Administering the 2017 Tax Act: Successes, Challenges & Opportunities (8:30-10:15 a.m.)
In late 2017, Congress passed a major piece of tax legislation. Since then, the Treasury Department and IRS worked to implement this legislation, and in 2019, individual taxpayers went through the first filing season under the new law. This program will draw on these experiences and discuss issues related to the new law’s implementation and administration. The panel will include people who played key roles in the IRS’s Tax Reform Implementation Office, IRS Office of Chief Counsel, OIRA, and Taxpayer Advocate Service. Topics discussed will include the roles of different government players; process for promulgating regulations; decisions along the way, including about prioritization of topics for guidance; questions that remain unresolved; how the administration of the new law impacted taxpayers; obstacles faced during the first filing season; opportunities for improving the new law’s administration; and what to expect moving forward. There will be a business meeting at program conclusion.
- Kristin Hickman (Minnesota)
- Philip Lindenmuth (IRS Office of Chief Counsel)
- Sunita Lough (IRS)
- Nina Olson (National Taxpayer Advocate (retired))
New Voices in Tax Law & Policy (1:30-3:15 p.m.)
This program showcases works-in-progress by scholars with seven or fewer years of teaching experience doing research in tax law, tax policy, and related fields. These works-in-progress were selected from a call for papers. Commentators working in related areas will provide feedback on the papers. Presenters, papers and commentators are as follows:
Young Ran (Christine) Kim (Utah), Digital Services Tax: A Cross-Border Variation of the Consumption Tax Debate
Commentator: Daniel Shaviro (NYU)
Jeesoo Nam (NYU), Taxing Option Luck
Commentator: David Weisbach (Chicago)
Manoj Viswanathan (UC-Hastings), A Unified Theory of Tax Progressivity
Commentator: Sarah Lawsky (Northwestern)
New Voices in Legislation (3:30-5:15 pm):
Jonathan Choi (NYU), An Empirical Study of Statutory Interpretation in Tax Law, 95 N.Y.U. ___ (2020):
A substantial academic literature considers how agencies should interpret statutes. Yet few studies have considered how agencies actually do interpret statutes, and none has empirically compared the methodologies of agencies and courts in practice. This Article conducts such a comparison, using a newly created data-set of all IRS publications ever released, along with an existing data-set of court decisions. It applies natural language processing, machine learning, and regression analysis to map methodological trends and to test whether particular authorities have developed unique cultures of statutory interpretation.
It finds that, after Chevron, the IRS has increasingly made rules on normative policy grounds (like fairness and efficiency) rather than merely producing rules based on the “best reading” of the relevant statute (under any interpretive theory, like purposivism or textual-ism). Moreover, when the IRS does apply interpretive criteria, it has grown much more purposivist over time.
In contrast, the Tax Court has not grown more normative and has followed the same trend toward textualism as most other courts. But although the Tax Court has become more broadly textualist, it prioritizes different interpretive tools than other courts, like Chevron deference and holistic-textual canons. This suggests that each authority adopts its own flavor of textualism or purposivism.
These findings complicate the literature on tax exceptionalism and the judicial nature of the Tax Court. They also inform ongoing debates about judicial deference, suggesting that Chevron does encourage agencies to engage in policy-based rule-making. Most broadly, they provide an empirical counterpoint to the existing theoretical literature on statutory interpretation by agencies.
Update: Photo from last night's Tax Prof dinner: