pew:  America’s Shrinking Middle Class

Pew Research Center, America’s Shrinking Middle Class: A Close Look at Changes Within Metropolitan Areas:

The American middle class is losing ground in metropolitan areas across the country, affecting communities from Boston to Seattle and from Dallas to Milwaukee. From 2000 to 2014 the share of adults living in middle-income households fell in 203 of the 229 U.S. metropolitan areas examined in a new Pew Research Center analysis of government data. ...

Pew 2A

Pew 1A

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May 13, 2016 in Tax, Think Tank Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1100

IRS Logo 2National Review, Re: Trump’s Time Bomb:

John Fund’s column today is, no matter what comes in the next few days, the most important column of the week, as it explains why Donald Trump’s weasel-like refusal to release his tax returns is a mortal danger to Republicans and conservatives nationwide — and suggests what should be done about it. John is absolutely right: Republicans, especially delegates, have every right not just to ask for, but to demand, the release of the returns before the convention. With a crew of Lois Lerners running the IRS, those returns surely will leak right after the nomination is made formal.

Mother Jones:  Corrupt IRS Spells Doom For Donald Trump Later This Year, by Kevin Drum:

That's right. The IRS is such a beehive of Democratic Party corruption that Hillary Clinton will have no trouble getting one of her moles to hand over the entire Trump record. Hell, she's probably done it already and is just waiting for the right time to start dribbling out explosive revelations. It's just the kind of things she'd do. Amirite or amirite.

Between left and right, I feel like I'm almost entirely enveloped by bizarre paranoia these days. Can we all just settle down and return to planet Earth for a while?

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May 13, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Thursday, May 12, 2016

CBPP:  State Estate Taxes Are A Key Tool For Broad Prosperity

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, State Estate Taxes: A Key Tool for Broad Prosperity:

As the income gap between the wealthiest Americans and those at the bottom and middle has widened in recent years, many states have eliminated their estate tax ― a key tool for reducing inequality and building broadly shared prosperity.  States that have eliminated their estate tax should reinstate it and those with an estate tax should keep it and, if needed, improve it.

CBPP

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May 12, 2016 in Tax, Think Tank Reports | Permalink | Comments (1)

Mitchell:  The Necessary And Valuable Economic Role Of Tax Havens

Daniel J. Mitchell (Cato Institute), The Necessary and Valuable Economic Role of Tax Havens:

Economists certainly don’t speak with one voice, but there’s a general consensus on two principles of public finance that will lead to a more competitive and prosperous economy.

To be sure, some economists will say that high tax rates and more double taxation are nonetheless okay because they believe there is an “equity vs. efficiency” tradeoff and they are willing to sacrifice some prosperity in hopes of achieving more equality.

I disagree, mostly because there’s compelling evidence that this approach ultimately leads to less income for the poor, but this is a fair and honest debate. Both sides agree that lower rates and less double taxation will produce more growth (though they’ll disagree on how much growth) and both sides agree that a low-tax/faster-growth economy will produce more inequality (though they’ll disagree on whether the goal is to reduce inequality or reduce poverty).

Since I’m on the low-tax/faster-growth side of the debate, this is one of the reasons why I’m a big fan of tax competition and tax havens.

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May 12, 2016 in Tax, Think Tank Reports | Permalink | Comments (2)

Chodorow:  Bitcoin And The Definition Of Foreign Currency

Florida Tax Review  (2015)Adam Chodorow (Arizona State), Bitcoin and the Definition of Foreign Currency, 19 Fla. Tax Rev. ___ (2016):

The IRS recently dealt a blow to Bitcoin enthusiasts by ruling that Bitcoin and other similar currencies should be treated as property – and not foreign currency – for income tax purposes. As a result, those who use bitcoins to purchase goods or services must report gain or loss on each transaction if the bitcoins have changed value between the time they were acquired and spent. Treating Bitcoin as a foreign currency would have permitted individuals to take advantage of the personal use exemption, which could facilitate Bitcoin’s adoption, and required taxpayers to adopt a formulaic system for tracking the basis of commingled bitcoins. The IRS’s decision seems correct as a matter of positive law, but laws can always be changed.

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May 12, 2016 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

NTA 46th Annual Spring Symposium:  Tax Policy At The Crossroads

The 46th Annual Spring Symposium on Tax Policy at the Crossroads: What Direction Next? hosted by the National Tax Association and American Tax Policy Institute kicks off today in Washington, D.C.  Today's highlight is the presentation of the Davie-Davis Award for Public Service to Leonard Burman (Director, Tax Policy Center; Professor, Syracuse University) by Daniel Shaviro (NYU).

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May 12, 2016 in Conferences, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Trump Won't Release Tax Returns Prior To Election

The 16% Of Americans Earning $100,000+ Pay 80% Of All Federal Income Taxes

Washington Free Beacon, Americans Earning Six Figures or More Pay Nearly 80% of Individual Income Taxes; These Earners Represent Only 16% of Individual Income Tax Filers:

Americans earning six figures or more paid 79.5 percent of the nation’s share in individual income taxes in 2014, according to the latest preliminary data from the Internal Revenue Service.

Americans paid a total of $1,358,093,169,000 to the IRS in individual income taxes in 2014. Americans earning $100,000 or more paid $1,079,392,180,000 to the IRS, or 79.5 percent of the total income tax paid.

While those top earners contributed almost four-fifths of the total amount of individual income taxes, they represented only 16 percent of the total number of individual income tax returns reported to the IRS. ...

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May 12, 2016 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (6)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1099

IRS Logo 2Paul C. Barton (Tax Notes), Should Political Nonprofits Disclose More Frequently?:

Not only do many politically active nonprofits operate with dark money from undisclosed donors, but they carry out their work behind another shield, some say: the time lag before having to report their spending to the IRS.

Long before the IRS receives a politically oriented nonprofit's Form 990, "Report of Organization Exempt From Income Tax," the election involved will have come and gone. With easily available extensions, a nonprofit exempt under section 501(c)(4) can have up to 10-1/2 months after the end of its fiscal year before filing its return.

In an ideal world, say advocates of campaign finance reform, there would be more frequent and thorough disclosure of nonprofits' political spending. But, they say, that would require a Republican Congress, one already hostile to policing these groups, to change either the tax code, federal election law, or both. Meanwhile, there are some reports they have to file in a more timely fashion. For instance, they must report to the Federal Election Commission, sometimes in as little as 24 hours, after they pay for an ad that advocates the election or defeat of a candidate for federal office. A 24-hour disclosure rule also applies to some television or radio ads purchased within 30 days of a primary election or 60 days of a general election that mention specific candidates in the context of an issue but don't expressly advocate their election or defeat. These are called "electioneering communications."

Within a two-year federal election cycle, however, there could be spending on issue ads that fall outside those time windows, or on other ads easily construed as political, that are not included under political spending on Form 990. John Pomeranz of Harmon, Curran, Spielberg & Eisenberg LLP gave the example of ads that might feature Republican senators up for reelection this fall and that mention their refusal to consider the nomination of D.C. Circuit Chief Judge Merrick B. Garland to the Supreme Court.

As a result, Form 990 totals can fall far short of telling the whole story, complicating the all-important evaluation of whether nonprofits are spending less than half their budget on politics, the requirement for keeping their exempt status."There are things that almost anyone would acknowledge as having a possible impact on an election that the IRS might well agree are not reportable as political activity on the [Form] 990," Pomeranz told Tax Analysts.

Added Notre Dame law professor Lloyd Hitoshi Mayer: "I agree that the annual tax filing system is a poor fit with the frantic pace of electoral activities. By the time the IRS or the public receives the information, the relevant election is long past."

But Cleta Mitchell of Foley & Lardner LLP, who represents several conservative 501(c)(4) organizations, says the reporting on issue ads is done even if the communications are not election related. "These morons on the left act like" that rule has never been implemented, she said. ...

Mayer said neither the IRS nor Treasury is going to stick its neck out to change the system. "Even if in theory Treasury has the necessary authority, it would be subject to withering criticism from Congress and elsewhere if it tried to unilaterally impose additional filing requirements on politically active exempt organizations," he said.

But it's clear that the current system "makes it very hard for the IRS to identify any improper spending until after the election," said Lawrence M. Noble, general counsel for the Campaign Legal Center. ...

But Ellen Aprill, professor at Loyola Law School, cautions in a new article for the Pittsburgh Tax Review that Congress has so intertwined sections 527 and 501(c)(4) that any stepped-up regulation of the latter is going to require looking at the former [The Section 527 Obstacle to Meaningful Section 501(c)(4) Regulation, 13 Pitt. Tax Rev. 43 (2015)]. Many activities that are tax exempt for section 527 groups are limited for noncharitable 501(c)s and forbidden for 501(c)(3)s, she writes, adding, "Reconciling political campaign intervention under current law is fraught and difficult."

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May 12, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Sunstein:  Using Increased Chevron Deference To Combat Growing 'Partyism' In America

Cass R. Sunstein (Harvard), Partyism, 2016 U. Chi. Legal F. ___:

“Partyism” is a form of hostility and prejudice that operates across political lines. For example, some Republicans have an immediate aversive reaction to Democrats, and some Democrats have the same aversive reaction to Republicans, so much so that they would discriminate against them in hiring or promotion decisions, or in imposing punishment. If elected officials suffer from partyism – perhaps because their constituents do – they will devalue proposals from the opposing party and refuse to enter into agreements with its members, even if their independent assessment, freed from partyism, would be favorably disposed toward those proposals or agreements. In the United States, partyism has been rapidly growing, and it is quite pronounced – in some ways, more so than racism. It also has a series of adverse effects on governance itself, above all by making it difficult to enact desirable legislation and thus disrupting the system of separation of powers. Under circumstances of severe partyism, relatively broad delegations of authority to the executive branch, and a suitably receptive approach to the Chevron principle, have considerable appeal as ways of allowing significant social problems to be addressed. This conclusion bears on both domestic issues and foreign affairs.

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May 11, 2016 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Taxing Wealthy Colleges Would Do More Harm Than Good

Bloomberg View editorial, Taxing Wealthy Colleges Would Do More Harm Than Good:

America's universities have become behemoths -- the result of swelling donations, rising tuitions and growing anxiety among parents that their children cannot succeed without college degrees. None are flourishing more than the most elite private schools, eight of which have endowments of $10 billion or more.

These riches have set some members of Congress, state legislators and local residents thinking: Why are these enormous cash piles left untaxed and unregulated? The short answer is that it would undermine the good work that universities do to educate generations of Americans and energize the economy.  ...

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May 11, 2016 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Joint Tax Committee:  Overview Of The Federal Tax System

The Joint Committee on Taxation has released Overview Of The Federal Tax System As In Effect For 2016 (JCX-43-16):

This document ... provides a summary of the present-law Federal tax system as in effect for 2016. 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.

Joint Tax 1

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May 11, 2016 in Congressional News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Kwon:  The Criminality Of Tax Planning

Florida Tax Review  (2015)Michelle M. Kwon (Tennessee), The Criminality of Tax Planning, 18 Fla. Tax Rev. 153 (2015):

In recent years, the federal government has adopted an aggressive prosecution policy that targets tax advisors who help their clients evade taxes. Increased prosecutions coupled with the present-day sophistication of tax practice call for a critical examination of the willfulness standard applied to tax advisors who use the Code and Treasury regulations as part of their regular practices. This is something no previous legal scholarship has done.

To establish willfulness, the government must show that a person accused of a tax crime intentionally violated a known legal duty. Because knowledge of illegality is an element of the government's tax evasion case, prosecutors must negate a defendant's claim of ignorance or misunderstanding of the law, which is evaluated subjectively. The mistake of tax law defense and the knowledge of illegality standard are anomalies since ignorance of the law usually is not an excuse. The Supreme Court, however, has said that tax law is special due to the need to protect average citizens from prosecution for innocent mistakes made due to the complexity of the tax laws. The same high standard of willfulness that applies to average citizens also applies to tax professionals.

This Article aims to do two primary things. First, it demonstrates that consideration should be given to broadening the current willfulness standard as it is applied to tax advisors. Second, it evaluates the suitability of Samuel Buell and Lisa Kern Griffin's work on “consciousness of wrongdoing” as one possible approach to consider.

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May 11, 2016 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Winston Churchill:  'Serial Tax Avoider'

ChurchillThe Telegraph, Churchill a 'Serial Tax Avoider':

Sir Winston Churchill was a serial tax avoider who exploited loopholes and faked his own retirement in collusion with the chairman of Inland Revenue, his biographer has claimed.

David Lough, a historian and author, said Churchill had learned to use Inland Revenue as a "beast who can be tamed and bent" after finding himself in financial difficulties.

Not only did the politician pretend to retire in order to halve his tax bill, the author claimed, he persuaded the Revenue's young chairman to help him figure out a way to save his earnings for himself. ...

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May 11, 2016 in Celebrity Tax Lore, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Clausing:  Profit Shifting and U.S. Corporate Tax Policy Reform

Clausing
  Kimberly A. Clausing (Reed College), Profit Shifting and U.S. Corporate Tax Policy Reform:

This paper argues that the erosion of the U.S. corporate income tax base is a large policy problem. Profit shifting by U.S. multinational corporations is reducing U.S. government tax revenues by more than $100 billion each year, and other countries are facing similar concerns.

Figure 3

Yet given the starting point of the current U.S. corporate tax system, potential reformers face a dilemma. Reforms that would protect the U.S. corporate tax base may not find support in the multinational business community, which is more concerned with perceived competitiveness problems. But reforms that address competitiveness worries—such as the “toothless territorial” system that many in the multinational business community favor—would make the tax base erosion problem far worse.

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May 11, 2016 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

IRS Employee Got Unemployment For 5 Years Before Anyone Noticed

IRS Logo 2The Daily Caller, IRS Employee Got Unemployment For 5 Years Before Anyone Noticed:

A former Internal Revenue Service (IRS) employee collected unemployment benefits for five years before anyone caught her, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ).

Yvonne E. Borders recently pleaded guilty to stealing government funds after collecting $18,550 in unemployment benefits from January 2009 through December 2013, while working for the U.S. Department of Treasury in New York.

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May 11, 2016 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1098

IRS Logo 2Politico, Morning Tax:

IT’S TUESDAY, and we’re marking the third anniversary of the IRS’s tea party controversy — or more specifically, the day that Lois Lerner answered a planted question at an American Bar Association conference. (That’s LLAPQABA, for short.). ...

THREE YEARS LATER: We don’t have the space to give a full recap of the full sordid tale since Lerner acknowledged the IRS improperly scrutinized conservative organizations seeking tax-exempt status. (The short version: People on the right believe it was intentional targeting, while those on the left see bureaucratic mistakes.) But Morning Tax did ask Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.), the chairman of the House Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee, where he thinks matters stand with the IRS three years later.

The takeaways: Roskam said Republicans believe the IRS is still dragging its feet on making key reforms, but made the case that the renewed focus on the agency led to a taxpayer bill of rights and even changes to civil forfeiture rules. “We’ve made significant progress, but nobody’s breathing a sigh of relief.”

The problems with cybersecurity and identity theft have gotten so pronounced, and are affecting so many taxpayers, that Republicans have had to call something of a détente with the IRS — see, for instance, that $290 million funding increase the agency got several months back. “The cyber issue is ripening very quickly, and you don’t get the sense the IRS is on top of it,” Roskam said. “When the IRS wants to do something well, they can.”

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen won’t be getting impeached. “By mid-July, the congressional year will essentially be done,” Roskam said. House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) has been leading the charge for impeachment but recently signaled that he could accept a censure of Koskinen.

FROM THE OTHER SIDE: Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the top Democrat at House Oversight, on the anniversary: “House Republican efforts to impeach or censure the IRS commissioner are exercises in partisanship and a total waste of time and money. Nobody who has examined this issue has identified any evidence of political targeting — not the Justice Department, not the Republican Inspector General of the IRS, and not even the Oversight Committee. Republicans have wasted tens of millions of taxpayer dollars chasing false political conspiracy theories.”

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May 11, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (5)

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Massachusetts Property Tax Battle Asks: Who Defines Religion In America?

Photo 5The Atlantic, Should Courts Get to Define Religion?:

Property-tax battles are rarely sexy. But a case now in front of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, about whether the 21 religious brothers and sisters who run the Shrine of Our Lady of LaSalette in Attleboro should have to pay taxes, could have huge repercussions. The Court’s decision will be an important part of the ongoing debate in America about who defines religious practice—believers or bureaucrats—and whether religion itself should be afforded a special place under the law.

The case centers on a colonial-era law in Massachusetts that exempts religious houses of worship and parsonages from property taxes if they are used for religious worship or instruction. The shrine has enjoyed this perk since its founding in 1953. But in recent years, the City of Attleboro, nestled between Providence and Boston, has faced a tightening budget. It began looking to see where it could collect more revenue. The shrine, the only major tourist attraction in town, was an obvious target for tax collectors.

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May 10, 2016 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

The Tax Strategy Behind Google's Alphabet Reorganization

AlphabetBret N. Bogenschneider (Vienna) & Ruth Heilmeier (Cologne), Google's 'Alphabet Soup' in Delaware, 16 Hous. Bus. & Tax J. 1 (2016):

In this article the tax avoidance planning of Google’s “Alphabet” Delaware reorganization is explored in detail. The recent Google reorganization created an IP parent holding company in Delaware (“Alphabet”) yielding potential state corporate income tax avoidance benefits, including: (1) incremental royalty expense deductions in non-combined reporting states; (2) potential exclusion of foreign royalty income from the tax base in combined reporting states; (3) creation of a constitutional challenge to the taxation of foreign royalty income of Alphabet; and (4) domestic IP license benchmark for foreign affiliates to allow for repatriation of offshore cash by higher royalty payments.

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May 10, 2016 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)