Tuesday, December 28, 2021
Kristin Hickman (Minnesota; Google Scholar), Perhaps We Should Sweat the Small Stuff (JOTWELL) (reviewing Leigh Osofsky (North Carolina; Google Scholar) & Kathleen DeLaney Thomas (North Carolina; Google Scholar), The Surprising Significance of De Minimis Tax Rules, 78 Wash & Lee L. Rev. 773 (2021)):
“Don’t sweat the small stuff” was one of my father’s favorite sayings. It’s the thought that has always come to my mind whenever thinking about, and teaching, de minimis rules in the tax code. De minimis rules keep the IRS from seeming petty, for example by allowing an employer that provides free bagels in the break room from having to report the bagels as income to its employees. De minimis rules also allow taxpayers to avoid complexity and hassle when the dollar amounts at stake are small, for example by permitting taxpayers to immediately deduct many small capital expenditures, rather than having to amortize or depreciate them over several years. In short, I have always thought of de minimis rules as making a hugely complicated tax system just a little easier to navigate, and perhaps just a little kinder. At worst, de minimis rules have always seemed fairly harmless — “the equivalent of rounding errors in the design of the tax law.” Reading The Surprising Significance of De Minimis Tax Rules by Leigh Osofsky and Kathleen DeLaney Thomas has forced me to rethink these long-held intuitions. ...
The Surprising Significance of De Minimis Tax Rules carefully examines, and calls into question, a practice that I suspect most tax professors and policymakers take for granted. Osofsky and Thomas do not argue that we should get rid of all de minimis tax rules. But Osofsky and Thomas demonstrate very effectively that we need to pay more attention to de minimis tax rules and not think of them merely as “the small stuff.”