Paul L. Caron

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Spotlight_1_1Ben Alarie (Toronto)

        • B.A. 1999, Wilfrid Laurier
        • J.D. 2002, Toronto
        • M.A. 2002, Toronto
        • LL.M. 2003, Yale



At the age of 14 I sat alone at the kitchen table with a pencil, an eraser, a solar powered calculator, two information slips, and an unpopulated tax return. My Dad had suggested I take a shot at filling out the return on my own. It was my first formal encounter with income taxes. At the time, I was amazed and deeply impressed by the at best partly obscured complexity of the income tax, and the curious puzzles it raised.

A few years later, I enrolled at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, where I majored in economics and finance, and took a number of courses in philosophy. After second year, I decided that I would continue with post-graduate studies. The only question was whether that would take the form of law school or graduate work in economics. I confronted the hard choice by choosing both, and shortly after graduation was enrolled at the University of Toronto in both the J.D. program at the Faculty of Law and the M.A. program at the Department of Economics.

In the summer following my first year as a law student, I was tremendously fortunate to work as a research assistant with Michael Trebilcock and Ron Daniels. I had an amazing three months of learning, researching, and writing in law and economics. Later, I took the introductory tax course with David Duff. Courses in corporate tax, tax policy, and international taxation soon followed. For the better part of law school the idea of becoming a tax academic with interests in law and economics was all-consuming.

I spent 2002-2003 as a graduate fellow at Yale Law School, where I took, among other courses, federal income tax with Michael Graetz. Coincidentally, I was lucky enough to be in New Haven to also assist with the Foundations of International Income Taxation. Other highlights included courses with Alan Schwartz, Henry Hansmann, Ralph Winter, Guido Calabresi, and a directed research project under the supervision of Ian Ayres.

During 2003-2004, I clerked at the Supreme Court of Canada for Madam Justice Louise Arbour (who is now UN High Commissioner for Human Rights), and started searching for an entry-level teaching position. In February 2004, I was ecstatic after receiving an offer to return to the University of Toronto, this time with my back to the chalkboard. I snapped it up.

Among other delights since joining the Faculty of Law in July 2004, I have had the pleasure of inaugurating and coordinating the James Hausman Tax Law and Policy Workshop with David Duff. The workshop has been an excellent way to keep abreast of some of the most interesting and important emerging scholarship in tax law and policy and has allowed us to bring to Toronto a number of the world’s most outstanding tax scholars, for our benefit and the benefit of the law school community.

If anything, I am now even more amazed and deeply impressed than I was at 14 at the complexity and richness of the income tax. I fully expect to be fruitfully occupied by its curiosities for many years to come.

Each Saturday, TaxProf Blog shines the spotlight on one of the 700+ tax professors in America's law schools. We hope to help bring the many individual stories of scholarly achievements, teaching innovations, public service, and career moves within the tax professorate to the attention of the broader tax community. Please email me suggestions for future Tax Prof Profiles. For prior Tax Prof Profiles, see here.

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