Thursday, April 8, 2021
New York Magazine, Dorothy Brown: ‘The System for Wealth Building Is Designed to Build White Wealth’:
How often do you think about your taxes? Once a year, maybe, when it’s time to file, or when you got married, or when you bought a home? If you’re white, taxes are often an inconvenience at worst. The tax code may even benefit you when you get married and start filing a joint return. If you’re Black, says Emory University law professor Dorothy Brown, your story is likely different: The joint return is less likely to reward a marriage with a tax cut when two spouses of equal income work outside the home, something that’s more likely to be true of Black couples. That’s not an accident, she argues in her new book, The Whiteness of Wealth. Well-off, mostly white Americans litigated and lobbied their way into making sure the tax code protects their wealth. Black Americans, who typically lack family wealth, were left out and deliberately held back. They can’t catch up, and that’s the point. The system is working as designed for whom it was designed: white Americans.
In The Whiteness of Wealth, Brown brings the American tax code to life. Hands shape it and wield it like a shield in the defense of the most powerful among us. The tax code tells a story about American priorities. The news isn’t good, Brown writes, but there’s still time to change the future.
April 8, 2021 in Book Club, Legal Education, Scholarship, Tax, Tax News, Tax Scholarship | Permalink
Thursday, April 1, 2021
Joel Slemrod and Michael Keen with Interim Dean Mills on Rebellion, Rascals, and Revenue: Tax Follies and Wisdom through the Ages Thursday April 1, 2021 at 4 PM CST (Zoom link):
Michael Keen (IMF) & Joel Slemrod (Michigan; Google Scholar), Rebellion, Rascals, and Revenue: Tax Follies and Wisdom through the Ages (Princeton University Press 2021):
An engaging and enlightening account of taxation told through lively, dramatic, and sometimes ludicrous stories drawn from around the world and across the ages.
Governments have always struggled to tax in ways that are effective and tolerably fair. Sometimes they fail grotesquely, as when, in 1898, the British ignited a rebellion in Sierra Leone by imposing a tax on huts—and, in repressing it, ended up burning the very huts they intended to tax. Sometimes they succeed astonishingly, as when, in eighteenth-century Britain, a cut in the tax on tea massively increased revenue. In this entertaining book, two leading authorities on taxation, Michael Keen and Joel Slemrod, provide a fascinating and informative tour through these and many other episodes in tax history, both preposterous and dramatic—from the plundering described by Herodotus and an Incan tax payable in lice to the (misremembered) Boston Tea Party and the scandals of the Panama Papers. Along the way, readers meet a colorful cast of tax rascals, and even a few tax heroes.
While it is hard to fathom the inspiration behind such taxes as one on ships that tended to make them sink, Keen and Slemrod show that yesterday’s tax systems have more in common with ours than we may think. Georgian England’s window tax now seems quaint, but was an ingenious way of judging wealth unobtrusively. And Tsar Peter the Great’s tax on beards aimed to induce the nobility to shave, much like today’s carbon taxes aim to slow global warming.
Rebellion, Rascals, and Revenue is a surprising and one-of-a-kind account of how history illuminates the perennial challenges and timeless principles of taxation—and how the past holds clues to solving the tax problems of today.
April 1, 2021 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink
Tuesday, March 23, 2021
The Atlantic: How the U.S. Tax Code Privileges White Families, by Dorothy Brown (Emory; Author, The Whiteness of Wealth: How the Tax System Impoverishes Black Americans — And How We Can Fix It (2021)):
Tax policies have preserved the racial inequality that has long defined America.
Soon after I got my master’s degree in tax law from NYU in 1984, I started preparing my parents’ tax returns. They filed jointly, and what always stuck out to me was how comparable their incomes were. My mother worked as a nurse at an assisted-living facility, and my father was a plumber with the New York City Housing Authority. Some years, my father’s overtime would put him on top by a few hundred dollars; other years, my mother outearned him.
What I saw every year was what researchers call the “marriage penalty”: My parents, like many other married Black couples trying to pay for a mortgage, save for their children’s future, and afford health care, were paying higher taxes under the joint return than they would have had they remained single and filed separately. What I sensed then—and what 25 years of academic research have revealed to me in greater detail since—was that changes to the U.S. tax code typically benefit white taxpayers, while putting Black taxpayers at a further disadvantage, even when Black and white Americans have made the same life choices. Subsidies for homeownership benefit white homeowners more than Black homeowners. Tax breaks for workers benefit white workers more than Black workers. And tax reform has always been a fight over which white Americans get tax cuts, with Black Americans paying the price, as I document in my book, The Whiteness of Wealth: How the Tax System Impoverishes Black Americans — And How We Can Fix It (2021).
March 23, 2021 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink
Monday, March 22, 2021
New York Times op-ed: Your Home’s Value Is Based on Racism, by Dorothy Brown (Emory; Author, The Whiteness of Wealth: How the Tax System Impoverishes Black Americans — And How We Can Fix It (2021)):
Wherever they choose to buy, Black people are penalized by white preferences. ...
Black Americans are often unable to build wealth from homeownership in the same way their white peers are, in large part because home prices are generally set by the people who make up the majority of buyers: white Americans. White families typically prefer to live in predominantly white neighborhoods with very few or no Black neighbors. Homes in these neighborhoods tend to have the highest market values because most prospective purchasers — who happen to be white — find them most desirable.
Black Americans, on the other hand, tend to prefer to live in racially diverse or all-Black neighborhoods. Research has shown that once more than 10 percent of your neighbors are Black, the value of your home declines. As the percentage of Black neighbors increases, the property’s value plummets even further. ...
Enter tax policy to add insult to injury. The typical white family has eight times the wealth of the typical Black family, a racial wealth gap that’s fueled by tax subsidies for homeownership. ...
March 22, 2021 in Book Club, Legal Education, Tax | Permalink
Thursday, March 11, 2021
University of Virginia School of Law News, ‘Common Law’ Explores How To Reduce Economic Insecurity:
Focusing on employment policies can help reduce the threat of economic insecurity in the United States, Columbia Law School professor Michael Graetz ’69 says on the latest episode of “Common Law,” a podcast sponsored by the University of Virginia School of Law.
Americans today can expect to change jobs 12 or 15 jobs in their lifetime, says Graetz, a UVA Law alumnus and former professor. That may be a welcome challenge for the college educated, he says.
“But when you take a middle-aged man or woman who has only a high school education, who's been working for a number of years, becoming unemployed is really devastating, not only to their way of life economically, but also psychologically,” he says on the show. “We just don’t have a good safety net in the United States.”
Graetz recently co-authored The Wolf at the Door: The Menace of Economic Insecurity and How to Fight It with political scientist Ian Shapiro, the latest in a string of books he has written on the economy and on tax law.
March 11, 2021 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink
Wednesday, March 10, 2021
BloombergBusinessweek, Is The Tax Code Racist? Dorothy Brown on the Secrets of White Wealth:
A Tax Code Optimized for White Wealth Leaves Black Americans Behind:
Dorothy Brown has spent her career as a law professor documenting racism in a tax system that’s supposedly colorblind.
Growing up in the Bronx during the 1960s and ’70s, Dorothy Brown couldn’t escape racism. It was all around. Her father, James, a plumber, being barred from joining the local union. Her mother, Dottie, having to battle prejudiced teachers, including one who marked down Dorothy’s sister’s grades so the precocious child wouldn’t upstage her White classmates. Or the White cop beating a handcuffed Black man in the backseat of a cruiser, something she once observed while waiting to cross a street.
As a teenager, Brown thought she’d found a way out—a loophole in American racism. Taking an accounting class, the self-described math geek discovered the U.S. tax code, a universe governed by intricate rules where race wouldn’t matter. In tax law, she thought, “the only color that mattered was green.” The assumption carried her through an early career as a tax attorney, an investment banker, and then a political appointee in President George H.W. Bush’s administration.
After that, though, Brown spent a quarter century trying to prove the opposite: that although tax laws may appear to be colorblind, they still discriminate against Black Americans. Now the Asa Griggs Candler professor of law at Emory University, Brown is preparing to publish a book that’s the culmination of years of research, titled The Whiteness of Wealth: How the Tax System Impoverishes Black Americans—and How We Can Fix It.
It arrives at an opportune time. After decades during which the 61-year-old Brown says mainstream tax and policy experts “either dismissed, attacked, or ignored” her, her ideas appear to be finding an audience. “People are starting to pay more attention to her work and what she’s been telling us for a while,” says Chye-Ching Huang, executive director of New York University’s Tax Law Center.
March 10, 2021 in Book Club, Legal Education, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink
Saturday, February 13, 2021
Todd Henderson (Chicago), State of Shock (2021):
When Jante Turner is murdered just days before she takes the mantle as new dean of Rockefeller University Law School in Chicago, Royce Johnson is approached to help solve the murder. But Johnson doesn’t even have an investigator’s license, much less his old job with the FBI. In fact, he’s just been released from prison after serving a year-long sentence for his rogue investigation that led to the impeachment of a Supreme Court justice. Hero to some, a criminal to others, Johnson is hired by the new dean of Rockefeller Law to help clear his name from rumors swirling around the former dean’s unsolved murder.
Soon, Johnson finds himself at the intersection of higher education, Chicago politics, big money, and murder. As he chases down leads across campus and the South Side, the disappearance of an environmental lawyer at the University takes the investigation in a surprising direction. Johnson traces a river of corruption running from deep-pocket donors of the University to North Side developers and a South Side alderman who is heir to the throne in City Hall. In his desperation, he turns to the one lawyer who can help him—the former Rockefeller student whom Johnson mistakenly framed for murder on his last case. Marcus Jones now practices law, and although the relationship is strained for good reason, they team up to catch Jante’s killer.
Wounded and on the run—but able to connect dots that track from a toxic dump to environmental law to the pinnacle of the University—Johnson circles back to his client, the acting dean of Rockefeller Law, and explodes the man’s world by revealing the murderer.
February 13, 2021 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink
Tuesday, February 9, 2021
Edward D. Kleinbard (USC) (1951-2020), What's Luck Got to Do with It? How Smarter Government Can Rescue the American Dream (Oxford University Press 2021):
The American dream of equal opportunity is in peril. America's economic inequality is shocking, poverty threatens to become a heritable condition, and our healthcare system is crumbling despite ever increasing costs.
In this thought-provoking book, Edward D. Kleinbard demonstrates how the failure to acknowledge the force of brute luck in our material lives exacerbates these crises — leading to warped policy choices that impede genuine equality of opportunity for many Americans. What's Luck Got to Do with It? combines insights from economics, philosophy, and social psychology to argue for government's proper role in addressing the inequity of brute luck. Kleinbard shows how well-designed public investment can blunt the worst effects of existential bad luck that private insurance cannot reach and mitigate inequality by sharing the costs across the entire risk pool, which is to say, all of us. The benefits, as Kleinbard shares in a wealth of data, are economic as well as social — a more inclusive economy, higher national income, and greater life satisfaction for millions of Americans.
Like it or not, our lives and opportunities are determined largely by luck. Kleinbard shows that while we can't undo every instance of misfortune, we can offer a path to not just a fairer America, but greater economic growth, more broadly shared.
February 9, 2021 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink
Tuesday, January 12, 2021
Wired, This Economist Has a Radical Plan to Solve Wealth Inequality:
Piketty’s 753-page book Capital in the Twenty-First Century, published in 2013, sold 2.5 million copies worldwide and helped put inequality on the global agenda. But his latest, the even thicker Capital and Ideology, may prove still more influential. The book is nothing less than a global history of inequality and the stories that societies tell to justify it, from pre-modern India to Donald Trump’s US. It arrives just as anger about inequality (some of it generated by Piketty’s work) approaches boiling point, and was channelled by a contender for the White House, Bernie Sanders.
Capital and Ideology builds on Piketty’s long-standing argument that inequality has soared across the world since 1980. It proposes strong remedies. Piketty wants to slap wealth taxes of 90 per cent on any assets over $1 billion, and waxes nostalgic about the postwar decades when British and American top marginal income-tax rates were over 80 per cent. ...
In an era when technology platforms are arguably concentrating wealth in the hands of a diminishing number of people in the Valley, Piketty’s advocacy of much higher taxes has attracted the attention of both progressives and radicals around the world. ...
January 12, 2021 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink
Wednesday, December 2, 2020
Sarah Caudwell, Thus Was Adonis Murdered:
When her personal copy of the current Finance Act is found a few metres away from a body, young barrister Julia Larwood finds herself caught up in a complex fight against the Inland Revenue.
Set to have a vacation away from her home life and the tax man, Julia takes a trip with her art-loving boyfriend. However, all is not what it seems. Could he in fact be an employee of the establishment she has been trying to escape from? And how did her romantic luxurious holiday end in murder?
It would be a conventional murder mystery, in the classic mid-century English style (although published in 1981), except that (1) it's hilarious — both the narrative voice and the dialogue seem to have stepped out of the pages of Oscar Wilde, and (2) it features a group of English barristers, prominently including a tax lawyer who is getting audited because she didn't file for some years and now feels that Inland Revenue is unfairly harassing her, and who is always giving advice such as: find excuses to deduct your holiday trips as business, or marry a poor person if you're rich to take maximum advantage of income-splitting rules. She also gets arrested for murder because the police find her inscribed copy of the Finance Act at the scene of the crime (while she is on vacation). — Dan Shaviro (NYU)
December 2, 2020 in Book Club, Tax | Permalink
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Sunday, November 29, 2020
Mary Theresa Vasquez & Anthony Head, From the Texas Cotton Fields to the United States Tax Court: The Life Journey of Juan F. Vasquez (2020):
The story of the life of the first Hispanic American appointed to serve on the United States Tax Court. An educational and inspirational story of a professional career, the book is accessible to lawyers and laypersons of all ages.
From picking cotton to deciding cases as a Judge on the U.S. Tax Court, the story of Judge Juan Vasquez is told with both pride and humility. The Judge's tenacity and the importance of family, community, and opportunity come through loud and clear, providing both testimony and inspiration. -- Alice G. Abreu, Temple University
Judge Vasquez's journey to one of the most esteemed positions in the practice of tax is an inspiring example of defining your own path through hard work, perseverance, and persistence in the face of adversity. -- Lany L. Villalobos, Dechert LLP
November 29, 2020 in Book Club, Tax | Permalink
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Wednesday, November 11, 2020
Clint Wallace (South Carolina), Tax Policy and Our Democracy, 118 Mich. L. Rev. 1233 (2020) (reviewing Camille Walsh (Washington), Racial Taxation: Schools, Segregation, and Taxpayer Citizenship, 1869–1973 (University of North Carolina Press 2018), and Anthony C. Infanti (Pittsburgh), Our Selfish Tax Laws: Toward Tax Reform That Mirrors Our Better Selves (MIT Press 2018)):
Two new books explore the many ways in which U.S. tax policies and tax systems have promoted social injustices and continue to do so. In Racial Taxation, Camille Walsh provides a vivid depiction of the under-scrutinized fiscal history of elementary through secondary education in the United States, from the post-Reconstruction era until San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez. In Our Selfish Tax Laws, Anthony Infanti details how existing U.S. Federal tax policies manifest problematic power structures that exclude and disadvantage many if not most taxpayers. Together, these books dissect a variety of flawed tax structures and reveal that tax discrimination grounded in race, gender, heteronormativity, differences in physical ability, and, pervasively, power dynamics, are not a malignant tumor on an otherwise healthy body, but rather are a systemic, pathological affliction on the entire U.S. fiscal state. This essay reviews Walsh’s and Infanti’s work, and builds on the authors’ rich historical and analytical contributions to ask: how can tax policy be reformed so that, rather than betraying and undermining the foundations of American democracy, it works to strengthen democratic institutions and their connection with members of a democratic society?
November 11, 2020 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink
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Thursday, November 5, 2020
Amir Pichhadze (Oxford), Book Review (reviewing Richard S. Collier (Oxford) & Joseph L. Andrus (OECD), Transfer Pricing and the Arm’s Length Principle After BEPS (Oxford University Press)):
Well before the OECD’s BEPS Project began, there has been an ongoing debate over whether the Arm’s Length Principle (ALP) provides an adequate basis for determining the allocation of income between associated enterprises in cross-border controlled transactions, and whether the principle should be replaced by an alternative approach such as global formulary apportionment (FA). This debate, over the workability of the ALP, continues even after the OECD’s latest revisions of its Transfer Pricing Guidelines. The debate is exemplified by the commentary made by Richard S. Collier and Joseph L. Andrus in their book Transfer Pricing and the Arm’s Length Principle After BEPS, as well as by some of the responses to their book.
In this book review, I suggest that the debate needs to be realigned by revisiting the proposals of Professors Jinyan Li and Reuven S. Avi-Yonah, who called for a reconciliation of FA within the ALP-based system, if and as required; rather than continuing to advocate for the unlikely options of having states agree on either an exclusively ALP-based system or some other alternative system.
November 5, 2020 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink
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Wednesday, November 4, 2020
Peter Felten (Assistant Provost, Elon) & Leo M. Lambert (Former President, Elon), Relationship-Rich Education: How Human Connections Drive Success in College (John Hopkins University Press 2020):
What single factor makes for an excellent college education? As it turns out, it's pretty simple: human relationships. Decades of research demonstrate the transformative potential and the lasting legacies of a relationship-rich college experience. Critics suggest that to build connections with peers, faculty, staff, and other mentors is expensive and only an option at elite institutions where instructors have the luxury of time with students. But in this revelatory book brimming with the voices of students, faculty, and staff from across the country, Peter Felten and Leo M. Lambert argue that relationship-rich environments can and should exist for all students at all types of institutions.
In Relationship-Rich Education, Felten and Lambert demonstrate that, for relationships to be central in undergraduate education, colleges and universities do not require immense resources, privileged students, or specially qualified faculty and staff. All students learn best in an environment characterized by high expectation and high support, and all faculty and staff can learn to teach and work in ways that enable relationship-based education. Emphasizing the centrality of the classroom experience to fostering quality relationships, Felten and Lambert focus on students' influence in shaping the learning environment for their peers, as well as the key difference a single, well-timed conversation can make in a student's life. They also stress that relationship-rich education is particularly important for first-generation college students, who bring significant capacities to college but often face long-standing inequities and barriers to attaining their educational aspirations.
November 4, 2020 in Book Club, Legal Ed Scholarship, Legal Education, Scholarship | Permalink
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Tuesday, November 3, 2020
Geoffrey Poitras (Simon Fraser University, Canada), Rethinking Wealth and Taxes: Inequality, Globalization and Capital Income (2020):
Taxes on the wealthy are a topic sure to incite venomous rants from both right-wing and left-wing ideologues. The topic attracts conflicting interpretations and policy recommendations, and generates proposals for tax reform that consume political debate. All this activity takes place against an opaque backdrop of empirical evidence dealing with the distribution of wealth and income, and tax avoidance and tax evasion by corporations and wealthy individuals. Rethinking Wealth and Taxes explores these problems and considers the possibilities for increasing taxes on wealth to address the increasingly unequal distribution of wealth and income.
There is little doubt that taxing wealth is a controversial issue. There is also little doubt that there are many aspects of wealth taxation that are not well understood. By providing a broad perspective on the history of wealth taxation, together with an insightful analysis of recent research of wealth taxation, this book is an essential source for understanding the current debate on taxing wealth.
– James Alm, National Tax Association and Tulane University
November 3, 2020 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink
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Tuesday, October 27, 2020
We held a wonderful virtual event yesterday with our alum Monty Moran ('93) on his just-released book, Love is Free. Guac is Extra.: How Vulnerability, Empowerment, and Curiosity Built an Unstoppable Team (2020):
Imagine you’re one of 75,000 people working in a huge company, and the CEO wants to talk to you, one-on-one, to get to know and understand you. That’s what Monty Moran did 20,000 times as he built the extraordinary culture that took Chipotle Mexican Grill from a regional burrito chain to a Fortune 500 superstar.
In Love Is Free, Guac Is Extra, Monty shows how he used curiosity, vulnerability, love, and a unique understanding of the true meaning of empowerment to build a distinctive and wildly effective culture. From his teenage days befriending homeless people at a Colorado Dairy Queen to his nuanced navigation of a complex co-CEO relationship, Monty demonstrates a relentless humility and desire to understand the person across from him.
This is not your average leadership book. This is a book about business leadership executed in a way you’ve never encountered before, by becoming the best version of yourself.
Drew Kellogg (CEO, Oath Pizza), Monty Taught Chipotle How To Cultivate Confidence:
Monty is a rare individual with extraordinary presence. A personality that fills the room. When you meet him and shake his hand, he looks you in the eye and within a couple of minutes you are at ease and sharing your life story. The "why are you here's?" and the "what do you want to do's?", big questions. Monty presents them with an approachability as if they are part of every day conversations. In short, Monty's gift is his ability to connect, make you feel part of something special and inspire you. Monty taught Chipotle how to cultivate confidence. On a foundation of Steve's culinary brilliance, Monty's approach fueled Chipotle's meteoric growth and sustained success.
October 27, 2020 in Book Club, Legal Ed News, Legal Education | Permalink
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Friday, October 23, 2020
The Dynamics of Taxation: Essays in Honour of Judith Freedman (Oct. 15, 2020):
This book brings together a landmark collection of essays on tax law and policy to celebrate the legacy of Professor Judith Freedman. It focuses on the four areas of taxation scholarship to which she made her most notable contributions: taxation of SMEs and individuals, tax avoidance, tax administration, and taxpayers' rights and procedures.
Professor Freedman has been a major driving force behind the development of tax law and policy scholarship, not only in the UK, but worldwide. The strength and diversity of the contributors to this book highlight the breadth of Professor Freedman's impact within tax scholarship. The list encompasses some of the most renowned taxation experts worldwide; they include lawyers, economists, academics and practitioners, from Britain, Canada, Portugal, Australia, Germany, Italy, Malta, Ireland, and Ukraine.
October 23, 2020 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink
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Tuesday, October 20, 2020
Hamilton and the Law: Reading Today's Most Contentious Legal Issues through the Hit Musical (Lisa Tucker (Drexel) ed., Cornell University Press 2020):
Lawyers and legal scholars, recognizing the way the musical speaks to some of our most complicated constitutional issues, have embraced Alexander Hamilton as the trendiest historical face in American civics. Hamilton and the Law offers a revealing look into the legal community's response to the musical, which continues to resonate in a country still deeply divided about the reach of the law.
A star-powered cast of legal minds―from two former U.S. solicitors general to leading commentators on culture and society―contribute brief and engaging magazine-style articles to this lively book. Intellectual property scholars share their thoughts on Hamilton's inventive use of other sources, while family law scholars explore domestic violence. Critical race experts consider how Hamilton furthers our understanding of law and race, while authorities on the Second Amendment discuss the language of the Constitution's most contested passage. Legal scholars moonlighting as musicians discuss how the musical lifts history and law out of dusty archives and onto the public stage. This collection of minds, inspired by the phenomenon of the musical and the Constitutional Convention of 1787, urges us to heed Lin-Manuel Miranda and the Founding Fathers and to create something new, daring, and different.
October 20, 2020 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink
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Monday, October 19, 2020
Melanie D. Wilson (Former Dean, Tennessee), A Reckoning Over Law Faculty Inequality, 90 Denver U. L. Rev. Online (2020):
In this review, I examine Dr. Meera E. Deo’s book, Unequal Profession: Race and Gender in Legal Academia, published last year by Stanford University Press. In Unequal Profession, Deo, an expert on institutional diversity, presents findings from a first-of-its-kind empirical study, documenting many of the challenges women of color law faculty confront daily in legal academia. Deo uses memorable quotes and powerful stories from the study’s faculty participants to present her important work in 169 readable and revealing pages. Unequal Profession begins by outlining the barriers women of color face when entering law teaching and progresses through the life cycle of the law professor (including the treacherous tenure process). It covers leadership, before concluding with work-life balance.
Unequal Profession is especially timely and important. In the wake of George Floyd’s death and the national outrage it ignited, law schools denounced racism and vowed to take concrete, anti-racist steps to improve society, the legal profession, and law schools themselves. Many law faculties committed to hiring and retaining more underrepresented faculty colleagues and, correspondingly, to attracting a more diverse student body.
October 19, 2020 in Book Club, Legal Ed Scholarship, Legal Education | Permalink
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Wednesday, October 14, 2020
New York Times, Four Books that Explain the U.S. Tax System:
David Foster Wallace, The Pale King (2012), reviewed by Darien Shanske (UC-Davis) and Larry Zelenak (Duke):
In this posthumous novel, set at an I.R.S. office in Illinois, the agency is a microcosm of human nature: “greed, politics, power, goodness, charity.
The agents at the IRS Regional Examination Center in Peoria, Illinois, appear ordinary enough to newly arrived trainee David Foster Wallace. But as he immerses himself in a routine so tedious and repetitive that new employees receive boredom-survival training, he learns of the extraordinary variety of personalities drawn to this strange calling. And he has arrived at a moment when forces within the IRS are plotting to eliminate even what little humanity and dignity the work still has.
The Pale King remained unfinished at the time of David Foster Wallace's death, but it is a deeply compelling and satisfying novel, hilarious and fearless and as original as anything Wallace ever undertook. It grapples directly with ultimate questions -- questions of life's meaning and of the value of work and society -- through characters imagined with the interior force and generosity that were Wallace's unique gifts. Along the way it suggests a new idea of heroism and commands infinite respect for one of the most daring writers of our time.
David Cay Johnston, Perfectly Legal: The Covert Campaign to Rig Our Tax System to Benefit the Super Rich--and Cheat Everybody Else (2003), reviewed by Joel Newman (Wake Forest):
October 14, 2020 in Book Club, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink
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Thursday, October 8, 2020
New York Times op-ed: The American Dream Is Tax Reform’s Biggest Obstacle, by Christopher Faricy (Syracuse University; Co-author, The Other Side of the Coin: Public Opinion Toward Social Tax Expenditures (forthcoming 2020)):
Much of the commentary on the fresh revelations about President Trump’s tax returns has focused on how they illustrate the vulnerability of the federal tax system to exploitation by the ultrarich. This is for good reason: Mr. Trump aggressively used a set of tax breaks popular with real estate developers to pay no taxes in 11 out of the previous 18 years, and just $750 for both 2016 and 2017.
But the most expensive subsidies in the federal tax code are not used by real estate developers, energy chief executives or bankers. They are used by upper-middle-class households under the guise of earned economic security. The main obstacle to reforming the tax code is not Mr. Trump, but rather the upper-middle-class American voter.
There are close to 300 subsidies in the tax code that, in total, cost the federal government over a trillion dollars each year. According to the Congressional Budget Office, in 2019 more money was lost to the federal government through the nation’s regressive tax breaks than was spent combined on Medicare and Medicaid.
And six out of 10 of the most expensive federal tax subsidies — including the exclusion for employment-based health insurance, benefits for company pensions and the charitable contribution deduction — are commonly used by wealthier suburban families. In sum, they drain close to $680 billion annually from the U.S. Treasury.
These subsidies are sold as providing necessary assistance — affordable housing, health care and higher education — to middle-class families. But they also apply a veneer of political legitimacy to a system that shovels billions of taxpayer dollars every year to the wealthiest families and corporations in America. ...
October 8, 2020 in Book Club, Tax, Tax News, Tax Scholarship | Permalink
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Saturday, October 3, 2020
Chronicle of Higher Education, The Insufferable Hubris of the Well-Credentialed:
The Harvard political philosopher Michael Sandel’s 10th book, The Tyranny of Merit, out this month from FSG, covers a lot of ground for a short text — especially in its sweeping second chapter, “A Brief Moral History of Merit,” which, following Max Weber, describes the surprising emergence of the “fiercely meritocratic work ethic” out of the Protestant Reformation’s “war against merit.” From these origins, Sandel says, would eventually appear such diverse phenomena as mega-churches preaching the “prosperity gospel,” the weakening of the welfare state, and the increasing importance of the university system as a source of not just earning power but personal prestige. President Trump, for instance, likes to say that he went to Wharton, which he insists is “the hardest school to get into, the best school in the world … super genius stuff.”
The Tyranny of Merit hopes to explain the cultural background behind this bit of Trumpian braggadocio, and more broadly to argue that a just political future must recognize that even a perfect meritocracy would be fundamentally unfair. I talked with Sandel about resentment and hubris, the trauma of the elite-university admissions process, the problem with economists, and pull-ups.
Critiques of meritocracy are on everyone’s lips right now. Why?
October 3, 2020 in Book Club, Legal Ed Scholarship, Legal Education | Permalink
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Monday, August 24, 2020
Carmen G. Gonzalez (Loyola-Chicago), Presumed Incompetent II: Race, Class, Power, and Resistance of Women in Academia (Utah State University Press 2020):
The courageous and inspiring personal narratives and empirical studies in Presumed Incompetent II: Race, Class, Power, and Resistance of Women in Academia name formidable obstacles and systemic biases that all women faculty—from diverse intersectional and transnational identities and from tenure track, terminal contract, and administrative positions—encounter in their higher education careers. They provide practical, specific, and insightful guidance to fight back, prevail, and thrive in challenging work environments. This new volume comes at a crucial historical moment as the United States grapples with a resurgence of white supremacy and misogyny at the forefront of our social and political dialogues that continue to permeate the academic world.
August 24, 2020 in Book Club, Legal Ed Scholarship, Legal Education | Permalink
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Sunday, August 16, 2020
Financial Times, Test of Faith: Will Morris, PwC Tax Expert and Part-time Priest:
On the third Sunday of Lent last year, Will Morris, deputy global tax policy leader at accounting giant PwC, admitted he felt conflicted when he became a part-time priest.
“I had asked myself whether I was — as a very well-paid tax lawyer for a large US corporation — subconsciously trying to cleanse a job that some viewed as ethically dodgy, by throwing a priestly cloak over it all,” he told a congregation at London’s St Martin-in-the-Fields church, describing his ordination a decade earlier.
Mr Morris operates at the highest levels of corporate tax and policy. As chairman of the OECD tax advisory committee, he is a powerful lobbying force. As one ally put it, he “can corral an impressive list of tax directors and policymakers into a room”.
The distinction between his professional and priestly life was thrown into particularly sharp relief this month. Mr Morris was one of five former General Electric executives who negotiated a $1bn tax break in the UK in 2005 that HM Revenue & Customs now claims was fraudulently obtained.
St Martin-in-the-Fields Church, Revd William Morris:
Will Morris is an assistant priest at St Martin’s, having been here since his ordination in 2009. He is a Self Supporting Minister who also works at PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers) as Deputy Global Tax Policy Leader. At St Martin’s he focuses on faith and workplace issues and wrote Where is God at Work in 2015, and Love thy Colleague: Being Authentically Christian at Work in 2017.
August 16, 2020 in Book Club, Legal Ed News, Legal Education, Tax, Tax News | Permalink
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Wednesday, August 12, 2020
Reuven S. Avi-Yonah (Michigan), Do Lawyers Need Economists?:
Katja Langenbucher’s outstanding book [Economic Transplants: On Lawmaking for Corporations and Capital Markets (Cambridge University Press 2017)] seeks to address the question of why and in what ways have lawyers been importing economic theories into a legal environment, and how has this shaped scholarly research, judicial and legislative work? Since the financial crisis, corporate or capital markets law has been the focus of attention by academia and media. Formal modelling has been used to describe how capital markets work and, later, has been criticized for its abstract assumptions. Empirical legal studies and regulatory impact assessments offered different ways forward. This excellent book presents a new approach to the risks and benefits of interdisciplinary policy work. The benefits economic theory brings for reliable and tested lawmaking are contrasted with important challenges including the significant differences of research methodology, leading to misunderstandings and problems of efficient implementation of economic theory's findings into the legal world. Katja Langenbucher's innovative research scrutinizes the potential of economic theory to European legislators faced with a lack of democratic accountability.
I would like to address the question whether economic theory and modeling are useful for lawyers by focusing on another field, tax law, where economists have been very influential.
August 12, 2020 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax Scholarship | Permalink
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Thursday, August 6, 2020
Tax Law and the Environment: A Multidisciplinary and Worldwide Perspective (Roberta F. Mann (Oregon) & Tracey M. Roberts (Samford) eds. 2020):
Tax Law and the Environment: A Multidisciplinary and Worldwide Perspective takes a multidisciplinary approach to explore the ways how tax policy can is used solve environmental problems throughout the world, using a multi-jurisdictional and multidisciplinary approach. Environmental taxation involves using taxes to impose a cost on environmentally harmful activities or tax subsidies to provide preferred tax treatment to more sustainable alternatives to those harmful activities. This book provides a detailed analysis of environmental taxation, with examples from around the world. As the extraction, processing and use of energy use resources is has been a major cause of environmental harm, this book explores the taxation and subsidization of both fossil fuels and renewable energy. Its analysis of the past, present, and future potential of environmental taxation will help policymakers move economies toward sustainability, as well as and informing students, academics, and citizens about tax solutions for pressing environmental issues.
August 6, 2020 in Book Club, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink
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Wednesday, July 29, 2020
Bret Bogenschneider (Indiana University East), How America was Tricked on Tax Policy (Anthem Press 2020):
How America was Tricked on Tax Policy explains how regular citizens were “tricked” by the outdated view of economists that much heavier taxation of labor rather than capital is economically justifiable. The truth is that workers pay their taxes while the rich pay very little. Based on reputable sources of information, including the publications of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), official statistics data, and the publications in high-ranked journals, the book paves the way for a new policy making process aimed to achieve more sustainable taxation and to increase the wellbeing of citizens as the main goal of any modern state policy.
Dealing with critically important and underexplored topics in tax policy, the book challenges an enshrined dogma that is rarely challenged at the level of policy. In doing so, this book envisions policy changes that could be highly impactful in a new political administration. This book proposes that governments should look for not just corporate income tax rate reduction when announcing their tax reforms but should equally focus on the reduction of the overall tax burden on labor. The negative impact and high social cost of wage taxation is exemplified by the key areas of tax policy that are relevant for every wealthy state, such as taking due care of public health, investing in education and wellbeing of children, and supporting small business for the overall benefit to society.
July 29, 2020 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink
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Wednesday, July 22, 2020
Dorothy A. Brown (Emory), The Whiteness of Wealth: How the Tax System Impoverishes Black Americans — And How We Can Fix It (2021):
A groundbreaking exposé of racism in the American taxation system from a law professor and expert on tax policy
Dorothy Brown became a tax lawyer to get away from race. As a young black girl growing up in the South Bronx, she'd seen how racism limited the lives of her family and neighbors. Her law school classes offered a refreshing contrast: tax law was about numbers, and the only color that mattered was green. But when Brown sat down to prepare tax returns for her parents, she found something strange: James and Dottie Brown, a plumber and a nurse, seemed to be paying an unusually high percentage of their income in taxes. When Brown became a law professor, she set out to understand why.
In The Whiteness of Wealth, Brown draws on decades of cross-disciplinary research to show that tax law isn't as colorblind as she'd once believed. She takes us into her adopted city of Atlanta, introducing us to families across the economic spectrum whose stories demonstrate how American tax law rewards the preferences and practices of white people while pushing black people further behind. From attending college to getting married to buying a home, black Americans find themselves at a financial disadvantage compared to their white peers. The result is an ever-increasing wealth gap, and more black families shut out of the American dream.
July 22, 2020 in Book Club, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink
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Michael Conklin (Angelo State University), Can You Truly Be Happy in Law School? An Analysis of Law School Advice, 53 U. Rich. L. Rev. Online 63 (2019):
There are many books available to help students navigate the more concrete aspects of law school, such as studying, exam strategies, how to brief a case, making law review, and on campus interviews. Kathryne M. Young, in her 2018 book, How to Be Sort of Happy in Law School [Stanford University Press, 2018] primarily focuses on the more intangible side. The 300-page book dedicates only forty-three pages to the topics of studying and exam strategies. Young’s format frees up space to cover the more amorphous aspects of law school. This review will analyze the book’s coverage of critiques of the law school structure, indoctrination attempts, and how to maintain a healthy perspective. ...
The tone of the book is refreshingly pleasant given the heavy subject matter it covers. Young utilizes a very conversational approach, and there is humor throughout (such as comically pointing out that if you stole the money to pay for law school you would likely be let out of prison before your classmates paid off their loans). Overall, Young does an excellent job preparing the reader to navigate the unique emotional challenges law school presents.
July 22, 2020 in Book Club, Legal Ed News, Legal Ed Scholarship, Legal Education | Permalink
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Tuesday, July 14, 2020
Andrew Guthrie Ferguson (University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law) & Jonathan Yusef Newton (J.D. 2019, University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law), The Law of Law School: The Essential Guide for First-Year Law Students (NYU Press 2020):
“Dear Law Student: Here’s the truth. You belong here.”
Law professor Andrew Ferguson and former student Jonathan Yusef Newton open with this statement of reassurance in The Law of Law School. As all former law students and current lawyers can attest, law school is disorienting, overwhelming, and difficult. Unlike other educational institutions, law school is not set up simply to teach a subject. Instead, the first year of law school is set up to teach a skill set and way of thinking, which you then apply to do the work of lawyering. What most first-year students don’t realize is that law school has a code, an unwritten rulebook of decisions and traditions that must be understood in order to succeed.
The Law of Law School endeavors to distill this common wisdom into one hundred easily digestible rules. From self-care tips such as “Remove the Drama,” to studying tricks like “Prepare for Class like an Appellate Argument,” topics on exams, classroom expectations, outlining, case briefing, professors, and mental health are all broken down into the rules that form the hidden law of law school. If you don’t have a network of lawyers in your family and are unsure of what to expect, Ferguson and Newton offer a forthright guide to navigating the expectations, challenges, and secrets to first-year success. Jonathan Newton was himself such a non-traditional student and now shares his story as a pathway to a meaningful and positive law school experience. This book is perfect for the soon-to-be law school student or the current 1L and speaks to the growing number of first-generation law students in America.
July 14, 2020 in Book Club, Legal Ed News, Legal Education | Permalink
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Tuesday, June 23, 2020
Arthur Cockfield (Queen's University), Walter Hellerstein (University of Georgia) & Marie Lamensch (Institute for European Studies), Taxing Global Digital Commerce (2020):
This latest edition of the preeminent text on the taxation of cross-border digital commerce transactions — formerly titled Electronic Commerce and International Taxation (1999), Electronic Commerce and Multijurisdictional Taxation (2001) — revises, updates, and expands the book’s coverage. It includes a detailed and up-to-date analysis of digital VAT and global income tax developments, and explores the implications of digital commerce for the US state and local sales and use tax regime in the wake of the US Supreme Court decision in South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc. (2018). Analysing the practical tax consequences of digital commerce from a multijurisdictional perspective and using examples to illustrate the application of different taxes to digital commerce transactions, the book offers in-depth treatment of such topics as: (a) the OECD and G20’s digital tax reforms under the Base Erosion and Profit Shifting project; (b) the new or proposed equalization levies, digital services taxes, minimum taxes and other approaches some countries are adopting to level the tax playing field; (c) how technology enhances cross-border tax information exchanges; (d) how technology change is driving global income tax reforms surrounding nexus and profit attribution; (e) US state and local sales and use tax issues raised by cloud computing; and (e) trends toward collecting VAT from online platforms that facilitate international digital commerce, including cross-border trade in low-value goods and peer-to-peer supplies in the ‘sharing’ economy.
June 23, 2020 in Book Club, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink
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Wednesday, June 17, 2020
New York Times op-ed: Learn To Love Trillion-Dollar Deficits, by Stephanie Kelton (Stony Brook; author, The Deficit Myth: Modern Monetary Theory and the Birth of the People’s Economy (2020)):
As a proponent of what’s called Modern Monetary Theory and as a former chief economist for the Democrats on the Senate Budget Committee, intimately familiar with how public finance actually works, I am not worried about the recent multitrillion-dollar surge in spending.
But there was a time when it would have rattled me too.
I understand the deficit myth because in the early part of my career in economics I, too, bought into the conventional way of thinking. I was taught that the federal government should manage its finances in ways that resemble good old-fashioned household budgeting, that it should hold spending in line with revenues and avoid adding debt whenever possible. ...
It is true that the dollars in your pocket are, in a physical sense, just pieces of paper. It’s the state’s ability to make and enforce its tax laws that sustains a demand for them, which in turn makes those dollars valuable. It’s also how the British Empire and others before it were able to effectively rule: conquer, erase the legitimacy of a given people’s original currency, impose British currency on the colonized, then watch how the entire local economy begins to revolve around British currency, interests and power. Taxes exist for many reasons, but they exist mainly to give value to a state’s otherwise worthless tokens.
Coming to terms with this was jarring — a Copernican moment. By the time I developed this subject into my first published, peer-reviewed academic paper, I realized that my prior understanding of government finance had been wrong.
In 2020, Congress has been showing us — in practice if not in its rhetoric — exactly how M.M.T. works: It committed trillions of dollars this spring that in the conventional economic sense it did not “have.” It didn’t raise taxes or borrow from China to come up with dollars to support our ailing economy. Instead, lawmakers simply voted to pass spending bills, which effectively ordered up trillions of dollars from the government’s bank, the Federal Reserve. In reality, that’s how all government spending is paid for.
June 17, 2020 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink
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Thursday, June 4, 2020
Michael Graetz Saw the ‘Wolf at the Door’ Before the Coronavirus Arrived in the U.S.:
Long before the coronavirus pandemic caused mass layoffs and more than 30 million Americans to file unemployment claims in a matter of four weeks, Michael Graetz, Columbia Alumni Professor of Tax Law and a former official in the U.S. Treasury Department, was worried that too many American households live paycheck to paycheck. “Economic insecurity, anxiety, and fear were already pervasive. Any shock to the economy or to the workforce was going to cause lots of hardship,” he says. “Of course, no one could have foretold how large and difficult this shock has become.”
In his new book, The Wolf at the Door: The Menace of Economic Insecurity and How to Fight It, which was published in February by Harvard University Press, he and co-author Ian Shapiro (a professor of political science at Yale) analyze how the globalization of the workforce, outsourcing, and technological advances threatened millions of people’s livelihoods and contributed to widespread income insecurity before the pandemic. “When the book went to press in November, the virus wasn’t on the horizon,” says Graetz. “All the reasons we cite in the book for worrying about widespread economic insecurity are going to be made worse because some businesses are not going to reopen and jobs are going to disappear. We have a precarious workforce, and the economic shocks from the virus are making it much more vulnerable.”
In The Wolf at the Door, Graetz and Shapiro argue that maintaining the status quo is perilous and immoral. “It is essential that society help people who are left behind or who are in danger of it,” they write. “Otherwise these people may well reject the social contract and succumb to the poisonous snake oil peddled by political charlatans.”
June 4, 2020 in Book Club, Legal Ed News, Legal Education, Tax, Tax News, Tax Scholarship | Permalink
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Tuesday, April 28, 2020
Michael A. Livingston (Rutgers), Tax and Culture: Convergence, Divergence, and the Future of Tax Law (Cambridge University Press 2020):
Tax scholars traditionally emphasize economics and assume that all tax systems can be evaluated in more or less the same way. By applying the insights of anthropology, sociology, and other social sciences, Michael A. Livingston demonstrates that tax systems frequently pursue different values and that the convergence of tax systems is frequently overstated. In Tax and Culture, he applies these insights to specific countries, such as China and India, and specific tax issues, including progressivity, tax avoidance, and the emerging area of environmental taxation. Livingston concludes that the concept of a global tax culture is, in many cases, merely a reflection of Western hegemony, and is unlikely to survive the changes implicit in the rise of non-Western nations and cultures.
Table of Contents:
April 28, 2020 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink
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Sunday, April 26, 2020
Wall Street Journal op-ed: Dying Gives Us a Chance to Confront Truth, by C. Kavin Rowe (Duke University Divinity School; author, Christianity's Surprise: A Sure and Certain Hope (2020)):
Since my wife entered hospice, we’ve grown closer together and deeper in our faith.
The Covid-19 pandemic has swept away the illusions that led [church congregations]—and much of the world—to ignore death. The virus will kill only a small minority of the world. Yet its prevalence has reminded people everywhere that if Covid-19 doesn’t kill them, something else will. Thisrealization recalls a truth central to the Christian tradition: No one will get out of life alive.
Over time Christians developed a set of practices to help us tell this truth and to prepare for death. In the Middle Ages this was called the ars moriendi, the art of dying. Today, a quick death often is seen as ideal. Yet the ars moriendi holds the opposite view: It’s a good thing to see death coming and to have time to prepare. Time and habit provide the chance to live fully and—even at the last hour—become a mature human being, one who tells the truth.
I know this firsthand because my dying wife tells the truth. When she was referred to hospice some time ago, after a long and painful decline, she simply noted, “I don’t want to die. I want to finish raising our son.”
Through attentive care, hospice has extended her life—and with it the chance to talk about our successes, failures, hopes, sorrows, beliefs, and doubts. The demand to face death created a new chance to grow closer together and deeper in our faith. We don’t have time to argue about what a “messy kitchen” means when we’re focused on sharing the truths we need to hear: I love you. I wish we could grow old together. I wanted to know our son’s wife and our grandchildren. I will be with you until the end. ...
April 26, 2020 in Book Club, Coronavirus, Legal Education, Tax | Permalink
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Thursday, April 23, 2020
Katharina Pistor (Columbia), Law in the Time of COVID-19:
The COVID-19 crisis has ended and upended lives around the globe. In addition to killing over 160,000 people, more than 35,000 in the United States alone, its secondary effects have been as devastating. These secondary effects pose fundamental challenges to the rules that govern our social, political, and economic lives. These rules are the domain of lawyers. Law in the Time of COVID-19 is the product of a joint effort by members of the faculty of Columbia Law School and several law professors from other schools.
This volume offers guidance for thinking about some the most pressing legal issues the pandemic has raised, especially (though not exclusively) for law in the United States: from the rights of prison inmates who live under conditions that make them exceptionally vulnerable to the highly contagious virus to the options for contracting parties who now face circumstances that make it impossible for them to live up to their past commitments. The book does not give legal advice. Instead, it identifies critical legal issues that affect many peoples’ lives, offers fresh perspectives for thinking about those issues, and provides guidance to legislatures and policy makers about the legal challenges ahead.
Gillian Lester (Dean, Columbia), Foreward:
April 23, 2020 in Book Club, Coronavirus, Legal Ed Scholarship, Legal Education | Permalink
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Tuesday, April 21, 2020
Stephanie Hunter McMahon (Cincinnati), The Tax Law System is Only Incomprehensible to Some (reviewing Wendy Wagner (Texas) & Will Walker, Incomprehensible!: A Study of How Our Legal System Encourages Incomprehensibility, Why It Matters, and What We Can Do About It (Cambridge University Press 2019):
Journalists often remark that income tax rules are incomprehensible and that taxpayers cannot understand the law or the explanatory guidance created by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). In her recent book with Will Walker, Incomprehensible!, Wendy Wagner develops a rubric to evaluate the process by which the law and agency action become incomprehensible.
Unfortunately, applying that rubric to the federal tax system is difficult because of the system’s multiple speakers and audiences. Attempting to fit this system within the rubric, however, highlights how federal tax rules’ incomprehensibility depends upon how one defines the relevant audience, a task the government has yet to undertake. ...
Given what appear to be everyone’s weak incentives to provide comprehensibility, Wagner’s analysis helps show how the federal tax system has important lessons to learn. This system is not inherently incomprehensible. Taxpayers need to be encouraged to convey information to the IRS in a comprehensible form, and the IRS needs to figure out how to differentiate guidance for sophisticated and unsophisticated taxpayers. For both speakers and audience members, cooperative communication may be collectively valued, but the tax system’s perceived gamesmanship and everyone’s pursuit of their individual interests will make comprehensibility hard to develop.
April 21, 2020 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink
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Thursday, March 19, 2020
Reuven S. Avi-Yonah (Michigan), Why Study Tax History? (reviewing Studies in the History of Tax Law, Vol. 9 (Peter Harris (Cambridge) & Dominic de Cogan (Cambridge) eds. 2019)):
Since the beginning of this century, John Tiley organized an annual tax history conference at Cambridge, a tradition that was continued after his death under the leadership of Peter Harris. These are the papers from the ninth Cambridge Tax Law History Conference, held in July 2018. In the usual manner, the papers have been selected from an oversupply of proposals for their interest and relevance, and scrutinized and edited to the highest standard for inclusion in this prestigious series. The result is an outstanding book, with many high quality contributions to historical tax research.
The papers fall within five basic themes. Four papers focus on tax theory: Bentham; social contract and tax governance; Schumpeter's 'thunder of history'; and the resurgence of the benefits theory. Three involve the history of UK specific interpretational issues: management expenses; anti-avoidance jurisprudence; and identification of professionals. A further three concern specific forms of UK tax on road travel, land and capital gains. One paper considers the formation of HMRC and another explains aspects of nineteenth-century taxation by reference to Jane Austen characters. Four consider aspects of international taxation: development of EU corporate tax policy; history of Dutch tax planning; the important 1942 Canada–US tax treaty; and the 1928 League of Nations model tax treaties on tax evasion. Also included are papers on the effects of WWI on the New Zealand income tax and development of anti-tax avoidance rules in China.
March 19, 2020 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink
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Saturday, March 14, 2020
Daniel Shaviro (NYU), Literature and Inequality: Nine Perspectives from the Napoleonic Era Through the First Gilded Age (Anthem Press 2020):
We are an intensely social species, and often a rivalrous one, prone to measuring ourselves in terms of others, and often directly against others. Accordingly, relative position matters to our sense of wellbeing, although excluded from standard economic models that look only at the utility derived from own consumption of commodities plus leisure. For example, people can have deep-seated psychological responses to inequality and social hierarchy, creating the potential for extreme wealth differences to invoked feelings of superiority and inferiority, or dominance and subordination, that may powerfully affect how we relate to each other.
The tools that one needs to understand how and why this matters include the sociological and the qualitative. I use the particular tool of in-depth studies of particular classic works of literature (from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice through Theodore Dreiser’s The Financier and The Titan) that offer suggestive insights regarding the felt experiences around high-end inequality at different times and from different perspectives.
March 14, 2020 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink
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Tuesday, March 10, 2020
Bridget J. Crawford (Pace) & Ashley Unangst (J.D. 2020, Pace), A Picture of Society with Critical Tax Theory As Its Interpreter, 41 J. Am. Tax'n Ass'n 128 (2019) (reviewing Anthony Infanti (Pittsburgh), Our Selfish Tax Laws: Toward Tax Reform That Mirrors Our Better Selves (MIT Press 2018)):
Professor Infanti's work has long explored issues of bias and difference in the U.S. context, and with this book, he places his study of U.S. tax law in a comparative context with Canada, France and Spain. He uses the lenses of housing policy and the taxable unit to illustrate each country’s different values. Professor Infanti’s book illustrates the myriad ways that the U.S. tax law both supports and is a constituent part of a discriminatory legal system that treats people differently because of race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexual orientation, immigration status, gender identity, and disability. In that way, the tax laws are a “mirror” of the society we currently have. But Professor Infanti goes a step further and calls readers see, in the reflection of the tax laws, the possibility of our “better selves.” Professor Infanti recognizes the extraordinary expressive value of the tax law; he imagines a system of collection, enforcement and public spending that benefits all people and reflects the nation’s highest and best values of equal opportunity, human dignity and shared community. ...
March 10, 2020 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink
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Friday, February 21, 2020
Michael J. Graetz (Columbia) & Ian Shapiro (Yale), The Wolf at the Door: The Menace of Economic Insecurity and How to Fight It (Harvard University Press 2020):
The acclaimed authors of Death by a Thousand Cuts argue that Americans care less about inequality than about their own insecurity. Michael Graetz and Ian Shapiro propose realistic policies and strategies to make lives and communities more secure.
This is an age of crisis. That much we can agree on. But a crisis of what? And how do we get out of it? Many on the right call for tax cuts and deregulation. Others on the left rage against the top 1 percent and demand wholesale economic change. Voices on both sides line up against globalization: restrict trade to protect jobs. In The Wolf at the Door, two leading political analysts argue that these views are badly mistaken.
Michael Graetz and Ian Shapiro focus on what really worries people: not what the rich are making but rather their own insecurity and that of people close to them. Americans are concerned about losing what they have, whether jobs, status, or safe communities. They fear the wolf at the door. The solution is not protectionism or class warfare but a return to the hard work of building coalitions around realistic goals and pursuing them doggedly through the political system. This, Graetz and Shapiro explain, is how earlier reformers achieved meaningful changes, from the abolition of the slave trade to civil rights legislation. The authors make substantial recommendations for increasing jobs, improving wages, protecting families suffering from unemployment, and providing better health insurance and child care, and they guide us through the strategies needed to enact change.
February 21, 2020 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink
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Wednesday, February 12, 2020
Primary Research Group, Survey of Law School Faculty & Staff: Assessment of Law School Leadership (2020):
Approximately 60.42% of law school faculty and staff are satisfied or very satisfied with the fairness and transparency of promotion and tenure decisions at their law schools, according to the Survey of Law School Faculty & Staff: Assessment of Law School Leadership.
The study presents findings from a survey of 96 faculty members and staff from 72 law schools in North America. The report presents highly detailed data on satisfaction levels with a broad range of law school efforts and characteristics including but not limited to: the law school marketing and student recruitment efforts, recent graduate job placement assistance, policies on sexual harassment and discrimination, cost control and budgeting, law school information technology, provision of help in attracting grants for faculty research, attracting quality students, maintenance of buildings and other physical infrastructure, the quality of legal education, the quality of law school publications, and the overall success of the school’s strategic vision and positioning.
February 12, 2020 in Book Club, Legal Ed News, Legal Ed Scholarship, Legal Education | Permalink
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Thursday, February 6, 2020
Daniel Shaviro (NYU), Writing Books Versus Journal Articles (JOTWELL) (reviewing Kimberly Clausing (Reed College; moving to UCLA), Open: The Progressive Case for Free Trade, Immigration, and Global Capital (Harvard University Press 2019); and William G. Gale Brookings Institution), Fiscal Therapy: Curing America’s Debt Addiction and Investing in the Future (2019)):
Why write a book rather than journal articles? Insofar as we write for ourselves, it’s a function of the project. Some ideas for projects may best lend themselves to articles, but others may need to be book-length in terms of their scope. But we also write for other people, and one great thing about being an academic is that you have wide entrepreneurial choice regarding which audiences you wish to reach—be it in general, or project-by-project. There’s no right or wrong about it (well, maybe there are better and worse choices sometimes), any more than novels should all fit in a particular genre, or scientific research should restrict itself to a particular subject area or methodology. There’s also no right answer as between the aims of advancing knowledge, engaging in art for art’s sake, and attempting to improve the world—all of these enterprises have value, and of course they often overlap.
Two outstanding recent books by prominent tax economists—Kim Clausing and William Gale—show how attempting to improve the world can overlap with advancing the other goals noted above through clear, lucid, convincing explanation and analysis.
February 6, 2020 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink
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Thursday, January 16, 2020
Inside Higher Ed, Author Discusses Fixing Law Schools:
The decade after 2008 was not a good one for law schools. Applications and enrollment fell. Some closed. This is the subject of Fixing Law Schools: From Collapse to the Trump Bump and Beyond (NYU Press). But the author -- Benjamin H. Barton is professor of law at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville -- also has a path forward for law schools.
He discussed the book via email.
Q: What happened in 2008? Why was the decade that followed so hard for law schools?
A: 2008 is actually the wrong date. For the first few years of the Great Recession, law schools actually saw a rise in applications, as college graduates who worried about a weak job market opted for graduate schools of all types, including law schools. In 2011 the overall economy had started to improve, but job placement for law schools stayed very poor. Suddenly there was a flood of terrible press featuring how bad the job market was, how expensive law school had become and the doubling of student debt during the 2000s. Law schools entered into a tailspin: fewer applicants, fewer enrollees and much more discounting for the students who did come. Revenue and enrollment fell precipitously overall, by around 33 percent. Several law schools closed, and many, many more faced challenging times. ...
Q: How should law schools change?
January 16, 2020 in Book Club, Legal Ed Scholarship, Legal Education | Permalink
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Sunday, January 5, 2020
Following up on my recent post, Forgiveness: Law, Faith, Christmas, And Hamilton: Wall Street Journal: David Skeel (Pennsylvania), Our Most God-Like Power (reviewing Martha Minow (Harvard), When Should Law Forgive? (W. W. Norton & Company 2019), and Malcolm Bull (Oxford), On Mercy (Princeton University Press 2019)):
American public life is full of disputes about justice and forgiveness. Take the Dreamers—the nearly 700,000 young adults who came from Mexico and elsewhere as children, did not obtain citizenship or permanent resident status, and have been in legal limbo since President Obama signed an executive order giving them temporary legal status in 2012. Depending on whom you talk to, these immigrants should either be deported immediately or given full citizenship.
When the brother of Botham Jean, the unarmed black man shot in his Dallas apartment by Amber Guyger, a white off-dudy police officer, asked the judge if he could hug Guyger and offer forgiveness at the end of her trial, reactions were similarly divided. Many found the brother’s gesture of mercy profoundly moving; for others, it was only a distraction from justice.
Two types of forgiveness are intertwined in these instances.
The first is legal forgiveness. Our legal system is committed to justice, and to honoring the rule of law. But sometimes we make exceptions, declining to punish a defendant who has violated the law or providing partial amnesty for tax evaders. This is legal forgiveness.
The second type of forgiveness, interpersonal, is often described as a “release of resentments.” When Brandt Jean offered to forgive Amber Guyger, he was letting go of his anger against his brother’s killer and so extending interpersonal forgiveness.
How can legal forgiveness be reconciled with the rule of law? What do legal and interpersonal forgiveness have to do with one another? These questions are implicit in the current controversies about justice and mercy or forgiveness, and they are the focus of two thoughtful but idiosyncratic new books.
January 5, 2020 in Book Club, Legal Ed News, Legal Ed Scholarship | Permalink
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Sunday, December 8, 2019
Martha Minow (Harvard), When Should Law Forgive? (2019):
The potential power of forgiveness in an age of resentment.
Crimes and violations of the law require punishment, and our legal system is set up to punish, but what if the system was recalibrated to also weigh grounds for forgiveness? What if something like bankruptcy―a fresh start for debtors―were available to people convicted of crimes? Martha Minow explores the complicated intersection of the law, justice, and forgiveness, asking whether the law should encourage people to forgive, and when courts, public officials, and specific laws should forgive.
Who has the right to forgive? Who should be forgiven? And under what terms? Minow tackles these foundational issues by exploring three questions:
What does the international response to child soldiers teach us about the legal treatment of juvenile offenders in the United States?
- Why are the laws surrounding corporate debt more forgiving than those governing American student and consumer debt, and sovereign debt in the developing world?
- When do law’s tools of forgiveness, amnesties, and pardons strengthen justice, peace, and democracy (think South Africa), and when do they undermine law’s promise of fairness (think Joe Arpaio)?
December 8, 2019 in Book Club, Legal Ed Scholarship, Legal Education | Permalink
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Thursday, December 5, 2019
Kim Brooks (Dalhousie University, Schulich School of Law), The Ethical Tax Judge, in Ethics and Taxation (Robert van Brederode ed., Springer 2020):
This chapter advances the claim that judges have an ethical obligation of competence that requires them to enhance their knowledge about language (in the context of statutory interpretation) and income tax law design and policy. It articulates some of the foundational understandings that support that competence and provides a simple hierarchy of approaches to interpreting income tax law. It concludes by contending that greater competence is not only more ethical but also advances other important societal goals fulfilled by the imposition of income tax systems. ...
Ultimately, judges should seek to interpret income tax legislation in a fashion that respects our interdisciplinary understanding of how words are used to express ideas and supports the effective functioning of income tax legislation.
December 5, 2019 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink
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Tuesday, November 26, 2019
Benjamin H. Barton (Tennessee), Fixing Law Schools: From Collapse to the Trump Bump and Beyond (NYU Press 2019):
An urgent plea for much needed reforms to legal education
The period from 2008 to 2018 was a lost decade for American law schools. Employment results were terrible. Applications and enrollment cratered. Revenue dropped precipitously and several law schools closed. Almost all law schools shrank in terms of students, faculty, and staff. A handful of schools even closed. Despite these dismal results, law school tuition outran inflation and student indebtedness exploded, creating a truly toxic brew of higher costs for worse results.
The election of Donald Trump in 2016 and the subsequent role of hero-lawyers in the “resistance” has made law school relevant again and applications have increased. However, despite the strong early returns, we still have no idea whether law schools are out of the woods or not. If the Trump Bump is temporary or does not result in steady enrollment increases, more schools will close.
But if it does last, we face another danger. We tend to hope that crises bring about a process of creative destruction, where a downturn causes some businesses to fail and other businesses to adapt. And some of the reforms needed at law schools are obvious: tuition fees need to come down, teaching practices need to change, there should be greater regulations on law schools that fail to deliver on employment and bar passage. Ironically, the opposite has happened for law schools: they suffered a harrowing, near-death experience and the survivors look like they’re going to exhale gratefully and then go back to doing exactly what led them into the crisis in the first place.
November 26, 2019 in Book Club, Legal Ed Scholarship, Legal Education | Permalink
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Sunday, November 10, 2019