Paul L. Caron
Dean




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. ...

Continue reading

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:

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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. ...

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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. ...

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.” ...

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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).

Continue reading

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. ...

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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. ...

Continue reading

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

Continue reading

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?

Continue reading

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.”

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Relationship-Rich Education: How Human Connections Drive Success In College (And Law School)

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):

Relationships 2What 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.

Continue reading

November 4, 2020 in Book Club, Legal Ed Scholarship, Legal Education, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Rethinking Wealth And Taxes: Inequality, Globalization And Capital Income

Geoffrey Poitras (Simon Fraser University, Canada), Rethinking Wealth and Taxes: Inequality, Globalization and Capital Income (2020):

Rethinking WealthTaxes 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

Continue reading

November 3, 2020 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Love is Free. Guac is Extra.: How Vulnerability, Empowerment, And Curiosity Built An Unstoppable Team

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):

Moran 2Imagine 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.

Continue reading

October 27, 2020 in Book Club, Legal Ed News, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, October 23, 2020

The Dynamics Of Taxation: Essays in Honour of Judith Freedman

The Dynamics of Taxation: Essays in Honour of Judith Freedman (Oct. 15, 2020):

The Dynamics of Taxation 2This 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.

Continue reading

October 23, 2020 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Hamilton And The Law

Hamilton and the Law: Reading Today's Most Contentious Legal Issues through the Hit Musical (Lisa Tucker (Drexel) ed., Cornell University Press 2020):

Hamilton and the LawLawyers 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.

Continue reading

October 20, 2020 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 19, 2020

A Reckoning Over Law Faculty Inequality

Melanie D. Wilson (Former Dean, Tennessee), A Reckoning Over Law Faculty Inequality, 90 Denver U. L. Rev. Online (2020):

UnequalIn 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.

Continue reading

October 19, 2020 in Book Club, Legal Ed Scholarship, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

NY Times: Four Books That Explain The U.S. Tax System

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):

The Pale KIngIn 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):

Continue reading

October 14, 2020 in Book Club, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 8, 2020

The American Dream Is Tax Reform’s Biggest Obstacle

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. ...

Continue reading

October 8, 2020 in Book Club, Tax, Tax News, Tax Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (8)

Saturday, October 3, 2020

The Insufferable Hubris Of The Well-Credentialed

Chronicle of Higher Education, The Insufferable Hubris of the Well-Credentialed:

Tyranny 4The 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?

Continue reading

October 3, 2020 in Book Club, Legal Ed Scholarship, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (9)

Monday, August 24, 2020

Race, Class, Power, And Resistance Of Women In Academia

Carmen G. Gonzalez (Loyola-Chicago), Presumed Incompetent II: Race, Class, Power, and Resistance of Women in Academia (Utah State University Press 2020):

Presumed IncompetentThe 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 | Comments (1)

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Will Morris: PwC's Deputy Global Tax Policy Leader And Part-Time Priest

Financial Times, Test of Faith: Will Morris, PwC Tax Expert and Part-time Priest:

Morris (2020)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.

Continue reading

August 16, 2020 in Book Club, Legal Ed News, Legal Education, Tax, Tax News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Avi-Yonah: Do Tax Lawyers Need Economists?

Reuven S. Avi-Yonah (Michigan), Do Lawyers Need Economists?:

CambridgeKatja 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.

Continue reading

August 12, 2020 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Mann & Roberts: Tax Law And The Environment

Tax Law and the EnvironmentTax 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.

Reviews:

 

Continue reading

August 6, 2020 in Book Club, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

How America Was Tricked On Tax Policy

Bret Bogenschneider (Indiana University East), How America was Tricked on Tax Policy (Anthem Press 2020):

Tricked 3How 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.

Continue reading

July 29, 2020 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (8)

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Brown: The Whiteness of Wealth — How The Tax System Impoverishes Black Americans

Dorothy A. Brown (Emory), The Whiteness of Wealth: How the Tax System Impoverishes Black Americans — And How We Can Fix It (2021):

The Whiteness of Wealth 2A 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.

Continue reading

July 22, 2020 in Book Club, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (4)

Can You Truly Be Happy In Law School? An Analysis Of Law School Advice

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):

HappyThere 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.

Continue reading

July 22, 2020 in Book Club, Legal Ed News, Legal Ed Scholarship, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

The Law Of Law School: The Essential Guide For First-Year Law Students

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):

The Law of Law School“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.

Continue reading

July 14, 2020 in Book Club, Legal Ed News, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Cockfield, Hellerstein & Lamensch: Taxing Global Digital Commerce

Arthur Cockfield (Queen's University), Walter Hellerstein (University of Georgia) & Marie Lamensch (Institute for European Studies), Taxing Global Digital Commerce (2020):

Taxing GlobalThis 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.

Continue reading

June 23, 2020 in Book Club, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

The Deficit Myth: Modern Monetary Theory And The Birth Of The People’s Economy

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)):

Deficit MythAs 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.

Continue reading

June 17, 2020 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (1)