TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron
Pepperdine University School of Law

A Member of the Law Professor Blogs Network

Friday, April 24, 2015

Weekly Tax Roundup

Weekly Legal Education Roundup

Weekly SSRN Tax Roundup

Weekly Student Tax Note Roundup

April 24, 2015 in Scholarship, Tax, Weekly Student Tax Note Roundup | Permalink | Comments (0)

ATPI Hosts Conference Today On Delivering Benefits To Low-income Taxpayers

ATPI Logo (2015)The American Tax Policy Institute hosts a conference today on Delivering Benefits to Low-income Taxpayers through the Tax System  organized by George Plesko (Connecticut) and Stephen Shay (Harvard) in Washington, D.C.:

Congress has increasingly tasked the IRS to deliver a range of benefits through the tax system. The tax system has become home to some of our most important social policies, including health care, work incentives and poverty relief. The program will bring together leading academics, policymakers and administrators from both the US and abroad to consider issues revolving around administration and design of these important policies.

Panel #1:  Creative Ways to Improve Targeting and Take-Up of Earnings-Related Tax Benefits

This panel will consider ways the US tax system can adapt to its increasing role as a provider of benefits to low-income workers. The three papers explore creative approaches for better targeting of EITC benefits, including using information from other provisions and compliance functions to identify nonparticipants, experimenting with providing the EITC in advance to Chicago, and a proposal to replace existing benefits with a work credit.

Moderator/Discussant:  Damon Jones (Chicago)
Panelists:  Day Manoli (Texas), Elaine Maag (Tax Policy Center), David Marzahl (Center for Economic Progress)

Continue reading

April 24, 2015 in Conferences, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

LSAC: 2.6% Decline In Law School Applicants

Wall Street Journal, Law School Applicant Pool Still Shrinking:

The dramatic drop in law school applicants — a 40% decline between 2005 and 2014 — has many wondering when demand for a law degree will finally rebound.

Not this year, at least. The latest numbers released by the Law School Admission Council indicate that the downward spiral is still…spiraling.

As of April 17, 47,172 people have applied to go to an accredited U.S. law school this fall, according to LSAC, which administers the LSAT entrance exam. That’s a 2.6% fall-off compared to a year ago. Applications are down 4.7% from 2014.

Continue reading

April 24, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (3)

Forman & Mann: Making The IRS Work

Florida Tax ReviewJonathan Barry Forman (Oklahoma) & Roberta F. Mann (Oregon), Making the Internal Revenue Service Work, 17 Fla. Tax Rev. ___ (2015):

This is an Article about how to redesign the federal tax system so that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) can administer it more effectively given that Congress is only willing to let the IRS have around 82,000 employees and a $12 billion budget. As the IRS Oversight Board and the National Taxpayer Advocate frequently emphasize, the United States underinvests in the IRS, and that underinvesting means that taxpayer services are suffering and that tax enforcement has been significantly weakened.

With budget deficits for “as far as the eye can see” and the recent IRS troubles with tax-exempt political organizations, the prospects for increased funding for the IRS are remote. In this Article, we consider a variety of approaches that would make it easier for the IRS to raise and collect revenue, and we offer a number of recommendations for legislative and administrative changes. For example, we recommend simplifying the tax system, enhancing third-party reporting, and streamlining the tax-filing and dispute-resolution procedures.

Continue reading

April 24, 2015 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Symposium: Teaching the Academically Underprepared Law Student

TUSSymposium, Teaching The Academically Underprepared Law Student,  53 Duq. L. Rev. 1-278 (2015):

Continue reading

April 24, 2015 in Legal Education, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 715

IRS Logo 2Breitbart, Did John McCain Know about IRS Targeting?:

When the IRS scandal broke, Sen. John McCain sent out a press release claiming to be shocked at the news. But was he?

Three years’ of IRS e-mail evidence continues to build against the federal government. The most interesting and possibly disturbing piece of information deals with the fact that Republican Senator McCain and Democrat Senator Carl Levin were both aware of the targeting eleven days before Lerner’s public admission of “inappropriate” actions.

E-mails reveal that staffers from McCain’s office met with IRS personnel for six hours, 11 days before Lerner’s public admission of “inappropriate” actions. ...

This revelation served as chilling confirmation of a suspicion Tea Party groups had all along: they were under fire from both sides of the establishment in Washington, D.C. Republicans and Democrats worked together to crush their common enemy, actual conservatives. ...

[W]hat about that six hour meeting? McCain has some serious explaining to do about just how much he knew about the targeting at the IRS. He’s certainly had his differences with the Tea Party and conservative Republicans in the past. And his positions on free speech and political action have more in common with liberals who prefer a one-way street over the marketplace of ideas.

Maybe, just maybe, Senator McCain did not mind the IRS’ attempts to stifle the First Amendment rights of Tea Party citizens. Maybe his shock at Lerner’s revelation was just as fake as the outrage from the White House.

Continue reading

April 24, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Crane Presents Uncovering A Meaning For 'Direct Tax' Today At Ohio State

CraneCharlotte Crane (Northwestern) presents Uncovering a Meaning for “Direct Tax” at Ohio State today in a tax colloquium sponsored its Law, Finance and Governance Program:

This paper argues that the references article I to “direct taxes” (which if “layed and collected” by Congress must be apportioned among the states) is a reference to taxes the burden of which can be traced to a particular location, and thus to a particular state. The paper looks to the history of the grant of the impost to the Confederation Congress to support this argument. It demonstrates that throughout the decade before 1787, those involved in financing the War distinguished the impost (which could not appropriately be credited to the state in which it was paid when reckoning whether that state had met its fiscal obligation to the Confederation) from those “direct taxes” (which should be so credited). This same distinction was embedded in the Constitution, to provide both for the final reckoning of those obligations of the states and for the ongoing support of the United States.

Erik Jensen (Case Western) is the discussant.

April 23, 2015 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Defeated North Carolina Law Student Body Presidential Candidate Challenges Election, Objects To Dean's Email Opposing His '25 By 2025' Platform

2016 U.S. News RankingsDaily Tar Heel, Student Contests Law School Election:

The loser of the Student Bar Association presidential election is challenging the results in the Student Supreme Court.

Former presidential candidate Billy Piontek claims the elections committee failed to hold a fair, unbiased election.

On April 14, Piontek filed the complaint about the tactics of the winning write-in candidates. Piontek also objected to an email Jack Boger, dean of the law school, sent to the student body that Piontek said disparaged his platform. ...

The night before the election, Boger emailed the classes of 2016 and 2017 to advise against supporting the “25 by 2025” plan that Piontek and other candidates pushed for. [North Carolina is currently ranked 34th by U.S. News.] The platform centered on elevating the law school’s U.S. News and World Report ranking into the top 25 schools by 2025.

In his email, Boger said the plan contradicted the school’s values and motto, “to be rather than to seem.”

Update:  From a North Carolina faculty member:

I just wanted to add a clarification re: your post on the UNC SBA election: 

In particular, the Daily Tar Heel story didn’t make clear what prompted Dean Boger to write his email.  Piontek had not just distributed the platform to all students, but he did so while stating that he and his slate were developing the plan with the faculty and administration.  The Dean initially resisted responding broadly, even though neither he nor anyone else in the administration had ever heard of the plan, much less was working on it.  However, after numerous emails and phone calls from faculty and students distressed that he may have embarked on a significant change in focus without any faculty input or discussion, he decided that he had to make clear that the administration had nothing to do with the plan.

April 23, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

Should Professor With Lowest Student Evaluations Be Fired Each Year?

Survivor 2Chronicle of Higher Education, Iowa Legislator Wants to Give Students the Chance to Fire Underwhelming Faculty:

A bill circulating in the Iowa State Senate offers a novel (and cutthroat) way to hold professors accountable: putting their fates into students’ hands, Survivor-style. Every year the professor most disliked by students would be voted off the campus.

The bill, introduced by Sen. Mark Chelgren, a Republican, would require the state’s public universities to rate professors’ performance based solely on students’ evaluations of their teaching effectiveness. Professors whose evaluation scores didn’t reach a minimum threshold would be automatically fired by the university.

Continue reading

April 23, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

Bloomberg: Five Charts That Show You Should Apply to Law School This Year

Bloomberg, Five Charts That Show You Should Apply to Law School This Year:

Becoming a lawyer has never been a more obvious decision. ... It is still a perfect time to apply to law school, and here are five charts that prove it.

  1. Law schools need bodies.
  2. The Law School Admission Test is less competitive than it used to be.
  3. A good applicant has an excellent shot at getting in.
  4. When I say good applicant, I'm probably talking about you.
  5. The law job market is better than it looks.

Continue reading

April 23, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (4)

Movie Night With Judge Kozinski Offers Behind The Curtain View Of 9th Circuit

Movie NightLos Angeles Times, After Court Adjourns, 9th Circuit Judge's Movie Nights Are a Hit:

It's movie night at the courthouse.

U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Alex Kozinski, his identification and security tags hanging from his neck, greets dozens of people who have shown up early for a guided tour of the court's headquarters, an ornate columned building on the edge of San Francisco's seamy Tenderloin. ...

Continue reading

April 23, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

Life After Loving: IRS Regulation of Tax Preparers

Florida Tax ReviewAlex H. Levy (NYU), Believing in Life After Loving: IRS Regulation of Tax Preparers, 17 Fla. Tax Rev. 437 (2015):

Nearly anyone can be a tax preparer. There is no test to pass or code of ethics to follow. With few barriers to entry, the field of tax preparation has drawn unscrupulous players, many of whom prey on low-income families who claim the earned-income tax credit. In 2011, the IRS endeavored to regulate the anything-goes world of tax preparation. But a group of small-government activists at the Institute for Justice challenged the IRS’s regulations in federal court. And they won. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit struck down the regulations as beyond the IRS’s authority under section 330 of Title 31 of the United States Code. In the wake of that decision, Loving v. IRS, the only path forward for advocates of taxpayer protection is for Congress to explicitly empower the IRS to regulate swindlers posing as tax professionals.

This Article is, fundamentally, a story of political and judicial failure in the age of small government absolutism. In a different era, federal oversight of unscrupulous tax preparers would have represented the blandest kind of common sense. But the Institute for Justice was able to convince a panel of judges on what is widely regarded as the second most influential court in the country that IRS oversight of tax preparers is unlawful. The government’s litigation strategy proved bumbling and ill-considered; it was easily outmaneuvered by its ideologically-driven adversary.

Continue reading

April 23, 2015 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Auerbach, Gamage Named to California Tax Reform Advisory Panel

SealCalifornia State Controller's Office, Council of Economic Advisors:

Within her first four months of taking office, State Controller Betty Yee created a Council of Economic Advisors to examine the many ideas for comprehensive tax reform in California.

Controller Yee and other elected officials have called for a tax system that is less vulnerable during economic downturns and is more sustainable, providing greater certainty from year to year. While numerous reform ideas have merit, Controller Yee believes that changes to the tax system must be examined as a whole with focus on fairness to taxpayers and practicality. A comprehensive reform should avoid locking in even more money for specific groups and instead provide a dependable source of revenue that avoids major disruptions to government services.

Continue reading

April 23, 2015 in Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

House Report: IRS ‘Deliberately’ Cut Customer Service to Make Tax Season Painful for Taxpayers

House LogoHouse Ways & Means Committee Majority Staff Report, Doing Less With Less: IRS’s Spending Decisions Harm Taxpayers (Apr. 22, 2015):

During the 2015 tax-filing season, the IRS provided what its own Commissioner described as “abysmal” customer service, blaming skyrocketing wait times for telephone and in-person assistance on agency budget cuts. The IRS even called budget cuts “a tax cut for tax cheats.” But a close review of the agency’s spending shows the IRS deliberately cut $134 million in funding for customer service to pay for other activities. Spending decisions entirely under the IRS’s control led to 16 million fewer taxpayers receiving IRS assistance this filling season. Other spending choices, including prioritizing employee bonuses and union activity on the taxpayer’s dime, used up resources that otherwise could have been used to assist another 10 million taxpayers.

The IRS’s spending choices and mismanagement of resources raise serious questions about the nature and extent of the agency’s self-described budget crisis and its commitment to serving the taxpayer.

Press and blogosphere coverage:

Continue reading

April 23, 2015 in Congressional News, IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (9)

Measuring Teaching Excellence: Shifting From Delivery Of Course Content To Impacting Student Lives

CTEInside Higher Ed, What Is Teaching Excellence?:

College and university faculty are expected to be excellent teachers. In public, college leaders emphasize to potential students and their parents that at their institution, teaching matters above all else. Colleges seem to unabashedly promote that the teaching done by their faculty is markedly better than at peer institutions -- or that the opportunities for close working relationships between students and faculty are unique to their campus. ...

There is no shortage of lip service from various academic ranks on the value of teaching excellence. ... But what exactly is teaching excellence? Institutional commitments, workshops, conferences and journals, all sharing the intent of improving teaching and content delivery, do not necessarily translate to a universal agreement on exactly what it is we are improving.

Continue reading

April 23, 2015 in Legal Education, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 714

IRS Logo 2Forbes, Before IRS Targeting, Lois Lerner Targeted At Federal Election Commission, by Robert W. Wood:

The IRS audits, sends bills, imposes penalties, files liens and levies. Yet incredibly, most of the money the IRS collects is self-assessed. We all fill out tax returns and voluntarily send in money. How much we believe in the system is critical to making it work. Sure, part of the reason we comply is our fear that we’ll be viewed as willful risking jail if we don’t. But there may be a correlation between how much people cheat and their faith that the tax system is impartial. That’s one reason the state of the IRS is so terribly important.

It is hard to believe that the IRS scandal is on day 711. More than two years on, we know that Lois Lerner got a pass on prosecution. She even got nice bonuses. And it seems clear that nothing more will happen. Democrats say that is as it should be, since as President Obama remarked that there is not even a smidgen of corruption at the IRS. But Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Peter Roskam (R-IL) spoke in support of Congressman Jim Renacci’s (R-OH) Prevent Targeting at the IRS Act, which passed unanimously along with several other measures to rein in the IRS. Rep. Roskam called the targeting insidious and poisonous. ...

There is arguably no part of the government more important than our tax system. Our country cannot exist without it. Our tax code and how we administer it could be improved. Yet it is still a system with integrity, one that is administered mostly on the honor system. IRS employees deserve better than the black eye they are getting over this mess. American taxpayers deserve better too.

Continue reading

April 23, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (5)

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Closing The Books On My 25th Year Of Law Teaching

I taught my last Federal Income Tax and Tax Policy classes of the semester today, closing the books on my 25th (and best) year of law teaching. Thanks to the students who have put up with me through the years, including my hokey closing advice on the secret of life:

April 22, 2015 in Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

Mazur: Taxing the Cloud

CloudsOrly Mazur (SMU), Taxing the Cloud, 103 Cal. L. Rev. 1 (2015):

Transacting business in the “cloud” has quickly gained popularity worldwide as the new method of providing information technology (IT) resources. Instead of purchasing or downloading software, we can now use the Internet to access software and other fundamental computing resources located on remote computer networks operated by third parties. These transactions offer companies lower operating costs, increased scalability, and improved reliability, but also give rise to a host of international tax issues. Despite the rapid growth and prevalent use of cloud computing, U.S. taxation of international cloud computing transactions has yet to receive significant scholarly attention. This Article seeks to fill that void by analyzing the U.S. tax implications of operating in the cloud from both doctrinal and policy perspectives. Such an analysis shows that the technological advances associated with the cloud put pressure on traditional U.S. federal income tax principles, which creates uncertainty, compliance burdens, liability risks for businesses, and a potential loss of revenue for the government. Applying the current law to cloud computing transactions also results in tax consequences that run counter to sound tax policy and may result in double taxation or complete nontaxation of cloud income.

Continue reading

April 22, 2015 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Warren Buffett’s Nifty Tax Loophole

BuffettBarron's, Warren Buffett’s Nifty Tax Loophole:

Warren Buffett has backed higher individual tax rates–while ensuring that his vast wealth in Berkshire Hathaway is almost immune.

Warren Buffett is fond of saying his tax rate is lower than his secretary’s. He does not publicize his tax returns, but for the tax year 2010, he paid $6.9 million on taxable income of $39.8 million, according to partial disclosures he made in 2011.

What is astounding about those numbers is not the 17.3% tax rate, but that Buffett’s $39.8 million of taxable income is only about 0.05% of his reported net worth ($71 billion according to Forbes, which put him third on its list of the 400 wealthiest people in the world for 2015).

Continue reading

April 22, 2015 in Celebrity Tax Lore, Tax | Permalink | Comments (4)

WaPo: Why Law Schools Are Losing Relevance — And How They’re Trying To Win It Back

Washington Post, Why Law Schools Are Losing Relevance — And How They’re Trying to Win It Back:

Law schools across the country are facing their lowest enrollment numbers in years, causing some to slash their budgets and revamp their programs in an effort to attract students worried about finding a job in a diminished legal industry.

Continue reading

April 22, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

20 Law Professors Elected To American Law Institute

ALI Logo (2015)Twenty law professors have been elected to membership in the American Law Institute:

Continue reading

April 22, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Seto: The Problem of Law School Tuition

Seto (2014)TaxProf Blog op-ed:  The Problem of Law School Tuition, by Theodore P. Seto (Loyola-L.A.):

In a recent op-ed in the New York Law Journal, Dean Jeremy Paul of Northeastern writes about the future of legal education. Although he makes many good points, he avoids the single hardest question facing law schools going forward: what to do about tuition? Most schools have dealt with this temporarily by holding net tuition constant. (Net tuition is nominal tuition less scholarships.) But in the long run, the parade of horribles at the bottom of each law school's class will get worse if nominal tuition rises faster than the rate of average lawyer compensation, because the bottom of each class will absorb the brunt of any such disproportionate increase.

Continue reading

April 22, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (11)

Practicing Law With Your Apple Watch

Apple WatchABA Journal, Smartwatches and Other Wearables Can Enhance the Practice of Law, Attorneys Say:

Smartwatches and other forms of wearable technology aren’t just for fitness enthusiasts or techies that can’t bear to be away from the Net.

In a Friday afternoon session at ABA Techshow, attorneys Rick Georges and Robert Sisson talked about how wearable technology has enhanced their ability to practice law on their own terms. Showing off their large collection of smartwatches, virtual reality devices and other gadgets, Georges and Sisson talked about their favorite devices while providing examples of how they used them in their practice. ...

Continue reading

April 22, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (2)

Florida Tax Institute Kicks Off Today

FloridaThe three-day Florida Tax Institute kicks off today at the Grand Hyatt in Tampa.  Tax Prof speakers include:

  • Sam Donaldson (Georgia State), Recent Developments Affecting Estate Planning
  • Lawrence Lokken (Florida), Current Developments in International Taxation
  • Martin McMahon (Florida) & Bruce McGovern (South Texas), Recent Developments in Federal Income Taxation 
  • Louis Nostro (Nostro Jones) & Grayson McCouch (Florida), Innovative Charitable Gift Planning Strategies
  • Hap Shashy (King & Spalding) & Michael Friel (Florida), Debt vs. Equity

Continue reading

April 22, 2015 in Conferences, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Law School Puffery and Smoke Blowing

David Barnhizer (Cleveland State), 'Puffing' and 'Blowing Smoke':

The “back and forth” over what is happening and will happen in America’s legal profession and US law schools is frustrating. I see many of the assertions being made by deans and law professors as wishful thinking about what they hope or feel will occur in order to keep up a “brave front” in the face of a catastrophe they cannot prevent. The fact is that if deans and other significant figures in the world of legal education admitted the truth of what was occurring the result would be an acceleration of the downward slide. There is virtually no chance that an honest analysis will be forthcoming from “official” sources. Nor is there much chance that the process has run its course.

Rather than an honest assessment of what is happening and what pretty much is guaranteed to take place over the next five to fifteen years in law schools and “law jobs”, we see claims that the legal profession will rebound and jobs for law graduates return. Almost daily, momentary micro-shifts in the situation are projected pro or con without connection to the macro-dynamics that are playing the primary role in the contracting future of the legal profession and law schools. It feels that we are either running around like little chickens proclaiming “the sky is falling” or like big chickens who are comfortably ensconced in our nests and dedicated to the proposition that “we have seen everything before and it will all be OK soon so stop being so alarmist”.  Either way we are mostly just “clucking” around.

The reality is that “things” will be OK—just not for many of the faculty members and staff of a majority of US law schools whose jobs are at risk or for heavily indebted law students and graduates without jobs of the kind they spent huge sums trying to obtain through their legal education. “Things” will be quite OK for the country because we don’t need more lawyers of the kind we have seen for the past half-century in the volume law schools have been producing. “Things” will be OK because this is a period of re-imagining what it means to educate someone to provide legal services and one in which the long-term monopolistic control over entry into the legal profession by law schools, the ABA and state supreme courts is finally being recognized as the self-interested and expensive restraint of trade that it is. ...

Several Dismal “Truths”

There are many things that could and have been said about what is going on in law schools and the legal profession. But there are some “truths” being ignored far too easily. I suggest they include the following.

Continue reading

April 22, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (2)

The IRS Scandal, Day 713

IRS Logo 2News Max, IRS Tea Party-Targeting Scandal Continues:

If the tea party and other conservative groups had been fully active in the critical months leading up to the 2012 election, would Mitt Romney be president today? The public will, of course, never know for certain.

Thanks to Judicial Watch, however, the American people do now know the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) targeted right-leaning organizations applying for tax-exempt status and prevented them from having their voice heard during that period. ...

In their lawsuit, Judicial Watch is asking the courts to order the IRS to do the following:

  • Conduct a search for any and all records responsive to (Judicial Watch’s) FOIA requests.
  • Produce, by a certain date, any and all nonexempt records responsive to (Judicial Watch’s) FOIA requests and a Vaughn index of any responsive records withheld under claim of exemption.
  • Enjoin the [RS from continuing to withhold any and all non-exempt records responsive to the plaintiff’s FOIA requests.

This targeting of donors and other right-leaning groups is intriguing in light of a new Lerner email Judicial Watch just released.

The email discloses that the IRS audited tax-exempt political groups using a separate investigation arm (under Lerner’s control), the Review of Operations Unit. Lerner wrote: "Also, we often use the ROO [Review of Operations Unit] to do initial research. Before starting audits — they don’t touch taxpayers, but can look at publicly available info about orgs."

These documents should dispel any remaining doubt that the Obama administration used tea party applications to do opposition research on individual citizens and groups opposed to President Obama’s policies.

Continue reading

April 22, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Albouy Presents The Optimal Taxation Of Housing Consumption Today At NYU

AlbouyDavid Albouy (Illinois) presents Should We Be Taxed Out Of Our Homes? The Optimal Taxation of Housing Consumption at NYU today as part of its Tax Policy Colloquium Series hosted by Daniel Shaviro and Alan Viard:

Optimal tax theory suggests that it is more efficient to tax housing as a consumption good than other forms of consumption as it is a complement to leisure and is produced more intensively from land, an inelastic factor, than other goods. This tax rate appears to be at least 50 percent higher than other forms of consumption, justifying high rates of property taxation, particularly in areas with inelastic housing supply. It may be efficient to offer a lump sum transfer to households who choose to live close to high-paying jobs, justifying infra-marginal subsidies to housing units in some high-price areas. Proximity to amenities may also influence optimal tax rates depending on whether they are substitutes or complements to labor supply or housing consumption.

April 21, 2015 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

California Law School Job Placement Rankings

RankingsDerek Muller (Pepperdine), Visualizing Legal Employment Outcomes in California in 2014:

I thought I'd recreate last year's data on California law school employment outcomes, with a couple of tweaks due to external changes.

A few things jump out from the data. First, there were fewer graduates: there were about 400 fewer graduates from California schools, from 5185 for the Class of 2013 to 4731 for the Class of 2014.

Second, total job placement remained flat. Between 2800-2900 California graduates obtained unfunded positions in the last three years. This year shows that 2849 obtained these unfunded, full-weight positions, good for 60.2% of California graduates--a percentage better than previous years, no doubt, because of the smaller graduating classes.

Third, school-funded positions continue to rise. There were 145 school-funded positions from California schools .Two schools significantly increased school-funded positions: USC went from 12 to 33 (15% of the graduating class), and UC-Irvine went from 0 to 13 (14% of the graduating class). Davis added 9, and Stanford and Loyola each added 5 more school-funded positions, among other more modest changes. (Keep in mind that the Class of 2012 had just 24 such school-funded positions among California schools.)

Below is a graph of the unfunded and funded full-time, long-term, bar passage-required and J.D.-advantage positions.

Continue reading

April 21, 2015 in Law School Rankings, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

Do You Want A Work/Life Balance? Don't Be A Lawyer ('Unless You Want To Live In A Van Down By The River')

Work Life 2ABA Journal, Concerned About Lifestyle and Balance? You Probably Won't Amount to Much in the Law, Recruiter Says:

Legal recruiter Harrison Barnes has a message for lawyers who want to avoid living in a van down by the river.

If you want to be a legal professional with the responsibility of handling people’s problems, “You sure as hell better be committed to what you are doing,” writes Barnes, managing director of the Los Angeles office for BCG Attorney Search. And that means being willing to work late and on weekends.

Continue reading

April 21, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

Barry Law School Seeks To Hire An Entry Level Tax Prof

Barry LogoBarry University Dwayne O. Andreas School of Law in Orlando, Florida is seeking to hire entry level tenure track faculty in Tax, Legal Research and Writing, Business Law, Commercial Law, and Property. Other doctrinal areas are also being considered. To apply for a position, email a cover letter, CV, and list of references to Faculty Appointments Committee Chair Seema Mohapatra.

April 21, 2015 in Legal Education, Tax, Tax Prof Jobs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Law School Rankings And Law Firm Partners

Above the Law, What Your Law School Ranking Says About Your Prospects For Making Partner:

Every year bright-eyed graduates walk from their respective campuses wondering what the future will hold for them. Will I end up at a Biglaw firm? Will I make partner? Where will I live? In many cases, these questions are already answered by looking at statistical trends and correlations. ...

There is a -.54 correlation between law school ranking and “chance of making partner,” meaning the lower (towards 1) your school is ranked, the better “chance” there is of you making partner. 

Here are the stats for the Top 20 Law Schools:

Top 20 LL 4-10

Continue reading

April 21, 2015 in Law School Rankings, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Bloomberg's Zachary Mider Wins Pulitzer Prize For His Tax Reporting

BloombergThe 2015 Pulitzer Prize Winners: Explanatory Reporting:

Awarded to Zachary R. Mider of Bloomberg News for a painstaking, clear and entertaining explanation of how so many U.S. corporations dodge taxes and why lawmakers and regulators have a hard time stopping them.  [Photo: Bloomberg News Wins Pulitzer for Explanatory Reporting.]

Here are links to some of Zachary's tax reporting over the past year:

Continue reading

April 21, 2015 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

New York Law Journal Special Report: Law Schools

NYLJNew York Law Journal Special Report: Law Schools:

Jeremy Paul (Dean, Northeastern), Changing the 'How' But Not the 'Why':

Law school applications are declining more slowly and entry level hiring has begun to recover. First-year law school enrollments have shrunk from more than 52,000 in 2010 to a far more sustainable 38,000 in 2014. Recent studies by Profs. Frank McIntyre and Michael Simkovic continue to vindicate the long-run earning power of the J.D. degree. Perhaps you can hear law school deans breathing sighs of relief. Alas, it is way too soon for that.

Law schools that view nascent positive trends as license to return to business as usual will be missing the far more profound changes in the legal profession that demand new approaches to legal education. The most significant change is the extent to which knowledge of the law is cheaper and easier to obtain for everyone with access to a computer. Future lawyers can expect to earn less for merely informing clients about the law. How lawyers will add value in this changed environment is the question of the day. How lawyers should be trained to do so should be a top priority for every legal educator in the United States.

Continue reading

April 21, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (5)

Eyal-Cohen: Lessons in Fiscal Activism

Mirit Eyal-Cohen (Alabama), Lessons in Fiscal Activism:

This article highlights an anomaly. It shows that two tax rules aimed to achieve a similar goal were introduced at the same time. Both meant to be temporary and bring economic stimuli but received a dramatically different treatment. The economically inferior rule survived while its superior counterpart did not. The article reviews the reasons for this paradox. It shows that the causes are both political and an agency problem. The article not only enriches an important and ongoing debate that has received much attention in recent years, but also provides important lessons to policymakers.

April 21, 2015 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

14th Annual Conducting Empirical Legal Scholarship Workshop

Wash.U. LogoThe 14th Annual Workshop on Conducting Empirical Legal Scholarship, co-taught by Lee Epstein (Washington University) and Andrew D. Martin (Michigan), will run from June 15-17 at Washington University in St. Louis. The workshop is for law school faculty, lawyers, political science faculty, and graduate students interested in learning about empirical research and how to evaluate empirical work. It provides the formal training necessary to design, conduct, and assess empirical studies, and to use statistical software (Stata) to analyze and manage data.

Continue reading

April 21, 2015 in Conferences, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 712

IRS Logo 2National Review, The IRS Assures an Atheist Group It Will Monitor Churches:

It was bad enough, as I wrote here last August, that the Internal Revenue Service appeared to reach an agreement to monitor the pulpits of ill-favored churches. What’s worse is that the IRS, directly counter to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requirements, steadfastly has refused to make public key documents pertaining to that decision.

So the IRS, acting with the whole power of government behind it, seems to be saying it can monitor and presumably punish churches for the content of their sermons, but the churches can’t know exactly if, how, and why they are being monitored.

To fight this combined assault on religious liberty and on government transparency, conservative legal stalwarts Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and Judicial Watch together filed suit April 9 to force release of the IRS documents. ADF asserts that the IRS already has shared the documents with the atheist Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF). Once again, the IRS bends over backwards on behalf of leftists while harassing and ignoring the rights, on multiple levels, of conservative groups or faith communities.

And if the IRS continues to flout FOIA, we ought to treat its obstinacy as a major scandal. Then again, the IRS’s connivance with FFRF is itself a scandalous and deliberate trampling of our founding freedom of religious exercise and expression, guaranteed by the First Amendment.

Continue reading

April 21, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Monday, April 20, 2015

Field Presents Aggressive Tax Planning and the Ethical Tax Lawyer Today at Pepperdine

Field (2015)Heather Field (UC-Hastings) presents Aggressive Tax Planning and the Ethical Tax Lawyer at Pepperdine today as part of our Tax Policy Colloquium Series:

[H]ow should a tax planner, who wants to engage in “permissible tax planning” but not cross the line over into “unethical loophole lawyering,” exercise her discretion and judgment? This paper seeks to answer this question by drawing on both (a) the extensive literature on lawyering and professionalism and (b) the social science literature regarding factors that contribute to biased decision-making and unintentional lapses in judgment. The explicit incorporation of these strands of literature into the discourse on tax ethics helps each tax planner operationalize, on an individual basis and in a way that aligns with her values, both the general and tax-specific rules of professional conduct. The existing tax ethics literature primarily focuses either on how to comply with the rules governing practice or on how the rules should be improved. Thus, this paper contributes to the literature by focusing on the issues that the rules leave to the discretion of the tax practitioner (rather than on the issues that the rules address) and by approaching the discussion from a lawyering perspective20 (rather than from a policymaking perspective).

Specifically, this paper argues that a lawyer seeking to pursue a career as an ethical tax planner should identify and implement her philosophy of lawyering to help her make difficult discretionary decisions in a principled way, and when implementing that approach to lawyering, she should work to counteract the subtle factors that can skew her professional judgment. ...

Ultimately, this paper argues that an important part of being an ethical tax planner, particularly when dealing with contestable tax positions, includes being deliberate about how one approaches the task of giving tax planning advice and being self-aware about the ways in which one exercises judgment. By fleshing out the concept of ethical tax planning, I hope to give our students confidence and guidance as they embark on (hopefully, ethical) careers as tax planners, and I hope to ease the tension between tax academics’ scholarly work condemning aggressive tax planning and their classroom work, in which they often teach students how to use those same tax planning techniques. And perhaps this limited defense of the ethics of the tax planning profession can help to rehabilitate the public image of tax lawyers.

Update:  Post-presentation lunch:

Field

April 20, 2015 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Yale: Anti-Basis

Ethan Yale (Virginia), Anti-Basis, 94 N.C. L. Rev. ___ (2015):

Anti-basis is the untaxed benefit enjoyed by a taxpayer when a liability or obligation is incurred. In the business context, the untaxed benefit is an increase in asset basis or a tax deduction. In the personal context, the untaxed benefit might take one of those forms, or it might be (nondeductible) personal consumption. A well-functioning income tax system must keep track of any such untaxed benefit. If the liability from which the benefit derived is avoided by the taxpayer, the prior untaxed benefit must be taken into income (or must reduce basis). If there was no prior untaxed benefit relating to a liability, exceptions are necessary to various rules requiring income recognition (or basis reduction) on discharge or shifting of liabilities.

Continue reading

April 20, 2015 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

82% Of Lawyers Say Demanding Work Schedules Are Damaging Their Health

82%ABA Journal, Demanding Work Schedules Are Damaging Their Health, Say 82% of Surveyed Lawyers:

The demands of work at leading law firms in the United States and United Kingdom are quantified in a new survey that found 22 percent of senior lawyers and partners work every weekend, and more than 10 percent work an average of 70 or more hours a week.

Brutal work schedules are taking a toll, according to the survey by Legal Week (sub. req.). Eighty-two percent of the surveyed lawyers believe long hours at work are damaging their health. The results are from a survey of 267 partners and senior lawyers at leading U.K. and U.S. law firms.

Continue reading

April 20, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (2)

NY Times: Are You Receiving A Marriage Penalty Or Bonus?

New York Times, Are You Receiving a Marriage Penalty or Bonus?:

Nick Kasprak, a developer at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and Kyle Pomerleau, an analyst at the Tax Foundation, have calculated marriage penalties or bonuses for thousands of hypothetical couples with total wages between $10,000 and $1 million.

In marriages without children, the largest bonuses, in percentage terms, occur when couples have income just under $100,000 and only one earner. These couples pay about 7 percent of their income, or $7,000, less in taxes than they would if they were forced to file as two single individuals.

The largest marriage penalties are for those who earn around $17,000, split evenly. These couples pay about 4 percent of their income, or $700, more in taxes than they would if they were allowed to file as two single individuals.

NYT

FiveThirtyEight, Should You Get Married (Or Divorced) For Tax Reasons?:

Continue reading

April 20, 2015 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

NALP's 'Muddled, False and Damaging' Reporting on Law Student Job Placement

NALP New LogoFollowing up on Friday's post, Welcome To Your First Year As A Lawyer. Your Salary Is $160,000.:  Deborah Jones Merritt (Ohio State), Overpromising:

Earlier this week, I wrote about the progress that law schools have made in reporting helpful employment statistics. The National Association for Law Placement (NALP), unfortunately, has not made that type of progress. On Wednesday, NALP issued a press release that will confuse most readers; mislead many; and ultimately hurt law schools, prospective students, and the profession. It’s the muddled, the false, and the damaging. ...

Continue reading

April 20, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (4)

Death of Chuck Davenport

DavenportNeil H. Buchanan (George Washington),  Charles Davenport, Rest In Peace:

Chuck Davenport died last week.  I admired him greatly.  Chuck was the senior tax law professor at Rutgers-Newark when I was on the entry-level market for legal academics.  When I visited Newark for my job talk, Chuck came to the small dinner the night that I arrived, and I immediately knew that I had met a kindred spirit.  It was clear that we were politically similar (for example, he positively compared my thinking with that of John Kenneth Galbraith -- a generous compliment that would turn anyone's head!), but that was not what really mattered.  Chuck was just so easy to like.

Continue reading

April 20, 2015 in Legal Education, Obituaries, Tax, Tax Profs | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tamanaha, Estreicher Respond to Morriss' Ten Reasons To Be Cheerful About The Future of Legal Education

Brian Tamanaha (Washington University) and Samuel Estreicher (NYU) respond to Texas A&M Dean Andy Morriss' Ten Reasons To Be Cheerful About The Future Of Legal Education

Brian Tamanaha (Washington University), Reasons to Be Gloomy About Legal Education:

I agree with much in Dean Andrew Morriss’ Liberty Forum Essay. And I endorse his hope that, in the future, legal academia will have greater differentiation. Yet my take on legal education’s prospects is much gloomier. Dean Morriss writes mostly about what should occur going forward, whereas I am watching what is happening right now. What I see gives me little reason for cheer.

The greatest force for reform in legal education is the stunning decline in law-school applicants, falling to lows not seen in decades. The good news, as Morriss says, is that law schools compete for students through heavy discounting, in the form of higher scholarships deeper into the class. A dozen or so law schools have announced rollbacks in tuition. These price reductions should bring debt levels down for many future graduates, as long as pricing competition continues.

The other good news is that the decline in enrollment promises to reduce the oversupply of law graduates that has flooded the market in the past decade. The percentage of graduates who land full-time jobs as lawyers—about 55 percent nationwide for the last three graduating classes—should rise significantly in coming years.

That is the silver lining. Now let us look at the dark clouds.

  • Tuition at many law schools continues to rise.
  • Debt levels for many law graduates remain extraordinarily high.
  • Many are admitting students who should not be in law school.
  • Bar pass rates will continue to decline in coming years.

These are very serious problems, particularly the collapse in admissions standards. That is why I do not share Dean Morriss’ cheerful take on the future of legal education. He is aware of these issues, of course, and his more positive view is premised on looking beyond when the current crisis shakes out. Even if we stretch the time period out a full decade, however, I don’t see the future he projects.

At least three formidable obstacles stand in the way: legal educators, the American Bar Association’s accreditation standards, and parent universities.

Continue reading

April 20, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (2)

Undisclosed: The State v. Adnan Syed

UndisclosedKudos to Colin Miller, editor of our EvidenceProf Blog, for following up on his wildly successful series of posts on the Serial Podcast about the prosecution of Adnan Syed with Undisclosed, a series of podcasts on the case (blogged here and here):

The Undisclosed Podcast is a listening experience that reframes, enhances or otherwise shifts everything you've come to know about the State of Maryland's case against Adnan Syed, especially as you've come to know it through listening to Serial. In order to do that, we intend to revisit the case from the beginning, looking at all the available evidence. Not only will we look at the evidence that was presented in Serial, but we will also provide new evidence that we've uncovered in our investigation. We have combed through police and court records that the Serial team did not possess during the podcast, and done much, much more to get to the truth. Accordingly, we aspire to present the best possible version of the events as we believe those events to be. We will also present theories that we believe the evidence best construes. Perhaps most importantly, we will provide you with all of our evidence as part of that process.

Continue reading

April 20, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 711

IRS Logo 2Charleston Post and Courier editorial, Lack of Transparency a Continuing Scandal:

Hillary Clinton’s disclosure that she used her own email system for official and private business while Secretary of State and has wiped clean its server, after delivering print-outs to the State Department that she and her staff selected, is one more reminder that “the most transparent administration” ever still maintains large walls of darkness around sensitive subjects.

The Justice Department recently bolstered that sad truth when it declined to bring charges of contempt of Congress against former Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner.

That means Ms. Lerner can’t be compelled to tell Congress and the public about her role and motives while on the public payroll in supervising an IRS witch-hunt of “Tea Party” and other conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status in the 2011-2012 election cycle. ...

We are left to wonder who at the IRS knew about the crackdown on conservative, but not liberal, groups. Were there higher ups who wanted to tilt the political playing field against conservative candidates?

A reported 298 conservative groups were targeted. U.S. District Court Judge Susan Dlott recently ruled, over the objection of the Justice Department, that the Internal Revenue Service must turn over a list of their names to litigants who want to bring a class-action suit against the government for violating their First and Fifth Amendment rights as well as pertinent federal law.

So the public yet should get some additional information on this scandal from an unwilling administration.

Just over six weeks ago the inspector general for the IRS reported that it was looking into criminal activity by the agency in falsely reporting to Congress that it could not recover Ms. Lerner’s emails because of computer failure and the lack of backup tapes. The IG reported that his office found the backup tapes with little trouble.

That report let a bit of light into the dark subject of the politicization of the revenue service, but the relentless back-checking by the IRS and the Justice Department, like the possibly illegal destruction of records by Mrs. Clinton, will make it hard to learn what happened before the next presidential election is over.

As for the president’s promise that his administration would be the most transparent in history, it is well to remember the advice given by Richard Nixon’s Attorney General John Mitchell on how to evaluate that administration:

“Watch what we do, not what we say.”

Continue reading

April 20, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

TaxProf Blog Weekend Roundup

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Law Schools Are Like the Chillow

ChillowForbes, 3 Ways Law Schools Are Like the Chillow, by Ryan Craig:

Like everyone, I’ve bought many lousy products in my life. Products that disappoint, break or never work to begin with. But one that stands out is the Chillow, the “revolutionary cooling pad” that “transforms your pillow into a Chillow.” ...

Another product that’s not working very well is the law degree. Graduates of private law schools carry an average debt load of $125k. Yet 45% of law school graduates are unable to find jobs that require JD degrees; every year there are twice as many new JD recipients as open positions.

Prospective consumers have taken note. Successive years of double-digit declines have cut the number of law school applicants nearly in half: from 100,000 in 2004 to just over 55,000 last year. The good news, according to the Law School Admission Council: “the rate of decline is slowing” (which tends to happen when the base gets lower).

Continue reading

April 19, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (2)