As the Service’s technological infrastructure continues to show its age, both the Service and Congress appear to be recognizing the importance of the Ser-vice having technological infrastructure that allows it to take advantage of the capabilities of modern computing systems to improve both its enforcement and service efforts. The National Taxpayer Advocate has entered this conversation as well, encouraging Congress and the Service to prioritize improvements to the Service’s technological infrastructure but simultaneously raising legitimate concerns about the impact that an overreliance on technology might have on taxpayer rights, particularly rights of vulnerable population groups who may not be able to utilize technology.
Fortunately, increasing technological deployment as part of taxpayer service is not a zero sum game that requires sacrificing taxpayer rights in the name of efficiency. The Service can accomplish the goal of deploying technology in a pro-taxpayer rights manner if it brings considerations of affirming taxpayer rights to the forefront of its deliberations about how best to utilize technology. Both the academic literature and Service strategic documents have focused on a wide variety of taxpayer interactions with the Service in proposing how this can be done. There is one type of interaction, however, that has thus far been underexplored both in the academic literature and in the Service’s strategic efforts to move more of its taxpayer interactions online: taxpayer controversy resolution.
This Article argues that the Service has insufficiently considered whether it can increase its use of technology-based interactions with taxpayers in the controversy-resolution process in a manner that both achieves efficiency gains and affirms taxpayer rights. Specifically, three areas in controversy resolution could lend themselves to such rights-affirming technological implementation.
The tax system has been used with increasing frequency as a social policy tool to administer social programs. From the Earned Income Tax Credit to the recent Economic Impact Payments, the IRS has been asked to do more with an ever decreasing budget. While the tax system may be an attractive vehicle to administer certain payments or benefits, it can also pose challenges. Panelists will examine the history of the tax code as a way to administer social programs. Panelists will then evaluate certain programs and discuss some advantages and disadvantages of administering these programs through the tax code. In particular, panelists will discuss the recent Economic Impact Payments and some of the challenges with administering these payments successfully. Lastly, panelists will propose some changes and alternatives to the way programs are administered to better serve the communities that are most in need of these benefits.
The American Bar Association Section of Taxation is pleased to announce that it is now accepting applications for its Christine A. Brunswick Public Service Fellowship program class of 2021-2023. Developed in 2008, the Fellowship program seeks to address the growing need for tax legal assistance and to foster a greater interest in tax-focused public service through funding and other support to young lawyers engaged in tax work for underserved communities.
Other important aspects of the fellowship program:
The fellowship award includes student loan assistance;
Fellows have incredible access to ABA Tax Section meetings and the tax community; and
The positive career trajectories of the prior fellowship recipients (see list here). They are great resources on the fellowship for interested parties.
The deadline for applications is November 2, 2020.
Before there was a culture war in the United States over same-sex marriage, there was a battle between opponents and proponents of same-sex marriage within the LGBTQ+ community. Some within the LGBTQ+ community opposed same-sex marriage because of the long patriarchal history of marriage and the more consequential need to bridge the economic and privilege gap between the married and the unmarried. On the other hand, LGBTQ+ proponents of same-sex marriage saw marriage as a civil rights issue because of the central importance of marriage in American society. They sensed a profound wrong in the denial of the benefits of marriage to same-sex couples when those couples carried on lives no different from their heterosexual counterparts, save for the legal recognition of their relationships as a “marriage.” Proponents also lauded the transformative potential of same-sex marriage, contending that it could upset the patriarchal nature of marriage and help to refashion marriage into something new and better. Opponents, of course, feared the hegemony of heterosexual marriage in the United States and argued that same-sex marriage would not transform American society at all.
This essay looks back at that debate through the lens of the federal tax definition of “marriage” before and after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions in United States v. Windsor and Obergefell v. Hodges.
The ABA Tax SectionVirtual 2020 Fall Meeting kicks off today. The full program is here. Today's highlight is Beyond CARES: Tax and Economic Policy Responses to the Ongoing COVID Pandemic (Teaching Taxation Committee (10:00 − 11:30 AM ET)):
In March, 2020, Congress enacted the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to ameliorate economic shocks to U.S. households from the COVID pandemic and lockdowns. The CARES Act included temporary: (1) Economic Impact Payments to individuals and families of up to $1,200 per adult (subject to income limitations) and $500 per child under 17 years old; (2) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) forgivable loans to businesses, including independent contractors, to cover up to eight weeks of payroll costs or to pay interest on mortgages, rent, and utilities; and (3) supplemental Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) of $600 per week. Following expiration of CARES Act relief, the question is: what new COVID economic relief package is advisable? Members of Congress and policymakers disagree about the best approaches to counteract the continuing economic shocks to households from the pandemic. Panelists, including experts in tax, economics, and public policy will discuss tax and related policy responses to COVID economic relief going forward. Panel topics include proposals: to expand and increase the Earned Income Tax Credit; to expand and increase the Child Tax Credit; to reduce payroll taxes; to extend FPUC benefits; to increase federal subsidies to states; and to enact a federal VAT or Carbon Tax, which could fund an expanded EITC or Child Tax Credit or a lump sum Basic Income for Americans. Panelists will consider potential gender, racial, and socio-economic disparities in the economic impact of (1) the COVID pandemic and (2) pandemic relief proposals.
When encumbered property is sold, the taxation of that sale is different if the sale involves recourse debt as opposed to non-recourse debt. This difference raises an intriguing question: when debt changes from recourse debt to non-recourse debt or vice versa, which rules will control? Examples of when debt changes from recourse to non-recourse or vice versa include bankruptcy discharges, foreclosures in a state with anti-deficiency statutes, some short sales in deficiency states, and the operation of Bankruptcy Code section 1111(b).
The Cottage Savings regulations, Regulation section 1.1001-3, have specific provisions designed to answer the question what happens when debt changes from recourse to non-recourse or vice versa.
An alternative to traditional moot court competitions, the Law Student Tax Challenge (LSTC) is organized by the Section’s Young Lawyers Form. The LSTC asks two-person teams of students to solve a complex business problem that might arise in everyday tax practice. Teams are initially evaluated on two criteria: a memorandum to a senior partner and a letter to a client explaining the result. Based on the written work product, six teams from the J.D. Division and four teams from the LL.M. Division receive a free trip to the Section’s Midyear Meeting, where each team presents its submission before a panel of judges consisting of the country’s top tax practitioners and government officials, including tax court judges. The competition is a great way for law students to showcase their knowledge in a real-world setting and gain valuable exposure to the tax law community.
A “Tax MAC” provision—one that triggers termination or other rights upon a material adverse change in tax law—can be crucial to a business deal if a change in tax law would change a party’s interest in consummating the deal, particularly at the specified price and on the articulated terms. Tax MAC provisions may be particularly important when taxpayers make business decisions in a political climate like today’s, when tax laws could change again, perhaps dramatically, if control of Congress and the White House changes. Yet little has been written about Tax MAC provisions. In response, I studied Tax MAC provisions included in publicly filed M&A agreements from the past five years, focusing on provisions that could trigger termination of the deal if tax laws change adversely. This Article details the findings of that study.
The ABA Tax Section hosts a free virtual program on Careers in Tax Law today at 12:00 - 1:15 pm ET (9:00 - 10:15 am PT):
The program is intended for summer associates, law clerks, law students, and young lawyers who may be considering a career in tax law. Panelists will discuss their own career paths, provide advice, and give their perspective on the practice of federal tax law.
Shailana Dunn-Wall, a graduate of University of Nebraska College of Law, will work with Legal Aid of Nebraska to educate residents throughout Nebraska on the benefits of the Earned Income Tax Credit in an effort to increase the percentage of eligible taxpayers who claim the credit by filing a tax return.
Terri Morris, a graduate of University of Richmond School of Law, will work with the Community Tax Law Project of Richmond, Virginia, on their Fight Against Financial Abuse project. Through this initiative, Terri will advocate, educate and engage local domestic violence survivors on tax issues surrounding financial abuse.
As the nation focuses on the many racial inequities that permeate society, this free webinar will explore how the federal tax code, state and local taxes and international taxation impact racial inequality.
The panel will feature a demonstration of a recently released interactive feature that traces IRS Form 1040 line by line to examine the impact of the federal tax code on racial and economic inequality. The panel will further explore the impact of colorblind tax data on social policy. Panelists will also discuss the racial inequities perpetuated through taxable treatment of employment discrimination damages and how race intersects with international tax law and policy.
As Congress gives the Internal Revenue Service more tasks to perform beyond its function of assessing and collecting taxes, courts, practitioners, and academics are struggling to apply the Anti-Injunction Act (AIA) as the IRS promulgates procedures in the course of fulfilling new mandates. The AIA has its origins in the post-Civil War era when the federal government established new procedures ensuring the assessment and collection of taxes. It may seem odd an over 150-year old provision is fueling a growing number of contested and controversial disputes. Yet, the AIA has taken on renewed importance as courts consider challenges to tax regulations and guidance, fueled in part by the increasing importance of administrative law in issues of tax procedure and administration.
This article summarizes and provides context to understand the most important developments in federal income taxation for the year 2019. The items discussed primarily consist of the following: (i) significant amendments to the Internal Revenue Code; (ii) important judicial decisions; and (iii) noteworthy administrative rulings and regulations promulgated by the Service and the Treasury Department. This article primarily focuses on subjects of broad general interest — tax accounting rules, determination of gross income, allowable deductions, treatment of capital gains and losses, corporate and partnership taxation, exempt organizations, and procedure and penalties.
This article explores the income tax consequences of the sale during lifetime and at death of property for less than fair market value. The analysis focuses in particular on the tax consequences of a bargain sale by a transferor who wishes to confer some financial benefit on a family member, but leave the rest of her estate to charity. Generally speaking, death-time bargain sales may be preferable to similar transactions during lifetime, if the assets have a low basis pre-death, because of the step up in income tax basis under section 1014.
Hardin Matthews spent an exceptional career embodying the very characteristics this award seeks to acknowledge. His dedication to low-income taxpayers is noteworthy not only for the years of service, but also for the breadth of service. After retiring from Ropes & Gray, where he performed pro bono services for clients over the many years of his career, he dedicated himself to finding ways to help low-income taxpayers. He completed a year-long fellowship with the Access to Justice Program at Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS) and continued to volunteer after the fellowship dedicating over 3,700 hours of volunteer attorney time in just five years. He goes above and beyond in his service to taxpayers, linking them to other needed resources. In addition to achieving life-changing victories for low-income taxpayers, he is a steady source of legal research and mentorship for other attorneys both at GBLS and Harvard’s Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC). Hardin volunteers for the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program in Chelsea and Revere, Massachusetts. He also led a statewide advocacy project to improve the interactions of low-income taxpayers with the state revenue agency in Massachusetts.
Kelley Miller [Reed Smith, Washington, D.C.] and Larry Sannicandro [McCarter & English, Newark ] were jointly selected to receive the Janet Spragens Pro Bono Award because in designing and implementing the Exonerees’ Tax Assistance Network, they created an entirely new form of low-income taxpayer assistance that is nothing short of extraordinary. For years, wrongfully incarcerated individuals who received compensation for their time behind bars were required to pay income taxes on the settlements they received from government organizations responsible for their wrongful incarceration. Congress changed the law in 2015 to exempt exonerees from paying income taxes on civil damages, restitution or other monetary awards received as compensation for their wrongful incarceration. Despite the passage of the Wrongful Conviction Tax Relief Act of 2015, many exonerated individuals remain unaware of their right to a refund of tax paid on their compensation, much less the applicable filing deadlines. Kelley Miller and Larry Sannicandro saw an opportunity to help people who have been significantly disenfranchised and would not otherwise have the ability to claim what is rightfully theirs.
Teaching Taxation: Opportunity Zones – Two Years In The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act enacted in December 2017 included a new provision intended to direct investment into low-income communities through a combination of tax benefits for investors (deferral, partial reductions in gains, and exclusions of future appreciation). Though the enactment of such targeted tax incentives is not entirely new, the design of this provision has raised significant questions for investing taxpayers seeking to secure the tax benefits and for public policy advocates assessing whether the Opportunity Zone provisions achieve their stated goals. To explore all of these issues, this panel will discuss the design of the new incentive, who is making the investments, where, in what projects, how much is being invested, who is securing the benefits, and what will be the likely community impact. The panel also considers the current data reporting requirements and what/whether data should be made public to facilitate assessment of the program’s success in promoting economic growth in low-income areas.
Teaching Taxation: Technology-Driven Trends in Tax Law Training This panel explores the changing ways in which lawyers can, and are expected to, train themselves to excel in tax practice in an age of pervasive technology. Formal law firm training of associates is less common than before the Great Recession. Clients no longer are willing to subsidize the training of new associates. Tax associates must arrange to train themselves, outside their full-time, billable work obligations. The panel will discuss various training options (including residential and online LLM programs, online courses, webinars, podcasts, and mixed programs) by which tax lawyers can create a solid foundation for their tax practice and expand their knowledge into new tax subspecialties. These training options employ a range of pedagogical approaches, reflecting ongoing study and experimentation in online learning. The panel will highlight educational best practices, based on learning theory. In addition, the Panel will explore parameters by which lawyer-consumers of such training and employer-firms can assess the success of various training options.
Since 1861, every version of the federal income tax has included a deduction for state and local taxes (often referred to by its popular acronym “SALT”). Since this provision, the “SALT deduction,” minimizes the effect of state and local taxes on taxpayers, it offers greater benefits to those living in states that impose the highest tax burden — the high-tax “blue” states. In 2017, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act marked a major shift in this long-established federal policy toward state taxes. Among its many provisions, the Act capped the SALT deduction at $10,000 per married couple, providing no Federal tax offset for amounts paid in excess of that amount.
In this article, I attempt to address two questions raised by this turn of events. First, how will states respond to this change in federal law? Second, does the capping of the SALT deduction represent a major shift in federal-state relations, an unprecedented attack on blue states, or is it simply politics as usual?
My novel approach to the subject is to consider these questions by exploring the similarities and contrasts between the income tax SALT deduction and the estate tax state death tax credit, which was established in 1924 and repealed in 2001. Viewing the 2017 legislation within this broader historical context more reveals trends and patterns, providing greater insight than would a study of the SALT deduction in isolation.
An alternative to traditional moot court competitions, the Law Student Tax Challenge asks two-person teams of students to solve a cutting-edge and complex business problem that might arise in everyday tax practice. Teams are initially evaluated on two criteria: a memorandum to a senior partner and a letter to a client explaining the result. Based on the written work product, six teams from the J.D. Division and four teams from the LL.M. Division receive a free trip (including airfare and accommodations for two nights) to the Section of Taxation 2020 Midyear Meeting, January 30-February 1, in Boca Raton, FL, where each team will defend its submission before a panel of judges representing the country’s top tax practitioners and government officials, including Tax Court judges.
In July 2018 Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, Inc. (“Dr. Pepper”) acquired all the stock of the Maple Parent Holdings Corp. (better known as “Keurig”) in exchange for Dr. Pepper common stock. The acquisition was unusual in two respects: Dr. Pepper paid its shareholders a pre-merger “special dividend” equal to approximately 87% of the stock’s value; and Dr. Pepper then issued to Keurig’s shareholders Dr. Pepper stock equal to approximately 87% of the combined companies’ stock. It is this combination of events that gives rise to the tax issues discussed in this article.
International Tax is a relatively new legal system that lacks clear objectives and principles. These principles, which guide unilateral legislation and multilateral coordination, have not been discussed thoroughly through the lenses of jurisprudence and legal philosophy. This paper offers a unique jurisprudential analysis of normative International Tax principles by redefining them and clarifying several basic assumptions.
This article summarizes and provides context to understand the most important developments in federal income taxation for the year 2018. The items discussed primarily consist of the following: (i) significant amendments to the Internal Revenue Code; (ii) important judicial decisions; and (iii) noteworthy administrative rulings and regulations promulgated by the Service and Treasury. The article focuses primarily on subjects of broad general interest — tax accounting rules, determination of gross income, allowable deductions, treatment of capital gains and losses, corporate and partnership taxation, exempt organizations, and procedure and penalties.
Evan Phoenix, a graduate of Saint Thomas University School of Law, will be working with the Bet Tzedek Legal Services in Los Angeles, California, to provide tax education, advocacy, and representation on behalf of current military service members, veterans, and ESL (English as a second language) taxpayers.
Andre Robinson, a graduate of Loyola University New Orleans College of Law, will be working with the Low-Income Tax Clinic at Southeast Louisiana Legal Services in New Orleans, Louisiana to provide education and tax services to taxpayers returning to society after being incarcerated, as well as to micro-business and small-business owners.
Higher Education and Taxation: Are We Getting Tax Policy Right for the Mission of Education? The country is in a battle over the role, place, and funding of higher education. Who is it for? How should it be financed? What should it provide? The tax law impacts higher education in significant ways. This panel will examine those impacts and consider whether we get that policy right, and whether any changes are needed. The 2017 Tax Act imposed new taxes on colleges and universities with large endowments and big salaries. What will be the impact of these changes? Should public universities be able to elect in and out of section 501(c)(3) status? If so, should they be subject to a special set of rules? For-profit higher education providers are increasingly converting to nonprofit status in order to take advantages of benefits provided to tax exempt entities. Should there be rules limiting the entry of for-profit organizations? Tax law also impacts student borrowing. Do we get the incentives right or could we do better in structuring those incentives to benefit those in need?
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Anastassia Kolosova, a graduate of the University of Michigan Law School, will be working with the Accounting Aid Society, in Detroit, Michigan, to conduct outreach and education activities for specific vulnerable populations in Detroit and expand the organization’s ability to provide legal representation to low-income taxpayers.
Omeed Firouzi, a graduate of Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law, will be working with Philadelphia Legal Assistance to provide education and legal assistance to workers misclassified as independent contractors and conduct advocacy and awareness efforts to decrease the practice among employers in Philadelphia.
Teaching Taxation: Tax Advice in the Age of the 24-Hour News Cycle Recent instances of exposure by the press of aggressive tax planning and tax avoidance by prominent businesses, individuals or families raise unique substantive, ethical, and other legal issues for the tax community. Practitioners advising famous clients may need to assess not only the likelihood of future examinations, but also public disclosure due to whistleblowers, cooperators, and data leaks. Reporters investigating past tax compliance may recruit tax professionals for technical assistance and expertise to uncover suspect transactions, unreported income, or improper deductions or credits. The release of such information, and related commentary from various media outlets, may pressure Federal and state tax authorities, law enforcement officials, or regulators to open audits or investigations that could result in substantial tax adjustments and/or various civil and criminal penalties. This panel will explore these issues from a variety of perspectives.
Teaching Taxation: Current Developments in Individual, Corporate, Partnership, and Estate & Gift Taxation This session will review the most significant statutory enactments, judicial decisions, IRS rulings, and Treasury regulations promulgated during the last twelve months that affect general income taxation, corporate taxation, partnership taxation, wealth transfer taxation, and tax procedure.
First Prize ($5,000): Colin T. Halpin (Washburn), A Step in the Right Direction: The Effects of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act on the Alternative Minimum Tax and the Need for Further Reform Faculty Sponsor: Lori McMillan
Second Prize ($2,000): Betting on an Uncertain Future: The Tax Consequences of Large Third-Party Litigation Financing Faculty Sponsor: Gregg Polsky
Kristin Hickman (Minnesota), Is Agency Guidance Reviewable (And If So, When)?:
This panel will look at what the federal courts have said about the reviewability of agency guidance, including the rescission of guidance, both in facial challenges and in the enforcement context. All conference attendees should be interested in this program given the important role of agency guidance and the inconsistent case law on the central question presented. Key issues that will be address will include: (i) the treatment of "guidance" within the Administrative Procedure Act (e.g., statements of policy and interpretative rules); (ii) how the courts have grappled with statements of policy and interpretative rules, including application of the APA's "final agency action" requirement; (iii) when "guidance" may be regarded as de facto "legislative rulemaking" for purposes of judicial review; and (iv) whether the form of publication (e.g., "demand letter" or enforcement v. generally applicable "policy bulletin" or "letter of interpretation") and means of publication (e.g., Federal Register, web posting, blast email) affects the question of reviewability, including the subsidiary question of administrative exhaustion. The practical skill attendees will take back to their respective practices after attending this session will be, among other things, a better understanding of the importance to judicial review of how guidance is drafted, i.e., how language is used to communicate the agency's message and the potential legal consequences of that language.
Shu-Yi Oei (Boston College) & Leigh Osofsky (North Carolina), The Role of Agencies in Legislative Drafting and Legislative Cleanup:
Individual & Family Taxation — SALT Deduction Limit Workarounds Panel. This panel will discuss the various strategies that States are implementing to provide a workaround to the 2017 Tax Act’s state and local tax deduction limit. In general, these programs use contributions to various state-sponsored funds or programs that offer a credit against state tax liability. The panel will evaluate and discuss the legal merits of such workarounds.
The rules that govern the tax basis and, by extension, the holding period of property received by an acquired corporation in an acquisitive reorganization are an unlovely patchwork that emerged from major changes to the tax law in 1986 and 1988. They not only fail to provide clarity but also do not reflect the fact that the acquired corporation, to the extent it engages in post-reorganization activity pursuant to the overall plan of reorganization, is in substance the agent of the acquiring corporation. Congress should amend the reorganization provisions to reflect this circumstance.