TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron
Pepperdine University School of Law

A Member of the Law Professor Blogs Network

Saturday, May 16, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 737

IRS Logo 2Wall Street Journal op-ed:  How Congress Botched the IRS Probe, by Cleta Mitchell (Foley & Lardner, Washington, D.C.):

Two years ago this week, a report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Information confirmed what hundreds of tea party, conservative, pro-life and pro-Israel organizations had long known: The Internal Revenue Service had stopped processing their applications for exempt status and subjected them to onerous, intrusive and discriminatory practices because of their political views.

Since the report, additional congressional investigations have revealed a lot about IRS dysfunction—and worse. But they’ve also revealed Congress’s inability to exercise its constitutional oversight responsibilities of this and other executive agencies. ...

Lying to Congress is a felony. But the Obama Justice Department has not lifted a finger to prosecute anyone responsible for the IRS scandal, including top brass who repeatedly gave false testimony to Congress.

Neither has Congress done much about being lied to by the IRS. Mr. Issa’s oversight committee first subpoenaed Lois Lerner’s emails in August 2013, then issued another subpoena in February 2014. The committee conducted a hearing on the subject in March 2014, during which Mr. Koskinen testified that, finally, the IRS would produce the Lerner emails. However, as he testified in June 2014, the agency didn’t even begin to look for her emails until February 2014. Why didn’t the House seek to enforce its first subpoena when the IRS failed to respond in the fall of 2013?

Congressional oversight has devolved into a series of show hearings after which nothing happens. No one gets fired for lying. No changes are made in the functioning of the agencies. No programs are defunded. Congress issues subpoenas that are ignored, contempt citations that aren't enforced, criminal referrals that go into Justice Department wastebaskets.

If it is to function as a coequal branch of government, Congress should establish—either through the rules of each House, or by legislation, that it has standing to independently enforce a congressional subpoena through the federal courts. Congress also should use its purse strings to change specific behavior in federal agencies. Rather than across-the-board reductions, Congress should zero out specific departments and programs as agency misconduct is uncovered. It is the only way to stop the executive branch from running roughshod over the American people.

This will be a difficult challenge as long as partisans in both houses of Congress see their role as political gatekeepers who must protect executive agencies when a president of their own party is in the White House. Congressional Democrats have done all in their power to thwart the IRS investigation, arguing with Republicans at hearings and engaging behind-the-scenes with the IRS to undermine the inquiry.

Yet it is a challenge that cannot be shirked. Congress needs to relearn how to flex serious legislative muscle to guard against future executive abuses like those from the IRS.

Continue reading

May 16, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (4)

Friday, May 15, 2015

Tax Papers at Today's American Law & Economics Association Annual Meeting at Columbia

ALEATax panels at today's American Law & Economics Association Annual Meeting at Columbia:

Topics in Tax Policy Design I 
Panel Chair:  Yehonatan Givati (Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

Topics in Tax Policy Design II
Panel Chair: Zachary Liscow (Yale)

Continue reading

May 15, 2015 in Conferences, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Weekly Tax Roundup

Weekly Legal Education Roundup

Weekly SSRN Tax Roundup

Continue reading

May 15, 2015 in Scholarship, Tax, Weekly SSRN Roundup | Permalink | Comments (0)

Chilton & Posner Present An Empirical Study Of Political Bias In Legal Scholarship At Today's ALEA Annual Meeting at Columbia

Adam S. Chilton (Chicago) & Eric A. Posner (Chicago) present An Empirical Study of Political Bias in Legal Scholarship at the American Law & Economics Association Annual Meeting today at Columbia:

Law professors routinely accuse each other of making politically biased arguments in their scholarship. They have also helped produce a large empirical literature on judicial behavior that has found that judicial opinions sometimes reflect the ideological biases of the judges who join them. Yet no one has used statistical methods to test the parallel hypothesis that legal scholarship reflects the political biases of law professors. This paper provides the results of such a test. We find that, at a statistically significant level, law professors at elite law schools who make donations to Democratic political candidates write liberal scholarship, and law professors who make donations to Republican political candidates write conservative scholarship. These findings raise questions about standards of objectivity in legal scholarship.

Figure 3

Continue reading

May 15, 2015 in Legal Education, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wolves Of The Revenue

WolvesPete Johnson (Lawyer, Southern California), Wolves of the Revenue:

When lawyer Pete Johnson's clients experienced harassment by the IRS, his response was unique: To pursue taxpayer vengeance in fiction.

Johnson's new novel, Wolves of the Revenue, is a riveting thriller that confronts the IRS about taxpayer abuse.

"In my experience the IRS fails to atone, or even officially apologize, for its wrongs when in error," Johnson said. "Unlike with the CIA and FBI, the Service is rarely a focal point in fiction."

"Wolves of the Revenue" relates the story of a taxpayer coping with two IRS agents' harassing audits, assessments and seizures.

To absolve himself and experience the satisfaction of vindication, this leads the protagonist down a path where betrayal, forbidden love and revenge awaits him.

Continue reading

May 15, 2015 in Book Club, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Chaffee: Answering The Call To Reinvent Legal Education

Eric C. Chaffee (Toledo), Answering the Call to Reinvent Legal Education: The Need to Incorporate Practical Business and Transactional Skills Training into the Curricula of America's Law Schools, 20 Stan. J.L. Bus. & Fin. 121 (2014):

The legal academy must make the conscious decision to change, or the pressures upon it will combine to transform legal education in ways that may be extremely harmful. The media, the law school applicant pool, the job market, the legal profession, and the legal academy itself have created an unprecedented need for reimagining legal education.

Continue reading

May 15, 2015 in Legal Education, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (1)

Bartlett: Is The Only Purpose Of A Corporation To Maximize Profit?

Bruce Bartlett, Is the Only Purpose of a Corporation to Maximize Profit?:

Historically, corporations were expected to serve some public purpose as justification for the benefits and privileges they receive from the state. But since the 1970s, the view has become widespread that corporations exist solely to maximize profits and for no other purpose. While the shareholder-first doctrine was supposed to solve the agency problem, in fact it has gotten worse as corporate executives enrich themselves at the expense of shareholders. Moreover, the obsession with current share prices as the only measure of corporate success may be destroying long-term value as companies cut back on investment to raise short-term profits. Tax policies designed to raise after-tax profits have done nothing to reverse these trends.

May 15, 2015 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Legal Blogging And The Rhetorical Genre Of Public Legal Writing

Jennifer Murphy Romig (Emory), Legal Blogging and the Rhetorical Genre of Public Legal Writing:

This article brings scholarly attention to the blog posts, tweets, updates and other writing on social media that many lawyers generate and many others would consider generating, if they had the time and skill to do so. In the broadest terms, this genre of writing is “public legal writing”: writing by lawyers not for any specific client but for dissemination to the public or through wide distribution channels, particularly the Internet. Legal blogging is a good entry point into public legal writing because legal blog posts often share some analytical features of longer articles alongside conversational conventions typical of writing on social media. Legal blogging is certainly not new, but this article brings new attention to it.

Continue reading

May 15, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 736

IRS Logo 2Fox News, House Members Push for IRS Clinton Probe:

Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., is circulating a letter among her colleagues asking IRS Commissioner John Koskinen to review the tax-exempt status of the Clinton Foundation. In the letter, a draft of which was obtained by Chief Congressional Correspondent Mike Emanuel, Blackburn says, “recent media reports have revealed that the Foundation failed to report millions of dollars in grants from foreign governments that it accepted while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State and that it facilitated private business transactions between foreign entities” and as such, “given the substantial public interest involved, we feel a prompt review of the Foundation’s tax-exempt status is appropriate to determine whether it is acting within the scope of its charitable mission.”

Continue reading

May 15, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Pedigree: How Elite Students Get Elite Jobs

PedigreeLauren A. Rivera (Northwestern, Kellogg School of Management), Pedigree: How Elite Students Get Elite Jobs (2015):

Americans are taught to believe that upward mobility is possible for anyone who is willing to work hard, regardless of their social status, yet it is often those from affluent backgrounds who land the best jobs. Pedigree takes readers behind the closed doors of top-tier investment banks, consulting firms, and law firms to reveal the truth about who really gets hired for the nation’s highest-paying entry-level jobs, who doesn’t, and why.

Drawing on scores of in-depth interviews as well as firsthand observation of hiring practices at some of America’s most prestigious firms, Lauren Rivera shows how, at every step of the hiring process, the ways that employers define and evaluate merit are strongly skewed to favor job applicants from economically privileged backgrounds. She reveals how decision makers draw from ideas about talent—what it is, what best signals it, and who does (and does not) have it—that are deeply rooted in social class. Displaying the “right stuff” that elite employers are looking for entails considerable amounts of economic, social, and cultural resources on the part of the applicants and their parents.

Continue reading

May 14, 2015 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (5)

Estimating Inequality With Tax Data: The Problem of Pass-Through Income

Patrick Allan Sharma (J.D. 2016, Harvard), Estimating Inequality with Tax Data: The Problem of Pass-Through Income:

In recent decades, a growing share of U.S. business income has been taxed on a pass-through basis. When taxed on a pass-through basis, business income is attributed to a firm’s owners and taxed to them as individual income, rather than being subject to a separate entity-level tax. Among its many implications, the growth of pass-through taxation complicates our ability to estimate historical trends in income inequality. Prominent studies of income inequality use data from individual income tax returns to measure changes in the distribution of income over time yet fail to control for the increasing amounts of business income reflected in this data. Accordingly, to the extent that pass-through income flows to high-income individuals, such studies may overestimate the recent growth in income inequality.This paper explores the effect of pass-through income taxation at the high-end of the income distribution. Using data from the World Top Incomes Database, it shows that the growth of pass-through income has been concentrated among the top 0.5 percent of taxpayers. The trend towards taxing business income on a pass-through basis may thus be responsible for some of the growth in income inequality that researchers have observed.

 Figure 2

Continue reading

May 14, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (2)

NY Times: The Declining Role Of Professors As Mentors

New York Times Sunday Review Essay:  What’s the Point of a Professor?, by Mark Bauerlein (Emory, Department of English):

In the coming weeks, two million Americans will earn a bachelor’s degree and either join the work force or head to graduate school. They will be joyous that day, and they will remember fondly the schools they attended. But as this unique chapter of life closes and they reflect on campus events, one primary part of higher education will fall low on the ladder of meaningful contacts: the professors. ...

[W]hile they’re content with teachers, students aren’t much interested in them as thinkers and mentors. They enroll in courses and complete assignments, but further engagement is minimal. ... For a majority of undergraduates, beyond the two and a half hours per week in class, contact ranges from negligible to nonexistent. In their first year, 33 percent of students report that they never talk with professors outside of class, while 42 percent do so only sometimes. Seniors lower that disengagement rate only a bit, with 25 percent never talking to professors, and 40 percent sometimes. ...

Continue reading

May 14, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (3)

Galle: Law and the Problem of Restricted-Spending Philanthropy

Brian Galle (Boston College), Pay It Forward? Law and the Problem of Restricted-Spending Philanthropy, 92 Wash. U.L. Rev. ___ (2016):

American foundations and other philanthropic giving entities hold about $1 trillion in investment assets, and that figure continues to grow every year. Even as urgent contemporary needs go unmet, philanthropic organizations spend only a tiny fraction of their wealth each year, mostly due to restrictive terms in contracts between donors and firms limiting the rate at which donations can be distributed. Law has played a critical role in underwriting and encouraging this build-up of philanthropic wealth. For instance, contributors can typically take a full tax deduction for the value of their contribution today, no matter when the foundation spends their money, and pay no tax on the investment earnings the organization reaps in the meantime.

Continue reading

May 14, 2015 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Givati: Economic Theory And The Taxation of Fringe Benefits

Yehonatan Givati (Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Faculty of Law), Googling a Free Lunch: The Taxation of Fringe Benefits, 68 Tax L. Rev. ___ (2015):

How should fringe benefits be taxed? Though fringe benefits are covered in every basic law school course on federal income taxation, no widely accepted economic framework has developed for thinking about their taxation. As a result, policymakers lack a clear picture of the benefits and costs of alternative tax regimes, when faced with situations such as the free luxurious meals provided by Google and Facebook to their employees. This Article fills this gap in the literature, by developing an economic theory of the provision of fringe benefits.

Continue reading

May 14, 2015 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

In Wake of 35% Enrollment Decline, Pace Law School Dean Cuts Faculty Pay 10%, Eliminates Research Stipends And Sabbaticals, And Warns Faculty Not To Speak To Press

Pace (2015)Brian Leiter (Chicago) reports that in the face of a $5 million deficit, Pace Law School Dean David Yassky has pledged to cut $2.1 million of that deficit through a 10% salary cut for all faculty, elimination of all research stipends and sabbaticals, and a 5% salary cut for senior staff. Perhaps most curiously:

[T]he Dean, according to one source, "forbade anyone from speaking to the press about this. The materials he passed out carried two watermarks, one large across the text, and another secret one (or so he said), with each faculty member's name so he will know who the leak is, he said.

Continue reading

May 14, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (12)

Dan Halperin To Retire From Harvard Law School Faculty

HalperinHarvard Law Today:  Legacies of Selfless Scholarship: Undisguised Value, by Alvin C. Warren Jr. (Harvard):

Daniel I. Halperin ’61 will retire at the end of this academic year after more than a half-century as a tax lawyer, professor and government official. Unlike most law professors starting out today, Dan worked as a lawyer for a decade—at the firm Kaye Scholer and in the government—before entering law teaching. Serendipitously, he became Kaye Scholer’s expert in the new field of pension law in his second year, after the sudden departure of the only lawyer at the firm with any experience in the field.

In 1996, Dan was appointed the first Stanley S. Surrey Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. Over the past 19 years, he has continued to write about tax law and policy, and has taught a variety of tax-related courses, covering income taxation, tax policy, pension law, and nonprofit organizations.

Continue reading

May 14, 2015 in Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Senator Hatch Blasts IRS For Retaining Law Firm To Go After Microsoft

Microsoft (2015)Wall Street Journal, Top Republican Sides With Microsoft in IRS Offshore-Profits Scuffle:

A top Republican lawmaker is siding with Microsoft Corp. in its legal scuffle with the Internal Revenue Service involving profits the firm has parked offshore.

In a letter on Wednesday, Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R., Utah) questioned the IRS’s unusual decision last year to hire a private law firm to help it go after the high-tech giant.

“The IRS’s hiring of a private contractor to conduct an examination of a taxpayer raises concerns because the action: 1) appears to violate federal law and the express will of the Congress; 2) removes taxpayer protections … and 3) calls into question the IRS’s use of its limited resources,” Mr. Hatch wrote in the letter to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.

The lawmaker asked the agency to stop using the contractor and also to explain its actions to the committee.

Continue reading

May 14, 2015 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

NTA 45th Annual Spring Symposium: The 20th Century Tax Code In A 21st Century World

The 45th Annual Spring Symposium on The 20th Century Tax Code in a 21st Century World: Where Are the Pressure Points? by the National Tax Association and American Tax Institute kicks off today in Washington, D.C.

Continue reading

May 14, 2015 in Conferences, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 735

IRS Logo 2Forbes, California Attorney General Can Demand Full IRS Forms From Charity, by Peter J. Reilly:

The Ninth Circuit’s decision in the case of the Center For Competetive Politics v Kamal D. Haris (Attorney General of California) is almost two weeks old and has been covered in other places, so I almost invoked my “You snooze, you lose” rule against myself, but I think I may have something to add. It concerns a fairly obscure issue, but the case does have a loose connection to the interminable IRS scandal (On Day 733 by TaxProf count as I write this).

The Center For Competetive Politics according to its 2013 Form 990 is dedicated to the “Preservation of the First Amendment rights to free political speech, assembly, and petition”. The appointment of the Center’s Chairman, Bradley A. Smith, to the Federal Election Commission was controversial given his vigorous opposition to campaign finance regulation. I guess it kind of looked like putting Daniel Berrigan on the Joint Chiefs of Staff or having Irwin Schiff head up the IRS. The Center received over $1.7 million in contributions and grants in 2013. 

As a 501(c)(3) organization CCP has to tell the IRS who its major donors are. This is done with Schedule B which is attached to the Form 990. Schedule B is not subject to public inspection, so you don’t get to see it on guidestar.org. Many states require charities to attach Form 990 to state filings. The instruction to Form 990 caution charities about not including the schedule of contributors in filings with states that do not ask for it, since they might inadvertently make the donor information publically available. 

It appears that CCP relies very much on a few large donors. The 2013 Form 990 on guidestar.org does not even include a redacted Schedule B, but if you go to the California Attorney General site, there is a Form 990 including a redacted Schedule B for 2011 that shows that of the $1.8 million raised in 2011 over $500,000 came from a single donor. Over $800,000 came from just seven donors who gave between $85,000 and $211,250.

The IRS knows who those seven donors are, but they are not going to tell us. The California Attorney General would also like to know who those donors are, without making them public. So the AG is requiring that CCP provided an unredacted copy of Schedule B. CCP does not want to do that . The Ninth Circuit just told them that they have to.

There were two arguments that CCP made. The first was that the disclosure requirement is injurious to the Center and its supporters’ exercise of their First Amendment rights. They referred to a “chilling risk”. So you feel OK giving money to CCP even thought Lois Lerner’s minions know who you are, but you draw the line when it comes to the California AG. The Court indicated that that sort of concern was subject to “exacting scrutiny” under which the government’s interest in obtainging the information must be weighed against actual damage to First Amendment rights. ...

Continue reading

May 14, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Columbia Journal of Tax Law Publishes New Issue

Columbia Journal of Tax Law LogoThe Columbia Journal of Tax Law has published  Vol. 6, No. 2:

May 13, 2015 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

28% Of Harvard Law Grads Do Not Practice Law

Harvard Law School Logo (2014)Harvard Law School, The Women and Men of Harvard Law School: Preliminary Results from the HLS Career Study:

The Preliminary Report presents the results of the Harvard Law School Career Study (HLSCS), conducted by the school’s Center on the Legal Profession (CLP). Begun with a generous grant from a visionary group of women alumnae in connection with the 55th celebration of the graduation of the school’s first female students in 1953, the study seeks to deepen the understanding of the career choices made by HLS graduates by providing for the first time systematic empirical information about the careers trajectories of graduates from different points in the school’s history. In this Preliminary Report, we offer a first look at the Study’s findings about the salient similarities and differences between the careers of the school’s female and male graduates.

ABA Journal, Think Harvard Law Grads Are More Likely to Stay in Law Practice Than Others? 28% Ditched Legal Jobs:

Harvard law grads have the advantage of a JD from an elite institution, but they don’t differ from other law grads when it comes to leaving law practice.

About 28 percent of Harvard law grads from four graduating classes are no longer practicing law in their current jobs, according to preliminary findings from the survey of grads in 1975, 1985, 1995 and 2000. ...

Continue reading

May 13, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (6)

FATCA: An American Tax Nightmare

FATCANew York Times op-ed:  An American Tax Nightmare, by Stu Haugen:

No one likes tax cheats. They should be pursued and punished wherever they are hiding. But recent efforts by the United States Congress to capture tax revenues on unreported revenues and assets held in foreign accounts are having disastrous effects on a growing number of Americans living abroad.

The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, or Fatca, signed into law in March 2010 but only now coming into full effect, has been a bipartisan lesson in the law of unintended consequences. Pressure is growing to halt its pernicious impact.

Continue reading

May 13, 2015 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Law Schools Are Trying To Fix Lawyers' Business Ignorance

Bloomberg, Lawyers Don't Know Enough About Business. Law Schools Are Trying to Fix That:

The popularity of an American legal education is dwindling in the face of disappointing job prospects for graduates. To rescue themselves from oblivion, some law schools are fashioning themselves after a more successful educational institution: business school.

In April, New York Law school announced it would make room in its building for an offsite location for the University of Rochester's Simon Business School, making it easier for law students to take B-School classes. The same month, Harvard Business School announced it would offer incoming students an 11-week course in the fundamentals of business created by HBX, its online business training program.

“Lawyers need to understand and use the tools and skills involved in growing and running a business,” said Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow in a statement on Harvard Business School’s website. “Law firms, businesses, and also public sector and nonprofit employers increasingly value these skills.” Harvard Law will cover most of the $1,800 tuition for the program, although students will have to pay $250 to take the courses.

Harvard and New York Law are heeding growing calls to fundamentally reshape the education that comes with a JD. Research published last year by three Harvard law professors suggested that litigators and hiring attorneys at big law firms are desperate for law graduates that understand basic accounting and corporate finance. The 124 attorneys, from such bulwark firms as Skadden Arps and Latham & Watkins, said many business courses were more critical to post-JD life than courses on environmental law or the First Amendment. [John Coates, Jesse Fried & Kathryn Spier, What Courses Should Law Students Take? Lessons from Harvard's BigLaw Survey, 64 J. Legal Educ. 443 (2015)]

Continue reading

May 13, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

Talk Of Ryan-Obama Tax Deal Roils Republican-Business Alliance

Bloomberg, Talk of Ryan-Obama Tax Deal Roils Republican-Business Alliance:

The “job creators” are fighting back on tax policy—against their Republican allies.

Small-business groups that have been among the Republicans’ loyal backers are warning their friends in Congress against cutting a deal with President Barack Obama on lowering corporate taxes.

Continue reading

May 13, 2015 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Lawyers With Lowest Pay Report More Happiness

New York Times, Lawyers With Lowest Pay Report More Happiness:

Of the many rewards associated with becoming a lawyer — wealth, status, stimulating work — day-to-day happiness has never been high on the list. Perhaps, a new study suggests, that is because lawyers and law students are focusing on the wrong rewards. [Lawrence S. Krieger (Florida State) & Kennon M. Sheldon (Missouri), What Makes Lawyers Happy?: A Data-Driven Prescription to Redefine Professional Success, 83 Geo. Wash. L. Rev. 554 (2015)]

Researchers who surveyed 6,200 lawyers about their jobs and health found that the factors most frequently associated with success in the legal field, such as high income or a partner-track job at a prestigious firm, had almost zero correlation with happiness and well-being. However, lawyers in public-service jobs who made the least money, like public defenders or Legal Aid attorneys, were most likely to report being happy.

Lawyers in public-service jobs also drank less alcohol than their higher-income peers. And, despite the large gap in affluence, the two groups reported about equal overall satisfaction with their lives.

Making partner, the ultimate gold ring at many firms, does not appear to pay off in greater happiness, either. Junior partners reported well-being that was identical to that of senior associates, who were paid 62 percent less, according to the study, which was published this week in the George Washington Law Review.

“Law students are famous for busting their buns to make high grades, sometimes at the expense of health and relationships, thinking, ‘Later I’ll be happy, because the American dream will be mine,’ ” said Lawrence S. Krieger, a law professor at Florida State University and an author of the study. “Nice, except it doesn’t work.”

The problem with the more prestigious jobs, said Mr. Krieger, is that they do not provide feelings of competence, autonomy or connection to others — three pillars of self-determination theory, the psychological model of human happiness on which the study was based. Public-service jobs do.

Figure 1

Continue reading

May 13, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tax Brackets Aren't The Key To Simplifying The Tax Code

Bloomberg, Why Tax Brackets Aren't the Key to Simplifying the Tax Code, by Richard Rubin:

BracketsIn the TurboTax era, simplifying the tax code has almost nothing to do with the number of tax brackets.

You wouldn't know that from listening to Republican presidential hopefuls, who are touting their plans based in part on how aggressively they tear up today's seven-bracket income tax structure for individuals.

Chris Christie said Tuesday that he wants three brackets. Marco Rubio says two. Ben Carson is going for the one-bracket flat tax. And Mike Huckabee, a longtime backer of a national retail sales tax, wants no income tax brackets at all.

Here's the reality: Computers do most of the work now, so whether there is one bracket or seven makes virtually no difference to the average taxpayer. No one has to do painful algebra or squint at tables full of numbers.

Continue reading

May 13, 2015 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (6)

Journal Of Legal Education Publishes New Issue

Journal of Legal Education (2014)The Journal of Legal Education has published Vol. 64, No. 3:

Symposium: Nurturing Professionalism:

Continue reading

May 13, 2015 in Legal Education, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Merritt: On The Bar Exam, My Graduates Are Your Graduates

Deborah Jones Merritt (Ohio State), On the Bar Exam, My Graduates Are Your Graduates:

It’s no secret that the qualifications of law students have declined since 2010. As applications fell, schools started dipping further into their applicant pools. LSAT scores offer one measure of this trend. Jerry Organ has summarized changes in those scores for the entering classes of 2010 through 2014. Based on Organ’s data, average LSAT scores for accredited law schools fell:

* 2.3 points at the 75th percentile
* 2.7 points at the median
* 3.4 points at the 25th percentile

Continue reading

May 13, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

The IRS Scandal, Day 734

IRS Logo 2Forbes, IRS Not Grossly Negligent In Disclosure Of Exempt Application, by Peter J. Reilly:

The order from the United States District Court of Colorado in the ongoing lawsuit Citizens Awareness Project Inc versus Internal Revenue Service is giving me flashbacks.  The case relates to one of the aspects of the perennial, interminable IRS scandal, on Day 732 by TaxProf count as I write this. The lawsuit is in reaction to the improper release of tax-exempt applications to ProPublica.  That story showed up on Day 5 (May 14, 2013) as ProPublica joined in piling on the IRS with a story titled IRS Office That Targeted Tea Party Also Disclosed Confidential Docs From Conservative Groups.  The story actually went back to December 2012. ...

As I looked into the background a bit, it struck me that Citizens Awareness Project could well be a great example of what was upsetting Lois Lerner so much – i.e. dark money using 501(c)(4) to game campaign financing disclosure.

The IRS is not contesting that it screwed up when it released a copy of CAP’s Form 1024.  ProPublica had requested the applications of 67 organizations.  They were organizations that had reported substantial expenditures to the FEC.  On October 16, 2012 CAP reported paying Stephen Clouse & Associates  $993,916.79 for printing, production and postage in opposition to Barrack Obama. The expenditure caught a little coverage with this piece titled Mystery group spends $1 million opposing Obama. ...

The IRS admitted that it was wrong to have released CAP’s 1024 that was still in process, so presumably, it would have cut the organization a check for a grand without a lawsuit.  If the actual damages don’t break $1,000, then presumably CAP does not get to recover the costs of the action, which I suspect are a bit more than the potential claim for actual damages of $4,819.78 that the Court still sees as being in play. ...

Sophia Brown was the IRS employee charged with responding to ProPublica’s request.  Apparently she failed to check whether CAP’s Form 1024 had been ruled on yet.  Since it had not been ruled on, it should not have been released. The Court did not see any gross negligence here.

Continue reading

May 13, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Law School Website Rankings

For the fourth year in a row, Roger V. Skalbeck (Associate Law Librarian for Electronic Resources & Services, Georgetown) has ranked law school websites. Top 10 Law School Home Pages of 2012, 3 J.L. (2 J. Legal Metrics) 51 (2013) (with Matthew L. Zimmerman (Electronic Resources Librarian, Georgetown).  Here are the Top 10 and Bottom 10:

1

Thomas Cooley

192

Ave Maria

1

Pennsylvania

193

Mississippi C.

3

Arkansas

194

Cornell

3

Houston

194

Touro

5

Florida Coastal

196

St. Thomas (FL)

5

Illinois

197

Stanford

5

U. Mississippi

198

U. Puerto Rico

8

Arizona State

199

St. John's

9

New England

200

D.C.

10

CUNY

201

Catholic U. P.R.

Continue reading

May 12, 2015 in Law School Rankings, Legal Education, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Despite Move To Big Ten, Rutgers' Athletic Department Deficit Increases To $36 Million, Funded From Academics, Students

RutgersNew York Times:  At Rutgers, It's Books vs. Ballgames, by Joe Nocera:

In the 1990s, yearning to join the elite, Rutgers became part of the Big East Conference. But, with the exception of women’s basketball, its overall athletic performance has generally remained mediocre.

What’s more, the Rutgers athletic department has consistently run large deficits; indeed, since the 2005-6 academic year, deficits have exceeded $20 million a year. In the last academic year, Rutgers athletics generated $40.3 million in revenue, but spent $76.7 million, leaving a deficit of more than $36 million. In other words, revenue barely covered half the department’s expense

Continue reading

May 12, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

OECD: Raising Alcohol Tax 10% Would Boost GDP By 1%

OECD Logo (2015)Wall Street Journal, Raise Alcohol Tax to Boost Economic Output, Says OECD:

A tax increase that would raise alcohol prices by 10% is among the most effective means of countering excessive consumption, which reduces economic output in most developed countries and contributes to early death and disability, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said on Tuesday.

Continue reading

May 12, 2015 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Chemerinsky: California Should Join New York, Adopt UBE

NCBELos Angeles Times op-ed:  It's Time for California to Accept the Uniform Bar Exam, by Erwin Chemerinsky (Dean, UC-Irvine):

New York's chief judge, Jonathan Lippman, announced last week that the state would adopt the Uniform Bar Exam, a standard licensing test for lawyers. It's the largest state to take this step, which Lippman said could result in a “domino effect.” I hope so, and I hope California will be the next state to fall. The current system, under which each state sets its own requirements and won't recognize out-of-state credentials, is inefficient, burdensome and, frankly, unjustifiable. ...

Continue reading

May 12, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tax Court Approves Crummey Trust With 60 Beneficiaries, Despite Religious Arbitration Clause

Tax Court Logo 2Mikel v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 2015-64 (2015):

Petitioners in these consolidated cases, Israel and Erna Mikel, are husband and wife. ... During 2007 each petitioner made to a family trust a gift with an asserted value of $1,631,000. In December 2011 petitioners filed separate gift tax returns reporting these gifts; each petitioner claimed under section 2503(b) an annual exclusion of $720,000. The claimed annual exclusions of $720,000 were based on the contention that each petitioner’s gift included a $12,000 gift of a present interest to each of the trust’s 60 beneficiaries. ...

Article V of the [trust], captioned “Right of Beneficiaries to Withdraw Principal,” granted each beneficiary the power, during the year in which the trust was created and during any subsequent year when property was added, “to withdraw property from the Trust including the property transferred.” The amount “subject to a power of withdrawal by each beneficiary” was limited annually to the lesser of a formula-derived amount and “[t]he maximum federal gift tax exclusion under section 2503(b) * * * in effect at the time of the transfer [$12,000].” ... Apart from directing mandatory distributions in response to withdrawal de-mands, the trust empowered the trustees, “in their sole and absolute discretion,” to make discretionary distributions during the term of the trust. ...

If any dispute arises concerning the proper interpretation of the declaration, article XXVI provides that the dispute “shall be submitted to arbitration before a panel consisting of three persons of the Orthodox Jewish faith.” Such a panel in Hebrew is called a beth din. ... Article XXVI contains an in terrorem provision designed to discourage beneficiaries from challenging discretionary acts of the trustees. ...

Continue reading

May 12, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Critics Are Wrong: The Bar Exam Is A Necessary Process Of Becoming A Lawyer

National Law Journal op-ed:  Like Father Like Son, Bar-Exam Ritual Is a Necessity of the Profession, by Peter Kalis (Chairman & Global Managing Partner, K&L Gates, New York) & Michael Kalis (Associate, Gruber Hurst Elrod Johansen Hail Shank, Dallas):

Law school taught them how to think like lawyers; exam prep taught them the law. ...

Across three decades and 1,000 miles, the experiences of both have left them with a clear view of the bar exam and has rendered its critics a little off-key. Because of the intense pressure surrounding the bar exam, it's not unreasonably viewed as a gating event. After all, the bar exam is how you get your union card.

In reality, however, the bar exam is part of a much longer process on the way to becoming a lawyer. The critics need to get out of an "event" frame of mind and into a "process" frame of mind.

Continue reading

May 12, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

Is The Apple Watch Tax Deductible?

Apple WatchFollowing up on my previous post, Practicing Law With Your Apple Watch:  Entrepreneur, Is The Apple Watch Tax Deductible?:

I know many of you die-hard Apple fans have already been to an Apple Store and tried on the new watch. Others of you have probably seen the ads and wondered if -- or rather how -- this new device will truly change your life for the better.

So wouldn’t it be nice if the Apple Watch was also deductible as a business expense? It should be, right? You need it in your business in order to be more effective and efficient as a communication tool and the IRS should see it our way…well…maybe hold the phone for a moment.

Continue reading

May 12, 2015 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Nominees Sought For $25k Award For Inspiring Law Professors

BeckmanThe Elizabeth Hurlock Beckman Award Advisory Committee is currently seeking nominations for the 2015 Beckman Award:

The award is given to professors who inspired their former students to achieve greatness. Each recipient will receive a one-time cash award of $25,000. Preference will be given to educators who teach or who taught in the fields of psychology, medicine, or law. ... The nomination deadline is Tuesday, June 30, 2015.

Prior law professor winners include:

Continue reading

May 12, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

IRS-Affiliated Site For Charities Hit By Data Breach

Accounting Today, IRS-Affiliated Site for Charities Hit by Data Breach:

A site that is used to process tax forms for nonprofit organizations on behalf of the Internal Revenue Service recently suffered a data breach.

The site is operated by the Urban Institute’s National Center for Charitable Statistics, or NCCS. The group announced in February it had recently discovered that an unauthorized party or parties gained access to the Form 990 Online and e-Postcard filing systems for nonprofit organizations.

Continue reading

May 12, 2015 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 733

IRS Logo 2Power Line, Corruption from the IRS to the DOJ:

The pro-Israel group Z Street had its application for tax-exempt status held up at the IRS. When founder Lori Lowenthal Marcus asked why, she was told that IRS auditors had been instructed to give pro-Israel groups special attention and that Z Street’s application had been forwarded to a special IRS unit for additional review. Not to put too fine a point on the legal issues, this isn’t kosher. It’s illegal.

Z Street filed a lawsuit against the IRS in the rosy dawn of the Age of Obama; the lawsuit has yet to get beyond the IRS’s motion for dismissal. The Free Beacon’s Alana Goodman wrote about the lawsuit here last year when the DC District Court denied the IRS motion to dismiss the case. Z Street’s Lori Marcus wrote about it here. John wrote about it in 2013 in the post The Other IRS Scandal.

The legal positions asserted by the IRS are ludicrous. Indeed, they are a pretext to precluded discovery until the chief malefactors serving at the pleasure of President Obama have moved on. It is a sidebar to the political corruption of the IRS that remains one of the great untold stories of the Age of Obama. (Sharyl Attkisson doesn’t cover the IRS scandal, but to understand the Obama playbook for handling it, as I explain in The Attkisson file.)

The IRS appealed the denial of its motion to dismiss to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals. Last week a panel of three DC Circuit judges heard the IRS appeal. The hearing did not go well for the IRS. Indeed, it was an exercise in righteous humiliation of the Department of Justice. The DoJ has asserted ludicrous defenses to gum up the lawsuit and preclude discovery. ...

The Wall Street Journal takes a look at the hearing before the DC Circuit in the reported editorial The IRS Goes to Court.

The Journal editorial concludes:

Poor Ms. McLaughlin was sent to argue the indefensible so the IRS can delay discovery until the waning days of the Obama Administration. “If I were you, I would go back and ask your superiors whether they want us to represent that the government’s position in this case is that the government is free to unconstitutionally discriminate against its citizens for 270 days,” said Judge Garland.

Ms. McLaughlin replied, “Well, I will take that back.” The Beltway media may be bored, but the IRS scandal is a long way from over.

Judge Garland’s query seeks to send a message to higher powers at the Department of Justice. The IRS scandal is a long way from over, and, as one can see here, it extends well beyond the IRS. It would be nice if someone outside the walls of the Wall Street Journal took notice.

Continue reading

May 12, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, May 11, 2015

Karen Hawkins To Step Down As Director Of IRS Office Of Professional Responsibility

Hawkins 3Karen Hawkins, Director of the IRS Office of Professional Responsibility for the past six years, has announced that she is stepping down on July 11:

Director’s Farewell Message to Tax Professionals
After 48 continuous years in various professional capacities, thirty-six in the practice of law, the last six as Director of the Office of Professional Responsibility, I have decided to take a little “holiday”. My retirement resignation has been tendered to, and accepted by, Commissioner Koskinen, and we have agreed that my last day as an IRS employee will be July 11, 2015.

When Commissioner Shulman asked me to assume the position of Director, OPR, we shared a vision and multiple goals. The vision was to bring reasonable but firm oversight to the unregulated return preparer industry to ensure tax return preparers were both competent and scrupulous in their dealings with the nation’s taxpayers and with the tax administration system. The goals were to enhance the credibility, visibility and stature of the Office of Professional Responsibility and Circular 230 at all levels of professional tax practice.

Continue reading

May 11, 2015 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Maine Law School's New Dean Charts New Course After 31% Decline in Applications

Maine LogoLewiston-Auburn Sun Journal, Maine Law School's New Dean: Leading the Way in an Uncertain Future:

The number of applicants to law schools is on the decline nationally, and Maine's only law school is no exception.

Over a three-year period from 2012 through 2014, the number of applications to the University of Maine School of Law plunged from 929 to 639, a 31 percent drop.

Some administrators might react to those numbers by seeking strategies that would boost the number of students who apply to their schools in an effort to beef up enrollment.

Not Danielle Conway. "That is not the responsible thing to do," she said. "That's unsustainable."

Continue reading

May 11, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (5)

NY Times: Legal Marijuana Faces Another Federal Hurdle: Taxes

Marijuana (2015)New York Times, Legal Marijuana Faces Another Federal Hurdle: Taxes:

The country’s rapidly growing marijuana industry has a tax problem. Even as more states embrace legal marijuana, shops say they are being forced to pay crippling federal income taxes because of a decades-old law aimed at preventing drug dealers from claiming their smuggling costs and couriers as business expenses on their tax returns.

Congress passed that law in 1982 after a cocaine and methamphetamine dealer in Minneapolis who had been jailed on drug charges went to tax court to argue that the money he spent on travel, phone calls, packaging and even a small scale should be considered tax write-offs. The provision, still enforced by the I.R.S., bans all tax credits and deductions from “the illegal trafficking in drugs.”

Continue reading

May 11, 2015 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

'The Vultures Are Circling' Charleston Law School

Charleston LogoPost and Courier, No Matter How You Say It, Law School Is In Serious Trouble:

The Charleston School of Law’s Class of 2015 will graduate today, and their diplomas surely will be embossed with the institution’s lofty Latin motto: Pro bono populi, which means “for the good of the people.” Pro bono populi is a proper guiding principle for future lawyers.

The idea is that graduates of the Charleston School of Law invest three years and approximately $180,000 in tuition and related expenses, learn some Latin legal terms, pass required courses while doing free work with local attorneys, and ultimately land good jobs.

But no matter how intelligent it sounds, actions speak louder than words (facta non verba).

Since the Charleston School of Law started 12 years ago, four of the five founders took in millions in profits and are vacating the premises.

Continue reading

May 11, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Manhire: A Government Perspective On Voluntary Tax Compliance

J. T. Manhire (U.S. Treasury Department), What Does Voluntary Tax Compliance Mean?: A Government Perspective, 164 U. Pa. L. Rev. Online ___ (2015):

One of the IRS’s principle goals is to maximize voluntary compliance. Yet, there is often a great deal of confusion and consternation when taxpayers discover that the IRS refers to the annual filing and payment ritual as “voluntary;” especially since most taxpayers do not believe they have a choice when it comes to filing and paying their taxes. What does voluntary compliance mean? Does it mean taxpayers can volunteer to file returns and pay taxes, much as one might volunteer to make a charitable donation? Does it mean taxpayers don’t have to comply with the tax laws if they don’t feel like it? How can it be a federal crime to not file or pay taxes if compliance is voluntary? This essay offers a government perspective as to why the IRS uses this sometimes perplexing term. After investigating (and dismissing) a possible literal defense, the essay surveys the IRS’s history to see why voluntary compliance is such a critical part of the U.S. tax system. The essay then recommends changing the term from voluntary to cooperative compliance to retain the government’s meaning while lessening taxpayer confusion.

May 11, 2015 in IRS News, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

UMass Law School Cuts Incoming Class By 33%, Faces $3.8 Million Deficit

UMass 2Boston Globe, Deficit Mounting, UMass Law Cuts Size of Incoming Class; Deficit Is $3.8m, Enrollment Down:

The University of Massachusetts School of Law has a mounting deficit, which hit $3.8 million last fiscal year, a gap expected to widen next year. UMass Dartmouth is picking up the bill for now, that school said.

The law school for now has scrapped plans to increase enrollment and instead decided to cut the size of its incoming class by a third, to 72 students. In addition, the school is not fully accredited by the American Bar Association, a generally accepted stamp of approval in the field. ...

Dean Mary Lu Bilek says the UMass Law School’s goal is “making sure that not only people born with silver spoons in their mouths are making the law.” ...

Continue reading

May 11, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

Kahng: The Taxation of Women in Same-Sex Marriages

Lily Kahng (Seattle), The Not-So-Merry Wives of Windsor: The Taxation of Women in Same-Sex Marriages, 101 Cornell L. Rev. __ (2015):

In United States v. Windsor, the Supreme Court invalidated the Defense of Marriage Act definition of marriage as “between one man and one woman” and is now poised to recognize a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. Windsor cleared the way for same-sex couples to be treated as married under federal tax laws, and the Obama administration promptly announced that it would recognize same-sex marriages for tax purposes. Academics, policymakers, and activists lauded these developments as finally achieving tax equality between gay and straight married couples. This Article argues that the claimed tax equality of Windsor is illusory and that the only way to achieve actual equality is to eliminate taxation on the basis of marital status.

Continue reading

May 11, 2015 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

More on Conditional Law School Scholarships

Hunger GamesFollowing up on last week's post, Law School Hunger Games? Profs Debate The Ethics Of Conditional Scholarships

Jerry Organ (St. Thomas), Revisiting Conditional Scholarships:

Having been one of the people who brought attention to the issue of conditional scholarships a few years ago, I feel compelled to offer a few insights on a rekindled conversation about conditional scholarships involving Jeremy Telman and Michael Simkovic and Debby Merritt. ...

While there are other things mentioned by Prof. Telman, Prof. Simkovic and Prof. Merritt to which I could respond, this post is already long enough and I am not interested in a prolonged exchange, particularly given that many of the points to which I would respond would require a much more detailed discussion and more nuance than blog postings sometimes facilitate.  My 2011 article describes my views on competitive scholarship programs and their impact on law school culture well enough.  Accordingly, let me end with one additional set of observations about what has happened with conditional scholarships in an era of increased transparency.

Continue reading

May 11, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (3)

The IRS Scandal, Day 732

IRS Logo 2The Hill, Two Years Later, IRS Probes Drag On:

Exactly two years after the IRS first admitted improperly scrutinizing Tea Party groups, congressional investigations into the tax agency show no sign of drawing to a close anytime soon.

Congressional Republicans say they are deeply irritated that they haven’t finished off the investigations launched after Lois Lerner apologized for the IRS on May 10, 2013, and insist that President Obama’s Justice Department has stonewalled their efforts.

Top lawmakers like Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) note that they’ve only just received thousands of emails to and from Lerner that the IRS said were unrecoverable close to a year ago.

Hatch recently said he hoped a bipartisan Finance report, which members once thought could be released more than a year ago, could come out by the end of June. But congressional investigators maintain that they'll need to make sure they have a fuller accounting of Lerner's email trail before any reports are circulated.

Asked about the repeated delays, Hatch said simply: “Every time we turn around we get more emails.”

Congressional committees have received about 5,000 of the roughly 6,400 newly recovered Lerner emails they expect from Treasury’s inspector general for tax administration, a GOP aide said Friday. The aide said that there appears to be little new in the emails, and that the inspector general is expected to issue a broader report on the emails in the coming weeks.

Hatch is far from the only GOP lawmakers fuming about the status of the IRS investigation.

“That’s so egregious, for the tax collection agency of the United States to be in that kind of shape,” said Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.). “They have nobody to blame but themselves. I’d just like to see some accountability, you know?”

But even some Republicans acknowledge that the IRS controversy wasn’t quite the slam dunk case they thought it was two years ago, and House Republicans at least have seemed to put more emphasis on their investigation into the Benghazi attacks over the last year.

Still, Republicans aren't the only group frustrated by the IRS investigations – underscoring that the partisan divisions marking the inquiries aren’t going away, and that controversy will linger long after any reports are issued.

Tea Party groups say some organizations are still facing delays from the IRS, and that they believe Lerner and other agency officials are getting off easy.

“It's clear the IRS would like this scandal to disappear,” Jordan Sekulow, whose American Center for Law and Justice represents dozens of groups challenging the IRS in court, said recently.

Congressional Democrats, though, say that two years’ worth of investigations, costing millions of taxpayer dollars, have found what they long suspected – that the IRS’s scrutiny of Tea Party groups was caused not by political bias, but by bureaucratic mismanagement. ...

And while Republicans don’t want to speculate on when their IRS efforts might come to a close, Roskam dropped some hints that their interest in both the agency and Lerner won’t fade anytime soon.

“The statute of limitations doesn’t lapse until after the new administration comes in, so you could very easily see a newly constituted Justice Department having a new attitude about Lerner,” Roskam said.

Continue reading

May 11, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)