Wednesday, March 24, 2021
Susannah Camic Tahk (Wisconsin; Google Scholar) presented Spillover Tax Precedent virtually last Friday at Cornell as part of its Faculty Workshop Series:
We know that pro se litigants often lose. However, we know almost nothing about the circumstances in which they win. One such circumstance, this Article finds, is when they can take advantage of favorable precedent. This Article calls those favorable precedents for pro se litigants “spillover precedents.” Spillover precedents are cases with redistributive downward ripple effects that subsequently benefit pro se litigants. This Article is the first to examine the potential redistributive effects of precedent. To focus the inquiry, the Article carried out an empirical study of Tax Court cases from 2015-2019 in which pro se litigants won. This analysis revealed the major role of spillover precedent. The Article details how pro se taxpayers use spillover precedent, describing major examples and identifying patterns in them.
The Article then examines the normative implications of spillover precedent, suggesting policy interventions, focusing particularly on the potential role of low-income taxpayer clinics, and considering the distinguishing features of the tax context.