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Editor: Paul L. Caron
Pepperdine University School of Law

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Friday, July 11, 2014

Ventry: State Tax Whistleblower Statutes Complement Traditional Tax Enforcement

Tax Analysys Logo (2013)Jennifer Carr (Tax Analysts), Qui Tam Troubles, Part III: A Potential Solution, 72 State Tax Notes 730 (June 30, 2014) :

In an extended interview with State Tax Notes, Professor Dennis Ventry [UC-Davis] endorses tax whistleblower statutes on the state level as a complement to traditional tax enforcement. [See Whistleblowers and Qui Tam for Tax, 61 Tax Law. 357 (2008)] In particular, he argues that knowledgeable informant insiders can provide unique information to assist state tax agencies in combatting two persistent problems in tax administration, namely the information gap and the tax gap. In addition, Ventry offers simple solutions to potential concerns that whistleblower statutes might result in nuisance suits, undue disclosure of taxpayer information, and a duplicative tax enforcement regime.

July 11, 2014 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Southern Federal Tax Institute Offers to Comp Tax Profs

49The Board of Trustees of the Southern Federal Tax Institute invites all full-time tax professors to attend the Forty-Ninth Annual Institute (program) in Atlanta on October 20-24, 2014, as guests of the Trustees (the $995 registration fee will be waived). If you would like to attend, please email here.  If you have any other questions, please contact Brant Hellwig (Washington & Lee), who serves as Special Advisor to the Institute. 

July 11, 2014 in Conferences, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 428

IRS Logo 2Wall Street Journal:  U.S. Judge Orders IRS to Explain How it Lost Lerner’s Emails:

A federal judge on Thursday ordered the Internal Revenue Service to explain how it lost two years’ worth of a former official’s emails, and tapped a magistrate judge to find out whether the documents can be obtained from other sources.

At a hearing in a conservative group’s lawsuit, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan gave the IRS until Aug. 10 to provide a sworn declaration explaining how the email loss occurred. The IRS previously has said that the emails were lost because the top agency official’s computer crashed in 2011, and backup tapes were routinely reused after six months.

Wall Street Journal:  Lerner's 'Perfect' Plan for IRS Emails: The Tax Official Warned Colleagues About Creating Electronic Records:

Less than two weeks after the IRS inspector general had circulated a draft report on the agency's unlawful targeting of conservative groups, Ms. Lerner reached out to IT specialist Maria Hooke to inquire about IRS record-keeping of internal communications. Ms. Lerner wrote:

"I had a question today about OCS [Microsoft Office Communications Server]. I was cautioning folks about email and how we have several occasions where Congress has asked for emails and there has been an electronic search for responsive emails – so we need to be cautious about what we say in emails. Someone asked if OCS conversations were also searchable – I don't know, but told them I would get back to them. Do you know?"

Ms. Hooke responded that individual employees could choose to save their communications, but that the software was not set to automatically save any messages.

Ms. Lerner's response: "Perfect."

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

Thursday, July 10, 2014

How The $1 Billion Kennedy Family Fortune Defies Death And Taxes

Forbes:  How The $1 Billion Kennedy Family Fortune Defies Death And Taxes, by Carl O'Donnell:

KennedyIf America had an aristocracy, the most titled bloodline would certainly be the Kennedys. In the past half century, one Kennedy after another has occupied nearly every political position America has to offer, including the roles of congressman, senator, ambassador, mayor, SEC chairman, state representative, city councilman, and, of course, President.

The sustaining force behind the Kennedys reign is hardly a secret. Thanks to Joseph P. Kennedy, who made a fortune from insider trading only to later chair the SEC, the family is fabulously rich. But exactly how much is America’s first family worth? Forbes pegs the extended family’s fortune at $1 billion.

Protected by a labyrinth of trusts, as well as tax strategies that would make Joseph P. Kennedy proud, the Kennedy fortune now spans approximately 30 family members, and includes the surnames Shriver, Lawford and the Smith. At nearly $175 million as of 2013, Caroline Kennedy is the richest descendant by far, but more modestly endowed relatives, such as Robert Shriver, who is running for Los Angeles County Supervisor, still possess assets in the tens of millions, according to public financial disclosures required of government officials. ...

Like politics, tax savvy seems to run in the Kennedy family. The most recent example is the 1998 sale of the family’s most valuable asset: the iconic Merchandise Mart, a towering retail space on the Chicago River that was once thought to be the largest building in the world. Thanks to a carefully crafted deal with Vornado Realty, the Kennedy family deferred – or possibly avoided completely – capital gains tax on nearly half the value of the sale.

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July 10, 2014 in Celebrity Tax Lore, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

FATCA: American Expats' Tax Nightmare

Wall Street Journal op-ed:  American Expats' Tax Nightmare, by David Kuenzi (Thun Financial Advisors, Madison, WI): 

FATCAU.S. Treasury officials are trumpeting the fact that more than 77,000 financial institutions have registered with the Internal Revenue Service, as required by the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (Fatca), ahead of a July 1 deadline. Fatca requires these institutions to report on the financial holdings of their U.S. clients with the aim of reducing the incidence of off-shore tax evasion by wealthy Americans. Yet officials are less willing to discuss how Fatca worsens the already profoundly unjust tax treatment of millions of middle-class Americans living abroad.

The vast majority of U.S. expatriates living abroad harbor a strong sense of patriotism that includes a willingness shoulder their fair share of the nation's tax burden. Deep resentment arises, however, when they confront the byzantine complexity of preparing a tax return that includes non-U.S. income and non-U.S. financial accounts. Fatca demands rigorous compliance with arcane rules that the IRS has until now never even attempted to enforced on a widespread basis. For Americans abroad, desperately trying to comply, the outcome to family finances is often disastrous. ...

One of the many ironies embedded in this Orwellian tax nightmare is that the complex foreign asset and foreign income reporting rules were not written with Americans abroad in mind. Their original purpose was to discouraging Americans living in the U.S. from using off-shore tax shelters. As originally intended, the rules were a reasonable legislative response to a gaping tax loophole. Applied to Americans living abroad, however, they are absurd.

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July 10, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (4)

Johnston: Americans Have Missed Out on $6.6 Trillion of Income Since 2000 Due to the Bush Tax Cuts

Al Jazeera:  Americans Have Lost Out on $6.6 Trillion, by David Cay Johnston:

I calculated that enormous figure by comparing the average income Americans reported on their 2000 tax returns with what they reported each year for 2001 through 2012, adjusting for inflation and the growing population. Add up the income for 12 years and it turns out to be $6.6 trillion less than if we had maintained the prosperity of 2000 for a growing population.

Why use 2000 as a benchmark? Well, first off, it marks the end of one era and the start of another. More important, that very good year economically was when George W. Bush, running for president, said American prosperity would get even better if he was elected and his tax cuts — key aspects of which he kept secret until after the election — would ensure American prosperity.

The results: The prosperity of the prior decade was lost. Job growth fell far behind population growth. The median wage (half make more, half less) has been mired since 1998 at a bit more than $500 per week. 

In 10 of the 12 years when the Bush tax cuts were in effect, the average income shown on tax returns was lower than in 2000. In the two upside years, average income rose modestly, up $504 for 2006 and $1,744 for 2007. Total those 12 years and the net shortfall per taxpayer comes to $48,010. ...

DCJ

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July 10, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (11)

Law Prof Blog Traffic Rankings

Below are the updated quarterly traffic rankings by page views of the Top 50 blogs edited by law professors for the July 1, 2013 - June 30, 2014 period, as well as the percentage change in traffic from the prior 12-month period.  As I previously announced, in response to several requests and in light of the continued degrading of Site Meter, I am now including the more accurate, stable Google Analytics data in these quarterly traffic rankings (marked with an asterisk).

Rank

Blog

Page Views

Change

1

InstaPundit*

147,883,140

n/a

2

Volokh Conspiracy*a

15,429,923

+42.7%

3

Legal Insurrection*

15,367,741

+6.2%

4

TaxProf Blog*

14,915,193

+347.9%

5

Althouse

14,248,540

-26.1%

6

Leiter Reports: Philosophy

5,721,050

-0.4%

7

Hugh Hewitt

3,455,156

-43.9%

8

Patently-O

3,223,956

-14.1%

9

PrawfsBlawg

2,231,847

+13.4%

10

The Incidental Economist*

1,854,619

+38.6%

11

Lawfare*

1,794,468

+33.5%

12

Faculty Lounge

1,407,739

+2.9%

13

Leiter's Law School Reports

1,364,938

+35.1%

14

Wills, Tr. & Est. Prof Blog

1,302,188

+119.2%

15

Sentencing Law & Policy

1,267,974

-2.0%

16

Gregory S. McNeal*a

1,147,520

n/a

17

Liberty Law Blog*

1,133,967

n/a

18

Harvard Law Corp Gov

1,051,456

-18.2%

19

Opinio Juris*

989,473

-6.9%

20

Concurring Opinions

943,259

-4.0%

21

College Insurrection*

883,371

+24.6%

22

Constitutional Law Prof Blog

737,649

+57.3%

23

Conglomerate

735,986

+89.1%

24

Antitrust & Comp. Policy Blog

709,997

+178.2%

25

ImmigrationProf Blog

709,952

+157.6%

26

Election Law Blog*

699,839

-25.2%

27

Legal Skills

611,962

+256.0%

28

Balkinization

609,672

-20.9%

29

Workplace Prof Blog

531,472

+110.0%

30

Legal Whiteboard

438,677

+168.9%

31

EvidenceProf Blog

406,067

+239.7%

32

ContractsProf Blog

386,565

+192.6%

33

Legal Profession Blog

377,364

+101.5%

34

Turtle Talk* (incomplete data)

375,475

-43.9%

35

Josh Blackman Blog*

366,243

+31.2%

36

White Collar Crime Prof Blog

346,038

+120.3%

37

Jack Bog's Blog

340,277

-89.8%

38

CrimProf Blog

303,227

+129.2%

39

Mirror of Justice

288,055

-32.9%

40

M&A Prof Blog

285,357

+128.1%

41

Nonprofit Law Prof Blog

277,974

+282.5%

42

Religion Clause

274,171

-13.7%

43

PropertyProf Blog

238,468

+118.4%

44

Legal Writing Prof Blog

235,252

+63.1%

45

Civil Procedure Prof Blog

231,820

+203.4%

46

Law School Academic Support

222,256

+210.7%

47

Legal Ethics Forum

215,372

+10.3%

48

Dorf on Law*

214,614

+22.2%

49

Adjunct Law Prof Blog

197,914

+129.2%

50

Legal History Blog

184,979

-40.6%

a Proprietary data based in part on Google Analytics.

  • The rankings include all blogs edited by law professors -- both law-related and non law-related.
  • The rankings include all blogs that have publicly available Site Meters or that have emailed me a screenshot of their Google Analytics data (or granted me read-only access to their data).
  • Please email me the names of any Law Prof Blogs with traffic for the July 1, 2013 - June 30, 2014 period that would qualify for inclusion on the list (184,980 page views). If necessary, I will re-publish the list to include all qualifying blogs.
  • Several popular Law Prof Blogs do not have publicly available Site Meters and have not sent me Google Analytics data and thus are not included on the list:  e.g., California Appellate Report, Credit Slips, The Deal Professor, Feminist Law Professors, Legal Theory, Point of Law, ProfessorBainbridge.com.
  • These rankings cover only those blogs edited by law professors. Other law-related blogs edited by practitioners, librarians, non-law school academics, and journalists are not included on this list:  e.g., Above the Law, How Appealing, Wall Street Journal Law Blog.
  • Members of my Law Professor Blogs Network comprise 7 of the Top 25 blogs and 22 of the Top 50 blogs.

July 10, 2014 in Blog Rankings, Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

TIGTA: IRS's 17% Error Rate in Processing Amended Tax Returns Caused $2.1 Billion of Erroneous Tax Refunds

TIGTA The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration yesterday released Amended Tax Return Filing and Processing Needs to Be Modernized to Reduce Erroneous Refunds, Processing Costs, and Taxpayer Burden (2014-40-028):

The IRS received more than 4 million amended tax returns in Fiscal Year 2012. This audit was initiated because previous TIGTA audits have identified problems with IRS processes for verifying claims on amended tax returns. The objective of this review was to determine whether the IRS has controls in place to ensure that claims for refunds on amended tax returns are appropriate. ...

TIGTA’s review of a statistical sample of 259 amended tax returns claiming tax refunds of $500 or more in Fiscal Year 2012 identified 44 (17 percent) tax returns for which the IRS issued potentially erroneous tax refunds totaling $103,270. Based on the sample results, TIGTA estimates the IRS may have issued more than $439 million in potentially erroneous tax refunds claimed on 187,421 amended returns in Fiscal Year 2012. As such, the IRS could issue more than $2.1 billion in potentially erroneous tax refunds claimed on amended tax returns over the next five years.

To reduce erroneous refunds, processing costs, and taxpayer burden, the IRS could revise Form 1040, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, to allow for corrections to original tax return filings and expand e-filing to include amended tax returns. TIGTA estimates that the IRS could have potentially saved more than $17 million in processing costs during Fiscal Year 2012 if it had allowed taxpayers to e-file their amended tax return.

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

I Don't Live in Cincinnati Anymore ... Marijuana Farmers Market Opens in LA

The IRS Scandal, Day 427

IRS Logo 2New York Times, Republicans Say Ex-I.R.S. Official May Have Circumvented Email:

Lois Lerner, the former Internal Revenue Service official at the center of an investigation into the agency’s treatment of conservative political groups, may have used an internal instant-messaging system instead of email so that her communications could not be retrieved by investigators, Republican lawmakers said Wednesday.

The accusation against Ms. Lerner, the former head of the agency’s division on tax exemption, came nearly a week after the I.R.S. gave investigators thousands of her emails, including some that were destroyed when her hard drive crashed in 2011 but were recovered from the accounts of people with whom she had corresponded.

The Republican lawmakers said that in one of those email exchanges — which took place in the spring of 2013, just days after the Treasury Department’s inspector general concluded in a report that agency officials had treated conservative groups improperly — Ms. Lerner asked another official whether messages sent over the instant-messaging system were recorded. When she was told that they were not, she responded, “Perfect.”

Republican lawmakers interpreted that response as an expression of relief.

“Ms. Lerner says, ‘Wow, I know I’ve gotten rid of the emails when the computer crashed two years earlier, but I’d better double check on this intraoffice instant-messaging capability we have at the Internal Revenue Service,’ and she says ‘perfect’ when she learns that it’s not traceable, not trackable, not stored,” Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio said during a hearing of a House oversight subcommittee.

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July 10, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

NY Times: Medtronic Shareholders Will Pay the Tax Price for Inversion

NY Times Dealbook (2013)New York Times Deal Book:  In Deal to Cut Corporate Taxes, Shareholders Pay the Price, by Steven Davidoff Solomon (UC-Berkeley):

Medtronic is pursuing a deal to move abroad and save taxes. But few have noticed that the company’s shareholders will be the ones left with a big tax bill as a result. ...

The IRS will treat the acquisition as if Medtronic shareholders had sold their shares. Under IRS rules, when a company moves abroad in a tax inversion, the buyer’s shareholders must pay capital gains if they will hold 50 percent or more of the shares.

That is the case for Medtronic, and so its shareholders will be stuck with that big tax bill — up to 33 percent in California after you include the state tax. ... Let’s pause and reflect that Medtronic is pushing a transaction that from Day 1 may cost some of its shareholders as much as 33 cents on the dollar.

The sand in the eye for the shareholders is that Congress tried to halt the tide of inversions about a decade ago. Lawmakers amended the tax code to provide that executives of companies like Medtronic that went abroad would have to pay a tax on their stock compensation. The tax is at the same capital gains tax that Medtronic’s shareholders will have to pay in connection with the transaction.

But unlike its shareholders, Medtronic’s executives will be “grossed up” by the company. Medtronic will spend millions to pay the tax obligations of its executives in connection with the transaction. At least seven other companies undertaking inversions have indemnified their executives to the tune of tens of millions of dollars, according to Bloomberg News. But shareholders will receive nothing from Medtronic.

The gross-up highlights the absurdities of some Washington tax policies. Congress initially acted to halt inversions, but succeeded only in costing shareholders more as their companies just pay the tax for executives.

The real question is why shareholders at Medtronic and other companies haven’t protested. After all, Medtronic’s shareholders will get to vote on this deal. One reason may be that inversions do have benefits for shareholders. By lowering the company’s tax rate, its stock price will readjust to reflect these additional earnings.

Still, giving up a third of their value to endorse this transaction and reap benefits down the road seems like quite a sacrifice to ask of shareholders.

July 9, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Seinfeld's 10 Enduring Tax Lessons

SeinfeldForbes:  Seinfeld's 10 Enduring Lessons---About The IRS, by Robert W. Wood:

On Seinfeld’s 25th anniversary–it debuted July 5th, 1989–it is being discussed again around today’s version of the water cooler. Yes, Seinfeld at 25: There’s Still Nothing Else Like It. Turns out even a show about nothing can teach us something, including tax lessons like these...

I realize that Seinfeld is not mostly about taxes. But actually, taxes come up a lot in daily life, and yada, yada, yada.

July 9, 2014 in Celebrity Tax Lore, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

CTJ: Addressing the Need for More Federal Revenue

Citizens for Tax Justice, Addressing the Need for More Federal Revenue:

CTJAmerica is undertaxed, and the result is underfunding of public investments that would improve our economy and the overall welfare of Americans. Fortunately, Congress has several straightforward policy options to raise revenue, mostly by closing or limiting loopholes and special subsidies imbedded in the tax code that benefit wealthy individuals and profitable businesses.

Part I of this report explains why Congress needs to raise the overall amount of federal revenue collected. Contrary to many politicians’ claims, the United States is much less taxed than other countries, and wealthy individuals and corporations are particularly undertaxed. This means that lawmakers should eschew enacting laws that reduce revenue (including the temporary tax breaks that Congress extends every couple of years), and they should proactively enact new legislation that increases revenue available for public investments. Parts II, III, and IV of this report describe several policy options that would accomplish this. This information is summarized in the table to the right.

Even when lawmakers agree that the tax code should be changed, they often disagree about how much change is necessary. Some lawmakers oppose altering one or two provisions in the tax code, advocating instead for Congress to enact such changes as part of a sweeping reform that overhauls the entire tax system. Others regard sweeping reform as too politically difficult and want Congress to instead look for small reforms that raise whatever revenue is necessary to fund given initiatives.

The table to the right illustrates options that are compatible with both approaches. Under each of the three categories of reforms, some provisions are significant, meaning they are likely to happen only as part of a comprehensive tax reform or another major piece of legislation. Others are less significant, would raise a relatively small amount of revenue, and could be enacted in isolation to offset the costs of increased investment in (for example) infrastructure, nutrition, health or education.

For example, in the category of reforms affecting high-income individuals, Congress could raise $613 billion over 10 years by eliminating an enormous break in the personal income tax for capital gains income. This tax break allows wealthy investors like Warren Buffett to pay taxes at lower effective rates than many middle-class people. Or Congress could raise just $17 billion by addressing a loophole that allows wealthy fund managers like Mitt Romney to characterize the “carried interest” they earn as “capital gains.” Or Congress could raise $25 billion over ten years by closing a loophole used by Newt Gingrich and John Edwards to characterize some of their earned income as unearned income to avoid payroll taxes.  

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July 9, 2014 in Tax, Think Tank Reports | Permalink | Comments (15)

Jensen: The Constitutionality of a Mark-to-Market Taxing System

Tax Analysys Logo (2013)Erik M. Jensen (Case Western), The Constitutionality of a Mark-to-Market Taxing System, 143 Tax Notes 1299 (June 16, 2014):

This article comments on Is a Broadly Based Mark-to-Market Tax Unconstitutional, 143 Tax Notes 952 (May 26, 2014), by Gene Magidenko. Magidenko gets all the big points right in questioning the constitutionality of a mark-to-market system of taxation, but this article suggests he did not emphasize one point enough: the Supreme Court’s 1920 decision in Eisner v. Macomber, which concluded that realization is a requirement for a tax to be on income within the meaning of the Sixteenth Amendment, continues to reflect the Court’s understanding. Although the Court cut back on Macomber’s scope over the years, it has not repudiated the case. And in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, decided in 2012, Chief Justice Roberts, in an opinion joined in relevant part by four other justices, cited Macomber favorably on an issue of constitutional law.

July 9, 2014 in Scholarship, Tax, Tax Analysts | Permalink | Comments (1)

The IRS Scandal, Day 426

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

U.S. Companies Land Federal Government Contracts as They Avoid U.S. Taxes

Bloomberg:  How to Win Billions in Federal Contracts on a Permanent Tax Holiday, by Zachary R. Mider:

IR LogoAmerican manufacturer Ingersoll-Rand forged the tools that carved the Panama Canal and shaped Mount Rushmore. When it shifted its legal address to Bermuda in 2001 to reduce taxes, the maneuver sparked bipartisan outrage in Congress. ...

Over the next dozen years, Congress passed law after law to prohibit American companies that reincorporate overseas from doing business with the federal government.

Those laws haven’t worked. Benefiting from loopholes and a cooperative Obama administration, the companies avoid the ban on federal contracts as effectively as they avoid U.S. taxes.

Ingersoll-Rand is one of more than a dozen large U.S. companies that have shifted their tax addresses offshore yet still earn federal business, a Bloomberg News investigation has found.

IR

In all, these companies are collecting more than $1 billion a year from the government, even as their tax-avoidance techniques have deprived the Treasury of untold billions of dollars in revenue.

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

Sloan: Inversions -- An Un-American Tax Dodge

Following up on yesterday's post on the New York Times and Wall Street Journal articles on tax-motivated corporate inversions:   Fortune, Positively Un-American Tax Dodges, by Allan Sloan:

Yes, leaving the country–a process that tax techies call inversion–is perfectly legal. A company does this by reincorporating in a place like Ireland, where the corporate tax rate is 12.5%, compared with 35% in the U.S. Inversion also makes it easier to divert what would normally be U.S. earnings to foreign, lower-tax locales. But being legal isn’t the same as being right. If a few companies invert, it’s irritating but no big deal for our society. But mass inversion is a whole other thing, and that’s where we’re heading.

We’ve also got a second, related problem, which I call the “never-heres.” They include formerly private companies like Accenture, a consulting firm that was spun off from Arthur Andersen, and disc-drive maker Seagate, which began as a U.S. company, went private in a 2000 buyout and was moved to the Cayman Islands, went public in 2002, then moved to Ireland from the Caymans in 2010. Firms like these can duck lots of U.S. taxes without being accused of having deserted our country because technically they were never here. So far, by Fortune’s count, some 60 U.S. companies have chosen the never-here or the inversion route, and others are lining up to leave.

All of this threatens to undermine our tax base, with projected losses in the billions. It also threatens to undermine the American public’s already shrinking respect for big corporations.

Inverters, of course, have a different view of things. It goes something like this: The U.S. tax rate is too high, and uncompetitive. Unlike many other countries, the U.S. taxes all profits worldwide, not just those earned here. A domicile abroad can offer a more competitive corporate tax rate. Fiduciary duty to shareholders requires that companies maximize returns.

My answer: Fight to fix the tax code, but don’t desert the country. And I define “fiduciary duty” as the obligation to produce the best long-term results for shareholders, not “get the stock price up today.” Undermining the finances of the federal government by inverting helps undermine our economy. And that’s a bad thing, in the long run, for companies that do business in America. ...

How much money are we talking about inverters sucking out of the U.S. Treasury? There’s no number available for the tax revenue losses caused by inverters and never-heres so far. But it’s clearly in the billions. Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation projects that failing to limit inversions will cost the Treasury an additional $19.5 billion over 10 years–a number that seems way low, given the looming stampede. ...

19

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July 8, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (4)

Presbyterian Church: Tax Justice -- A Christian Response to a New Gilded Age

The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) has approved (425-170) Tax Justice: A Christian Response to a New Gilded Age, which advocates overhauling the tax code to make it:

  • GAmore progressive, taxing those with greater wealth at higher proportions of their income, wealth, and inheritance;
  • more transparent, which includes both simplicity and accountability for all tax preferences and tax expenditures;
  • more solidarity-focused, which means reducing the use of tax expenditures, shelters and havens, and supporting more adequate international standards to reduce tax competition within and among nations;
  • more sustainable for current and future generations, which means avoiding unproductive financial and ecological indebtedness; and
  • more adequate, effectively addressing broader objectives of economic and social health than efficiency alone, such as meaningful employment, improved family life, and restored public trust. The tax system must be characterized by both efficiency in tax collection and revenue sufficient for the common good.

For more, see The Layman Online, PCUSA’s Social Witness Policy Now Advocates for Comprehensive Progressive Tax Reform.

(Hat Tip: Pat Oglesby.)

July 8, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (5)

The IRS Scandal, Day 425

IRS Logo 2New York Post editorial:  Audit the IRS!:

True the Vote has an idea that is the fantasy of every taxpayer who’s ever found himself sitting opposite an imperious tax collector: Audit the IRS.

On Thursday, the IRS will have to persuade federal Judge Reggie Walton why this shouldn’t happen.

True the Vote calls itself “the nation’s largest nonpartisan, voters’ rights and election integrity organization.” It is one of the conservative outfits whose application for nonprofit status was targeted by IRS authorities. And in its motion asking for an outside specialist in data recovery to be permitted to conduct a forensic audit into the lost Lois Lerner e-mails, True the Vote makes an eminently reasonable case:

“Even if the ill-timed hard drive ‘crash’ was truly an accident, and even if the IRS genuinely believes that the e-mails are ‘unrecoverable,’ the circumstances of the spoliation at issue cry out for a second opinion,” reads the motion.

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July 8, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 7, 2014

NY Times: When Taxes and Profits Are Oceans Apart

New York Times:  When Taxes and Profits Are Oceans Apart, by Gretchen Morgenson:

Here’s a question for investors in any big United States corporation with foreign operations: Do you know what the company’s tax bill would be if it had to bring its overseas earnings home?

The answer, alas, is that they probably don’t. That’s because most companies with large foreign earnings don’t disclose a potential tax liability associated with those earnings, even though inquiring shareholders want to know. Given the pile of foreign earnings amassed by large multinational companies in recent years, this has become a yawning disclosure gap.

Under the tax laws, companies with operations overseas pay no taxes on earnings generated there as long as the money stays there. When it is repatriated, though, taxes come due.

Accounting rules require that public companies disclose the amount of earnings they have generated and reinvested in foreign operations each year, even if they have no plans to bring the money home.

Last year, the nation’s top 1,000 companies reported $2.1 trillion in such earnings, a figure that has almost doubled since 2008, according to a report by Audit Analytics, a research firm in Sutton, Mass. Those foreign earnings also represented a growing percentage of the companies’ total assets, the report said: 8.7 percent last year, up from 5.8 percent in 2008.

Accounting rules also say companies should provide investors with an estimate of how much they’d have to pay in taxes if they were to bring those earnings back home. But rule makers gave companies an out, allowing them to forgo the disclosure if they concluded that it was “not practicable” to determine a potential tax bill.

It’s no surprise that most companies choose to leave investors in the dark about these potential liabilities.

Consider the 10 companies identified in the Audit Analytics report with the largest hoards of offshore earnings. Of them, seven don’t disclose the potential tax liability.

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

Breitbart-Johnston Kerfuffle Over Republican Racism in Opposition to Tax Increases

Breitbart:  Journo: Opposition to Taxes and Spending Is Racist:

In an appearance on the Thursday broadcast of MSNBC’s The Reid Report, [David Cay Johnston] stated that Republicans oppose higher taxes and spending because “there's all sorts of areas where a fixed ideology that has no support in the empirical data gets into people's heads and that's what becomes important and there's also an element of racism in here.”

David Cay Johnston responds:

Problem is I did not say that “being against high taxes is racist.” Go listen to my carefully nuanced words, especially the words "an element" and pay attention to what it refers to in my comments about opposition to spending on infrastructure - roads, bridges, dams, water mains.

Update:  More from David Cay Johnston:

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July 7, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

10,000 Hours of Practice Does Not Guarantee Greatness

Business Insider:  New Study Destroys Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 Hour Rule, by Drake Baer:

OutliersThe 10,000 Hour Rule — closely associated with pop psych writer Malcolm Gladwell — may not be much of a rule at all. 

The principle holds that 10,000 hours of "deliberate practice" are needed to become world-class in any field. When psychologists talk about deliberate practice, they mean practicing in a way that pushes your skill set as much as possible.

In Outliers, Gladwell contends that early access to getting 10,000 hours of practice allowed the Beatles to become the greatest band in history (thanks to playing all-night shows in Hamburg) and Bill Gates to become one of the richest dudes around (thanks to using a computer since his teen years). 

But a new Princeton study [Deliberate Practice and Performance in Music, Games, Sports, Education, and Professions: A Meta-Analysis] tears that theory down. In a meta-analysis of 88 studies on deliberate practice, the researchers found that practice accounted for just a 12% difference in performance in various domains. What's really surprising is how much it depends on the domain: 

  • In games, practice made for a 26% difference
  • In music, it was a 21% difference
  • In sports, an 18% difference
  • In education, a 4% difference
  • In professions, just a 1% difference

Click MomentThe best explanation of the domain dependency is probably found in Frans Johansson's book The Click Moment.

In it, Johansson argues that deliberate practice is only a predictor of success in fields that have super stable structures. For example, in tennis, chess, and classical music, the rules never change, so you can study up to become the best. 

But in less stable fields, like entrepreneurship and rock and roll, rules can go out the window:

  • Richard Branson started in the record business but quickly branched out into fields well beyond music: Virgin Group has 400 companies and is launching people into space.
  • Then there's a band like the Sex Pistols, who took the world by storm even though Sid Vicious could barely play his bass.

So mastery is more than a matter of practice.

July 7, 2014 in Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (5)

IRS Spending: Administration v. Refundable Credits

Following up on last Monday's post, Spending by the IRS, 1970-2014:  Joe Kristan links to this additional chart from the Cato Institute, which divides IRS spending into administration and refundable credits:

IRS Budget 2

July 7, 2014 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sullivan: The Pros and Cons of Federal-State Corporate Tax Harmonization

Tax Analysys Logo (2013)Martin A. Sullivan (Tax Analysts), The Pros and Cons of Federal-State Corporate Tax Harmonization, 73 State Tax Notes 11 (July 7, 2014):

Martin A. Sullivan examines the benefits and drawbacks of harmonizing federal and state corporate tax regimes.

STN

July 7, 2014 in Scholarship, Tax, Tax Analysts | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 424

IRS Logo 2New York Times editorial: The Real Internal Revenue Scandal:

There is a scandal going on at the Internal Revenue Service, but it has nothing to do with Lois Lerner or her missing emails. House Republicans have not given up on their noisy crusade to tie Ms. Lerner to what they imagine to be widespread political corruption within the Obama administration, but all they have proved is that the I.R.S. is no better at backing up its computer files than most other government agencies.

No, the real scandal is what Republicans did to cripple the agency when virtually no one was looking. Since the broad Tea Party-driven spending cuts of 2010, the agency’s budget has been cut by 14 percent after inflation is considered, leading to sharply reduced staff, less enforcement of the tax laws and poor taxpayer service.

As the economist Jared Bernstein noted recently in The Washington Post, a weakened I.R.S. enforcement staff will be unable to make a dent in the $385 billion annual gap between what taxpayers owe and what they pay — an unintended tax cut, mostly for the rich, that represents 11 percent of this year’s spending.

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

TaxProf Blog Holiday Weekend Roundup

Sunday, July 6, 2014

WSJ: Waiting for Action on Taxes: What To Do Until Congress Deals With Expired Breaks

Wall Street Journal Tax Report:  Waiting for Action on Taxes: What To Do Until Congress Deals With Expired Breaks, by Laura Saunders:

Halfway through 2014, Congress has made no more progress on tax overhaul than it has on other big issues. Few expect any progress before the November elections. In February, House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R., Mich.) took a step forward by releasing his proposal for a comprehensive revision of the code. Although experts of many political stripes praised the plan as a serious one, Mr. Camp's own party leaders lowered expectations before its release. ... 

Mr. Camp is retiring from Congress at the end of the year, but many expect his proposals will live on. "The Camp plan has many good ideas that would work better than our current system, so it gives reformers a good place to start," says Roberton Williams, an income-tax expert at the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center in Washington.

Meanwhile, the Senate and House are at loggerheads about how to treat a host of tax breaks that expired at the end of last year.

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

Death of Don Schapiro

Donald Schapiro (Chadbourne Parke, New York) died on July 3 at the age of 88.  From the New York Times obituary:

Dschapiro[H]e graduated from Townsend Harris High School, Yale College '44, where he became an instructor in the department of economics, followed by Yale Law School '49, where he developed a course in legal accounting, which he continued to teach as a visiting professor for some 25 years. Joining the firm of Paul, Weiss, Goldberg, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, he left after two years to go to Washington, D.C., as Assistant Chief Counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives Ways and Means Subcommittee on Administration of the Internal Revenue Laws. Returning to New York, he became a partner at Barrett, Smith, Schapiro, Simon, & Armstrong. In 1988, he joined Chadbourne & Parke, where he worked as a senior tax partner until his death. ...

Donations in Don's memory may be made to Yale Law School or Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Funeral services will be held Tuesday, July 8, at 11am at Temple Emanu-El. The family will receive friends at their residence from 5pm to 8pm on Tuesday, July 8, Wednesday, July 9, and Thursday, July 10.

(Hat Tip: Mike Schler.)

July 6, 2014 in Obituaries, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Top 5 Tax Paper Downloads

SSRN LogoThere is quite 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 new papers debuting on the list at #3 and #5:

  1. [206 Downloads]  Sales Suppression as a Service (SSaaS) & the Apple Store Solution, by Richard Ainsworth (Boston University)
  2. [201 Downloads]  A State Tax Approach to Regulating Greenhouse Gases Under the Clean Air Act, by Samuel Eisenberg (Stanford), Michael Wara (Stanford), Adele Morris (Brookings Institution), Marta Darby (Stanford) & Joel Minor (Stanford)
  3. [146 Downloads]  Desperate Retirees: The Perplexing Challenge of Covering Retirement Health Care Costs in a YOYO World, by Richard L. Kaplan (Illinois)
  4. [140 Downloads]  The Relationship between China's Tax Treaties and Indirect Transfer Antiavoidance Rules, by Qiguang Hardy Zhou (Baker & McKenzie, Shanghai City, China)
  5. [118 Downloads]  Reducing Inequality on the Cheap: When Legal Rule Design Should Incorporate Equity as Well as Efficiency, by Zachary Liscow (J.D. 2015, Yale)

July 6, 2014 in Scholarship, Tax, Top 5 Downloads | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 423

IRS Logo 2Arizona Republic editorial:  Grant Lois Lerner Immunity in IRS Case:

Congress is facing a fork in the road in the Internal Revenue Service's tea party-harassment scandal.

It may have to take both. 

But, first, Republicans in the House must come to terms with a decision they really — really — do not wish to make.

They will have to offer immunity from prosecution to Lois Lerner, the IRS retiree who has refused to testify and whose emails so amazingly disappeared when her computer hard drive crashed.

And if they fail to get to the bottom of the IRS shenanigans through Lerner? Well, there is a Plan B. They can appoint a special prosecutor — and accept all the expense and power-wielding baggage that comes with such an appointment.

Following the contempt-dripping theatrics of IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, the GOP lawmakers have no choice but to take one or both of those dramatic steps. ... Lerner, of course, has been no more willing to get to the bottom of events than Koskinen. Or, for that matter, the Justice Department, whose own half-hearted investigation is languishing ... somewhere. Or, for that matter, the White House, which simply could order agencies that may have communicated with Lerner, et al, to cooperate.

Their determined resistance is beginning to tell its own suspicious story. If Lerner dodges Congress again, despite immunity, there is always the special prosecutor route. It may be the only way to make sure this episode is never repeated, by administrations of either party.

Above the Law, Some Thoughts About the IRS Scandal and Spoilation of Evidence:

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton issued an order to hear oral arguments from lawyers representing the Internal Revenue Service and the conservative nonprofit True the Vote. True the Vote is one of the conservative groups claiming IRS improperly targeted its application for nonprofit status based on the group’s political and philosophical affiliation. True the Vote filed a motion for a preliminary injunction and expedited discovery on Monday, calling for an independent forensics examination of any IRS hard drives, servers, or other computer hardware involved in the government agency’s possible targeting of conservative nonprofits’ applications for tax-exempt status. It wants an outside computer expert to try to ascertain how and when any electronic evidence, such as former IRS Commissioner Lois Lerner’s emails, may have been lost. Also, it would be great if the government didn’t spoliate — I mean “recycle” — any more evidence….

In its motion, True the Vote argues that the law obligated the IRS to preserve potentially relevant evidence, including electronically stored information. The IRS knew that the hard drives and emails of Lerner and other officials were of significant legal interest. By the time the agency supposedly began disposing of Lois Lerner’s computer hardware, Congress was publicly investigating the IRS scandal. Pro-Israel group Z Street, Inc. filed suit in August 2010, alleging similar improper targeting as True the Vote claims. In September 2013, True the Vote itself sent a litigation hold letter to counsel for the IRS officials, including Lerner, who the group believed were involved in IRS wrongdoing. The government clearly had notice that the computer equipment and information should be preserved as potential evidence.

If the account alleged in True the Vote’s motion is accurate, opposing counsel was none too cooperative. Despite earlier attempts to confer with IRS counsel, attorneys for True the Vote did not learn of the missing emails of Lois Lerner and other IRS officials until Friday, June 13, 2014, when news reports publicized the loss. On that day, IRS finally informed Congressional investigators that the agency could not recover two years’ worth of Lerner’s emails. Apparently, Lerner’s hard drive crashed in 2011, its data was unrecoverable, and the government had no available back-ups.

Talk about bad luck — finding out on Friday the 13th that two years’ worth of emails spanning the time period when you believe the federal government committed illegal acts have been “lost.”

Of course, it is hard to believe in bad luck when federal-government malfeasance is involved. Did IRS officials violate True the Vote’s constitutional rights by improperly singling out their application for tax-exempt status as the conservative group claims? Was this politically motivated targeting the result of overzealous lower-level employees? Did members of the Obama administration orchestrate this campaign to punish the administration’s political enemies? We don’t know. That’s the kicker about the spoliation of evidence.

IRS explanations of how Lerner’s emails during the crucial time period were lost have not inspired much confidence, under the circumstances. Perhaps the only reason to believe that the IRS and Obama administration are telling the truth about the lost evidence and the IRS scandal is that their explanations look so extraordinarily — almost laughably — suspicious that someone would have to have “courage” the size of the U.S. Treasury to claim such things with a straight face.

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July 6, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Crawford: 7 Notable Estate & Gift Tax Articles of 2013

Tax Analysys Logo (2013)Bridget Crawford (Pace), Law Review Articles You Should've Read (But Probably Didn't) in 2013, 143 Tax Notes 1305 (June 16, 2014):

This short column is part of the annual Tax Notes issue that highlights noteworthy law review articles published during the previous year. In this piece, I identify articles relating to estate and gift taxation that practitioners likely will find of interest. The articles reviewed (in alphabetical order by author's last name) are:

  1. Ellen Aprill (Loyola-L.A.), Reforming the Charitable Contribution Substantiation Rules, 14 Fla. Tax Rev. 275 (2013)
  2. Arianne Renan Barzilay (Haifa), You're on Your Own, Baby: Reflections on Capato's Legacy, 46 Ind. L. Rev. 557 (2013)
  3. John F. Coverdale (Seton Hall), Of Red Bags and Family Limited Partnerships: Reforming the Estate and Gift Tax Valuation Rules to Achieve Horizontal Equity, 51 U. Louisville L. Rev. 239 (2013)
  4. John P. Goldberg (Harvard) & Robert H. Sitkoff (Harvard), Torts and Estates: Remedying Wrongful Inheritance, 65 Stan. L. Rev. 335 (2013)
  5. Adam Hirsch (San Diego), Incomplete Wills, 111 Mich. L. Rev. 1423 (2013)
  6. Grayson M.P. McCouch (Florida), Who Killed the Rule Against Perpetuities?, 40 Pepp. L. Rev. 1291 (2013)
  7. Carla Spivack (Oklahoma City), Killers Shouldn't Inherit From Their Victims -- Or Should They?, 48 Georgia L. Rev. 145 (2013)

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

Death of Louie Zamperini

UnbrokenNew York Times, Louis Zamperini, Olympian and ‘Unbroken’ War Survivor, Dies at 97:

Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner who as an airman during World War II crashed into the Pacific, was listed as dead and then spent 47 days adrift in a life raft before being captured by the Japanese and enduring a harsh imprisonment, died on Wednesday in Los Angeles. He was 97.

Mr. Zamperini’s remarkable story of survival during the war gained new attention in 2010 with the publication of a vivid biography by Laura Hillenbrand, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. It rose to No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list.

The story is to be retold in a film adaptation of the book directed by Angelina Jolie and scheduled to be released in December. Jack O’Connell plays Mr. Zamperini. ...

Past efforts to make Mr. Zamperini’s story into a movie failed. In the 1950s, Tony Curtis wanted to play the role. In the late ’90s, Nicolas Cage expressed interest. Despite Mr. Zamperini’s two autobiographies, Ms. Hillenbrand thought more could be done with the story. In an email she wrote:

“Louie’s story was well told, but as an autobiography it was limited to Louie’s point of view. No one had approached Louie’s story as a biography, incorporating numerous points of view. “I began interviewing Louie’s fellow airmen, POWs, Japanese camp officials and home front friends and family, and went through their diaries, memoirs and letters. What I found was a fascinating untold story.”

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

July 5, 2014 in Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

High-Level Departures Roil IRS's International Division

IRS Logo 2At a time of unprecedented attempts to thwart tax avoidance with FATCA and BEPS, and controversy swirling over the rush of U.S. corporations to use inversions to reduce their U.S. tax exposure, the IRS's Large Business & International Division has been stung by the sudden departures of several key people:

  • Michael Danilack (Deputy Commissioner (International)), resigned effective July 2
  • Laura Prendergast (Deputy Commissioner (Domestic)), resigned effective July 3
  • Samuel Maruca (Director, Transfer Pricing Operations), resigned effective August 1
  • Diana Wollman (Director, International Strategy), resigned July 1
  • Richard McAlonan (Director, Advance Pricing and Mutual Agreement), resigned effective June 27

Tax Analysts:  Major Shake-Up at LB&I?,  by Jaime Arora, Amy S. Elliott, & Andrew Velarde:

One practitioner told Tax Analysts that a coming reorganization may have spurred the departures. ... A former IRS official, now in private practice, said that Danilack agreed to lead the IRS's international unit on the condition that the Service would realign its Large and Midsize Business Division (LMSB) in a way that would separate international tax administration from domestic tax administration. The 2010 LMSB/LB&I realignment meant that agents working on international issues would ultimately report to Danilack, giving him greater management authority.

Under the realigned structure, the domestic and international deputy commissioners had equal authority to resolve issues. The former official said that under the LMSB structure, international issues were ultimately resolved by the domestic territory managers, directors of field operations, and industry directors. Since the realignment, "there's not been anyone with a 51 percent vote to resolve issues for a particular taxpayer" aside from going to LB&I Commissioner Heather Maloy for a tiebreaker vote, and "that's not good management," the former official said.

With industry directors and Danilack's team having similar levels of authority under the realigned LB&I, neither could overrule the other, the former official said. "No one was in charge," he said. "It was the Achilles' heel of the organization."

The former official added that Danilack's departure indicates that he probably argued for getting tiebreaker authority, making the case that the larger assessments are often those stemming from international issues, and lost. "I knew he was frustrated," the former official said. Danilack declined to comment for this article.

Tax Analysts Blog:  What’s Behind the Brain Drain at the IRS?, by Christopher Bergin:

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July 5, 2014 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 4, 2014

Weekly Tax Roundup

 Weekly Roundup

July 4, 2014 in Tax, Weekly Tax Roundup | Permalink | Comments (0)

Weekly SSRN Tax Roundup

 Weekly Roundup

July 4, 2014 in Scholarship, Tax, Weekly SSRN Roundup | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 421

IRS Logo 2Wall Street Journal: House Lawmakers Press on IRS Probe:

House lawmakers are planning to step up pressure on the Justice Department to act on a contempt-of-Congress citation against former Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner.

Legislators view the citation—passed by the House in May—as a potential pressure point in their broader efforts to force action by the Justice Department in the controversy concerning IRS treatment of conservative tax-exempt organizations, committee aides said. ...

Federal law says the local U.S. attorney has the "duty" to present the contempt citation to a grand jury. Contempt of Congress is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $100,000 and a year in prison, under an 1850s statute. Republicans on the committee note the statute in demanding that prosecutors pursue the case.

But "it remains unclear whether the 'duty' of the U.S. Attorney…is mandatory or discretionary," a Congressional Research Service report says. Courts generally grant prosecutors wide discretion in deciding which matters to pursue.

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

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Brauner: What the BEPS?

Yariv Brauner (Florida), What the BEPS?, 16 Fla. Tax Rev. 55 (2014):

Florida Tax ReviewUnprecedented attention to aggressive international tax planning has shaken the earth under the most powerful players in the world of international tax policy design. The media exposure of what Bloomberg’s calls “The Great Corporate Tax Dodge,” combined with the ever-growing discontent of civil society with the magnitude of contribution of the largest multinational enterprises to the society within which they operate, has recently forced the politicians to take action. Leaders of the strongest world economies demanded a revision of the rules of the international tax regime that would generate more revenues for their challenged coffers and would restore public trust in the system. In what is now commonly known as the Base Erosion and Profit Sharing (“BEPS”) project, the OECD has established three principles: (1) promotion of collaborative rather than competition based solutions; (2) take a holistic view of the challenges and their corresponding solutions rather than an ad hoc approach; and (3) permit the consideration of innovative solutions even when they conflict with the traditional premises of the current international tax regime. This Article reviews the progress of the BEPS project and its compatibility with the fundamental principles for reform set by the OECD with a view to influence the discourse and the outcome of the project. This Article focuses on the importance of the paradigm shift from the current emphasis on competitiveness and the perfection of competition to a collaborative international tax regime, demonstrating the desirability of such a shift and suggesting how the OECD should go about making that shift.”

July 3, 2014 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Fleischer & Staudt: The Supercharged IPO

Victor Fleischer (San Diego) & Nancy Staudt (Dean, Washington University), The Supercharged IPO, 66 Vand. L. Rev. 303 (2013):

A new innovation on the IPO landscape has emerged in the last two decades, allowing owner-founders to extract billions of dollars from newly-public companies. These IPOs — labeled supercharged IPOs — have been the subject of widespread debate and controversy: lawyers, financial experts, journalists, and Members of Congress have all weighed in on the topic. Some have argued that supercharged IPOs are a “brilliant, just brilliant,” while others have argued they are “underhanded” and “bizarre.”

In this article, we explore the supercharged IPO and explain how and why this new deal structure differs from the more traditional IPO. We then outline various theories of financial innovation and note that the extant literature provides useful explanations for why supercharged IPOs emerged and spread so quickly across industries and geographic areas. The literature also provides support for both legitimate and opportunistic uses of the supercharged IPO.

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

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

GOP Nominee for Illinois Governor Comes Under Fire for Converting Millions in Ordinary Income Into Capital Gains Through Private Equity Management Fee Waivers

Following up on my previous post, WSJ: Private Equity Firms Save Millions in Taxes by Treating Dividends as 'Monitoring Fees,' Says Polsky:  Chicago Tribune, Rauner Used Strategy Now Under IRS Scrutiny to Slash Income Taxes:

Rauner AdIRS data show Bruce Rauner to be one of the 11,000 richest tax filers in the nation, but most of the millions he made in recent years was taxed at 15 percent — less than half the top federal rate for the wealthy, a review of tax documents released by the GOP governor hopeful shows.

One reason behind that sharp discount is that Rauner took advantage of a strategy that yielded big tax savings on his share of investment fees paid to his private equity firm, GTCR. That strategy is allowed under tax rules but has come under IRS scrutiny.

An analysis of the limited records Rauner has released, conducted by the Tribune in consultation with tax experts, gives the fullest picture yet of the steps he took to trim his tax bill. In ways both big and small, the Republican businessman's financial profile is one driven by tax-reducing strategies often out of reach for those of more modest means:

Rauner's campaign is built around his resounding success at the helm of GTCR, through which he earned millions of dollars a year. But a major portion of that money was reported to the IRS as capital gains taxed at a preferential 15 percent, including money from so-called management fee waivers used by many private equity firms to reduce tax bills for key partners. ...

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July 2, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (6)

WSJ: Improve Your Productivity and Your Life by Getting Rid of Internet Service at Home

Wall Street Journal, Say No to the Distraction-Industrial Complex:

No InternetOf all the potentially embarrassing things I confess to friends and acquaintances, perhaps the one most guaranteed to get a reaction is this: I don't have broadband Internet at home. And here's something I've never said aloud: I don't think you should, either, because it is ruining your productivity, if not your life. ...

Barring emergency, work is confined to work hours. This forces me to be more efficient at the office even as it allows me to be more emotionally present when I'm not there. It also has led me to notice that the times I am most productive while working are when I have no Internet connection at all—on planes, buses and trains.

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July 2, 2014 in Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Smith: Charitable Deductions for Live-Burn Donations

Eric Smith (Weber State), A Deduction Properly Extinguished? The Live-Burn Donation: A Proposed Sequence of Analysis and Policy Evaluation, 33 Va. Tax. Rev. 459 (2014):

This article updates the literature analyzing the charitable deduction associated with live-burn donations. This deduction has been the subject of multiple recent Tax and appellate Court rulings, all of which have disallowed the deduction. The article examines and reconciles the resulting live-burn donation line of cases. It agrees with prior scholarship finding that the courts’ treatment of the deduction has rendered it ineffective as a tax planning tool, but proposes a theoretical sequence of analysis to gauge the state of the law and determine whether any avenue remains which leads to deduction. Scholarly response to the disallowance of the live-burn donation has been generally negative. In contrast to these positions in the literature, this article finds that denial of a deduction for live-burn donations is consistent with and reconcilable on grounds of traditional tax policy notions of equity and fairness. Despite the live-burn donation’s initial acceptance on the basis of public benefit, the doctrine is fundamentally vulnerable on multiple fronts: it pushes the bounds of vertical equity, it disproportionately favors the wealthy, it undermines traditional concepts of charitable intent, and it provides an excessive private benefit in exchange for a public benefit which is too difficult to measure or quantify.

Prior TaxProf Blog coverage:

July 2, 2014 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Borden: 11 Notable Partnership Tax Articles of 2013

Tax Analysys Logo (2013)Bradley T. Borden (Brooklyn), Notable Partnership Articles From 2013, 143 Tax Notes 1513 (June 30, 2014):

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

NY Times: The Self-Promotion Backlash

New York Times:  The Self-Promotion Backlash, by Anna North:

InvisiblesFrom “building your personal brand” to “stepping up your social media presence,” we’re constantly inundated with advice about how to promote ourselves. But some are saying that the pressure to self-promote could, ultimately, be hurting us.

In his recent book Invisibles: The Power of Anonymous Work in an Age of Relentless Self-Promotion, David Zweig profiles a group of people whose jobs are behind the scenes in some way (a guitar technician and a United Nations interpreter, for instance), and who derive satisfaction not from public recognition, but from the internal sense of a job well done. These “Invisibles,” as he calls them, are often extremely fulfilled in their careers, and they may have something to teach those of us who feel we have to constantly promote ourselves to succeed. He writes:

“We’ve been taught that the squeaky wheel gets the grease, that to not just get ahead, but to matter, to exist even, we must make ourselves seen and heard. But what if this is a vast myth?” ...

The Invisibles offer “an alternate path to success” — they got where they were not by courting attention, but by working quietly and extremely carefully toward something bigger than themselves. “The work they do is always in service of a larger endeavor,” he explained. And they show that at least for some people, “when you focus on excellence and good work, that actually does get recognized in the end.”

July 2, 2014 in Book Club, Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tax Prof Puts on the Miles

PriusTen years ago, I blogged the spiffy new, exotic Prius with the "TaxProf" license plate driven by Jay Soled (Rutgers), which spawned my first TaxProf Blog meme, with several posts on other tax-centric license plates (here, here, herehere, and here).  Jay writes in that the Prius just crossed the 250,000-mile marker:

My 2004 Prius now has 250,000 miles.  Consider the following:  over the last ten years, assuming the average car achieved 25 mpg and my Prius achieved 50 mpg, then I was able to save 5,000 gallons of gas and significantly reduce my carbon footprint.  At the risk of sounding smug, this is undoubtedly a good thing for the world.

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July 2, 2014 in Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (5)

The IRS Scandal, Day 419

IRS Logo 2Wall Street Journal:  Judge Sets Hearing on Group's Push to Investigate Lost IRS Emails:

A federal judge scheduled a hearing for next week on a grass-roots conservative group's request to investigate missing emails at the Internal Revenue Service, as part of the group's lawsuit against the agency.

U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton ordered the hearing on Tuesday, after conservative group True the Vote filed a motion seeking to speed up discovery and "preserve and prevent further destruction" of documents and electronic data. Among other things, the group wants a forensic expert to figure out how the emails were lost and examine whether any of the missing data can be recovered.

The hearing is set for July 11 in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.

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July 2, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Gamage: A Way Forward for Tax Law and Economics?

David Gamage (UC-Berkeley), A Way Forward for Tax Law and Economics? A Response to Osofsky's Frictions, Screening, and Tax Law Design, 61 Buff. L. Rev. 189 (2014):

This Essay responds to Leigh Osofsky's Who’s Naughty and Who’s Nice? Frictions, Screening, and Tax Law Design. Osofsky’s analysis suggests that tax rules might be designed so as to take account both of heterogeneity in taxpayers’ tax planning proclivities and of taxpayer characteristics relevant for distribution. By designing tax rules so as to create frictions that differentially impose higher costs on those taxpayers who are more successfully circumventing existing taxes we can perhaps reform our tax system so as to better achieve equitable distribution at lower efficiency costs. This Essay argues that Osofsky's analysis is generally correct and that it potentially suggests a path toward a more useful law and economics analysis of detailed tax rules.

July 1, 2014 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Bernstein: Why the GOP Really Wants to Defund IRS

Washington Post op-ed:  Why the GOP Really Wants to Defund IRS, by Jared Bernstein:

In one of the great D.C. key-dangles (“look over here, not over there!”), congressional conservatives have everyone looking the other way while they try to defund the Internal Revenue Service. No question, recent IRS screw-ups are feeding right into their opponents’ plans. But let’s not lose sight of what’s really going on here: This is just a different way to try to shrink government, accommodate tax evasion and even undermine the implementation of health reform. ...

To collect taxes, we need an amply funded IRS, and therein lies the real scandal. The details are in this new Center on Budget and Policy Priorities paper by Chuck Marr and Joel Friedman, who document “…significant cuts that have occurred in IRS funding, which remains well below its 2010 level…. The cuts have led the IRS to reduce its workforce, severely scale back employee training, and delay much-needed upgrades to information technology systems. These steps, in turn, have weakened the IRS’s ability to enforce the nation’s tax laws and serve taxpayers efficiently.” ...

Marr and Friedman identify these additional facts of the real case:

  • The figures below show a 14 percent fall in the agency’s inflation-adjusted budget (figure 1) along with an 11 percent decline in its staffing levels (figure 2), 2010-2014. IRS staff assigned specifically to enforcement is down 15 percent.

Bernstein_IRS_combo

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July 1, 2014 in IRS News, Tax, Think Tank Reports | Permalink | Comments (7)

Zelenak: The Almost-Restatement of Income Tax of 1954

Lawrence Zelenak (Duke), The Almost-Restatement of Income Tax of 1954: When Tax Giants Roamed the Earth, 79 Brook. L. Rev. 709 (2014):

This essay describes the ALI’s Income Tax Project of 1948–1954—its origins, goals, drafting process, final product, and influence on Congress. The essay concludes with some thoughts on what role the ALI can and should play today in the tax legislative process. Whether the fault is in the stars or in ourselves (probably both, but with the stars deserving most of the blame), the drafting of a new ALI model income tax statute for the twenty-first century would be an almost insurmountable challenge in technical terms, and probably pointless in political terms. Nevertheless, there remains room for targeted ALI tax interventions, with a Restatement-type approach to the interpretation of the recently-codified economic substance doctrine16 seeming especially promising.

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

Yin: The Most Critical Issue Facing Tax Administration Today -- And What to Do About It

George K. Yin (Virginia), The Most Critical Issue Facing Tax Administration Today -- And What to Do About It:

This very brief paper contains the text of the keynote address delivered on June 19, 2014 to a research conference in Washington, DC on Advancing Tax Administration, co-sponsored by the IRS and the Tax Policy Center.

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

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July 1, 2014 in About This Blog, Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)