Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Graetz: Goodbye to Tax Notes

Graetz (2015)TaxProf Blog op-ed:  Goodbye to Tax Notes, by Michael J. Graetz (Columbia):

Today, I received the following email from the Columbia Law librarian announcing a new policy of Tax Analysts:

Tax Analysts is in the process of eliminating their complementary professorial accounts. They have presented us with the following terms, and they will maintain your access for the rest of this work week.

In this case, the alternatives are the library paying $8,500 a year for an broad account shared by the library with individual direct access limited to three professors, or you paying $780 a year for your individual access to Tax Notes and Tax Notes International .... They will not sell access to the “Lawref” e-dress because that is a shared account.....

When Tom Field started a nonprofit publisher and public interest law firm in 1969, he could not have imagined the success Tax Analysts would enjoy. It has for nearly a half century provided a unique and invaluable service to the tax community. I have long relied on it myself for timely information and have had many students use its resources for their papers and publications, even though much of its most useful content is in the public domain. And I have frequently published there and speak often with its correspondents. But with this latest turn, Tax Analysts may be losing sight of its mission. According to its Form 990 for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2013 (which is the most recent readily available) Tax Analysts had over $23 million in revenues from its publications, cash and securities on hand exceeding $40 million and more than $60 million in total assets. Its revenue exceeded its expenses by nearly $4 million. It is difficult to believe that this change in policy is prompted by financial necessity. And the timing is especially unfortunate for many law schools around the country.

The good news, of course, is that there are many alternative sources of information and new outlets to publish the kinds of short articles that Tax Notes contains. In particular, SSRN allows an unparalleled opportunity to reach other academics with short essays. (Reuven Avi Yonah, for example, has made this an art form.) In the international tax arena, ITPF aggregates an enormous amount of valuable work on its website. Law and accounting firms offer timely information and analysis and are frequently willing to share their work broadly. And, of course, this blog in particular, along with the many others linked here, allow one no excuse for ignoring the ongoing developments in the field. So, at these prices, for now at least, I'm going to learn to live without Tax Notes for a while. I'll miss you Marty, Lee, Mindy and many others.

Legal Education, Tax, Tax Analysts | Permalink


The form 990 is interesting. This charity received no contributions from the public. How does its activity differ from that of a commercial publisher? Sure, some conferences were held, but commercial entities sponsor conferences too. Presumably making content available to academics was considered an educational activity, but this now seems gone. Seems ironic for an organization founded to promote good tax policy, even risky -- or am I just being naive?

Posted by: Victor Thuronyi | Feb 11, 2015 12:41:56 PM

Yes, they are very, very good, but no matter how good we are all replaceable. High prices engender new competitors. I'm sure Paul will tell us if that happens.

Posted by: AMTbuff | Feb 11, 2015 7:28:03 PM

Amen. I have had one of their salespeople working me over the same way. Says she can do me a big favor and get me an "introductory" rate of just $500 a year. I'm with Big Mike. I will get the information some other way, and my students will never see the Tax Analysts pay platform. Buh-bye.

Posted by: Jack Bogdanski | Feb 11, 2015 9:49:16 PM

Absent a need for revenues to continue to exist, the costs of driving off academics may exceed the benefits to both Tax Analysts and those interested in tax policy.

Posted by: Roy Clemons | Feb 12, 2015 7:35:40 AM

Our Lexis friends say that they will continue to provide Tax Analysts materials for the academic market. Of course plans change, but I expect that their licensing agreements with Lexis (and, in turn, a law library's agreement with Lexis) will survive for a while longer.

I'll be the first to agree that Lexis might not be the optimal way to access Tax Notes, but it looks to be the most cost-effective in the near term.

Posted by: Patrick Flanagan | Feb 13, 2015 1:54:03 PM

Columbia law school, which has an endowment of $280 million and pays its professors hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, has to PAY for access to a high quality trade journal?!?!?! Quelle horreur!

Posted by: Doug | Feb 16, 2015 8:29:52 AM