TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron
Pepperdine University School of Law

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Trade Group: IRS Wastes 22% Of Its Budget ($2.76 Billion) On Information Technology

IRS Logo 2International Association of IT Asset Managers,  IT Waste at the Internal Revenue Service:

IRS IT Spending/Waste By The Numbers:

  • $11.2 billion - Total IRS budget in 2016. 
  • 79,890 - Total IRS employees as of FY2015.
  • $4,600-$4,900 - Average amount spent per employee on IT in the private sector.
  • $37,051 - Average amount spent per employee on IT at the Department of Treasury.
  • $31,000 - According to IAITAM, private sector-style IT Asset Management protocol implementation would save roughly $31,000 per employee at the IRS. 
  • More than three times – How much the potential ITAM-related savings per employee stack up in comparison to the average $9,118 federal income tax bill for Americans.
  • 22 percent - Total potential ITAM-related savings would add up to $2.76 billion
    or nearly one quarter of the total 2016 IRS budget.

Continue reading

March 30, 2017 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (12)

NY Times:  Pages From Trump’s Tax Returns Raise A Decade’s Worth of Questions

Trump Tax ReturnsNew York Times, Pages From Trump’s Tax Returns Raise a Decade’s Worth of Questions:

Like or loathe Donald J. Trump, you have to give him this: He’s done more to shine a spotlight on the loopholes and fundamental unfairness of the tax code than any other American president.

In doing so, he’s made a powerful case for tax reform, though perhaps not quite along the lines he has in mind.

This, of course, has happened despite Mr. Trump’s strenuous efforts to conceal his returns, reneging on a campaign promise to release them at some point, and defying a decades-long tradition in which presidential candidates have made public, at minimum, their recent tax returns.

Continue reading

March 30, 2017 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (16)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1421: More On A Hidden Cause Of The IRS Scandal

Cause of ActionFox News, IRS Still Allowed to Target Political Groups, According to Watchdog Org:

The IRS is still able to target certain political groups despite being publicly exposed for the unfair practice more than five years ago, according to a new report by a watchdog group.

A rule in place at the IRS allows the federal agency to delay the applications of non-profit groups looking for tax-exempt status, claims the Washington-based Cause of Action in its report, A Hidden Cause of the IRS Targeting Scandal. The IRS admitted in 2013 that leading up to the 2012 election the agency unfairly targeted right-leaning groups as well as those with “Tea Party” or “patriot” in their name. More than five years after the practice was exposed, Cause of Action says the IRS has not made changes to end the practice. “The regulation that allows them to do this is still there,” John Vecchione, executive director of Cause of Action told Fox News. “It’s bureaucratic inertia until someone makes a change.”

The findings claims the IRS is able to target these groups while still complying with its own rules. Cause of Action claims changing this practice would be a simple and quick fix. “The IRS has the authority to change its internal policy at any moment, which means it can remove the problematic rules at its discretion,” the authors of the report said in their findings. “Doing so would eliminate the agency procedure than enabled the targeting scandal. To date, the agency has not made the required changes to its rules.”

Officials for the IRS refute the report’s claims. “The IRS strongly disputes the report and any suggestion or allegation that Exempt Organizations is targeting taxpayers,” reads a statement provided to Fox News. “The IRS emphasizes that this point has been confirmed by independent third parties, including the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.”

Continue reading

March 30, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

O’Brien Presents Canada’s International Investment Agreements and Direct Taxation Today At Toronto

O'BrienMartha O’Brien (University of Victoria Faculty of Law) presents Canada’s International Investment Agreements and Direct Taxation at Toronto today as part of its James Hausman Tax Law and Policy Workshop Series:

The General Framework
The promotion of international trade and investment has been a central policy goal of Canadian federal and provincial governments for many years. From the signing of the Canada-United States Free Trade Agreement (CUSFTA) in 1988, the inclusion of Mexico in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1993, and the conclusion of numerous BITs and other free trade agreements that include investment chapters (referred to as international investment agreements or “IIAs”) through the 1990s and 2000s, Canada has a record of actively pursuing bilateral and multilateral trade and investment agreements.

Continue reading

March 29, 2017 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

AALS Call For Papers:  The Challenges And Opportunities Of Exotic Hybrids

AALS (2018)The AALS Section on Agency, Partnership, LLCs and Unincorporated Association, in conjunction with the AALS Sections on Taxation, Securities, and Business Associations, have issued a Call for Papers for a program on The Challenges and Opportunities of Exotic Hybrids—Series LLCs, Up-C’s and Master Limited Partnerships at the 2018 AALS Annual Meeting in San Diego:

Business entity structures continue to evolve as legal innovations mature into recognized business association forms. For example, variants on LLC and limited partnership forms can be used to maximize asset protection, leverage tax advantages, access capital markets, and achieve other business objectives. The program will introduce attendees to several “exotic” hybrid structures and discuss the challenges and opportunities associated with each. The program will be informative — inviting subject matter experts to educate audience members — and exploratory, critically examining the tax, governance, private ordering, securities, and policy implications of new entity structuring tools.

Continue reading

March 29, 2017 in Conferences, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

NY Times Op-Ed:  Why Steven Mnuchin Wants A Stronger IRS (And Trump Should Too)

Trump IRSNew York Times op-ed: Why Steven Mnuchin Wants a Stronger I.R.S., by Dennis J. Ventry Jr. (UC-Davis):

President Trump’s Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, knows that investing in the Internal Revenue Service yields significant returns — he said as much during his confirmation hearings. And he’s right: Every dollar spent on the agency returns $4 in revenue for the federal government, and as much as $10 when invested in enforcement activities.

Mr. Mnuchin’s boss doesn’t seem to care, but he should. And not just because the I.R.S. more than pays for itself. Cutting funds for the I.R.S., which has already endured years of budget cuts, would make it impossible for the president to pay for things he says he cares about, including infrastructure, Social Security and the military.

Continue reading

March 29, 2017 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

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 March 1, 2017) 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.)

66,153

Reuven Avi-Yonah (Mich.)

12,003

2

Michael Simkovic (S. Hall)

35,620

Lily Batchelder (NYU)

8575

3

Paul Caron (Pepperdine)

32,790

Michael Simkovic (S. Hall)

4717

4

D. Dharmapala (Chicago)

30,008

D. Dharmapala (Chicago)

4135

5

Louis Kaplow (Harvard)

27,810

Michael Graetz (Columbia)

2928

6

Vic Fleischer (San Diego)

23,507

Ed Kleinbard (USC)

2813

7

James Hines (Michigan)

22,666

Richard Ainsworth (BU)

2711

8

Ed Kleinbard (USC)

22,244

Dan Shaviro (NYU)

2368

9

Richard Kaplan (Illinois)

21,776

William Byrnes (Texas A&M)

2353

10

Ted Seto (Loyola-L.A.)

21,706

Paul Caron (Pepperdine)

2305

11

Richard Ainsworth (BU)

20,033

Louis Kaplow (Harvard)

2292

12

Katie Pratt (Loyola-L.A.)

19,898

Robert Sitkoff (Harvard)

2076

13

Robert Sitkoff (Harvard)

18,633

David Weisbach (Chicago)

1949

14

David Weisbach (Chicago)

18,469

Steven Bank (UCLA)

1871

15

Brad Borden (Brooklyn)

17,978

David Gamage (Indiana)

1836

16

Carter Bishop (Suffolk)

17,918

Omri Marian (UC-Irvine)

1822

17

Chris Sanchirico (Penn)

17,387

Jeff Kwall (Loyola-Chicago)

1795

18

Jen Kowal (Loyola-L.A.)

17,255

Francine Lipman (UNLV)

1663

19

Francine Lipman (UNLV)

17,279

Yariv Brauner (Florida)

1624

20

Dan Shaviro (NYU)

16,833

Jordan Barry (San Diego)

1555

21

Bridget Crawford (Pace)

16,705

Brian Galle (Georgetown)

1540

22

Dennis Ventry (UC-Davis)

16,394

Christopher Hoyt (UMKC)

1502

23

David Walker (Boston Univ.)

15,568

Vic Fleischer (San Diego)

1465

24

Steven Bank (UCLA)

14,590

Brad Borden (Brooklyn)

1450

25

Gregg Polsky (Georgia)

13,712

Bridget Crawford (Pace)

1406

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.

Continue reading

March 29, 2017 in Scholarship, Tax, Tax Prof Rankings | Permalink | Comments (0)

Newman:  Should Olympic Medals Be Taxed?

Olympic RingsJoel S. Newman (Wake Forest), Should Olympic Medals Be Taxed?:

Ronda Rousey won the Bronze Medal in judo at the Beijing Olympics in 2008. She was the first American woman to do so. The medal itself would have brought her a measly four bucks, if she had been crass enough to sell it. Her reward from the United States Olympic Committee for her unique accomplishment was, as she put it, “Ten grand and a handshake.” A few months after she came home from Beijing, she was living in her car.

Continue reading

March 29, 2017 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1420: A Hidden Cause

Cause of ActionCause of Action, Sensitive Case Reports: A Hidden Cause of the IRS Targeting Scandal:

Executive Summary:
Beginning in February 2010, the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS’) singled out certain non-profit organizations for extra scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status. Numerous subsequent congressional investigations and media reports demonstrated that the targeting involved invasive questioning and years-long delays, and focused disproportionately on right-leaning groups, especially those with “Tea Party” in their name. These reports, however, have almost entirely overlooked a hidden cause of the targeting scandal,which remains in effect today. As a result, American taxpayers are at risk for similar treatment in the future.

Contrary to the conventional storyline, there exists an institutional policy that was the first impetus in prompting IRS employees to target groups based on their political viewpoints. That policy is embodied in an internal IRS rule—which is still on the books—that singles out applications from any group interested in issues that might garner attention from either the media or Congress. In such cases, the merits of the application are ignored as IRS employees develop “Senstive Case Reports” for consideration by those above them in the IRS hierarchy. The result is a process that interferes with the unbiased review of applications for tax-exempt status designed to apply to all eligible organziations, regardless of their political viewpoints or affiliations.

Seven years after the targeting scandal began, the rule that enabled this inexcusable behavior still exists. Until that rule is removed from the internal manual used by all IRS employees, targeting of politcal opponents will remain a very real threat. Fortunately, removing the offending provisions is a simple process that can be started at any time and completed without the need for new legislation or formal notice-and-comment rule-making.

Findings:

  • Targeting was—and is—IRS policy, not a violation of it.
  • The employees who initiated the targeting cited an internal “Sensitive Case Report” process that singled out applications that might attract media or congressional attention.
  • Sensitive Case procedures remain in effect today.
  • The IRS has the authority to change its internal policy at any moment, which means it can remove the problematic rules at its discretion. Doing so would eliminate the agency procedure that enabled the targeting scandal. To date, the agency has not made the required changes to its rules.

Continue reading

March 29, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (4)

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Yale Presents Mutual Fund Tax Overhang Today At Georgetown

Yale (Ethan) (2017)Ethan Yale (Virginia) presents Mutual Fund Tax Overhang at Georgetown today as part of its Tax Law and Public Finance Workshop Series hosted by John Brooks and Itai Grinberg:

The built-in-gain in a mutual fund’s portfolio is referred to as “tax overhang.” Tax is imposed on investors who buy shares in mutual funds with tax overhang even though the gain accrued before their investment. The consequence is accelerated tax, increasing the shareholders’ effective tax rate. This article (1) explains why this occurs and why it is a problem, (2) describes the magnitude of the problem, (3) describes and illustrates avoidance strategies funds use to avoid the bad effects of tax overhang, (4) argues that reform is warranted, and (5) describes and evaluates the options for reform.

March 28, 2017 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Mason Presents A U.S. Perspective On State Aid Today In Luxembourg

Mason (2016)Ruth Mason (Virginia) presents A U.S. Perspective on State Aid at the University of Luxembourg today:

Tax Rulings as State Aid FAQ, 154 Tax Notes 451 (Jan. 23, 2017):

In this report, the first in a series of reports on EU state aid, Mason provides background on state aid law as it applies to income taxes, including the legal standard, recovery mechanism, and case selection by the Commission.

State Aid Special Report — Part 2: Legitimate Expectations, 154 Tax Notes 615 (Jan. 30, 2017):

In this report, the second in a series of reports on EU state aid, Mason evaluates the claims Treasury’ made in its White Paper that recovery in the recent tax ruling cases would violate taxpayers’ legitimate expectations that those rulings did not constitute state aid.

Continue reading

March 28, 2017 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Brooklyn Symposium:  Reconsidering The Tax Treaty

Brooklyn Logo (2016)Symposium, Reconsidering the Tax Treaty, 41 Brook. J. Int'l L. 967-1301 (2016):

Continue reading

March 28, 2017 in Conferences, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Leff:  Tax Benefits Of Government-Owned Marijuana Stores

CannabisBenjamin M. Leff (American), Tax Benefits of Government-Owned Marijuana Stores, 50 U.C. Davis L. Rev. 659 (2016):

Over a year ago (March 7, 2015), a little store called the Cannabis Corner opened up in the small town of North Bonneville, Washington, about an hour by car from Portland, Oregon. The Cannabis Corner is the first marijuana store to be operated by a “public development authority,” an independent entity created by a state or local government. Public development authorities are generally exempt from federal income taxes under section 115 of the Internal Revenue Code. For a marijuana business, this exemption is especially valuable because section 280E of the Code currently prevents marijuana businesses from deducting many of the ordinary expenses other businesses regularly deduct, resulting in extremely high federal income taxes.

This Article is the first to address whether independent governmental affiliates that sell marijuana are exempt from federal income tax under section 115 of the Internal Revenue Code.

Continue reading

March 28, 2017 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 27, 2017

Viswanathan Presents Tax Compliance In A Decentralizing Economy Today At Pepperdine

Viswanathan (2017)Manoj Viswanathan (UC-Hastings) presents Tax Compliance in a Decentralizing Economy at Pepperdine today as part of our Tax Policy Workshop Series funded in part by a generous gift from Scott Racine:

Tax compliance in the United States has long relied on information from centralized intermediaries—the financial institutions, employers, and brokers that help ensure income is reported and taxes are paid. Yet while the IRS remains tied to these centralized entities, consumers and businesses are not. New technologies, such as the on-demand sharing platform economy (companies such as Airbnb, Uber, and Instacart) and the blockchain (the platform on which Bitcoin is based) are providing new, decentralized options for exchanging goods and services. Without legislative and agency intervention, these technologies pose a critical threat to the reporting system underlying domestic and international tax compliance.

Continue reading

March 27, 2017 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Burman Presents Is U.S. Corporate Income Double-Taxed? Today At NYU

Burman (2016)Leonard E. Burman (Tax Policy Center) presents Is U.S. Corporate Income Double-Taxed? (with Kimberly Clausing (Reed College)) at NYU today as part of its Tax Policy Colloquium Series hosted by Daniel Shaviro and Rosanne Altshuler:

Every public finance student learns that corporations are subject to two levels of taxation—at the company level through the corporate income tax and the individual level through taxation of dividends and capital gains. Though observers frequently lament this double taxation of equity-financed corporate investment, double taxation is not important per se; the issue is the overall level of tax. (Most investors would prefer two 10 percent taxes to a single 30 percent tax.) Still, the overall effective tax rate depends on both corporate and individual income taxes.

Continue reading

March 27, 2017 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Buchanan Presents Social Security Is Fair To All Generations Today At UC-Irvine

BuchananNeil Buchanan (George Washington) presents Social Security is Fair to All Generations: Demystifying the Trust Fund, Solvency, and the Promise to Younger Americans at UC-Irvine today as part of its Tax Law and Policy Colloquium Series hosted by Omri Marian:

The birth of the Baby Boom generation created a profound policy challenge for the Social Security system: Should the system continue to be run as a pay-as-you-go system, or should the large new cohort of workers be forced to save for their own future retirements? Although the outward structure of the Social Security system was not changed, the Baby Boomers were, in fact, required to save for their own retirements. They did so by paying higher taxes than would otherwise have been necessary, thus contributing to total national saving in a way that allowed the economy to grow more quickly than it would have otherwise. In turn, Boomers bequeathed to their children the economic wherewithal to support their parents in retirement, even while the post-Boomers will enjoy higher living standards during both their working lives and in their retirements. It is possible, however, that this supposed generational sacrifice was illusory, that the Baby Boomers were otherwise impoverishing their children and grandchildren, even as they paid extra money into the Social Security system each year.

Continue reading

March 27, 2017 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Schenk Delivers Pugh Lecture Today At San Diego On Horizontal Equity Redux

Schenk (2017)Deborah Schenk (NYU) delivers the annual Richard Crawford Pugh Lecture on Tax Law & Policy at San Diego today on Horizontal Equity Redux:

For many decades, tax policy scholars have defined “equity” in terms of “horizontal equity” and “vertical equity.” In recent years the concept of horizontal equity has come under attack on two grounds: first, that it has no content independent of vertical equity, and second, that its classic definition preferences pretax income without any justification. Yet, the concept has remarkable staying power. All major law casebooks reference horizontal equity, as do many scholarly articles. This lecture explores why that is so and offers both an explanation and a justification for its continued use as a principle of tax policy.

March 27, 2017 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Oh:  Are Progressive Tax Rates Progressive Policy?

Jason Oh (UCLA), Are Progressive Tax Rates Progressive Policy?, 92 NYU L. Rev. ___ (2017):

Why do income tax systems across the world consistently feature progressive marginal rates? The existing literature tells a political story focusing on the top of the rate schedule and the preferences of the poor and middle class. According to this standard view, higher rates at the top result from the poor and middle class using the political process to “soak the rich.” However, this explanation is inconsistent with research showing that public policy is generally more responsive to the preferences of the rich. Explaining marginal rate progressivity as a universal (and exceptional) triumph of the poor and middle class rings hollow.

Continue reading

March 27, 2017 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Christians:  BEPS And The New International Tax Order

Allison Christians (McGill), BEPS and the New International Tax Order, 2017 BYU L. Rev. ___:

Nations across the world are currently engaged in a coordinated international effort, ostensibly to curb excessive tax avoidance by the world’s biggest multinational companies. This Article contends, however, that the most likely impact will be to entrench a monopoly held by a small number of rich countries over the policymaking processes that created the tax avoidance problem to begin with. To examine this contention and probe possible solutions to it, the Article examines the legal and institutional components of the coordination project, referred to as Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS), by situating them historically and analyzing their multi-functionality as both norm diffusion and institutional reinforcement mechanisms.

Continue reading

March 27, 2017 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

TaxProf Blog Weekend Roundup

Sunday, March 26, 2017

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. The #1 paper is now #103 in all-time downloads among 12,615 tax papers:

  1. [1,664 Downloads]  The Known Unknowns of the Business Tax Reforms Proposed in the House Republican Blueprint, by Michael J. Graetz (Columbia)
  2. [563 Downloads]  How Donald Trump can Keep His Campaign Promises, Grow the Economy, Cut Tax Rates, Repatriate Offshore Earnings, Reduce Income Inequality, Keep Jobs in the United States, and Reduce the Deficit, by David S. Miller (Proskauer, New York)
  3. [439 Downloads]  Accounting for Behavioral Considerations in Business Tax Reform: The Case of Expensing, by Lily L. Batchelder (NYU)
  4. [368 Downloads]  Predicting Stock Market Prices with Physical Laws, by Jack Manhire (Texas A&M)
  5. [258 Downloads]  House Plan's Bad Math: Over-Estimates of Revenue from a Border Adjustment, by David Kamin (NYU) & Brad Setser (Council on Foreign Relations)

March 26, 2017 in Scholarship, Tax, Top 5 Downloads | Permalink | Comments (0)

This Week's Ten Most Popular TaxProf Blog Posts

Princeton Seminary Revokes Award To Tim Keller Because Of His Traditional Theological Views

Princeton KellerWall Street Journal, A Seminary Snubs a Presbyterian Pastor: Princeton Rescinds an Honor to Tim Keller Over His Traditional Theological Views:

Princeton Theological Seminary announced earlier this month that it would award the Rev. Tim Keller its Kuyper Prize for Excellence in Reformed Theology and Public Witness. The seminary lauded Mr. Keller for his commitment to spreading Christianity in cities, his bestselling books on religion, and his work helping to launch hundreds of churches. But thanks to some of his conservative views, Mr. Keller’s warm welcome didn’t last long.

In 1989 Mr. Keller founded Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, which is part of the Presbyterian Church in America. The church now has a weekly attendance of around 5,000, and it is particularly popular among young professionals. It also maintains orthodox positions: opposing the ordination of women and practicing LGBT individuals while supporting traditional marriage. This made theologically progressive students, alumni and faculty furious over the decision to honor Mr. Keller. They wrote letters, signed petitions and planned demonstrations to pressure the seminary to rescind the award.

Continue reading

March 26, 2017 in Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (8)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1417:  Satan, Tea Parties, and the IRS

IRS Logo 2Sam Brunson (Loyola-Chicago), Satan, Tea Parties, and the IRS:

Did you hear that the IRS granted a Satanic cult tax-exempt status in ten days?!? Meanwhile, Tea Party groups’ exemption applications languished for months or even years?!?

I know, it sounds pure conspiracy theory: the IRS loves Satan and hates conservatives. But it’s true! Or, at least, kind of! But it needs to be contextualized, because comparing the exemption application of Reason Alliance, Ltd. (the putative Satanic cult) and Tea Party groups is inapposite.

First things first, though: the framing of this “controversy” is purely a product of the Outrage Industrial Complex, as represented by Fox News and Judicial Watch. And I’m sure the invocation of “Satanic cult” is going to get them clicks and shares. But Satanic cult? The Reason Alliance is the tax-exempt offshoot of The Satanic Temple, which strikes me as basically a relatively-clever piece of performance art meant to object to religions enjoying tax-exempt status, and which otherwise functions as a much funnier, and more self-aware, version of the Freedom From Religion Foundation and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. Because The Satanic Temple objects to religions’ exemption from taxation, it has chosen not to pursue tax-exempt status itself. Apparently, though, in the interest of facilitating donations from individuals whose charitable giving is more elastic, it created the Reason Alliance to permit deductible charitable giving.

But the substance of the outrage here isn’t Satan; rather, it’s that Satan could essentially bypass the line (of Tea Party groups, probably) in getting his exemption from tax. ...

But did Satan bypass the line? In a word, no. ...  The Reason Alliance filed a Form 1023-EZ. ... [T]he Reason Alliance merely chose a faster route to exemption.

Continue reading

March 26, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Amazon Beats IRS In $1.5 Billion Tax Court Case

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

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

Continue reading

March 25, 2017 in IRS News, New Cases, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

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

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

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

Continue reading

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading

March 25, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (5)

Friday, March 24, 2017

Weekly Tax Highlight And Roundup

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

KristanDeducting that gold mine in your closet.

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

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

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

Continue reading

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

Weekly SSRN Tax Article Review And Roundup

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

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

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

Continue reading

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

Tax Policy In The Trump Administration

Tulane Hosts 7th Annual Tax Roundtable

Tulane (2015)7th Annual Tulane Tax Roundtable:

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

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

Continue reading

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading

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

Thursday, March 23, 2017

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

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

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

Continue reading

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

Rossi:  Carbon Taxation By Regulation

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

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

Continue reading

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

NPR:  Joe Bankman, Tax Hero

BankmanNPR Planet Money, Tax Hero:

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

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

Continue reading

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

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

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

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

Continue reading

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

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Ring Presents Leak-Driven Law Today At Boston College

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

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

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

Continue reading

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading

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

Yariv Brauner Named To Hugh Culverhouse Eminent Scholar Chair At Florida

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

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

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

Continue reading

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

Avi-Yonah Posts Two Tax Papers on SSRN

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

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

Continue reading

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

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

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

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

Continue reading

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

Byrnes & Munro:  Background And Current Status Of FATCA

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

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

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

Continue reading

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

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Hemel Presents The Federalist Safeguards of Progressive Taxation Today At Georgetown

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

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

Continue reading

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

Bird-Pollan:  Utilitarianism And Wealth Transfer Taxation

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

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

Continue reading

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

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

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

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

Top 10

Continue reading

March 21, 2017 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (30)

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

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

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

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

Monday, March 20, 2017

Hemel Presents The Federalist Safeguards of Progressive Taxation Today At NYU

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

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

Continue reading

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

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

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

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

Continue reading

March 20, 2017 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

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

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

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

Continue reading

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

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

IRS Logo 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading

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