Friday, January 31, 2020
This week, Michelle Layser (Illinois) reviews Stephanie Hoffer (Ohio State), Tax Theory & Feral AI, Public Law & Theory Working Paper Series No. 524 (Jan. 16, 2020)
The robot invasion is upon us. It started out innocently enough, with cute little robots sweeping pennies from the sidewalk. But then people started abandoning their robots in misguided acts of performance art and neglect. Some of the robots they abandoned were digital creatures who lurked at the corners of the internet, going feral and getting smarter. They learned how to write novels and poetry. People bought the prose and verse that the robots had created. And no one paid taxes.
Fortunately, this horror story is fiction (for now). Variations of this hypothetical were presented in a new working paper by Professor Stephanie Hoffer. Hoffer imagines a world in which unowned, digital AI robots are running loose on the internet, creating new value and engaging in real economic transactions. She then invites her readers to join her as she moves through a thought experiment that considers a variety of problems associated with taxing feral AI.
January 31, 2020 in Michelle Layser, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship, Weekly SSRN Roundup, Weekly Tax Roundup | Permalink
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Friday, October 18, 2019
This week, Michelle Layser (Illinois) reviews Ofer Eldar (Duke) and Chelsea Garber (Duke), Does Government Play Favorites? Evidence from Opportunity Zones (Oct. 3, 2019).
With the 2020 Census on the horizon, investors nationwide have been lobbying states to expand the areas designated for tax preferred investment under the federal Opportunity Zones law. In 2017, state governors selected 8,764 census tracts for Opportunity Zone designation. These tracts were selected from a pool of 30,981 low-income census tracts and 10,237 contiguous tracts that were eligible under the federal statute. Whether the IRS will permit states to expand or revisit their Opportunity Zone designations after the Census is yet to be seen. In the meantime, Professors Ofer Eldar and Chelsea Garber have provided a fascinating quantitative analysis of factors that may have driven the initial designation process.
October 18, 2019 in Michelle Layser, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship, Weekly SSRN Roundup, Weekly Tax Roundup | Permalink
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Friday, August 30, 2019
This week, Michelle Layser (Illinois) reviews Daniel Hemel (Chicago), A Place for Place in Federal Tax Law, 45 Ohio N.U. L. Rev. ___ (2019).
Place-based investment tax incentives are nothing new, but they were dragged into the spotlight when Opportunity Zones were introduced through the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Depending on who you ask, OZs are either a long overdue solution to the complicated and administratively inefficient incentives of the past—poised to drive large sums of much-needed capital into otherwise disinvested communities—or a misguided law that may create more problems than it solves. Many academic observers, including myself, view OZs with skepticism. Some are so skeptical that they would recommend we abandon our experiment with place-based investment tax incentives altogether. But Professor Daniel Hemel, expanding on remarks given at the 42nd annual Ohio Northern University Law Review Symposium, argues in his forthcoming essay that there is a place for “place” in federal tax law. I agree.
August 30, 2019 in Michelle Layser, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship, Weekly SSRN Roundup, Weekly Tax Roundup | Permalink
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Friday, July 12, 2019
This week, Michelle Layser (Illinois) reviews a new work by Joshua D. Blank (UC-Irvine) and Leigh Osofsky (North Carolina), Legal Calculators and the Tax System, 15 Ohio St. Tech. L.J. ___ (2019).
The IRS has long attempted to aid wary taxpayers by publishing informal guidance that translates tax laws into more understandable statements. In previous work, Professors Joshua Blank and Leigh Osofsky have argued that such plain language guidance often oversimplifies complicated tax laws, opening the door to errors. They have called this characteristic “simplexity.” In their newest article on the subject, Blank and Osofsky identify another—potentially more serious—example of tax guidance that reflects simplexity: automated legal calculators like the IRS’s Interactive Tax Assistant.
July 12, 2019 in Michelle Layser, Scholarship, Tax, Weekly SSRN Roundup, Weekly Tax Roundup | Permalink
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Friday, May 24, 2019
This week, Michelle Layser (Illinois) reviews Adam B. Thimmesch (Nebraska), The Unified Dormant Commerce Clause, 91 Temple L. Rev. ___ (2019).
Between South Dakota v. Wayfair and Franchise Tax Board of California v. Hyatt, this has been a big year for state tax law developments. First, Wayfair expanded state taxing authority by making it easier for states to impose tax collection obligations on online merchants. Then Hyatt expanded states’ sovereign immunity to protect them from lawsuits filed by nonresident taxpayers in other states. It seems clear that the playing field has been tilted in favor of state taxing power and that the legal landscape is changing for state tax law. But what exactly is the current state of the law itself?
To help answer this question, Professor Adam B. Thimmesch has revisited the touchstone case for evaluating state tax laws under the commerce clause, Complete Auto Transit, Inc. v. Brady (1977) to see what, if anything, in the doctrine is still relevant after Wayfair.
May 24, 2019 in Michelle Layser, Scholarship, Tax, Weekly SSRN Roundup | Permalink
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Friday, April 5, 2019
This week, Michelle Layser (Illinois) reviews Edward W. De Barbieri (Albany), Lawmakers as Job Buyers, 88 Fordham L. Rev. ___ (2019).
Economic development tax incentives have been in the headlines a lot lately, thanks mostly to Amazon, which almost located its east coast headquarters in Queens, New York City. Before the deal collapsed, Amazon was poised to receive roughly $1.2 billion in refundable tax credits from the state of New York. In addition, the company may have qualified for tax-subsidized financing through the new Opportunity Zones program. (Amazon insisted that it would not participate in the program). The public was outraged. But as Professor Edward W. De Barbieri reminds us, the practice of wooing companies through large tax breaks is nothing new—and it leaves a lot to be desired.
Barbieri begins by providing a comprehensive overview of the tools state and local governments use to attract businesses. He describes how state and local governments use property tax abatements, tax credits, private activity bonds, and land use regulation like tax increment financing districts to subsidize private companies and influence their location decisions. He explains how such subsidies can have a negative impact on state and local budgets, particularly when they fail—and they often do.
April 5, 2019 in Michelle Layser, Scholarship, Tax, Weekly SSRN Roundup | Permalink
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Friday, February 15, 2019
This week, Michelle Layser (Illinois) reviews Dawn Johnsen (Indiana–Bloomington) & Walter E. Dellinger III (Duke), The Constitutionality of a National Wealth Tax, 93 Ind. L.J. 111 (2018).
Presidential Candidate and Senator Elizabeth Warren recently proposed a wealth tax on household net worth over $50 million, prompting observers from across the political spectrum to question whether the proposed tax was constitutional (see here, here and here). Critics point to a constitutional requirement that would be impossible to satisfy without serious geographic inequities. But Professors Dawn Johnsen and Walter Dellinger argue that a national wealth tax may not trigger such requirements after all—precisely because they would be impossible to satisfy without such inequities.
The requirement at issue is the “apportionment requirement” imposed by Article I, § 2 of the U.S. Constitution. That provision states that “direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States . . . according to their respective Numbers.” In other words, “direct taxes” must be apportioned among the states based on population size. For example, consider two states with the same population but residents with different net worth. The first state has a large number of wealthy residents, and the second has only a few. An apportioned wealth tax would require both states to render the same aggregate amount of tax. So the few wealthy residents of the poorer state would be unfairly burdened, forced to pay proportionately more than the wealthy taxpayers in the wealthier state.
February 15, 2019 in Michelle Layser, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink
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Friday, December 21, 2018
This week, Michelle Layser (Illinois) reviews Allan Erbsen (Minnesota), Wayfair Undermines Nicastro: The Constitutional Connection Between State Tax Authority and Personal Jurisdiction, 128 Yale L.J.F. __ (2019).
With the holiday season in full swing, most people tax professors have spent at least some time shopping on the internet and contemplating the impact of South Dakota v. Wayfair. By now, we’re all well versed in the basics. Wayfair is a milestone tax law case that sets forth a new interpretation of the Commerce Clause that permits states to enforce sales and use tax collection obligations against out-of-state online merchants. Right? Well, sort of.
According to Professor Allan Erbsen, labels like “tax law case” aren’t particularly helpful, and the doctrinal impact of Wayfair may extend well beyond the territorial borders of tax law—or even Commerce Clause jurisprudence. Erbsen argues that Wayfair’s Commerce Clause holding justifies reconsideration of the Court’s 2011 decision in J. McIntyre Machinery v. Nicastro, a Due Process case that had nothing to do with tax.
December 21, 2018 in Michelle Layser, Scholarship, Tax, Weekly SSRN Roundup | Permalink
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Friday, November 2, 2018
This week, Michelle Layser (Illinois) reviews Julie Furr Youngman (Washington & Lee) & Courtney D. Hauck (J.D. 2021, Columbia), Medical Necessity: A Higher Hurdle for Marginalized Taxpayers?, 51 Loy. L.A. L. Rev. ___ (2018).
Many recent advancements in transgender rights have been followed by setbacks. Obama era rules that protected transgender patients from discrimination have been rolled back, and just last week the Trump administration announced plans to define gender for federal civil rights laws as biological, immutable and determined at birth. Now a new article by Julie Furr Youngman and Courtney Hauck warns that a 2010 U.S. Tax Court case that upheld the medical expense deduction for gender affirmation surgery may come back to haunt the transgender community if its dicta is interpreted as requiring proof of medical necessity. (Note: For definitions and terms preferred by the transgender community, please see the National Center for Transgender Equality.)
November 2, 2018 in Michelle Layser, Scholarship, Tax, Weekly SSRN Roundup | Permalink
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Friday, September 21, 2018
This week, Michelle Layser (Illinois) reviews Bridget Crawford (Pace), Tax Talk and Reproductive Technology, 100 B.U. L. Rev. ___ (2019).
As the U.S. fertility industry explodes, there is plenty of talk about surrogate miscarriages, freezer failures, unwieldy donor family trees, problems with privacy and anonymity, and the physical and emotional tolls of egg and sperm donation. What’s missing from the conversation? According to Professor Bridget Crawford, the answer is “tax talk.” Crawford’s article, which focuses on how egg donors talk about taxes with each other and their fertility clinics, is an empirically grounded exploration into the ways that talking about tax (or failing to do so) reflects and reinforces cultural norms.
The article begins by recounting the facts of a 2015 tax court case called Perez v. Commissioner. In that case, the taxpayer Nichelle Perez had received fees for her “time, effort, inconvenience, pain, and suffering in donating her eggs.” Perez earned her fees. She underwent a series of painful hormone injections that resulted in pain, bruising and burning. She submitted to general anesthesia and an invasive egg removal procedure that left her cramped, bloated, nauseous, fatigued and moody.
September 21, 2018 in Michelle Layser, Scholarship, Tax, Weekly Student Tax Note Roundup | Permalink
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