Paul L. Caron
Dean




Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Peter Thiel Gamed Silicon Valley, Donald Trump, And Democracy To Make Billions, Tax-Free

Bloomberg Businessweek, Peter Thiel Gamed Silicon Valley, Donald Trump, and Democracy to Make Billions, Tax-Free:

American OligarchIn an exclusive excerpt from The Contrarian, a new biography, the disruption-preaching power broker is revealed as just another rich guy desperate to keep his fortune from the IRS.

Trump’s presidency would not end badly for Thiel, who didn’t comment for this article, adapted from my forthcoming book, The Contrarian. Thiel’s companies would win government contracts, and his net worth would soar—and it would, crucially, remain in the legal tax shelter that he’s spent half his career trying to protect. As a venture capitalist, Thiel had made it his business to find up-and-comers, invest in their success, and then sell his stock when it was financially advantageous to do so. Now he was doing the same with a U.S. president.

Thiel is sometimes portrayed as the tech industry’s token conservative, a view that wildly understates his power. More than any other living Silicon Valley investor or entrepreneur—more so even than Bezos, or Page, or Facebook co-founder and Thiel protégé Mark Zuckerberg—he has been responsible for creating the ideology that has come to define Silicon Valley today: that technological progress should be pursued relentlessly, with little if any regard for potential costs or dangers to society. Thiel isn’t the richest tech mogul, but he has been, in many ways, the most influential. ...

By the fall of 2020, published estimates were putting Thiel’s personal net worth at around $5 billion, roughly double what it had been before Trump was elected. This was a reflection of his stake in Palantir, which had gone public in August at a valuation of around $20 billion. Thiel then owned about 20% of the company and also held stakes in a number of others whose fortunes had soared. Besides Anduril, there was SpaceX, which was now worth as much as $100 billion thanks in part to a booming business with the federal government, and Airbnb, which had recently gone public. By any financial measure, it had been a good four years.

But those who know Thiel say that even these estimates were probably way too conservative and that his true net worth was closer to $10 billion, possibly much more. That was partly because he had quietly accumulated stakes in a handful of private companies with exceedingly high valuations, including the online payments startup Stripe; a person close to Thiel figures his share is worth at least $1.5 billion. But it was also because Thiel was shielding a large percentage of his investment assets from taxes of any kind.

The strategy was legal, even if it was, from the standpoint of any normal sense of fairness, outrageous.

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September 28, 2021 in Book Club, Tax, Tax News | Permalink

Monday, September 20, 2021

WSJ: How A Tech Mogul Pushed Through The Opportunity Zones Tax Break

Wall Street Journal Essay:  How a Tech Mogul Pushed Through a Tax Break, by David Wessel (Brookings Institution; Author, Only the Rich Can Play: How Washington Works in the New Gilded Age (Oct. 2021)):

Only the RichSean Parker lobbied to create Opportunity Zones to encourage development in low-income areas, but so far the main beneficiaries are investors wanting lower taxes.

The U.S. tax code is larded with provisions that the wealthy use to reduce their taxes. Some get a lot of attention, while some are inserted into tax bills very quietly—like Opportunity Zones, or OZs.

Six pages tucked into the sprawling 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act led to the creation of 8,764 of these tax havens across the U.S., ostensibly to lure private capital to poor neighborhoods. Anyone can invest capital gains from a previous investment in a building or business in a census tract designated as an OZ by a state’s governor, defer and reduce taxes on that initial gain, and then pay zero capital-gains tax on any profits from that OZ investment, provided that they stick with it for 10 years. Other than holding on to an appreciated asset until you bequeath it to your children, there aren’t many other ways to avoid capital-gains taxes altogether. This one has a huge advantage: “You don’t have to die,” says Brad Cohen, a Los Angeles tax lawyer.

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September 20, 2021 in Book Club, Tax, Tax News | Permalink

Friday, September 10, 2021

Podcast: The History Of Female Law Professors With Patricia Cain

I previously blogged the release of the new book, Herma Hill Kay, Paving the Way: The First American Women Law Professors (Patricia A. Cain (Santa Clara), ed. University of California Press 2021). 

Paving The WayCheck out the podcast, The History Of Female Law Professors With Patricia Cain (27 minutes)

Kathryn interviews Patricia Cain, one of the authors of Paving the Way, about the twists and turns of her life and career: from going to law school, being part of a circus troupe to starting a career in the legal academia. Patricia highlights her experiences not only as a teacher but also her experiences in law school. She also shared the best lessons she learned, especially for those who want to start a life in legal academia.

Episode Highlights

  • Introducing the guest: Patricia Cain. - 0:38
  • The reasons why Patricia decided to go to law school. - 1:24
  • The twists and turns: How she went from law school, a theater member, to being a teacher. - 4:20
  • Patricia’s involvement in the Paving the Way book project. - 9:14
  • A shift from being introduced to Herma Hill Kay to continue writing the book. - 12:08
  • Linking histories: Knowing the difference of the process back in the ’70s to her experience. - 17:16
  • It wasn’t until other women joined the faculty that Ellen Peter’s voice could be heard during faculty meetings. When you’re the one woman in the room, you say something and nobody says anything back then 5 minutes later a man says the same thing and everybody thinks it’s brilliant. I experience that every time. - 18:57
  • The adoption process. - 21:17
  • The best lessons that people who want to start a life in academia can take away. - 23:46

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September 10, 2021 in Book Club, Legal Ed Scholarship, Legal Education | Permalink

Sunday, September 5, 2021

NY Times: Why A Duke Professor With Stage IV Colon Cancer Will Not Make A Bucket List Before She Dies

Following up on my previous post, I Just Learned I Only Have Months To Live. This Is What I Want To Say.:  New York Times op-ed:  One Thing I Don’t Plan to Do Before I Die Is Make a Bucket List, by Kate Bowler (Duke Divinity School):

BowlerI wish someone had told me that the end of a life is a mathematical equation.

At 35, the doctors tell me I have Stage IV colon cancer and a slim chance of survival.

Suddenly years dwindle into months, months into days, and I begin to count them. All my dreams, ambitions, friendships, petty fights, vacations and bedtimes with a boy in dinosaur pajamas must be squeezed into a finite and dwindling number of hours, minutes, seconds.

My precarious diagnosis triggers a series of mental health assessments at the cancer clinic during which lovely and well-meaning counselors, all seemingly named Caitlin, are telling me to “find my meaning.” They wonder if I should consider making a “bucket list,” as many other patients have found the process to be clarifying. ...

It had not occurred to me, until now, that life’s wide road narrows to a dot on the horizon. I enjoyed the somedays I learned to conjure as a spectacularly unpopular child with a useful imagination. For several summers, I dreamed up a life on a farm on Prince Edward Island to attend a country school with Anne of Green Gables and her kindred spirits. ...

I did not understand that one future comes at the exclusion of all others.

Everybody pretends that you die only once. But that’s not true. You can die a thousand possible futures in the course of a single, stupid life.

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September 5, 2021 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink

Asserting Our American Christian And Classical Heritage: A Summer Of Reading On The Constitution

Matthew G. Andersson (B.A. Texas; MBA Chicago), Asserting Our American Christian and Classical Heritage, A Summer of Reading on the Constitution:

Order in the new republic was impossible without law, but law impossible without morality, and morality was impossible without religion. For early American jurists and scholars, in an attitude quite foreign to us now, the common law was of “obligation indispensable” and of “origin divine.” Indeed, to one United States Supreme Court Associate Justice, Joseph Story, it was the duty of the American government to promote the Christian religion, to aid in the salvation of American citizens.
—Stephen Presser, Raoul Berger Professor of Legal History Emeritus, Northwestern University School of Law

It is impossible for those who believe in the truth of Christianity as a Divine revelation, to doubt that it is the especial duty of government to foster and encourage it among all the citizens and subjects.
—Joseph Story, Associate Justice, U.S. Supreme Court, Dane Professor of Law, Harvard Law School, A Familiar Exposition of the Constitution of the United States 260 (1840)

In the beautiful summer months of America, many of us make a stack of books that we meant to get to during the rest of the year. ...  [W]e have some peace and solitude, to read, contemplate, and enjoy some great books.  I’ve read several in the subjects of American constitutional law and history, and thought I would share with you, some of these books, and most importantly, what messages they contain about our great Nation, and the traditions we should be proud of, along with some challenges, and risks, that we will have to confront. ... 

Over this Summer I’ve read many books in law, as part of a larger law book project that I’ve undertaken. A few of these (out of dozens) have struck me as especially poignant, if inspirational (and a few cautionary) and I’d like to share some of them with you, in a brief discussion concerning the philosophical basis of our country, which in my view needs continuous refreshing and remembrance, but more, a continuous effort in understanding, and an effort that results in personal “ownership” of American principles that invite us to strive for higher order functioning among ourselves, independently, and as a group, seeking a more unitary, rather than divisive, culture. ...

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September 5, 2021 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Hamilton Reviews The Formation of Professional Identity: The Path From Student To Lawyer

Neil Hamilton (St. Thomas; Google Scholar), Book Review, 69 J. Legal Educ. 224 (2019) (reviewing Patrick Emery Longan (Mercer), Daisy Hurst Floyd (Mercer) & Timothy W. Floyd (Mercer), The Formation of Professional Identity: The Path from Student to Lawyer (2020)): 

Formation-of-professional-identityThe Formation of Professional Identity: The Path from Student to Lawyer provides much-needed concise and effective curriculum to address two closely related fundamental challenges for each law student and law school. The fundamental challenge for each law student is how to grow from being an aspiring entrantto-the-profession student to being a lawyer with adequate competency on the full array of capacities and skills that employers and clients want and need. The fundamental and complementary challenge for each law school—and for higher education for the professions generally—is how most effectively to foster each new student’s growth from being an aspiring-entrant student to being a licensed contributing member of the profession.

Starting more than twenty years ago, medical educators realized that emphasis on doctrinal medical knowledge and cognitive analytical skills, even when those skills are being applied in a clinical context, was insufficient to meet patient and population needs. Medical education has been moving toward more emphasis on patient-focused and teamwork centered medical care. 

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September 2, 2021 in Book Club, Legal Ed Scholarship, Legal Education, Scholarship | Permalink

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Federal Tax Procedure (2021 Practitioner Edition)

John A. Townsend (Houston), Federal Tax Procedure (2021 Practitioner Ed.) (1,060 pages):

Federal Tax Procedure is a book originally prepared for a course on Tax Procedure taught by Adjunct Professor Townsend at the University of Houston School of Law (through the Fall of 2015). The book is updated annually in August. This is the 2021 edition. The book and related materials contain text discussion, relevant Code Section citations, and certain cases designed to encourage students to think about the Tax Procedure process. The book is in electronic format (Adobe Acrobat PDF format) and is in two versions: (1) a Student Edition (no footnotes); and (2) a Practitioner Edition (same as Student Edition but including footnotes). This is the Practitioner Edition. Both versions are available on Mr. Townsend's SSRN web page.

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August 31, 2021 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Practice And Procedure, Tax Scholarship | Permalink

Sunday, August 29, 2021

NY Times: Why We Need To Start Talking About God

New York Times op-ed:  Why We Need to Start Talking About God, by Tish Harrison Warren (Priest, Anglican Church; Author, Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life (Christianity Today's 2018 Book of the Year) , :

Liturgy Of The OrdinaryKarl Barth, a 20th-century Swiss theologian, is credited with saying that Christians must live our lives with a Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other. Barth, who was a leader of a group of Christians in Germany resisting Hitler, understood that faith is not a pious, protective bubble shielding us from the urgent needs of the world. It is the very impetus that leads us into active engagement with society. People of faith must immerse ourselves in messy questions of how to live faithfully in a particular moment with particular headlines calling for particular attention and particular responses.

While Christians and other religious people may wonder how broader culture affects our faith (or why we must hold a newspaper in one hand), others may wonder why faith is relevant to the contemporary world at all (or why we hold a Bible in the other). Membership in a house of worship has declined steadily in the United States over the past eight decades and, according to a Gallup poll, dropped below 50 percent this year. ...

As a pastor, I see again and again that in defining moments of people’s lives — the birth of children, struggles in marriage, deep loss and disappointment, moral crossroads, facing death — they talk about God and the spiritual life. In these most tender moments, even those who aren’t sure what exactly they believe cannot avoid big questions of meaning: who we are, what we are here for, why we believe what we believe, why beauty and horror exist.

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August 29, 2021 in Book Club, Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

NY Times: A More Secular America Is A Problem For Both Republicans And Democrats

New York Times op-ed:  A More Secular America Is Not Just a Problem for Republicans, by Ryan Burge (Baptist Pastor; Author, The Nones: Where They Came From, Who They Are, and Where They Are Going (2021); and Assistant Professor of Political Science at Eastern Illinois University):

The Nones 2Since 1988, the General Social Survey has been asking Americans of different ages what they believe about God. For decades, the answer did not change much. Around 70 percent of members of the Silent Generation said that they “know God really exists” and “have no doubts about it.” That same sentiment was shared by about 63 percent of baby boomers and Generation Xers.

But in 2018, millennials expressed a lot less certainty. Only 44 percent had no doubts about the existence of God. Even more doubtful were members of Generation Z — just one-third claimed certain belief in God.

Today, scholars are finding that by almost any metric they use to measure religiosity, younger generations are much more secular than their parents or grandparents. In responses to survey questions, over 40 percent of the youngest Americans claim no religious affiliation, and just a quarter say they attend religious services weekly or more.

Americans have not come to terms with how this cultural shift will affect so many facets of society — and that’s no more apparent than when it comes to the future of the Republican and Democratic Parties.

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August 29, 2021 in Book Club, Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Thursday, August 19, 2021

10 Summer Book Recommendations For Tax Attorneys

Law360, 10 Summer Book Recommendations For Tax Attorneys:

As practitioners monitor the latest developments in tax legislation on Capitol Hill or tax controversy in the courts, they may want to take a break at the beach or pool with a captivating book.

Here, Law360 recommends 10 books for tax practitioners' summer reading lists. ...

The Whiteness of Wealth: How the Tax System Impoverishes Black Americans — and How We Can Fix It by Dorothy A. Brown

Whiteness of WealthIn The Whiteness of Wealth, Emory University tax law professor Dorothy Brown takes a deep dive into the racial biases that exist in the Internal Revenue Code and how they contribute to the growing wealth gap between Black and white Americans.

Francine J. Lipman, a law professor at the University of Nevada, said the book was a must-read for anyone interested in law, economics, finance or civil rights because it is a thoroughly researched explanation of historic and current racism in the federal tax system.

Brown's writing is engaging because she is a natural storyteller who recounts not only her family's story but the stories of many Black families who have been subject to excess taxation because of the color of their skin, Lipman said.

"The storytelling includes American history and seminal tax cases that evince white privilege and the federal institutions that supported and support our exploding racial wealth gap," she said. "Brown closes the book with proposals that include several constitutional law discussions that are critical to understand as America focuses on remedying past wrongs."

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August 19, 2021 in Book Club, Legal Education, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Escaping The Efficiency Trap—And Finding Some Peace Of Mind

Wall Street Journal Essay:  Escaping the Efficiency Trap—And Finding Some Peace Of Mind, by Oliver Burkeman (Author, Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals (2021)):

Four Thousand WeeksThe problem with trying to make time for everything that feels important is that you definitely never will. The reason isn’t that you haven’t yet discovered the right time management tricks or applied sufficient effort, or that you need to start getting up earlier, or that you’re generally useless. It’s that the underlying assumption is unwarranted: There’s no reason to believe you’ll ever feel “on top of things,” or make time for everything that matters, simply by getting more done.

That’s because if you succeed in fitting more in, you’ll find the goal posts start to shift: More things will begin to seem important, meaningful or obligatory. Acquire a reputation for doing your work at amazing speed, and you’ll be given more of it. Figure out how to spend enough time with your kids and at the office, so you don’t feel guilty about either, and you’ll suddenly feel some new social pressure: to spend more time exercising or to join the parent-teacher association—oh, and isn’t it finally time you learned to meditate? Get around to launching the side business you’ve dreamed of for years, and if it succeeds, it won’t be long before you’re no longer satisfied with keeping it small.

The general principle in operation here is what we might call the “efficiency trap.”

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August 14, 2021 in Book Club, Legal Ed News, Legal Education | Permalink

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Morse Reviews Brown's The Whiteness Of Wealth

Susan Morse (Texas; Google Scholar), Tax and Race (JOTWELL) (reviewing Dorothy A. Brown (Emory), The Whiteness of Wealth: How the Tax System Impoverishes Black Americans — And How We Can Fix It (2021)):

JOTWELL Tax (2021)Almost twenty-five years ago, Professor Dorothy Brown started writing law review articles (such as here, here and here) in which she applies critical race theory to tax law. This year, she published The Whiteness of Wealth, a book that not only claimed waves of popular and media attention but also provides a definitive statement of her longstanding scholarly project. The book offers a detailed case study of structural racism in law. It merits sustained attention from teachers and researchers, tax and otherwise.

Brown’s project has a descriptive component and a normative component. The descriptive component is based in cold logic, though made more accessible with stories from original interviews and from Brown’s family history. The logical equation is this: facially neutral tax law doctrine plus empirically different experiences based on race equals disparate impact that systematically favors white taxpayers and white wealth. In 2016, the median wealth of Black households was $17,100; of Latinx households, $20,600; of white households, $171,000. (P. 18.) Brown explains that tax law–not personal choice–explains a large part of this wide and persistent divide. She further argues that as a normative matter, equity and fairness require tax policy to reject rules that disadvantage “black families’ financial and social structures.” (P. 41.) ...

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August 11, 2021 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Hartung Reviews Levit & Rostron's Beyond One L: Stories About Finding Meaning And Making A Difference In Law

Stephanie Roberts Hartung (Northeastern), Book Review, 69 J. Legal Educ. 217 (2019) (reviewing Nancy Levit (UMKC) & Allen Rostron (UMKC), eds., Beyond One L: Stories About Finding Meaning and Making a Difference in Law, Durham, N.C.: Carolina Academic Press, 2019): 

Beyond-one-lScott Turow’s One L, the widely read account of his first year at Harvard Law School in 1975, is said to have “frightened, informed, and inspired a generation of lawyers-to-be”. Beyond One L: Stories About Finding Meaning and Making a Difference in Law, published nearly 45 years later, is billed as a “collection of stories taking a further look at the often dramatic and sometimes traumatic experience of embarking on the study of law”. While One L ostensibly described “universal truths” (xi) about law school in the 1970s, Beyond One L illustrates how dramatically the law school experience has changed since Turow arrived at Harvard as part of a first-year class that was overwhelmingly “male, white, and straight”. At the same time, Beyond One L’s collection of essays, which includes entries from several well-known figures in legal education, reminds us how many aspects of legal education remain the same.

In the face of difficult and polarizing times, when lawyering and the rule of law are frequently perceived as under attack, Beyond One L offers “an antidote to disillusionment with the legal profession” through storytelling.

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July 28, 2021 in Book Club, Legal Ed Scholarship, Legal Education, Scholarship | Permalink

Friday, July 23, 2021

Martinez Reviews Infanti's Our Selfish Tax Laws

Leo P. Martinez (UC-Hastings), Book Review, 47 Hastings Const. L.Q. 467 (2020) (reviewing Anthony C. Infanti (Pittsburgh; Google Scholar), Our Selfish Tax Laws: Toward Tax Reform That Mirrors Our Better Selves (MIT Press 2018)) (reviewed by Bridget J. Crawford (Pace; Google Scholar) & 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); and Clint Wallace (South Carolina), Tax Policy and Our Democracy, 118 Mich. L. Rev. 1233 (2020)):

Our Selfish Tax LawProfessor Infanti does everyone a service by using comparative law principles to inform the tax policy debate. The lack of discipline overlap—tax law and constitutional law come easily to mind—only worsens the scarcity of scholarship that examines the Code in nuanced and constructive ways.

In his book, Tony Infanti uses comparative law principles to show how effective it can be to look at tax law in a different light Professor Infanti has chosen two separate areas as his vehicles for comparative illustration and examination of the selfishness of tax law: (1) U.S. housing policy and (2) the concept of the tax unit. With this part of the book, he delves into each area and points out how they fail to serve those who are already underserved. These areas are worthy of his insights because both are fundamental to the way the tax system affects taxpayers.

Conclusion
My friend Professor Emerita Margaret Montoya, has observed “budgets are moral documents; budgets, including tax expenditures, expose and reveal our lawmakers’ values and commitments.” While she is undoubtedly correct and unquestionably eloquent in her observation, Professor Infanti’s book reveals that she was too narrow in her formulation. The Code exposes not only lawmakers’ values and commitments but our own. As Professor Infanti would agree, we can do better.

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July 23, 2021 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Regulation and Tax in Space

Galya Savir, Regulation and Tax in Space (Wolters Kluwer 2021):

SpaceRegulation and Tax in Space, authored by a tax attorney with first-hand knowledge of the aerospace issues involved, is the first book to delve deep into the yet-to-be-resolved practicalities of taxation of resources mined in space. By international consensus, space is considered as a commons for all humanity. Now, however, as space activities and technologies are chiefly focused on commercial interests in extraterrestrial mineral resources, the mechanisms for allocating space mining resources must be sketched out to balance the efficient use of resources with a fair and stable tax system.

What’s in this book
Arguing that the space mining industry should be regulated in a way that will ensure an attractive investment climate for space entrepreneurs and the existence of a stable fiscal regime that will finance the costs of conservation and utilization of space resources, the author advocates for an international royalty system to help achieve industry goals, such as efficiency, administrative convenience, and sustainability. The book explores the following aspects of the topic:

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July 21, 2021 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Infanti & Crawford: A Taxing Feminism

Anthony C. Infanti (Pittsburgh; Google Scholar) & Bridget J. Crawford (Pace; Google Scholar), A Taxing Feminism, in The Oxford Handbook of Feminism and Law in the United States (Deborah L. Brake (Pittsburgh), Martha Chamallas (Ohio State) & Verna Williams (Dean, Cincinnati) eds. 2021):

Feminist perspectives are not new to tax law. The first academic piece bringing a feminist perspective to bear on tax law dates to the early 1970s, when Grace Blumberg published Sexism in the Code: A Comparative Study of Income Taxation of Working Wives and Mothers. Contemporaneously, none other than Ruth Bader Ginsburg (along with her tax lawyer husband Marty Ginsburg) brought a feminist perspective to bear on tax law when she argued Moritz v. Commissioner before the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, as depicted in the movie On the Basis of Sex. Since then, numerous other contributions have been made to the tax literature identifying ways in which a feminist perspective might influence tax reform debates.

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July 20, 2021 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Colella Reviews Rebellion, Rascals, And Revenue: Tax Follies And Wisdom Through The Ages

Frank G. Colella (Pace), A Look Back at the Global Certainty of Taxation Across the Centuries, N.Y.L.J., Vol. 265, No. 90, p. 6 (May 11, 2021) (reviewing Michael Keen (IMF) & Joel Slemrod (Michigan; Google Scholar), Rebellion, Rascals, and Revenue: Tax Follies and Wisdom through the Ages (Princeton University Press 2021)):

RascalsWhile modern medicine continues to push the boundaries of longevity, if death were ever miraculously vanquished, taxation would nevertheless survive (albeit sans estate and inheritance taxes) – leaving us with only one of the two former certainties.

If Michael Keen and Joel Slemrod’s eye-opening tour of the global history of taxation teaches one overarching lesson, it is that, whatever the society, its rulers will extract a “tax” from the citizenry. The tax stories they relate span from the earliest victors who took payment via the “plunder” of their victims to taxation in the digital age.

Other reviews of Rebellion, Rascals, and Revenue: Tax Follies and Wisdom through the Ages:

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June 30, 2021 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink

Monday, June 28, 2021

Michelle Singletary Reviews Dorothy Brown's Whiteness Of Wealth: 'Go Big Or Go Home'

Michelle Singletary reviews Dorothy Brown's new book, The Whiteness of Wealth: How the Tax System Impoverishes Black Americans — And How We Can Fix It (2021), in the Washington Post:

Whiteness of WealthDorothy Brown thought tax law was colorblind.

But decades of research proved otherwise. Now a professor of law at Emory University, Brown has written a book laying out how racism is built into the U.S. tax system, contributing to the wealth gap for Black people.

“What people tend to say is, ‘Well, the tax laws can’t discriminate, because there’s nothing in the tax law that says Blacks pay more, Whites pay less.’ And that’s true,” Brown said in an interview.

But if you look at how certain provisions got into the tax code, there’s a racialized history that has generally favored White Americans.

“Our tax laws were designed with White Americans in mind,” she writes. “That’s why no solution proposed by either the right or left — not better jobs, not increased homeownership, and not more access to higher education — will be effective without significant and fundamental tax reform.”

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June 28, 2021 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Two Great Books: Settle It! ... And Be Blessed And The Problem Solver

One of the many great joys of deaning is getting to meet amazing alums. I recently had lunch with Tom Gehring ('79) and was spellbound to hear about how Tom has fused Pepperdine's twin pillars of excellence and faith in his 42-year career as embodied in his two books:

Settle It! ... And Be Blessed:

Settle ItThere comes a time in your life when you have to settle it. Be done with it. It’s time. Do not let things drag on. Weigh you down. Stop you from progressing. Stop you from proceeding with your mission in life. It’s not worth it. It never is. It never will be. You, who are reading this, are a precious person. Your potential is real. Your potential is unfathomable. You have much to give. Whatever it is in your life that you need to settle, a lawsuit, a dispute with a family member, a friend, a neighbor, a business partner, a personal problem, a bad habit, an addiction—do it now. You will be blessed if you do. And you will be a blessing to others. Settle It! Now. And get back to your blessing.

Tom has worked tirelessly with my son, Matthew, and me for the last fifteen years at the
Dream Center. I've seen the results of his work in our outreach programs, on the streets of
Los Angeles, and in some of the most sophisticated and complex courtrooms in the country.
Read this book and understand what he means when he says, Settle It! ...and be Blessed.
-Pastor Tommy Barnett, Founder of the Los Angeles Dream Center

Columbo and Atticus Finch meet Jesus Christ...and they are a powerful team...in and out of
court. Get ready to meet Lukewarmers, Blue Angels, Tunic Collectors, Assyrians, and a whole cast of characters in this parable, yet 'journaling' life story. Tom Gehring's journey from secular to Christian lawyer reads like a mystery novel...you can't wait for the next clue. It's a story of despair yet faith, perseverance yet resignation and ultimately the triumph of the soul. A must read for both believers and non-believers. Christians 10, Lions 0.
-California Congressman David Dreier

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June 27, 2021 in Book Club, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink

Sunday, June 20, 2021

How An Autistic Man With Cerebral Palsy Found His Faith

Wall Street Journal op-ed:  The Faith of an Autistic Man, by Jory Fleming (Rhodes Scholar, Oxford University; Author, How to Be Human: An Autistic Man’s Guide to Life (2021)):

How To Be HumanIt was an unlikely connection. A literal, logical person, challenged by basic verbal communication, and an unseen spirit, who communicates through the Word. Yet I reached out to God, and he reached out to me. We both answered the other’s call.

As an autistic person, I struggle to make connections. I did not communicate much as a young child and only barely as an adolescent. Even now, my thoughts exist independent of language. My mind undergoes a vast translation process, back and forth, to relate to the human world.

Yet the Christian faith spoke to me through one word: love. I often feel as if, by relying on only a single word, God designed this message for people like me. There is no complicated work to interpret that message. You are loved by your Creator. You are commanded to love others and also to love yourself.

It frequently surprises people that my faith is based entirely on logic and reason. It has no emotional base. Many may wonder how that squares with the message of love. But to me, it comes down to the principle of mutual recognition: If you believe in a Creator, then you believe that the Creator knows his own handiwork. You believe that each of us has a place, has equal value, and fully belongs in this world. There is not one correct path to life or to God. Mine may be unusual, but it can still be strong.

I first contemplated the Christian faith when I was in high school and began engaging more with the outside world. Beyond autism, I have a metabolic condition and cerebral palsy. The limits placed on me by my disabilities were a daily reminder of my own brokenness. The only part of my body that was not negatively impacted was my mind. And I used it to come to a fuller understanding of God. ...

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June 20, 2021 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Academic Law Libraries And Legal Education: A Primer For Deans And Provosts

Academic Law Libraries Within the Changing Landscape of Legal Education: A Primer for Deans and Provosts (Joan S. Howland (Minnesota), Scott B. Pagel (George Washington) &  Michelle M. Wu (Georgetown) eds., 2020) (2021 Joseph L. Andrews Legal Literature Award):

LibraryIn a world where technology advances appear daily, deans and provosts often have questions about law libraries, their purposes, and whether technological innovations should lead to changes in library spaces, collections, and/or services. This book seeks to answer those questions, which came straight from deans, examining the factors involved in an analysis of what a community needs from their library, and demonstrating why the answer to these questions might vary from library to library.

The commentaries by multiple directors will be useful to highlight different approaches in analysis as well as changing cultures in law libraries. This valuable title will be of help to newer and experienced law library directors, law school deans, and university provosts (where the university has a law school).

Contributors:

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June 17, 2021 in Book Club, Legal Ed Scholarship, Legal Education | Permalink

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Law Professor’s Desk Reference: A Handbook For Work And Life In The Legal Academy

Jon M. Garon (Nova), Law Professor’s Desk Reference: A Handbook for Work and Life in the Legal Academy (2021):

Law ProfLaw Professor's Desk Reference serves as a how-to guide for faculty members, addressing the everyday issues that shape legal education as well as the growing external social and economic pressures reconceptualizing the study of law. Law school faculty members are expected to be legal scholars, effective teachers, and engaged institutional partners, but the information essential to develop these fundamentals skills has not been published in one single source, until now.

The book provides a foundation to help faculty develop the best practices for student learning and engagement. It provides an important summary of learning outcomes, formative assessment, summative assessment, course design, and the operational mechanics needed to be an effective classroom and online teacher.

The book offers faculty members a roadmap to develop meaningful scholarship with practical advice on how best to create a sustainable scholarly agenda. It explores the role faculty play in shared governance for their institutions. It addresses academic freedom, hiring procedures, tenure, and status issues. It also covers accreditation and various regulations on accessibility, accommodation requirements, Title IX, employment laws, plagiarism, and much more.

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June 16, 2021 in Book Club, Legal Ed Scholarship, Legal Education | Permalink

Saturday, June 12, 2021

NY Times: How Long Should It Take To Give Away Millions?

New York Times, How Long Should It Take to Give Away Millions?:

Immorality 3The billionaires, former government officials and academics gathered in a Manhattan conference room to brainstorm solutions to a problem they had all been working on from various angles: how best to update the laws governing philanthropy, most of which were half a century old.

Over sandwiches, sketching their ideas out on whiteboards, they discussed donor-advised funds, a kind of financial way station that allows givers to claim all the tax benefits of donations upfront while leaving the money parked with large firms like Fidelity Charitable or Schwab Charitable or with large community foundations like the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. Today, one out of every eight dollars bound for charities in the United States is channeled into a donor-advised fund.

The participants wanted, among other reforms, to ensure that money stashed in donor-advised funds, which had already earned those donors significant tax savings, ended up in the hands of working charities more quickly. But there was a general recognition in the room that movement would be slow and incremental, if it happened at all.

That was January 2020.

On Wednesday, the effort will make its way to Congress, where Senators Angus King of Maine and Charles E. Grassley of Iowa are introducing legislation to attempt a version of what the group outlined in that first brainstorming session: a way of ensuring that money promised to charity more quickly gets to the people who need it.

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June 12, 2021 in Book Club, Tax, Tax News | Permalink

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Phillips: The Cost Of My Faith

Jack Phillips (Owner, Masterpiece Cakeshop), The Cost of My Faith: How a Decision in My Cake Shop Took Me to the Supreme Court (May 25, 2021): Why I Didn't "Just Bake the Cake":

The Cost of My FaithMy decision in the cake shop that summer afternoon in July 2012—and my continuing decision to stand by it ever since—has cost me at least tens of thousands of dollars in revenue and eight years and counting of physical threats to my family, insults to my character, and untold hours tied up in legal action of one form or another. Given this, I’m sure there’s an excellent chance that you’re wondering, “What on earth is this guy’s thing about marriage? Is it really that big a deal? Is it really worth all of this pain and aggravation?” Or, as many people have put it, “Why not just bake the cake?”

My hesitation was not with the men making the request. My objection is never to the person, the customer, asking me to create a cake with a particular message. My objection—in this case—is to the message itself. I can and cheerfully will serve anyone. I cannot and won’t communicate every message.

I have demurred from creating a lot of non-wedding cakes. I don’t do Halloween cakes, for instance. I personally cannot see Jesus celebrating that day, or encouraging me to do so, especially if the motivation is to glorify things the Bible so explicitly condemns. ...

Where do we think artistic creativity comes from? Something outside of ourselves? Of course not. It’s water from the fountain of our soul. It comes from that deep-down place inside each of us where our experiences, our understanding, our intuitions, and our deepest beliefs and convictions about life all stir together. Those can’t be separated from each other any more than you can sift out the various ingredients from a cake after it’s baked.

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June 6, 2021 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

To Boost Productivity, Lawyers And Law Students Should 'Socially Distance' From Their Phones

Karen Sloan (Law.com0, To Boost Productivity, Lawyers and Law Students Should 'Socially Distance' From Their Phones:

Law Student's Guide 2Suffolk University law professor Shailini George wrote the book on distracted law students—literally.

Her new book, titled, “The Law Student’s Guide To Doing Well and Being Well,” relies on neuroscience research to map out how lawyers and law students can curb the many distractions of modern life (ahem, smartphones) and increase their focus and productivity. George makes the case that multitasking drains our mental energy and that all-night cram sessions are less effective than focused, 50-minute study periods.

Law.com caught up with George to discuss her findings, how lawyers and law students can be more efficient with their time and why smartphones remind her of an infant’s pacifier. Her answers have been edited for length. ...

Has the advent of the smartphone exacerbated this distraction problem?
It absolutely has. I’ll be honest, this is me too. But what you see with students is that the phone never leaves their hands. It reminds me of my children when they were infants, who liked pacifiers. They didn’t need the pacifier in their mouth—they wanted to hold onto the pacifier. Just knowing it was there was comforting. I think it’s a similar phenomenon with people and their phones—in the grocery store, in class, driving. Everybody has a phone in their hand, and they’re filling every spare moment of their time scrolling on their phones. It does cause you not to be able to keep your focus on any one item. ...

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June 2, 2021 in Book Club, Legal Ed Scholarship, Legal Education | Permalink

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Shanske: A Brief Theory Of Taxation And Framework Public Goods

Darien Shanske (UC-Davis), A Brief Theory of Taxation and Framework Public Goods, in Tax Justice and Tax Law: Understanding Unfairness in Tax Systems (Dominic de Cogan (Cambridge) & Peter Harris (Cambridge) eds. 2020):

Tax Justice and Tax LawThe literature on the question of how best to distribute the burden of taxation is technical and vast. However, in order for there to be a tax burden to distribute, there must first be a relatively stable social order that establishes, among other things, property rights. But the establishing of property rights is not costless; some revenue must have already been collected. How does one evaluate the distributive implications of a system of revenue collection that is a precondition for distributive questions? The dominant response to this question is to move beyond it by noting that, as a matter of fact, we are no longer in this liminal position and so we can sensibly discuss how best to distribute the tax burden.

In this short chapter I argue for two basic points: First, as to the funding of the set of basic goods that make distributive questions possible, which I call “framework” goods, there is a strong argument that we should relax our demands for use of the “best” tax system.

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May 27, 2021 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Legal’s AI Rocket Ship Will Be Manned

Dan Currell (AdvanceLaw), Legal’s AI Rocket Ship Will Be Manned:

Will the world still need lawyers once AI gets really good?

The short answer is yes—and I believe it will still be yes no matter how good AI gets. My view is not universally accepted, so I will need to lay it out, and that will involve some claims about what humans are and whether a machine can ever be like that. This will shed considerable light on what lawyers essentially do, and help us to see how machines can help us to be better lawyers. ...

For this post, I will limit myself to three questions:

  1. How are lawyers like humans?
  2. Can AI do what humans do?
  3. Will the world still need lawyers once AI gets really good?

Two really important books
Legal EvolutionArtificial intelligence (AI) has arrived in the legal profession.  Whether we should call it “intelligence” should, I think, be contested—but that is for a later post.  Whatever we call it, machines have matured to the point where every legal leader must urgently consider what advanced machines mean for his or her business.

At the same time, of course, AI has arrived in the world.  Few corners of society, economy and culture will be unaffected.

Fortunately, there are two books to meet this moment.  They can be easily read in self-contained chapters; you can put them both on the nightstand and alternate.  Your bedtime reading will foretell some of the most consequential legal and societal developments of the next decade.

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May 19, 2021 in Book Club, Legal Ed Scholarship, Legal Education | Permalink

Monday, May 17, 2021

Bias Is A Big Problem. But So Is Noise.

New York Times op-ed:  Bias Is a Big Problem. But So Is ‘Noise.’, by Daniel Kahneman (Princeton; Google Scholar), Olivier Sibony (HEC-Paris; Google Scholar) & Cass Sunstein (Harvard; Google Scholar) (co-authors, Noise: A Flaw in Human Judgment (May 2021)):

NoiseSociety has devoted a lot of attention to the problem of bias — and rightly so. But when it comes to mistaken judgments and unfortunate decisions, there is another type of error that attracts far less attention: noise.

To see the difference between bias and noise, consider your bathroom scale. If on average the readings it gives are too high (or too low), the scale is biased. If it shows different readings when you step on it several times in quick succession, the scale is noisy. (Cheap scales are likely to be both biased and noisy.) While bias is the average of errors, noise is their variability.

Although it is often ignored, noise is a large source of malfunction in society. In a 1981 study, for example, 208 federal judges were asked to determine the appropriate sentences for the same 16 cases. The cases were described by the characteristics of the offense (robbery or fraud, violent or not) and of the defendant (young or old, repeat or first-time offender, accomplice or principal). You might have expected judges to agree closely about such vignettes, which were stripped of distracting details and contained only relevant information.

But the judges did not agree. The average difference between the sentences that two randomly chosen judges gave for the same crime was more than 3.5 years. Considering that the mean sentence was seven years, that was a disconcerting amount of noise.

Noise in real courtrooms is surely only worse, as actual cases are more complex and difficult to judge than stylized vignettes. It is hard to escape the conclusion that sentencing is in part a lottery, because the punishment can vary by many years depending on which judge is assigned to the case and on the judge’s state of mind on that day. The judicial system is unacceptably noisy. ...

Noise causes error, as does bias, but the two kinds of error are separate and independent. ...

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May 17, 2021 in Book Club, Legal Ed News, Legal Education | Permalink

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Bank Reviews Rebellion, Rascals, And Revenue: Tax Follies And Wisdom Through The Ages

Steven A. Bank (UCLA), Taxation’s Summer Blockbuster (reviewing Michael Keen (IMF) & Joel Slemrod (Michigan; Google Scholar), Rebellion, Rascals, and Revenue: Tax Follies and Wisdom through the Ages (Princeton University Press 2021)):

RascalsIn Rebellion, Rascals, and Revenue, Michael Keen and Joel Slemrod have written a fantastic book that collects and loosely organizes a treasure trove of anecdotes about tax systems, trivia, and events around the world and throughout history. In many respects the book, which endeavors to include stories about any type of tax, in any type of tax system, in any period in history, is overly ambitious. Nevertheless, Keen and Mick identify several common themes that persist over time. More contextualization might have revealed an omitted theme – the effect of societal changes on the development and adaptation of tax systems – but the book’s main contribution is in taking readers on a raucous ride through tax history that will leave them convinced that taxation is not only important, but exciting as well. In Rebellion, Rascals, and Revenue, Michael Keen and Joel Slemrod, two public finance economists from the International Monetary Fund and the University of Michigan, respectively, have written a fantastic book that collects and loosely organizes a treasure trove of anecdotes about tax systems, trivia, and events around the world and throughout history.

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May 5, 2021 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink

Low-Income Taxpayers And The Affordable Care Act

Christine Speidel (Villanova), Low-Income Taxpayers and the Affordable Care Act (in Effectively Representing Your Client Before the IRS:

ABA What is the connection between taxes and health insurance? Why do advocates for low-income taxpayers need to know about the Affordable Care Act? The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) contains dozens of tax provisions. The ACA introduced a major new tax credit and a major new tax penalty for 2014. It also imported tax concepts into Medicaid. All told, the ACA will have a major impact on low-income taxpayers. Health care advocates are already in the thick of helping people get and maintain health insurance coverage. Tax advocates at Low-Income Taxpayer Clinics (LITCs) may not see ACA-related examinations and collection controversies until 2015, but now is the time many of our clients are making decisions that will seriously impact their lives and shape future tax controversies. Education, issue-spotting, and early guidance could make a positive difference. All advocates working with low-income taxpayers should educate their clients, particularly those in English as-a-second-language (ESL) communities, about their new rights and responsibilities. This article serves as an introduction and reference on the ACA for legal advocates and policymakers, with a focus on tax provisions affecting lower-income individuals. The article summarizes the major health care reform developments affecting low-income taxpayers from October 2013 through mid-2015, and introduces key ACA concepts. It then focuses in detail on the two ACA tax provisions that most concern low-income individuals: the Premium Tax Credit and the individual shared responsibility payment.

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May 5, 2021 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink

Monday, May 3, 2021

The Wealth Hoarders: How Billionaires Pay Millions To Hide Trillions

Chuck Collins (Institute for Policy Studies), The Wealth Hoarders: How Billionaires Pay Millions to Hide Trillions (2021):

Wealth Horders 3For decades, a secret army of tax attorneys, accountants and wealth managers has been developing into the shadowy Wealth Defense Industry. These “agents of inequality” are paid millions to hide trillions for the richest 0.01%.

In this book, inequality expert Chuck Collins interviews the leading players and gives a unique insider account of how this industry is doing everything it can to create and entrench hereditary dynasties of wealth and power. He exposes the inner workings of these “agents of inequality,” showing how they deploy anonymous shell companies, family offices, offshore accounts, opaque trusts, and sham transactions to ensure the world’s richest pay next to no tax. He ends by outlining a robust set of policies that democratic nations can implement to shut down the Wealth Defense Industry for good.

This shocking exposé of the insidious machinery of inequality is essential reading for anyone wanting the inside story of our age of plutocratic plunder and stashed cash.

It is no great surprise anymore that we are facing the greatest crisis in income and wealth inequality that we have seen since the 1920s. What is shocking is the sprawling system of corruption that the ultra-rich have designed in order to hoard their unimaginable wealth at the expense of everyone else. Chuck's book reveals not only the inner workings of this elaborate scheme to hide more than $20 trillion in wealth, it offers us a blueprint for reversing this obscene inequality so we can take back our democracy and ensure that our government works for everybody—not just the billionaire class and wealthy campaign contributors.
Senator Bernie Sanders

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May 3, 2021 in Book Club, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Islam And The Euthyphro Dilemma: Does God Command Or Prohibit Things Because They Are Inherently Good And Bad? Or Are Things Good And Bad Because God Decrees Them So?

Wall Street Journal Essay:  Where Islam and Reason Meet, by Mustafa Akyol (Cato Institute; author, Reopening Muslim Minds: A Return to Reason, Freedom and Tolerance (2021)):

Reopening Muslim Mind 2I have sadly observed the growing ethical gap between rigid, Sharia-minded conservatives and the modern world. I have also come to realize that this deadlock won’t be overcome by endlessly wrestling over what exactly the Qur’an or the Prophet Muhammad said on this or that matter. Such discussions about the textual sources of the Sharia are important, but there is an even more important layer that lies beneath. This is kalam, or Islamic theology, and especially a mostly forgotten dispute in that theology over the meaning of husn and qubh, literally, “beauty” and “ugliness,” or “good” and “bad.”

Muslims began to discuss this matter in the 8th century, a century after the Prophet, as they were trying to make sense of their faith and the empire they were establishing in its name. All agreed that God commands what is good, such as helping a person in need, and prohibits what is bad, such as murder. But a puzzling question soon arose: Does God command or prohibit things because they are inherently good and bad? Or are things good and bad simply because God decreed so?

Students of Western philosophy may find the question familiar, because the first person to pose it was the Greek philosopher Socrates, in his famous dialogue with Euthyphro. The question became known as the Euthyphro dilemma, and it presented two options to any theology.

The first is “ethical objectivism,” meaning that God’s commandments are based on objective ethical principles that we humans can understand. The second is “divine command theory,” meaning that God commands whatever He wills and ethical principles follow His will, not the other way around.

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April 18, 2021 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink

Catholic College Basketball: Faith, Hoops And Charity

Wall Street Journal Book Review:  John J. Miller (Hillsdale College), Faith, Hoops and Charity (reviewing John Gasaway (ESPN), Miracles on the Hardwood: The Hope-and-a-Prayer Story of a Winning Tradition in Catholic College Basketball (2021)):

MiraclesIn Miracles on the Hardwood, a history of Catholic college basketball, ESPN’s John Gasaway begins his story by observing a paradox about the origins of the game: “Basketball was invented to save Protestant men’s souls.” Its founding father, James Naismith, was “a pious Presbyterian” who worked at a YMCA in Springfield, Mass., where he sought to devise a sport that his co-religionists could play indoors. He borrowed the idea of a goal from hockey and lacrosse. His innovation was to orient the goal itself horizontally rather than vertically. Players didn’t throw a ball at an upright target but lofted it above their heads and hoped it would drop through a halo-like hoop.

Naismith probably never imagined how much his newfangled sport would mean to Catholics. “For many Americans, college basketball is the outward and visible sign of Catholicism in the United States,” observed the late Frank Deford in 1985, when Georgetown and St. John’s joined eventual champion Villanova in the Final Four. Mr. Gasaway chronicles this and just about every other significant Catholic moment in college basketball, but he avoids turning out a tale of triumphalism: “Catholic teams on the whole may be characterized more aptly as good or very good rather than as dominant or elite.” ...

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April 18, 2021 in Book Club, Legal Ed News, Legal Education | Permalink

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Avi-Yonah Reviews Rebellion, Rascals, And Revenue: Tax Follies And Wisdom Through The Ages

Reuven S. Avi-Yonah (Michigan), Rebellion, Rascals, and Revenue: Pleasingly Gaudy and Preposterous, 170 Tax Notes Fed. 1885 (Mar. 22, 2021) (reviewing Michael Keen (IMF) & Joel Slemrod (Michigan; Google Scholar), Rebellion, Rascals, and Revenue: Tax Follies and Wisdom through the Ages (Princeton University Press 2021)):

RascalsMichael Keen and Joel Slemrod’s Rebellion, Rascals, and Revenue: Tax Follies and Wisdom through the Ages (Princeton University Press 2021) is a wonderful book, which should be read by any student of taxation. To most tax policy makers and academics, tax history may seem a bit arcane, because they believe that the study of taxation and especially public finance economics is a story of progress and that we know better how to design good tax systems than our ancestors. To this attitude, Keen and Slemrod offer a decisive rejoinder: We do not necessarily understand taxation better than our predecessors, and in fact we can learn from their experience. Keen and Slemrod’s marvelous book is not an attempt to directly effectuate tax policy or to rewrite tax history. Instead, it is a very wise excursion by two highly experienced public finance economists into the past in order to both understand the present better by comparing it to what was different, and to improve the future by learning from both past wisdom and past follies.

April 14, 2021 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink

Washington & Lee Hosts Virtual Book Event Today On Michelle Drumbl’s Refundable Tax Credits

Washington & Lee Law to Host Book Celebration and Discussion of Refundable Tax Credits:

Tax CreditsWashington & Lee law professor and Tax Clinic director Michelle Drumbl’s recent book, Tax Credits for the Working Poor: A Call for Reform (Cambridge University Press 2021), is the topic of an upcoming book celebration event and discussion.

The event will occur in a virtual format on Wednesday, April 14 beginning at 3:00 p.m. and is open to the public. Registration in advance is required at go.wlu.edu/taxcredit.

Drumbl’s book examines the pros and cons of Congress tasking the Internal Revenue Service with the delivery of social benefits. At the core of the book is an examination of the earned income tax credit (EITC), which was introduced in the U.S. in 1975. According to Drumbl, the EITC remains the most significant earnings-based refundable credit in the Internal Revenue Code.

The economic shocks related to the COVID-19 pandemic saw Congress once again turn to the IRS to deliver aid to those in need, as tens of millions of individuals and families received three rounds of Economic Impact Payments. Most recently, Congress enacted a temporary one-year expansion of the Child Tax Credit that transforms the credit in size and scope: parents will receive a higher benefit per child, earned income is no longer a prerequisite to the credit, and part of the credit will be delivered in advance in monthly payments.

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April 14, 2021 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink

Monday, April 12, 2021

Paving The Way: The First American Women Law Professors

Herma Hill Kay, Paving the Way: The First American Women Law Professors (Patricia A. Cain (Santa Clara), ed. University of California Press 2021):

Paving the WayThe first wave of trailblazing female law professors and the stage they set for American democracy.

When it comes to breaking down barriers for women in the workplace, Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s name speaks volumes for itself—but, as she clarifies in the foreword to this long-awaited book, there are too many trailblazing names we do not know. Herma Hill Kay, former Dean of UC Berkeley School of Law and Ginsburg’s closest professional colleague, wrote Paving the Way to tell the stories of the first fourteen female law professors at ABA- and AALS-accredited law schools in the United States. Kay, who became the fifteenth such professor, labored over the stories of these women in order to provide an essential history of their path for the more than 2,000 women working as law professors today and all of their feminist colleagues.

Because Herma Hill Kay, who died in 2017, was able to obtain so much first-hand information about the fourteen women who preceded her, Paving the Way is filled with details, quiet and loud, of each of their lives and careers from their own perspectives. Kay wraps each story in rich historical context, lest we forget the extraordinarily difficult times in which these women lived. Paving the Way is not just a collection of individual stories of remarkable women but also a well-crafted interweaving of law and society during a historical period when women’s voices were often not heard and sometimes actively muted. The final chapter connects these first fourteen women to the “second wave” of women law professors who achieved tenure-track appointments in the 1960s and 1970s, carrying on the torch and analogous challenges. This is a decidedly feminist project, one that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg advocated for tirelessly and admired publicly in the years before her death.

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April 12, 2021 in Book Club, Legal Ed Scholarship, Legal Education | Permalink

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Dorothy Brown: ‘The System For Wealth Building Is Designed To Build White Wealth’

New York Magazine, Dorothy Brown: ‘The System for Wealth Building Is Designed to Build White Wealth’:

Whiteness of WealthHow 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.

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April 8, 2021 in Book Club, Legal Education, Scholarship, Tax, Tax News, Tax Scholarship | Permalink

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Texas Dean Hosts Virtual Discussion Today On Rebellion, Rascals, And Revenue: Tax Follies And Wisdom Through The Ages

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):

RascalsAn 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.

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April 1, 2021 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Brown: How The U.S. Tax Code Privileges White Families

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)):

Whiteness of WealthTax 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).

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March 23, 2021 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink

Monday, March 22, 2021

Brown: Your Home’s Value Is Based on Racism

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)):

Whiteness of WealthWherever 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. ...

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March 22, 2021 in Book Club, Legal Education, Tax | Permalink

Thursday, March 11, 2021

UVA Podcast With Michael Graetz: The Wolf At The Door — The Menace Of Economic Insecurity And How To Fight It

University of Virginia School of Law News, ‘Common Law’ Explores How To Reduce Economic Insecurity:

Wolf at the Door 3Focusing 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.

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March 11, 2021 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Bloomberg Businessweek Cover Story: Is The Tax Code Racist? Dorothy Brown On the Secrets Of White Wealth

BloombergBusinessweek, Is The Tax Code Racist? Dorothy Brown on the Secrets of White Wealth:

BloombergBusinessweekA 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.

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March 10, 2021 in Book Club, Legal Education, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Law Prof Thriller: Todd Henderson's State Of Shock

Todd Henderson (Chicago), State of Shock (2021):

State of ShockWhen 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.

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February 13, 2021 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Kleinbard: What's Luck Got To Do With It?

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):

WLGTDWIThe 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.

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February 9, 2021 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

This Economist Has A Radical Plan To Solve Wealth Inequality

Wired, This Economist Has a Radical Plan to Solve Wealth Inequality:

CapitalPiketty’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. ...

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January 12, 2021 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Thus Was Adonis Murdered

Sarah Caudwell, Thus Was Adonis Murdered:

CaudwellWhen 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 | Comments (0)

Sunday, November 29, 2020

From The Texas Cotton Fields To The U.S. Tax Court: The Life Journey Of Judge Vasquez

Mary Theresa Vasquez & Anthony Head, From the Texas Cotton Fields to the United States Tax Court: The Life Journey of Juan F. Vasquez (2020):

Judge VasquezThe 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

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November 29, 2020 in Book Club, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Wallace: Tax Policy And Our Democracy

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)):

Racial SelfishTwo 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?

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November 11, 2020 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

How Many Tenured Law Professors Are Black?

ABA Journal, How Many Tenured Law Professors Are Black? Public Data Does Not Say:

DeoAfter unrest escalated across the nation following the killings of George Floyd and other African Americans by police, many law schools issued solidarity and anti-racism statements.

But a fair number of those institutions have few if any Black tenured professors, says Meera Deo, the author of Unequal Profession: Race and Gender in Legal Academia.

“We know from the little data available that there are very few tenured Black law professors in the U.S.,” she told the ABA Journal. “One of the key findings from my book is that the low numbers of Black tenured professors and other professors of color contribute to ongoing biases in legal academia.”

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November 11, 2020 in Book Club, Legal Ed News, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Pichhadze Reviews Transfer Pricing And The Arm’s Length Principle After BEPS

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)):

BookWell 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.

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November 5, 2020 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)