TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron
Pepperdine University School of Law

A Member of the Law Professor Blogs Network

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The IRS Scandal, Day 549

IRS Logo 2Wall Street Journal editorial:  Overseeing Obama:

Election Day is over. But if Americans ever hope to get to the bottom of the IRS scandal, they’ll be hoping for victory in a more obscure campaign. The House Republican leadership will soon select the next chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. In a crowded field, Rep. Jim Jordan (R., Ohio) is the candidate best equipped to conduct thorough and credible investigations of federal waste, fraud and abuse. ...

Current Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa is stepping down due to GOP term limits for committee heads. Mr. Jordan has done as much as anyone to shine a light on IRS abuse of the President’s philosophical opponents, both in hearings and behind the scenes.

More than a year before the public learned the name of Lois Lerner, Mr. Jordan was seeking answers from the IRS’s tax-exempt organizations chief on political targeting allegations. He then requested an inspector general’s audit at the Treasury Department. Cleta Mitchell, a lawyer representing various IRS targeting victims, tells us that if not for Mr. Jordan there would have been no Treasury investigation “and no public admission that, indeed, conservative groups were being subjected to unprecedented scrutiny and mistreatment.” ...

Speaker John Boehner and other members of the elected GOP House leadership should elevate Mr. Jordan and send a clear message of reform and accountability.

Continue reading

November 9, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, November 8, 2014

WSJ: Steps to Take by Dec. 31 to Cut Your 2014 Tax Bill

WSJ ChartWall Street Journal Tax Report:  Act Now to Lower Your 2014 Taxes; Many Tax-Saving Strategies Require Action by Year-End, by Laura Saunders:

If you want to lower your 2014 income taxes, you need to act now to limit Uncle Sam’s reach next April.

The number of tax-cutting opportunities shrinks significantly after Dec. 31. Too often taxpayers let this deadline slip, says Ellen Minkow, an accountant at the firm MS 1040 in New York. She often finds herself asking clients, “Where were you in November?”  ...

Here are key areas to focus on before year-end.

Continue reading

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

Supreme Court Grants Cert. to Hear Challenge to IRS's Expansion of Affordable Care Act Tax Credit

Supreme Court (2014)The Volokh Conspiracy:  Supreme Court to Hear King v. Burwell Challenge to IRS Tax Credit Rule, by Jonathan H. Adler (Case Western):

Friday the Supreme Court granted certiorari in King v. Burwell, one of four pending challenges to the IRS rule authorizing tax credits and cost-sharing subsidies for the purchase of health insurance in federally established exchanges. ...

With this grant, the Court has the opportunity to reaffirm the principle that the law is what Congress enacts, not what the administration or others wish Congress had enacted with the benefit of hindsight. Granting tax credits to those who need help purchasing health insurance may be a good idea, and may have bipartisan support, but the IRS lacks the authority to authorize such tax credits where Congress failed to do so. The PPACA only authorizes tax credits for the purchase of insurance  on exchanges “established by the State.”

Prior TaxProf Blog coverage:

(Hat Tip: Greg McNeal.)

November 8, 2014 in New Cases, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

The IRS Scandal, Day 548

IRS Logo 2Forbes:  What If Lois Lerner Was Right About The Tea Party?, by Peter J. Reilly:

The e-mails I have been getting from Jenny Beth Martin, Chairman of the Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund, have me thinking about Lois Lerner and  Teapartygate.  I went back and took another look at a report prepared by the staff of Darrell Issa’s Committee on Oversight and Government.  The report is titled Lois Lerner’s Involvement in the IRS Targeting of Tax-Exempt Organizations.  It is well worth reading the whole report and I recommend it.  I still don’t think it adds up to some sort of crusade against conservatives, but that’s just me. You can read it yourself. It seems that Lerner was strongly against money in politics and sensitive to the criticism that IRS was letting 501(c)(4) organizations get away with too much political activity.  And along comes the Tea Party, which Lerner sees as “very dangerous”.

One GD thing after another and now we are on Day 542 of the IRS Scandal, by TaxProf count, with no end in sight. Here is the question that is troubling me right now thanks to the e-mails I have been getting from Jenny Beth Martin.  If there is a pretty compelling case that Tea Party Patriots Inc was intended from day 1 to be a political organization, rather than a social welfare organization, would that make any difference in how we view Lois Lerner? ...

The IRS has to collect over two trillion dollars, which is a pretty big job, so it would be better if it did not get caught up in side issues.  Still Lois Lerner was in charge of exempt organizations and there are rules that the IRS was accused of ignoring.  There is a lot of diversity in the grassroots Tea Party groups, but I have a hard time seeing the self proclaimed flagship as anything but a political organization based on how it has been behaving lately.  Does that make the scandal any more or less scandalous?  What do you think?

Continue reading

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

Friday, November 7, 2014

NY Times: Will 'Purposeful Planning' Replace Estate Planning?

PPNew York Times, Focusing on the Human Element of Estate Planning:

[E]every trust and estate lawyer has stories about trust-fund beneficiaries who embody all the worst traits of spoiled rich kids. But this particular call got Mr. Warnick, then a lawyer at a large law firm in Denver, thinking about how estate planning was missing the human component. The emphasis was on transferring the most money to heirs free of estate tax and then insulating that money from creditors. “I said, ‘There has to be a better way to do planning so all this tax-efficient, elegant trust planning doesn’t hurt people,'  ” he said. “I saw well-intentioned, technically precise plans reap negative unintended consequences.”

Alas, this is not a story about a eureka moment that led immediately to change. It took Mr. Warnick another decade of toiling away at the law firm before he crystallized his goals and created the Purposeful Planning Institute. ...

So how does purposeful planning differ from traditional estate planning? “What we stand for is making sure the planning has a deeper purpose and meaning to it than just being driven by taxes,” Mr. Warnick said. “The challenge is to get those core planning disciplines — lawyers, C.P.A.s, wealth managers — to start with ‘why’ instead of immediately march into ‘how.'  ” To accomplish this, Mr. Warnick has come up with seven keys of purposeful trusts. ...

Continue reading

November 7, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Weekly Tax Roundup

November 7, 2014 in Tax, Weekly Tax Roundup | Permalink | Comments (0)

Weekly SSRN Tax Roundup

Weekly Student Tax Note Roundup

Today is Deadline for ABA Law Student Tax Challenge

Lstc-14thToday is the deadline for student submissions in the 14th Annual Law Student Tax Challenge (J.D. Problem (rules; entry form); LL.M. Problem (rules; entry form))

An alternative to traditional moot court competitions, the Law Student Tax Challenge asks two-person teams of students to solve a cutting-edge and complex business problem that might arise in everyday tax practice. Teams are initially evaluated on two criteria: a memorandum to a senior partner and a letter to a client explaining the result. Based on the written work product, six teams from the J.D. Division and four teams from the LL.M. Division receive a free trip (including airfare and accommodations for two nights) to the Section of Taxation 2015 Midyear Meeting, January 29-31 in Houston, TX, where each team will defend its submission before a panel of judges consisting of the country’s top tax practitioners and government officials, including tax court judges. The competition is a great way for law students to showcase their knowledge in a real-world setting and gain valuable exposure to the tax law community. On average, more than 60 teams compete in the J.D. Division and more than 40 teams compete in the LL .M. Division. For examples of the "Best Written" winners from past competitions, please click here.

IMPORTANT DATES

  1. Submission Deadline: November 7, 2014
  2. Notification of Semifinalists and Finalists: December 19, 2014
  3. Semifinal and Final Oral Defense Rounds: January 30, 2015 in Houston, TX

November 7, 2014 in ABA Tax Section, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 547

IRS Logo 2Legal Insurrection:  Judicial Watch:  IRS “Did Not Undertake Any Significant Efforts to Obtain” Missing Lerner Emails:

Democrats who had hoped for at least a week to sleep off their election night hangovers are getting no rest after the latest disclosure of court documents by advocacy group Judicial Watch.

Judicial Watch has spent a great deal of time and resources seeking information about the IRS targeting of conservative groups.

In September, Judicial Watch asked the court for permission to conduct discovery into how “lost and/or destroyed” records might be recovered; the IRS is fighting transparency efforts, but their latest response to the discovery request contains inconsistencies that could pull the rug out from under IRS officials responsible for the cover up.

Via Judicial Watch:

Judicial Watch lawyers reviewed the IRS court filings and concluded that the agency “did not undertake any significant efforts to obtain the emails.”

IRS attorneys conceded that they had failed to search the agency’s servers for missing emails because they decided that “the servers would not result in the recovery of any information.” They admitted they had failed to search the agency’s disaster recovery tapes because they had “no reason to believe that the tapes are a potential source of recovering” the missing emails. And they conceded that they had not searched the government-wide back-up system because they had “no reason to believe such a system … even exists.”

But what’s this? The inconvenient truth, documented for all time courtesy of court filings? [Emphasis in bold mine:]

The IRS admitted to Judge Sullivan that the agency failed to “submit declarations about any of the foregoing items because it had no reason to believe that they were sources from which to recover information lost as a result of Lerner’s hard drive failure.” [Emphasis added] Department of Justice attorneys for the IRS had previously told Judicial Watch that Lois Lerner’s emails, indeed all government computer records, are backed up by the federal government in case of a government-wide catastrophe. The Obama administration attorneys said that this back-up system would be too onerous to search. In the October federal court filing, the IRS does not deny that the government-wide back-up system exists, and acknowledges to the court that 760 other email “servers” have been discovered but had not been searched.

The IRS also refuses to disclose the names of the IRS officials who may have information about the IRS scandal, citing unspecified threats. The IRS says it pulled documents about the scandal from various employees into a “Congressional database” and that it has only searched this one “database” for missing records. Incredibly, the IRS has not searched any of the IRS’s regular computer systems for any missing records and admits that it has only searched a “database” that it knows does not contain the missing records being sought by the court, Judicial Watch, and Congress.

After two years of fighting, it has become clear to the attorneys at Judicial Watch and to the public that this administration is not interested in transparency as to the IRS targeting of conservatives.

Continue reading

November 7, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Leaked Documents Expose Global Companies’ Secret Tax Deals in Luxembourg

International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, Leaked Documents Expose Global Companies’ Secret Tax Deals in Luxembourg:

Pepsi, IKEA, FedEx and 340 other international companies have secured secret deals from Luxembourg, allowing many of them to slash their global tax bills while maintaining little presence in the tiny European duchy, leaked documents show.

These companies appear to have channeled hundreds of billions of dollars through Luxembourg and saved billions of dollars in taxes, according to a review of nearly 28,000 pages of confidential documents conducted by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and a team of more than 80 journalists from 26 countries.

Big companies can book big tax savings by creating complicated accounting and legal structures that move profits to low-tax Luxembourg from higher-tax countries where they’re headquartered or do lots of business. In some instances, the leaked records indicate, companies have enjoyed effective tax rates of less than 1 percent on the profits they’ve shuffled into Luxembourg.

The leaked documents reviewed by ICIJ journalists include hundreds of private tax rulings – sometimes known as “comfort letters” – that Luxembourg provides to corporations seeking favorable tax treatment.

(Hat Tip: Bruce Bartlett, Mike Talbert.)

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

Hayashi: Property Taxes and Their Limits: Evidence from New York City

Andrew T. Hayashi (Virginia), Property Taxes and Their Limits: Evidence from New York City, 26 Stan. L. & Pol'y Rev. 33 (2014):

I report evidence from New York City that property assessment caps on small residential properties represent a significant tax benefit that accrues to the most valuable properties and the wealthiest neighborhoods. Moreover, rather than benefiting the long-time homeowners on fixed incomes who are their putative targets, the largest benefits go to the properties that are most likely to have been recently sold and to be located in neighborhoods where cash incomes have increased the most.

November 6, 2014 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Earned Income Tax Credit and the Well-Being of American Families

Hilary W. Hoynes (UC-Berkeley), A Revolution in Poverty Policy: The Earned Income Tax Credit and the Well-Being of American Families, in Pathways: A Magazine on Poverty, Inequality, and Social Policy (Summer 2014):

EITC Cover 2Over the past 20 years, the safety net for families with children in the United States has been fundamentally transformed. The 1996 welfare reform led to a dramatic reduction in the amount of state cash assistance and to the elimination of the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program. At the same time, the amount of cash assistance given through the U.S. tax system increased substantially with the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).

The net result is an almost complete shift in the U.S. safety net for low-income families with children from out-of-work assistance to in-work assistance. In the midst of the slow recovery from the Great Recession, the EITC is now the largest cash transfer program for low-income families with children. The EITC cost roughly $59 billion in 2009, as compared with the $9 billion in Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) cash payments from the program that replaced AFDC.

Continue reading

November 6, 2014 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

TIGTA: Inadequate Inventory Controls Over Employee Mobile Devices Cost IRS Millions

TIGTA The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration yesterday released Wireless Telecommunication Device Inventory Control Weaknesses Resulted in Inaccurate Inventory Records and Unsupported Service Fees (2014-10-075):

In Fiscal Year 2013, the IRS spent more than $13.7 million on wireless telecommunication devices and maintained an inventory of more than 49,000 devices reported as being in use. Effective controls over the assignment of and inventory accounting for these devices is important to ensure proper stewardship of Government funds.

TIGTA’s previous work found that IRS processes for assigning and monitoring the use of devices were not adequate to ensure that employees have a business need for the devices. In addition, prior work found that the IRS paid for thousands of devices that were unused. The overall objective of this review was to assess the efficiency and effectiveness of the IRS’s inventory control for wireless aircards, cellular phones, and BlackBerry® smartphone devices.

Continue reading

November 6, 2014 in Gov't Reports, IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Bloomberg BNA & KPMG Host Free Webcast Today on The Elections: What’s Next for U.S. Tax Policy?

CaptureBloomberg BNA and KPMG hoast a free webcast today (9:00 am- 12:30 pm EST) on The Elections: What’s Next for U.S. Tax?:

Tax extenders have languished for months and tax reform even longer. The discussion on corporate inversions persists. The OECD continues to move forward with the BEPS project. And ever-present budgetary matters, including the looming debt ceiling debate await action. You need to know what’s next after November 4. 

  • John Buckley (Former Chief of Staff, Joint Committee on Taxation)
  • George Callas (Majority Staff Director, Ways & Means Subcommittee on Select Revenue Measures)
  • Aruna Kalyanam (Democratic Tax Counsel, Ways & Means Subcommittee on Select Revenue Measures)
  • Kenneth Kies (Former Staff Director, Joint Committee on Taxation)
  • Cathy Koch (Chief Advisor to the Majority Leader, Tax and Economic Policy Committee)
  • Jim Lyons (Republican Tax Counsel, Senate Finance Committee)
  • Karen McAfee (Democratic Chief Tax Counsel, Ways & Means Committee)
  • Todd Metcalf (Democratic Chief Tax Counsel, Senate Finance Committee)
  • Warren Payne (Majority Policy Director, Ways & Means Committee)
  • Mark Prater (Deputy Staff Director, Republican Chief Tax Counsel, Senate Finance Committee)
  • Robert Stack (Deputy Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy, U.S. Treasury Department)
  • Russell Sullivan (Former Staff Director, Senate Finance Committee)

November 6, 2014 in Conferences, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 546

IRS Logo 2Forbes, IRS Memo Claims Forbes Story Influenced Tax Exempt Decision Involving Billionaire, by Janet Novack:

A newly uncovered Internal Revenue Service memo lends support to billionaire investor Peter R. Kellogg’s claim that the IRS tax exempt division may have improperly taken press coverage –and specifically a Forbes cover story–into account before making a decision that cost him a bundle.

Kellogg K +0.22% and IAT Reinsurance Co. Ltd, the Bermuda-based insurance company his family owns, are suing the IRS for refunds of $186 million in taxes and interest they paid after the IRS revoked IAT’s qualification as a tax exempt 501(c)(15) insurance company retroactively. The lead of a March 2001 Forbes cover story on the proliferation of edgy tax shelters exposed Kellogg’s use of IAT to shield hundreds of millions in capital gains from tax. At that time, promoters were pushing the 501(c)(15) ploy to small business owners, particularly car dealers, as a tax shelter. After the Forbes story appeared, the IRS listed the Producer Owned Reinsurance Company (PORC) as a potentially abusive tax shelter and began an enforcement project.

The surprising IRS memo is disclosed in filings in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims where Kellogg and the government are battling over whether internal IRS documents and IRS officials’ thought processes and motivations are subject to discovery and can be used as evidence in his refund suits. The memo, a January 2010 Appeals Case Memorandum (ACM) from three IRS appeals officers, argues the IRS should reconsider the Technical Advice Memoranda (TAMs) that retroactively revoked IAT’s tax exemption and that of another Kellogg owned insurance company.

The ACM asserts that originally the TAMs were favorable to Kellogg and that then Tax Exempt Commissioner Steven Miller was persuaded “to go adverse because of the ramifications” to the PORC project “to no-change the very taxpayer (Kellogg) that started this project because of the Forbes article.” The memo adds: “We believe a `fresh-look’ is needed as to the facts of these cases in applying the laws as is without regard to the outside publicity.’’

Miller went on to become Acting IRS Commissioner and resigned from the agency in May 2013 amid the ongoing controversy over IRS targeting of Tea Party and certain other groups for extra scrutiny in the tax exemption process. Internal IRS documents suggest that Tea Party groups were first flagged because of media attention to political groups’ use of the 501(c)(4) exemption. Lois Lerner, a central figure in the exempt scandal who has been held in contempt of Congress by the Republican controlled House, was particularly sensitive to criticism that the IRS was letting 501(c)(4) organizations get away with too much political activity.

Continue reading

November 6, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Tax Reform After the Midterm Election

Brookings Institution:  Tax Reform: One Shining Moment or “Blah, Blah, Blah”, by William G. Gale:

Given that prospects for tax reform were virtually nil before the election, the Republican recapture of the Senate has to have made prospects for tax reform better. But I still have the strong sense that tax reform will be a tough slog in the next Congress. ...

Rather than actually enacting tax reform, it seems much more likely that the sides will fight about whether to use dynamic scoring methods that account for macro economic feedback in response to tax changes. While it may seem obvious that the Republicans can implement such changes, given they will control both houses of Congress, it is nowhere near a slam dunk, as there appear to be a number of procedural obstacles that have to be dealt with. And dynamic scoring raises as many economic issues as it resolves.

It is a good bet that the new Republican Congress will continue to talk about tax reform. That is safe ground for Republicans generally. And, of course, seemingly impossible things do sometimes happen. But I wouldn’t bet on tax reform. 

November 5, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

WSJ: Ireland to Ramp Up Corporate Tax Avoidance by Replacing 'Double Irish' With 100% Amortization of IP on Way to 'Knowledge-Development Box'

DOuble IrishWall Street Journal, Ireland Moves to Close One Tax Break and Opens Another; Bill to End “Double Irish” Also Offers Corporate Tax Cuts on Intellectual Property:

As the Irish government moves to close one door to corporate tax avoidance, it is opening another.

Tucked into legislation to eliminate a much criticized tax structure known as the “Double Irish” is a separate provision that would allow companies to pay no corporate tax on profits earned from patents, licenses and other intellectual property.

The legislation, which would expand a current tax break that allows companies to shield 80% of that income, also proposes to add customer lists to the types of intellectual property that can be covered.

The expanded tax provision proposed in the Irish budget would give companies an incentive to make Ireland the home for their intellectual property—some of it now tied up in Double Irish structures—as well as give them a simpler means to shield some of the same income from taxes. ...

Last month, Ireland touted how the legislation would eliminate the Double Irish, a tax avoidance measure that uses a twist in Irish law to send royalty payments for intellectual property from one Irish-registered subsidiary to another that resides for tax purposes in a country with no corporate income taxes. While the total number of companies that use the structure isn’t publicly disclosed, hundreds have funneled tens of billions of dollars a year in profit to tax havens via Ireland, including many practitioners in the technology and pharmaceutical sectors, tax experts say.

The tax break could in theory benefit technology companies like Google Inc. or pharmaceutical firms like Gilead Sciences Inc., which have moved intellectual property into Irish corporate structures.

At least 249 companies used the provision in 2012, according to figures from Ireland’s tax office, the Revenue Commissioners, providing tax relief valued at €108 million ($135 million). But that total may understate the expanded provision’s potential scope. Companies have had little need to reduce the bite from Irish taxes for their intellectual property income when they could use structures like the Double Irish to escape such taxes altogether. ...

The expanded tax break is seen by proponents as a way to keep Ireland competitive as a destination for intellectual property as it prepares a longer-term package of regulations governing how such assets would be taxed. That package, referred to as the “knowledge development box,” has yet to be formalized.

Continue reading

November 5, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS and The Case of the Cockamamie Killer

CaseDavid M. Brown, The Case of the Cockamamie Killer (2011):

You can't avoid death and taxes. Or is that murder and taxes? That would depend on who is doing the collecting.

When a colleague is slain in cold blood, tough-guy word processor and private detective Chak Charon investigates—and soon finds himself out of a job, abducted from his apartment, and audited within an inch of his life. He takes refuge in a lower-Manhattan boarding house and proceeds to discover a dirty little secret: that the Internal Revenue Service is developing a computer virus designed to scavenge the private financial data of unsuspecting citizens. (Scratch that. Let's say that a "rogue IRS agent" is developing the virus. As we keep hearing in the news, it is extremely difficult for the IRS to know anything about what is happening inside the IRS.)

Meet the sullen fast-food clerk who has trouble filling special orders...the department supervisor whose every gesture is by-the-book...the socially-conscious housemates of Grubgeous Street...the sulky, seductive hustler...the other sulky, seductive hustler...the power-lusting bureaucrat...the software-slinging private eye who won't take "Get lost!" for an answer.

Continue reading

November 5, 2014 in Book Club, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Acquittal of Ex-UBS Executive Deals Blow to DOJ in Tax Crackdown

The IRS Scandal, Day 545

IRS Logo 2Breitbart:  Read: Jeanne Shaheen-IRS Memos on Conservative Group Targeting:

The IRS memos to and from incumbent Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) indicate she was involved in the actual investigative activities targeting Tea Partiers.

The memos, obtained by Breitbart News and published here, show a series of letters Shaheen and other Democratic Senators exchanged with then IRS commissioner Doug Shulman and then IRS deputy commissioner for services and enforcement Steven Miller—not just the one memo published by The Daily Caller’s Patrick Howley late Monday evening right before the election.

The memos are responses to two different letters Shaheen and a whole group of Democrats such as Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Al Franken (D-MN), Michael Bennet (D-CO), and Tom Udall (D-NM), among others. The responses are directed specifically to Shaheen, seemingly indicating that she was the point person for the Senate Democrats’ efforts to leverage the IRS into targeting conservative and Tea Party groups. ...

The letters Shaheen and her Democratic colleagues sent to the IRS have long been public, but the detailed responses from the IRS to her are brand new—and came out just before the election. They seem to indicate that Shaheen was kept apprised of, and was involved in, the intricate layers of the IRS targeting of Tea Partiers—which has since been widely panned in the wake of several congressional investigations. Basically, the fact that Democratic senators – especially Shaheen – were deeply involved in the targeting scandal has always been suspected but never confirmed—until now.

Continue reading

November 5, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Blank Presents Reconsidering Corporate Tax Privacy Today at Minnesota

BlankJoshua D. Blank (NYU) presents Reconsidering Corporate Tax Privacy, 11 N.Y.U. J. L. & Bus. ___ (2014), at Minnesota today as part of its Perspectives on Taxation Lecture Series hosted by Kristin Hickman:

For over a century, politicians, government officials and scholars in the United States have debated whether corporate tax returns, which are currently subject to broad tax privacy protections, should be publicly accessible. The ongoing global discussion of base erosion and profit shifting by multinational corporations has generated calls for greater tax transparency. Throughout this debate, participants have focused exclusively on the potential reactions of a corporation’s managers, shareholders and consumers to a corporation’s disclosure of its own tax return information. There is, however, another perspective: how would the ability of a corporation’s stakeholders and agents to observe other corporations’ tax return information affect the corporation’s compliance with the tax law?

Continue reading

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

Aggressive Planning Saves John Malone Billions in Taxes

Bloomberg:  Malone Gained Double Tax Break in Liberty Address Shift,  by Jesse Drucker:

MaloneShifting the address of his Liberty Global Inc. from Colorado to London last year didn’t just put billionaire John C. Malone in a position to reduce his company’s tax bill.

He also took precautions to avoid the capital-gains hit that the so-called inversion would trigger for him and other investors. The day before the deal was announced, Malone -- the company’s chairman and controlling shareholder -- transferred $600 million of his shares into a tax-exempt charitable trust. He avoided paying taxes on his remaining stake, worth about $260 million, by exploiting IRS regulations meant to block a different loophole.

All told, Malone escaped about $200 million in personal taxes, and Liberty Global’s U.S. shareholders together likely saved more than a billion dollars, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“He’s congenitally averse to paying taxes,” said Robert Willens, an independent tax accounting analyst in New York City.  

Continue reading

November 4, 2014 in Celebrity Tax Lore, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Unicap Regs and Trademark Royalties

Florida Tax ReviewGlenn Walberg (Vermont), Wrestling Control from the Unicap Regulations: The Irrelevance of Quality Control in Determining Capitalizable Trademark Royalties, 16 Fla. Tax Rev. 223 (2014):

Taxpayers generally must capitalize direct and indirect costs attributable to their production of inventory. Due to uncertainty about whether this requirement applies to sales-based trademark royalties, the regulations now clarify that these royalties are indeed capitalizable as indirect production costs. However, the regulations also let taxpayers allocate these sales-based costs entirely to cost of goods sold. So, to the relief of taxpayers, the regulations have the practical effect of permitting immediate cost recovery — similar to a business expense deduction — for sales-based royalties.

This Article questions the rationale for treating trademark royalties as capitalizable indirect costs. It argues that the regulations inappropriately rely on a licensor’s retention of control over product quality to link a licensed mark with inventory production and hence treat the associated royalties as production costs. The Article finds such reliance inappropriate because every valid trademark license involves a retention of control and the significance of control has diminished in modern trademark law and licensing practices. The Article further explains how this focus on control inadvertently makes all trademark royalties (including minimum and upfront royalties) capitalizable as indirect costs and therefore potentially allocable to ending inventory.

Continue reading

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

Avi-Yonah: What We Can Learn from the Tax Reform Act of 1986

Reuven Avi-Yonah (Michigan), Reinventing the Wheel: What We Can Learn from the Tax Reform Act of 1986:

This paper has suggested that as we consider tax reform in 2014 and thereafter, we should revert to some of the positive features of TRA 86, updated to reflect increasing globalization. Specifically:

  • The top individual rate, the KG rate and the dividend rate should be set at 28%;
  • The corporate rate should also be set at 28%;
  • Corporations should be taxed on global income with no deferral or exemption.

Continue reading

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

Corporate Inversions Could Mean Big Tax Bills For Shareholders

(Click on YouTube button on bottom right to view video directly on YouTube to avoid interruption caused by blog's refresh rate.)

November 4, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Bankman & Caron: Tax Scholarship in a Time of Fiscal Crisis

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

This essay makes three claims about the current state of tax law and academic tax scholarship in America: (1) the federal budget imbalance, caused by the failure of both political parties to raise the tax revenues needed to fund the nation’s spending priorities, is unsustainable and threatens our nation’s future; (2) tax scholars need to shift our focus from technocratic work to systemic solutions to the existential threat posed by this fiscal gap; and (3) California’s response to its seemingly intractable budget problems provides a template for resolving the federal budget stalemate in Washington, D.C.

Two years ago, both California and the nation were imperiled by long-term, structural, budget imbalances. California has reduced that peril by raising (already high) personal tax rates on the wealthy. The political success of that approach suggests that at the national level, Americans might be willing to support higher rates to maintain government services and move toward fiscal solvency.

The fiscal crisis highlights a problem with the dominant conception of legal tax scholarship. Under that conception, scholarship is (or should be) apolitical and confined to subjects about which the writer can demonstrate mastery. Unfortunately, the most pressing problem in the field is inescapably political and requires the scholar to address some issues about which no one can master. If we hew to a restrictive definition of scholarship, we limit our voice on a subject about which we have much to say.

November 4, 2014 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

2015 U.S. News Law Firm Tax Rankings: Skadden Is #1

Best Law FirmsU.S. News and Best Lawyers have released their fifth annual ranking of over 12,000 law firms in 120 practice areas, in both a national ranking and separate rankings of firms in 174 metropolitan areas (methodology). The rankings are based in part on 5.5 million evaluations of 52,488 lawyers collected by Best Lawyers in its most recent annual survey.

One law firm in each of the 120 practice areas was named the 2015 Law Firm of the Year. Skadden is the 2015 Law Firm of the Year in Tax.

The rankings group law firm practice areas in three tiers. Here are the 244 law firms ranked in tax:

Tier 1:

Continue reading

November 4, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Pittsburgh IRS Agent Tried to Bribe Police After Being Arrested at Steelers Game

CBS Pittsburgh,  Police: Man Arrested For Kicking Heinz Field Barriers, Trying To Bribe Officers:

A man was arrested after injuring a woman by kicking a steel barrier at Heinz Field Sunday evening. According to police, 29-year-old Stephen Sapp was intoxicated at the time of the incident. ...

Sapp sustained some cuts in the struggle [with police] and was transported to UPMC Mercy Hospital for treatment. While at the hospital, Sapp allegedly tried to bribe officers to let him go. According to the criminal complaint, Sapp stated, “Listen, I know how this works. How much money will it take to make this go away and to let me go home today?”

The officers informed Sapp that he could not attempt to bribe them, but Sapp continued. “Look, I am an IRS agent and I can help you in other ways if you let me go home and make this go away.”

WTAE, IRS Confirms Worker Arrested at Heinz Field; Police: Stephan Sapp Kicked Out of Steelers Game, Gets Violent, Offers Bribe

November 4, 2014 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

The IRS Scandal, Day 544

IRS Logo 2Recent filings in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in Judicial Watch v. IRS, No. 13-1559-EGS:

Continue reading

November 4, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 3, 2014

Bankman & Shaviro: Piketty in America: A Tale of Two Literatures

PikettyJoseph Bankman (Stanford) & Daniel N. Shaviro (NYU), Piketty in America: A Tale of Two Literatures, 68 Tax L. Rev. ___ (2014):

Thomas Piketty’s widely-noted and bestselling book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, does much to advance our empirical understanding of rising high-end wealth concentration, which is one of the central issues of our time. But its theoretical approach and policy recommendations differ sharply from those that have been prevalent in recent decades in the Anglo-American academic tax policy literature. We adjudicate this “confrontation” (insofar as it is one), and find that each approach in some respects both undermines and enriches the other. We find that the optimal tax response to wealth concentration is significantly more complicated than Piketty’s analysis recognizes. This is particularly true in the United States, where rising high-end wealth concentration has been driven by heterogeneous human capital, and where Piketty’s proposed wealth tax would face a substantial risk of being held unconstitutional.

November 3, 2014 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Weinzierl Presents The Promise of Positive Optimal Taxation Today at Loyola-L.A.

WeinzierlMatthew Weinzierl (Harvard Business School) presents The Promise of Positive Optimal Taxation at Loyola-L.A. today as part of its Tax Policy Colloquium Series:

A prominent assumption in modern optimal tax research is that the objective of taxation is Utilitarian. I present new survey evidence that most people reject this assumption’s implications for several prominent features of tax policy, instead preferring tax policies based at least in part on a classic alternative objective: the principle of Equal Sacri…fice. I generalize the standard model to accommodate this preference for a mixed objective, proposing a method by which to make disparate criteria commensurable while respecting Pareto efficiency. Then, I show that optimal policy in this generalized model, calibrated to the survey evidence and U.S. microdata, is capable of quantitatively matching several features of existing tax policy that are incompatible in the conventional model but widely endorsed in the survey and reality, including the coexistence of substantial redistribution and limited tagging. Together, these fi…ndings demonstrate the potential of a positive theory of optimal taxation.

David Gamage (UC-Berkeley) is the commentator.

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

Moretti & Wilson Present Taxation, Migration, and Innovation: The Effect of Taxes on the Location of Star Scientists Today at UC-Berkeley

MorettiWilsonEnrico Moretti (UC-Berkeley, Department of Economics) & Daniel Wilson (Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco) present Taxation, Migration, and Innovation: The Effect of Taxes on the Location of Star Scientists at UC-Berkeley today as part of the Robert D. Burch Center for Tax Policy and Public Finance Seminar:

This paper estimates tax-induced mobility of star scientists. Surprisingly there is  little research on tax-induced mobility of “economically valuable” individuals.

Continue reading

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

District Court Refuses to Dismiss Suspended Practitioner's Lawsuit Against IRS Office of Professional Responsibility

IRS Logo 2In press reports last month, Karen Hawkins, Director of the IRS Office of Professional Responsibility ("OPR"), was quoted as saying that although she first "laughed" at the argument in Sexton v. Hawkins that OPR lacked jurisdiction over a suspended practitioner (a tax lawyer with a tax LL.M.), after  Ridgely v. Lew (more here) "there are some judges out there that would buy that now."  Last Thursday, the Federal District Court in Nevada rejected the Government's motion to dismiss Sexton's complaint againt the OPR.   Sexton v. Hawkins, No. 2:13-cv-00893 (D NV Oct. 30, 2014).

November 3, 2014 in IRS News, New Cases, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Law Firms Join Lobbyists to Defend Inversions

National Law Journal, 'Inversion' Finding Its Defenders; Lobbyists Line Up Behind Controversial Tax Tactic:

Law firms have joined a growing army of lobbying shops on Capitol Hill to ensure that AbbVie Inc., Walgreen Co. and other U.S. companies are part of the conversation about a controversial tax-lowering tactic.

Inversions

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

Sullivan: The Tax Aspects of Immigration Reform

Tax Analysys Logo (2013)Martin A. Sullivan (Tax Analysts), The Tax Aspects of Immigration Reform, 145 Tax Notes 463 (Nov. 3, 2014):

Against all odds, Obama, who would love to include immigration reform as part of his legacy, and Republican leaders in Congress, who want their party to be competitive in the 2016 presidential election and to show they can get things done, are likely to make a serious attempt at putting together a bipartisan, bicameral deal on immigration in 2015. The estimates presented in this article are based on numerous assumptions about which there is considerable uncertainty, so they can hardly be taken as gospel. But the central finding, concerning the large difference in the revenue effects between legal and unauthorized immigration, is difficult to dispute given the differences in average income levels and the fact that many currently unauthorized immigrants already pay tax. As Congress struggles to fix our broken immigration system, it is likely to consider many variations of S.744 and its components. Those proposals that allow a large influx of new legal immigrants — particularly immigrants with high skills—will significantly increase tax revenue. Providing new legal status for current unauthorized immigrants will not.

Continue reading

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

Tax Section Programs at 2015 AALS Annual Meeting

AALS (2016)From AALS Tax Section Chair Miranda Fleischer (San Diego):

The AALS Tax Section is sponsoring two programs at this year’s AALS annual meeting, which will be held January 2 to 5, 2015 at the Marriott Wardman Park in Washington, D.C. We are also arranging an off-site dinner Friday night the 2nd; details to follow.

Continue reading

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

Tax Profs' Brief in Direct Marketing Association v. Brohl

Brief of Interested Law Professors as Amici Curiae Supporting Respondent in Direct Marketing Association v. Brohl (Joseph Bankman (Stanford), Jordan Barry (San Diego), Barbara Fried (Stanford), David Gamage (UC-Berkeley), Andrew Haile (Elon), Alan Morrison (George Washington), Darien Shanske (UC-Davis), Kirk Stark (UCLA), John Swain (Arizona) & Dennis Ventry (UC-Davis)):

The petitioner in this case has framed the question presented as follows: “Whether the Tax Injunction Act bars federal court jurisdiction over a suit brought by non-taxpayers to enjoin the informational notice and reporting requirements of a state law that neither imposes a tax, nor requires the collection of a tax, but serves only as a secondary aspect of state tax administration.”

Amici agree with the respondent, the State of Colorado, that the Tax Injunction Act bars federal courts from enjoining the operation of the Colorado Statute at issue in this case because this lawsuit is intended to create the very kind of premature federal court interference with the operation of the Colorado use tax collection system that the TIA was designed to prevent. To assist the Court in understanding the application of the TIA to this case, amici (i) place the reporting requirements mandated by the Colorado Statute in the broader context of tax administration and (ii) explain the potential interaction between a decision on the TIA issue in this case and the underlying dispute concerning the dormant Commerce Clause.

Continue reading

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

The IRS Scandal, Day 543

TaxProf Blog Weekend Roundup

Sunday, November 2, 2014

NY Times: State Tax Cuts on Trial on Tuesday, Especially in Kansas

New York Times editorial, Tax Cuts on Trial in Governors’ Races:

There is only so long a governor can do great damage to a state before voters start to demand a change. In Kansas, Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican who has driven down his state’s credit rating and cratered its budget with ill-advised tax cuts, is paying a huge price in popularity for his actions. ...

Mr. Brownback is not the only Republican governor who is struggling this year because extreme policies have failed. Some of the country’s most damaging governors are caught in tossup races with Democrats, fighting for re-election even while President Obama’s unpopularity has hurt his party’s chances of retaining the Senate.

Continue reading

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

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

  1. [301 Downloads]  Obama Care Fails the Origination Clause: Why Sissel and Hotze Should Be Reversed, by Steven J. WIllis (Florida) & Hans G. Tanzler (Florida)
  2. [297 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)
  3. [165 Downloads]  Home-Country Effects of Corporate Inversions, by Omri Y. Marian (Florida)
  4. [156 Downloads]  Rights Without Remedies, by Matthew L. M. Fletcher (Michigan State)
  5. [146 Downloads]  A World Turned Upside Down: Reflections on the 'New Wave' Inversions and Notice 2014-52, by Reuven S. Avi-Yonah (Michigan)

November 2, 2014 in Scholarship, Tax, Top 5 Downloads | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 542

IRS Logo 2Press Release:  Wetumpka TEA Party Continues Call for Accountability After Unacceptable IRS Court Ruling:

AL-Becky Gerritson, President of the Wetumpka TEA Party, called Thursday's US District Court’s ruling to dismiss two lawsuits against the IRS by dozens of TEA Parties and other conservative groups , “outrageous” .

The IRS’s targeting of conservatives first came to the public’s attention in May of 2013, when Lois Lerner, then head of the IRS’s Tax Exempt Office, tried to minimize the seriousness of their despicable action when she answered a planted question from the audience while speaking to the American Bar Association. The targeting of conservatives began in 2009 and reached its height during the 2012 election cycle. Some conservative groups have still not received their well-deserved tax exempt status even to this day. In 2013 the Wetumpka TEA Party along with 40 other conservative groups filed a law suit with the American Center for Law and Justice, (ACLJ) against the IRS for its illegal targeting of conservatives.

“When you look at the allegations in our lawsuit along with evidence uncovered by Congressional committees and Judicial Watch, it is undeniable that the IRS is guilty of wrongdoing. However, Judge Walton basically said that since we finally received our tax status (after almost 2 years of waiting) that we now have no case. That’s like a judge telling a burglary victim, that even though she was robbed 2 years ago; since she does not currently have the thieves in her house, she has no case. This ruling is unbelievable! It’s so much more than just a delay of a tax exempt status; it’s about the IRS, a government agency, being used as a weapon against its citizens, i.e. violating our constitutional rights, invading our privacy, bullying and intimidating us, mishandling and leaking our confidential taxpayer information etc., not to mention the ensuing cover-up; and we cannot fight back…we have no recourse.”

Gerritson continued, “The judge did not base his decision on the merits of the case. In fact, he did not deny wrong doing by the IRS but dismissed the case on procedural grounds. He wrote in a footnote: "The court's opinion should not be interpreted as an assessment of the propriety of the alleged conduct by the defendants." It’s unfathomable that the IRS, one of the most feared government agencies in America, was able to engage in a massive, years-long illegal targeting scheme against everyday American’s and get away with it scot-free. This is a huge blow to Americans’ liberty. If the IRS was allowed to target and harass Americans on such a large scale with no repercussions then what will stop them in the future?”

Gerritson concluded by saying, “This isn’t over for us. We will not be silent. We commend and support the ACLJ‘s plan to appeal the ruling. We will continue to do everything we can to stand up for citizens’ rights, expose government’s abuse of power and hold them accountable for their actions.”

Continue reading

November 2, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, November 1, 2014

WSJ: How to Use a 401k to Pump Up a Roth IRA

Roth IRAWall Street Journal, How to Pump Up a Roth IRA: After-Tax Contributions to a 401(k) Plan Can Be Shifted Into a Tax-Free Roth, the IRS Says:

High-income earners have a new incentive to make after-tax contributions to a 401(k) plan: They can later shift those contributions into a Roth individual retirement account, tax-free.

Thanks to a recent Internal Revenue Service ruling [Notice 2014-54], eligible employees can now move after-tax contributions directly from their employer-sponsored retirement plan to a Roth account.

The potential tax savings are huge, depending on an investor’s tax rate in retirement. ... The latest decision gives people an easier way to distinguish pre- and after-tax contributions and maximize their potential tax savings. That could make it much easier for investors to move tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars they have had accumulating in their 401(k)s into a Roth IRA.

November 1, 2014 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

The IRS Scandal, Day 541

IRS Logo 2Press Release:  ACLJ Files Suit Against IRS For Failing To Release Records Between IRS And U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen Of New Hampshire Who Demanded IRS Probe Conservative Organizations:

The American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ) today filed a federal lawsuit in New Hampshire against the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) on behalf of the group, Citizens for a Strong New Hampshire, claiming the IRS is unlawfully delaying the release of records between the IRS and U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) who demanded the IRS investigate conservative organizations for engaging in "political activities."

Citizens for a Strong New Hampshire filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) demanding the IRS release the correspondence between the tax agency and Sen. Shaheen and Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01). The lawsuit was filed today in U.S. District Court for the District of New Hampshire, in Concord, NH. The lawsuit contends the IRS is unlawfully delaying the release of information until after next week's mid-term elections – a move that the complaint argues "has deprived Strong NH of the opportunity to obtain and effectively convey to the voting public vital information about those seeking re-election."

Continue reading

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

Friday, October 31, 2014

Weekly Tax Roundup

October 31, 2014 in Tax, Weekly Tax Roundup | Permalink | Comments (1)

Weekly SSRN Tax Roundup

October 31, 2014 in Scholarship, Tax, Weekly SSRN Roundup | Permalink | Comments (0)

Weekly Student Tax Note Roundup

Weekly RoundupConor Clarke (J.D. 2015, Yale) & Edward Fox (J.D. 2015, Yale), Note, Perceptions of Tax Expenditures and Direct Spending: A Survey Experiment, 124 Yale L.J. ___ (2015):

This paper presents the results of an original survey experiment on whether the public prefers “tax expenditures” to “direct outlays” — that is, whether members of the public are more likely to support government spending that takes the form of a tax credit rather than a check or cash. Using a survey that spans a wide variety of policy areas — and with important variations in wording and information — we show that the public strongly prefers tax expenditures even when the “economic substance” of the proposed policies is identical. We also show that the public views tax expenditures as less costly than equivalent direct outlays. These results support a longstanding but largely unstudied hypothesis that tax expenditures “hide” the costs of government spending, and have implications for why tax expenditures have continued to grow in size and complexity.

October 31, 2014 in Scholarship, Tax, Weekly Student Tax Note Roundup | Permalink | Comments (0)

Kyl & Moore: Obama's Soak the Rich 60% Tax Hike on Investment Income Is Drowning the Middle Class

Wall Street Journal op-ed:  Obama Soaks the Rich, Drowns the Middle Class; The Ripple Effect of the President’s Tax Hikes Is Swamping Take-Home Pay, by Jon Kyl (American Enterprise Institute) & Stephen Moore (Heritage Foundation):

The curse of the U.S. economy today is the downward trend in “take-home pay.” This is the most crucial economic indicator for most Americans. ... Most workers’ pay has not kept up with inflation for at least six years. ...

Why aren’t wages rising? There are several reasons, including that many jobs today don’t pay as well as the ones lost during the recession. ObamaCare has made health insurance more expensive for businesses—as the nation’s biggest employer, Wal-Mart , recently reported—and that takes a bite out of take-home pay. Yet one factor is often overlooked: the tax increase on “the rich” at the beginning of 2013.

Continue reading

October 31, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Florida Hosts 10th Annual International Tax Symposium Today

Florida Logo (GIF)The University of Florida Graduate Tax Program hosts its  Tenth Annual International Taxation Symposium today (live webcast here):

October 31, 2014 in Conferences, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)