TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Friday, May 25, 2018

Tax Policy In The Trump Administration

Third Law School Represented By Kirkland & Ellis Sues ABA Alleging Arbitrary Enforcement Of Accreditation Standards

Arizona Summit Logo (2015)Press Release, Arizona Summit Law School Sues American Bar Association:

Arizona Summit Law School (Summit) today filed suit in the United States District Court for the District of Arizona against the American Bar Association (ABA), seeking injunctive relief and damages against the ABA for abusing its law school accreditation powers. Summit is represented by former Solicitor General of the United States Paul D. Clement, former Assistant Attorney General of the United States Viet D. Dinh, and H. Christopher Bartolomucci, all of Kirkland & Ellis LLP.

"Today's filing alleges that the ABA has violated due process in applying its accreditation standards," said Kirkland & Ellis' Clement. "The ABA's actions regarding the law school have been arbitrary and capricious and a departure from what is legally expected of those wielding powerful accreditation authority."

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May 25, 2018 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Should Law School Be More Like Chipotle?

Chipotle 4Sacramento Bee, Be More Like Chipotle, Jerry Brown Tells California Universities:

Gov. Jerry Brown, who in his last two terms has pushed, often unsuccessfully, to reshape the state's expansive higher education system, on Wednesday suggested that California universities should be more like Chipotle. ...

"What I like about Chipotle is the limited menu. You stand in the line, get either brown rice or white rice, black beans or pinto beans," Brown said. "You put a little cheese, a little this, a little that, and you're out of there. I think that's a model some of our universities need to follow."

Brown has repeatedly prodded the state's public universities, particularly California State University, to improve their graduation rates. He said Wednesday that if they adopted a "limited-menu concept, everyone would graduate on time."

"They have so damn many courses because all these professors want to teach one of their pet little projects, but then you get thousands and thousands of courses, and then the basic courses aren't available. It takes kids six years instead of four years," Brown said. ...

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May 25, 2018 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (12)

Hemel: Two Cheers For IRS Guidance On The New State & Local Tax Cap

Following up on yesterday's post, IRS Warns Taxpayers That Regs Will Prevent States From Circumventing $10k S&L Tax Cap With 'Charitable' Contributions:  Daniel Hemel (Chicago), Two Cheers for IRS Guidance on the New SALT Cap:

Yesterday’s notice by the Treasury Department and the IRS that they plan to propose regulations related to the state and local tax (SALT) and charitable contribution deductions has generated lots of news coverage. ...

Let’s start with what the notice did say. First, it revealed — and this is new news — that Treasury and the IRS “intend to propose regulations addressing the federal income tax treatment of certain payments made by taxpayers for which taxpayers receive a credit against their state and local taxes.” That’s apparently a reference to laws already enacted in New JerseyNew York, and Oregon that allow taxpayers to claim a state tax credit for charitable contributions to certain state-affiliated funds, as well as several similar proposals pending in other state legislatures. Interestingly, Treasury and the IRS signaled no intention to issue regulations addressing New York’s new “Employer Compensation Expense Program,” which allows employees to claim a state tax credit if their employer opts into a new payroll tax regime. Even those who are skeptical of the charitable credit arrangement acknowledge that the payroll tax shift “almost certainly” will pass muster under federal tax law, and nothing in yesterday’s notice suggests otherwise.

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May 25, 2018 in IRS News, Tax, Tax Policy in the Trump Administration | Permalink | Comments (1)

Applicants To Law School Versus Medical School

WSJ: Small Businesses Rethink Client Meals & Entertaining After Losing Tax Break

WSJWall Street Journal, Season Tickets? Steak Dinners? Small Firms Rethink Client Events After Losing Tax Break:

A wholesale distributor plans to replace some expense-account lunches with open houses for customers. A marketing firm has stopped reimbursing employees’ commuting expenses and is giving them raises instead. A tax-audit defense firm is giving up its season tickets to Sacramento Kings basketball games.

These are some of the ways small-business owners are responding to changes in the tax law that reduce or eliminate some popular deductions for meals, entertainment and transportation, though many of the fine points are unclear.

For instance, the changes eliminate the deduction for sports tickets, concerts and other client entertainment, and set new limits on deductions for certain employee meals. Among the uncertainties is whether companies will still be able to claim a 50% deduction for business meals with customers or business associates, or whether those expenses will be considered entertainment, which is no longer deductible. “That’s the one that has got everyone jumping up and down,” said Marianna Dyson, of counsel to Covington & Burling.

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May 25, 2018 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Ring: Silos And First Movers In The Sharing Economy Debates

Diane M. Ring (Boston College), Silos and First Movers in the Sharing Economy Debates:

Over the past few years, a significant global debate has developed over the classification of workers in the sharing economy either as independent contractors or as employees. While Uber and Lyft have dominated the spotlight lately, the worker classification debates extend beyond ridesharing companies and affect workers across a variety of sectors. Classification of a worker as an employee, rather than an independent contractor, can carry a range of implications for worker treatment and protections under labor law, anti-discrimination law, tort law, and tax law, depending on the legal jurisdiction. The debates, at least in the United States, have been incomplete due to the failure of policy makers and advocates to consider the scope and interconnectedness of the worker classification issues across the full sweep of legal arenas. There is time, however, to remedy the incompleteness of these policy conversations before worker classification decisions ossify and path dependence takes hold.

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May 24, 2018 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

UCLA Is 18th Law School To Accept GRE For Admissions

GREUCLA is at least the eighteenth U.S. law school to announce that it will accept the GRE for the 1L admissions (it previously accepted the GRE only for students enrolled in, or applying to, another UCLA graduate program). The other seventeen law schools are Arizona, Brooklyn, BYU, Cardozo, Chicago Kent, Columbia, Florida StateGeorgetown, Harvard, Hawaii, John Marshall (Chicago), Northwestern, Pace, St. John's, Texas A&M, Wake Forest, and Washington University. Two law schools allow the GRE in limited circumstances:  Chicago (admissions committee may grant LSAT waiver) and Georgia (students enrolled in a dual degree program at the university).  (George Washington has rescinded its use of the GRE because it has not done a school-specific validation study.)

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May 24, 2018 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Death Of Larry Jegen

JegenIU McKinney Mourns the Passing of Professor Lawrence A. Jegen III:

Professor Lawrence A. Jegen, III, passed away on May 17, 2018, at his home in Indianapolis. He was 83 years old. He taught at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law for 56 years before his retirement in 2018. He joined the faculty in 1962 as an Assistant Professor, was promoted to an Associate Professor two years later, and became a full professor in 1966.

“It is hard to understate the impact that Professor Jegen made on the lives of others during his remarkable 56-year career at our law school," said IU McKinney Dean Andrew R. Klein. "Using the word ‘legend’ might sound like hyperbole, but today it does not. The outpouring of affection that I have heard from generations of McKinney Law alumni is overwhelming. This is a sad day for our law school family, but also a moment to remember the incredible difference that a teacher can make. We will miss Professor Jegen, but never forget him.”

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May 24, 2018 in Legal Education, Obituaries, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Gamage: Charitable Contributions In Lieu Of State & Local Tax Deductions

David Gamage (Indiana), Charitable Contributions in Lieu of SALT Deductions, 87 State Tax Notes 973 (Mar. 12, 2018):

State governments are considering new charitable tax credits designed to circumvent the 2017 federal tax overhaul’s cap on state and local tax deductions. Will these plans work?

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May 24, 2018 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

USC Eliminates Student Evaluations In Faculty Promotion And Tenure Decisions

USC LogoFollowing up on my previous post, Why We Must Stop Relying On Student Evaluations Of Law School Teaching — Like The University Of Oregon Is Doing:  Inside Higher Ed, Teaching Eval Shake-Up:

Research is reviewed in a rigorous manner, by expert peers. Yet teaching is often reviewed only or mostly by pedagogical non-experts: students. There’s also mounting evidence of bias in student evaluations of teaching, or SETs — against female and minority instructors in particular. And teacher ratings aren’t necessarily correlated with learning outcomes.

All that was enough for the University of Southern California to do away with SETs in tenure and promotion decisions this spring. Students will still evaluate their professors, with some adjustments — including a new focus on students’ own engagement in a course. But those ratings will not be used in high-stakes personnel decisions.

The changes took place earlier than the university expected. But study after recent study suggesting that SETs advantage faculty members of certain genders and backgrounds (namely white men) and disadvantage others was enough for Michael Quick, provost, to call it quits, effective immediately. 

“He just said, ‘I’m done. I can’t continue to allow a substantial portion of the faculty to be subject to this kind of bias,” said Ginger Clark, assistant vice provost for academic and faculty affairs and director of USC’s Center for Excellence in Teaching. “We’d already been in the process of developing a peer-review model of evaluation, but we hadn’t expected to pull the Band-Aid off this fast.”

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May 24, 2018 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (4)

Colleges May Dodge New Endowment Tax

Bloomberg, Facing First Tax on Endowments, Colleges May Be Set to Dodge It:

Private colleges facing a new endowment tax may “behave strategically” to avoid paying it, according to a study published Thursday by a senior researcher at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland [College Endowments].

Schools may increase enrollment — or give the appearance of doing so by changing the way they measure it — to reduce their endowment-per-student ratio to miss the tax threshold set by Congress, wrote economist Peter Hinrichs. Those colleges with low enrollment may reduce it in order to stay below 500 students to avoid the tax.

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May 24, 2018 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Admissions, Accreditation and the ABA: An Analysis Of Recent Law School Lawsuits

David Frakt, Admissions, Accreditation and the ABA: An Analysis of Recent Law School Lawsuits:

Recently, the ABA has been sued by Western Michigan University Thomas Cooley School of Law, and two InfiLaw schools: Florida Coastal School of Law and the defunct Charlotte School of Law. In addition, the ABA was named as a co-defendant along with InfiLaw and Charlotte School of Law in an amended complaint filed in a fraud lawsuit by a former Charlotte law professor and a Charlotte law student. These lawsuits allege that the ABA has failed in its duties as a law school accrediting agency in a variety of ways.

In this (very long) article, I will attempt to make sense of the various allegations made against the ABA in these lawsuits.

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May 24, 2018 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

IRS Warns Taxpayers That Regs Will Prevent States From Circumventing $10k S&L Tax Cap With 'Charitable' Contributions

Bloomberg:  IRS Warns Taxpayers About Tactics to Avoid Property Deduction Caps, by Lynnley Browning:

The Internal Revenue Service warned taxpayers to proceed with caution after states including New York and New Jersey approved workarounds involving charitable organizations to circumvent new federal limits on deductions for state and local taxes.

“Taxpayers should be mindful that federal law controls the proper characterization of payments for federal income tax purposes,” the agency said in a press release Wednesday [IR-2018-122], the first time it’s weighed in on the matter. The Treasury Department and IRS intend to propose regulations addressing measures that would allow homeowners to declare property taxes as charitable deductions, which are still unlimited, according to the IRS [Notice 2018-54, 2018-24 IRB ___ (June 11, 2018)].

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May 24, 2018 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (9)

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Stetson Named Inaugural ABA Competitions Champion

Stetson (2018)ABA Press Release, Stetson University College of Law Named Inaugural ABA Competitions Champion:

The American Bar Association has named Stetson University College of Law in Gulfport, Fla., the inaugural ABA Competitions Champion.

Competitions Champion is awarded to the law school that garnered the most points through team achievements and participation in the ABA Law Student Division’s four practical skills competitions: The Arbitration CompetitionNegotiation CompetitionClient Counseling Competition and National Appellate Advocacy Competition (NAAC Moot Court). Ranking criteria and the point totals for the top teams can be found here. ...

ABA competitions teach law students real-world legal skills in a simulated practice environment. Judges for the competitions included volunteer attorneys and sitting members of the bench. This year, over 1,300 students from 156 law schools participated in one or more of the competitions sponsored by the Law Student Division.

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May 23, 2018 in Law School Rankings, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morrow: Government As Investor — The Case For Immediate Expensing

Rebecca Morrow (Wake Forest), Government as Investor: The Case for Immediate Expensing, 106 Ky. L. Rev. 1 (2017) (reviewed here):

For more than sixty years, tax scholars have recognized conditions under which the government ceases to be a mere taxing entity—imposing a rate of tax on a business’s profits—and through the operation of tax law becomes more like an investment partner—contributing its fair share of capital to new investments and proportionately sharing in losses as well as gains. These conditions, which are satisfied by immediate expensing policies, are now common.

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May 23, 2018 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

2018 AccessLex Institute Legal Education Data Deck


AccessLex Institute, 2018 Legal Education Data Deck: Key Trends on Access, Affordability, and Value:
AccessLex Institute offers this 2018 Legal Education Data Deck for the use of the legal education community, policymakers, and others interested in viewing a snapshot of certain data and trends organized around the three driving principles of AccessLex Institute’s research agenda: access, affordability and value. 


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May 23, 2018 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Stock Market Responses To The Trump Election And The 2017 Corporate Tax Reform

Alexander F. Wagner (University of Zurich), Richard J. Zeckhauser (Harvard) & Alexandre Ziegler (University of Zurich), Unequal Rewards to Firms: Stock Market Responses to the Trump Election and the 2017 Corporate Tax Reform:

Massive dollars shuttled back and forth among firms on the twisted path to and passage of the 2017 tax reform. Prices of individual stocks responded to the difference between initial and revised expectations. From the bill’s initiation in the House to final passage, high-tax firms gained significantly, given the dramatic cut from 35% to 21% in the corporate tax rate. Internationally-oriented firms suffered notably, since investors assessed that the surprisingly high repatriation tax outweighed the benefits from territorial taxation. Daily price movements show that the aggregate market responded positively to lower expected taxes.

May 23, 2018 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

43% Of Lawyers Are Millennials, Outnumbering Gen Xers And Baby Boomers

American Lawyer, Law Firm Survey Says Millennial Era Is Here, But Change Has Just Begun:

Millennials now make up the largest generational group of attorneys in the U.S., and a new study finds that they are poised to bring about an unprecedented change to a traditionally static legal industry.

A new report by global real estate services firm Cushman & Wakefield, in collaboration with ALM and, found that as millennials make their way through the ranks at law firms, their demands for change in their work environment will recast how firms structure their compensation, real estate decisions, information technology and flextime policies.

Millennials now account for 43 percent of attorneys, outnumbering Gen Xers and baby boomers in the legal industry, the study found.

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May 23, 2018 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (2)

TIGTA: One-Third Of IRS Employees Who Participated In Public Transportation Subsidy Program Received Excessive Benefits

TIGTAThe Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration yesterday released Review of the Internal Revenue Service’s Public Transportation Subsidy Program (2018-10-033):

The IRS’s Public Transportation Subsidy Program (PTSP) was created to encourage employees to use public transportation when commuting to and from work in order to improve air quality, reduce traffic congestion, and conserve energy by reducing the number of single occupancy vehicles on the road.  In Calendar Year 2016, more than 18,000 IRS employees received more than $17.5 million in public transportation benefits.  Controls in place over the program are important to ensure proper stewardship of taxpayer dollars.

The overall objective of this audit was to determine whether the IRS has effective controls in place to prevent, detect, and deter employee misuse of the PTSP.

Controls over the application process provided assurance that applications were complete and limited PTSP usage to only those who were approved for the program.  In addition, controls over PTSP benefits effectively limited participants to receiving benefits that were less than or equal to the statutory maximum of $255 per month.  Lastly, vendor blocks established by the Department of Transportation effectively prevented purchases from being made at non-transportation-related vendors.

However, the PTSP remained vulnerable to misuse by participants.  Based on the results of a statistical sample of program participants, TIGTA estimates that 6,449 participants used almost $1.6 million more in transportation benefits than necessary for commuting to work or used benefits while in a nonpay status, on leave, or while teleworking.  The IRS does not have effective controls in place to prevent employees from receiving PTSP benefits that are greater than the participant’s actual commuting cost.

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May 23, 2018 in Gov't Reports, IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Muller:  The Sensational Hype Over Lawless Law School Admissions

GREDerek Muller (Pepperdine), The Sensational Hype Over Lawless Law School Admissions:

There's been a lot of hype about the proposal to end of the requirement that law schools use the LSAT in admissions. Some sources (here unlinked) fret about standardless admissions in law schools and a race to the bottom.

There are many reasons to doubt this. But I wanted to take a few (?) paragraphs to look at the recent past of the LSAT and the transition we may be experiencing. ...

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May 23, 2018 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

8th & 9th Ninth Annual Employee Benefits & Social Insurance Conferences

The dates and locations of the next two annual Employee Benefits & Social Insurance Conferences are:
Academic Year 2018–2019
Friday, March 29, 2019
University of Illinois College of Law
Organized by Sean Anderson (; 217-244-8256)

Academic Year 2019–2020

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May 23, 2018 in Colloquia, Conferences, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

NY Times: American Companies, Flush With Cash From GOP Tax Cut, Set Record For Stock Buybacks

New York Times, Cash-Rich Companies Set Record for Buybacks:

American companies, flush with cash from the $1.5 trillion tax cut, bought back a record quantity of their own shares during the first three months of the year.


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May 22, 2018 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Field: A Taxonomy For Tax Loopholes

Heather M. Field (UC-Hastings), A Taxonomy for Tax Loopholes, 55 Hous. L. Rev. 545 (2018) (reviewed here):

Democrats, Republicans, media commentators and even academics denounce “tax loopholes.” Speakers may think that they are talking about the same things, but this article demonstrates that people have widely divergent views about what tax loopholes are. Thus, people criticizing loopholes often talk past each other and engage in the tax equivalent of schoolyard name-calling. The response to this problem is not, however, to try to define the concept of “tax loopholes” with precision. Such an endeavor is pointless. Instead, this article provides a taxonomy for translating the rhetoric of “tax loopholes” into meaningful tax policy discourse. This taxonomy posits that any reference to a “tax loophole” should be understood in two dimensions — the tax policy objection and the target of the criticism. Using numerous examples from the popular/political discourse and the academic literature, this article catalogs alternatives on each dimension. Categorizing any purported “tax loophole” using this taxonomy provides a more productive framing of whatever critique is implied by any use of the “loophole” label, thereby enabling the elevation of the quality of the conversation about the individual tax preference. This taxonomy may be particularly useful now, as our political leaders embark on efforts to reform the tax law, because the taxonomy can help us better understand and advance the debate that will certainly surround those reform efforts.

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May 22, 2018 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Should The Law School Of The Future Eliminate Faculty Offices — And Even Assigned Desks?

Faculty OfficeChronicle of Higher Education, Does the Faculty Office Have a Future?:

You can picture the traditional faculty office easily enough: A wall of shelves cluttered with books, journals, and mementos. A filing cabinet or two. A desk in front of a tall window. Maybe a rug or an armchair brought from home.

But is the faculty member actually in the office you’re picturing? Increasingly, no. Perhaps she’s team-teaching several buildings away with a colleague from another discipline, or in a committee meeting on the downtown campus. Or she’s grading essays and answering student messages at home, or Skyping in the library with an overseas research collaborator, or reading a journal article on her iPad at a Starbucks near her 11-year-old’s soccer practice. In fact, she may not be back in her office till Tuesday at 2:30, for office hours.

On many campuses, offices of all kinds take up 25 to 35 percent of nonresidential space. Faculty offices are typically occupied less than those for administrators — often less than half of the workweek. They are expensive to build (think $350 per gross square foot, one architect says) and costly to maintain, heat, air-condition, and clean. But whether professors could manage without offices of their own is a question most college leaders avoid asking in public.

"A lot of institutions are struggling with this," says Graham Wyatt, a partner at Robert A.M. Stern Architects, which does a lot of work in higher education. "There is clearly pressure to economize on facility costs and to make sure that institutions are getting highest value for the dollar. We hear repeatedly that in the private sector the private office is going away — shouldn’t we be doing that in academia?"

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May 22, 2018 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (7)

The Tax Home Of Athletes Under I.R.C. § 162 And The Pay-For-Play Model

Kathryn Kisska-Schulze (Clemson), Analyzing the Applicability of IRC § 162 on the Pay-For-Play Model, 16 Va. Sports & Ent. L. J. 2 (2017):

Identifying the federal tax home of professional athletes has been a minimally examined area in academic scholarly works, but an important analysis for IRC § 162 business expense deduction purposes. However, due to the inconsistency among circuits in defining the term home from an IRC § 162 perspective, and because the U.S. Supreme Court has decidedly not clarified the definition of the term home for business expense deduction purposes, applying the conflicting interpretations could eventually pose an interesting federal tax issue for paid student-athletes.

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May 22, 2018 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

SSRN Tax Professor Rankings

SSRN Logo (2018)SSRN has updated its monthly rankings of 750 American and international law school faculties and 3,000 law professors by (among other things) the number of paper downloads from the SSRN database.  This ranking includes downloads from two 30- and 35-page papers by 12 tax professors on the new tax legislation that garnered a lot of media attention (including the New York Times and Washington Post) and generated a massive amount of downloads (the papers are the most downloaded papers over the past 12 months across all of SSRN and the most downloaded tax papers of all-time by over 200%).  See Brian Leiter (Chicago), 11 Tax Profs Blow Up The SSRN Download Rankings. (For some reason, Mitchell Kane (NYU) — the twelfth academic co-author of the two papers — is not included in the SSRN download rankings (although the downloads are included on his individual author page)).  Here is the new list (through May 1, 2018) of the Top 25 U.S. Tax Professors in two of the SSRN categories: all-time downloads and recent downloads (within the past 12 months):







Reuven Avi-Yonah (Mich.)


Reuven Avi-Yonah (Mich.)



Dan Shaviro (NYU)


Daniel Hemel (Chicago)



David Gamage (Indiana)


David Gamage (Indiana)



Lily Batchelder (NYU)


Dan Shaviro (NYU)



Daniel Hemel (Chicago)


Darien Shanske (UC-Davis)



Darien Shanske (UC-Davis)


Manoj Viswanathan (Hastings)



Cliff Fleming (BYU)


Lily Batchelder (NYU)



David Kamin (NYU)


Cliff Fleming (BYU)



Rebecca Kysar (Brooklyn)


Ari Glogower (Ohio State)



Manoj Viswanathan (Hastings)


David Kamin (NYU)



Ari Glogower (Ohio State)


Rebecca Kysar (Brooklyn)



Michael Simkovic (USC)


Gladriel Shobe (BYU)



Paul Caron (Pepperdine)


Richard Ainsworth (BU)



D. Dharmapala (Chicago)


D. Dharmapala (Chicago)



Louis Kaplow (Harvard)


Michael Simkovic (USC)



Ed Kleinbard (USC)


Omri Marian (UC-Irvine)



Vic Fleischer (San Diego)


Hugh Ault (Boston College)



Richard Ainsworth (BU)


Kyle Rozema (Chicago)



Jim Hines (Michigan)


Sam Donaldson (Georgia St.)   



Gladriel Shobe (NYU)


Stephen Shay (Harvard)



Richard Kaplan (Illinois)


Jacob Goldin (Stanford)



Ted Seto (Loyola-L.A.)


Ed Kleinbard (USC)



Katie Pratt (Loyola-L.A.)


Ruth Mason (Virginia)    



David Weisbach (Chicago)


Kirk Stark (UCLA)



Robert Sitkoff (Harvard)


Steven Bank (UCLA)


Note that this ranking includes full-time tax professors with at least one tax paper on SSRN, and all papers (including non-tax papers) by these tax professors are included in the SSRN data.

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May 22, 2018 in Scholarship, Tax, Tax Prof Rankings | Permalink | Comments (0)

Should Law Schools Ban Smartphones In Faculty Offices?

No iPhoneWall Street Journal, ‘I Lost It’: The Boss Who Banned Phones, and What Came Next:

Many managers are conflicted about how—or even whether—to limit smartphone use in the workplace. Smartphones enable people to get work done remotely, stay on top of rapid business developments and keep up with clients and colleagues. But the devices are also the leading productivity killers in the workplace, according to a 2016 survey of more than 2,000 executives and human-resource managers conducted by CareerBuilder, an HR software and services company.

There is also some evidence that productivity suffers in the mere presence of smartphones. When workers in a recent study by the University of Texas and University of California had their personal phones placed on their desks—untouched—their cognitive performance was lower than when their devices were in another location, such as in a handbag or the pocket of a coat hanging near their workspace.

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May 22, 2018 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Top 14 Law Schools Demand That Law Firms Disclose Summer Associate Arbitration Agreements

NY Times:  More Fabric, More Money? Retailer Accused Of Charging ‘Fat Tax’

New York Times, More Fabric, More Money? British Retailer Is Accused of Charging ‘Fat Tax’:

Size is a sensitive subject in the clothing business. So when one of Britain’s most popular and affordable clothing giants was found to charge more for plus-size clothing, it was accused of imposing a “fat tax” on women.

The pricing by the store, New Look, revived a debate over whether the use of more fabric for the same outfit should logically cost more.

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May 22, 2018 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, May 21, 2018

WSJ: Faculty No-Confidence Votes Against College Presidents Skyrocket Amidst Declining Enrollments, Budget Challenges

WSJ 2Wall Street Journal, No Confidence: College Faculties Rebel With More Votes Against Leadership:

In a sign of the changes roiling academia, faculties are voting no-confidence in university and college presidents four times more frequently than a decade ago.

Between 2013 and 2017 there were an average of 15 such votes a year, up from an annual average of three between 2000 and 2004, according to research by Sean McKinniss, who wrote his doctoral dissertation on shared governance in higher education and now works in corporate training. As part of his academic research, Mr. McKinniss tracked 184 votes of no confidence against presidents dating back to 1989 [No-Confidence Vote Database].

At different schools, the votes can be generated by a single adamant faculty member or after a committee investigation and can focus on anything from perceived financial mismanagement to leadership style.

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May 21, 2018 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

Suing The ABA Over Law School Accreditation? Get In Line, Suing the ABA Over Accreditation? Get In Line:

The queue of plaintiffs suing the American Bar Association’s legal education arm is snaking out the courthouse door.

The ABA’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar has been named as a defendant in three different lawsuits in the past week and a half, each centered on its law school accreditation activities [Charlotte I, Charlotte II, Florida Coastal]. A fourth accreditation suit brought by Western Michigan University Thomas Cooley Law School in November is pending.

The flurry of litigation is unprecedented for the ABA’s legal education section and appears to be a byproduct of its two-year-old effort to step up enforcement of its accreditation standards. The section has warned at least 10 law schools of accreditation shortcomings in the past two years, including the three schools that have sued. Previously, such warnings and sanctions were rare. ...

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May 21, 2018 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

IRS Seeks Grant Applications For Funding Low Income Taxpayer Clinics


The IRS has announced (IR-2018-121) that it is accepting grant applications through June 27 for Low Income Taxpayer Clinics for the 2019 grant cycle (Jan. 1 - Dec. 31, 2019):

The LITC program is a federal grant program administered by the Office of the Taxpayer Advocate at the IRS, led by the National Taxpayer Advocate, Nina E. Olson. Under the program, the IRS awards matching grants of up to $100,000 per year to qualifying organizations to develop, expand or maintain an LITC. An LITC must provide services for free or for no more than a nominal fee.

For calendar year 2018, the IRS awarded just over $11.8 million in matching grants to 134 organizations across the country for the development, expansion or continuation of LITCs. A listing of the 2018 LITC grant recipients is available on

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May 21, 2018 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Manns & Todd: Section 529 Plans Are Not The Ideal College Savings Vehicle For Most Families

F. Philip Manns (Liberty) & Timothy M. Todd (Liberty), Higher Education Savings and Planning: Tax and Nontax Considerations, 5 Texas A&M L. Rev. 343 (2018):

Funding higher education is among the critical financial decisions made by individuals and families. There are myriad options. Yet, the conventional wisdom — namely using Section 529 Plans — may not be the optimal vehicle to effectuate this goal. Therefore, this Article discusses various strategies to plan, save, and pay for higher education. It compares various savings methods including gifts, UTMA accounts, Section 529 Plans, trusts, and other vehicles. The analysis explores both tax and non-tax considerations, including the effect of different strategies on financial aid, transaction costs, investor control, income taxes, gift and estate taxes, flexibility, and creditor protection.

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May 21, 2018 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Lesson From The Tax Court: The Role Of State Law In Federal Taxation

Tax Court (2017)The United States Legal system is as hard to learn as the English language. One of the more difficult aspects of the system is the existence and interplay of 51 sovereignties. The Tax Code is not immune from that difficulty. Even though federal tax is governed in the first instance by federal law, state law can still be quite important to the resolution of a federal tax controversy, whether the dispute is about the amount of tax owed or the collection of an undisputed amount. The recent case of Vincent C. Hamilton and Stephanie Hamilton v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 2018-62 (May 8, 2018) teaches a lesson about the role of state law in determining a federal tax liability.

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May 21, 2018 in Bryan Camp, New Cases, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Faculty Views On The Koch Brothers' Influence At George Mason University

George Mason University (2018)Following up on my previous posts (links below): 

Washington Post op-ed:  I Teach at George Mason. The Kochs Didn’t Cause Our Ideology Problem, by Steven Pearlstein (George Mason):

Thanks to a group of courageous and persistent students, George Mason University was recently forced to acknowledge that it had accepted millions of dollars from billionaire Charles Koch and other conservatives under arrangements that gave the donors input into appointments at the university’s famously libertarian economics department. These arrangements violated traditional norms meant to insulate academic institutions from donor influence and come two years after similar gifts led to the naming of Mason’s law school after Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

The story fits neatly into the liberal narrative that the Koch brothers, Charles and David, have used their inherited oil wealth to fund the development of radical economic theories at Koch-funded universities. This, the narrative goes, translated into concrete policies at Koch-funded think tanks and legislation implemented by Koch-funded Republicans. For many liberals, this brainwashing of the American mind explains the ascent of the tea party and the election of President Donald Trump.

There is some truth to this narrative of the rich, all-powerful puppeteers. But at Mason, the story is more complicated.

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May 21, 2018 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

The Persistence Of Dumb Contracts

Common-accord-cmacc-transact-iaccm-presentation-20170509-1-638I'm going to spend this summer working on a project about language, law, and code — what lawyers with meat rather than silicon brains are likely to retain as their domain over the foreseeable future.  Hence, The Persistence of Dumb Contracts.  I want to say a couple words about it, but only to highlight a convergence with the cutting edge practical work of James Hazard (founder of CommonAccord) and others at the intersection of contracts and computers.

As to the paper, I would link you to something but it's not nearly ready for prime time.  For the time being, consider the development of doctrine over the last 150 years or so regarding the parol evidence rule and the interpretation of the contractual text.  It's an ontological issue — is the "reality" of the deal bound by the metaphoric "four corners" of the document or is the text a mapping onto something else?  An early paragraph from an early draft of the intro:

Now imagine this debate in the context of digitally documented transactions that span the complexity gamut from one-shot commodity sales to longer term relationships like commercial leases or shareholder agreements. There is or will be a continuum across which “smarter” contracts will do less mapping of antecedent understandings and create more generally accepted social realities than dumber ones. I see no point in trying to create mutually exclusive sets. At one end of the continuum, the smart contract is little more than a cybernetic artifact like Bitcoin, a virtual dollar bill having a social ontology and no less a fixed and timeless meaning than a physical Federal Reserve note. At the other end, it is like more than a digitized form into which someone plugs a few chunks of data and comes out with a Kindle book or a mortgage loan. Somewhere in the middle, say in connection with a program that can sort out the puts and takes of ten years’ worth of contingency in a 50,000 square foot office lease, the contract needs to be able to create virtually a world of real estate business and law that either maps on or substituted for the physical version. Dumb contracts will persist, and the extent to which individual contracts are dumb rather than smart will depend on the extent to which there is utility to smartness or dumbness in the particular circumstance.

As to Jim Hazard, my colleague, Gabe Teninbaum, who directs Suffolk Law's Institute on Law Practice Technology & Innovation, introduced us.  Jim's passion and project is, "an initiative to create global codes of legal transacting by codifying and automating legal documents, including contracts, permits, organizational documents, and consents."

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May 21, 2018 in Jeff Lipshaw, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

TaxProf Blog Weekend Roundup

Sunday, May 20, 2018

California Bar Exam Pass Rate Sinks To All-Time Low: 27.3%

California Bar ExamState Bar of California Releases Results of the February 2018 Bar Exam:

Today the State Bar of California released the results of the February 2018 California Bar Exam, and announced that 1,282 people (27.3 percent of applicants) passed the General Bar Exam.

CA Bar

Sacramento Bee, A Bar Too High? Pass Rate Plummets to Record Low for California Lawyer Exam:

Only a quarter of applicants passed the California bar exam in its most recent sitting, the State Bar of California announced this week, a record low for the test that lawyers must successfully complete to practice in the state.

The pass rate for the February exam sank to just 27.3 percent, about 7 percentage points lower than last year and the first time since 1986 that it has fallen below 30 percent. The previous low, according to a summary of results since 1951, came in the spring of 1983, when 27.7 percent of applicants passed.

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May 20, 2018 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (6)

University of Luxembourg Hosts Conference On New Tax Challenges: US And EU Perspectives

LuxThe University of Luxembourg hosted a conference on Friday on New Tax Challenges: US and EU Perspectives:

US Tax Reform and its Impact on the EU
Stephen Shay (Harvard)
Edoardo Traversa (Louvain)

Tax Leaks and Transparency
Diane Ring (Boston College), Leak-Driven Law, 65 UCLA L. Rev. __ (2018) (with Shu-Yi Oei (Boston College))
Katerina Pantazatou (Luxembourg)

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May 20, 2018 in Conferences, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Catholic University Moves Forward With Plan To Lay Off Tenured Faculty, Increase Teaching Loads

CatholicFollowing up on my previous posts (links below):  Chronicle of Higher Education, Catholic U. Plan, Which Could Result in Layoffs of Tenured Profs, Moves Ahead:

A controversial cost-cutting plan that would allow Catholic University of America to lay off tenured professors has cleared a major hurdle.

The university’s Academic Senate, which includes faculty members and administrators, voted 35 to 8 last week to send the so-called academic-renewal proposal to the Board of Trustees for a final vote. The plan, designed to close a $3.5-million budget gap and stem enrollment declines, has generated fierce debate on the campus, in Washington, D.C., about the strategic direction of the university, the marketability of its Catholic identity, and the fragility of tenure in the face of financial challenges.

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May 20, 2018 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Top Five New Tax Papers

SSRN LogoThere is quite a bit of movement in this week's list of the Top 5 Recent Tax Paper Downloads, with new papers debuting on the list at #4 and #5:

  1. [957 Downloads]  Evaluating the New US Pass-Through Rules, by Dan Shaviro (NYU)
  2. [415 Downloads]  Taxation of Investments in Bitcoins and Other Virtual Currencies: International Trends and the Brazilian Approach, by Flavio Rubinstein (Fundação Getúlio Vargas) & Gustavo Gonçalves Vettori (University of São Paulo)
  3. [237 Downloads]  The 2017 Tax Cuts: How Polarized Politics Produced Precarious Policy, by Michael Graetz (Columbia)
  4. [156 Downloads]  IRC Section 678 and the Beneficiary Deemed Owner Trust (BDOT), by Edwin Morrow
  5. [151 Downloads]  How to Drive an RV Through a Loophole: The Ethics and Legality of LLC Formation for Sales Tax Avoidance, by Chase Edwards (Louisiana-Lafayette), Justin Ward (Jones Walker, Baton Rouge) & Casey Carder (Arkansas-Little Rock )

May 20, 2018 in Scholarship, Tax, Top 5 Downloads | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Congratulations, Pepperdine Law School Class of 2018


3L Breakfast

Breakfast 2

Baccalaureate Service:

Stauffer 2



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May 19, 2018 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

This Week's Ten Most Popular TaxProf Blog Posts

Shavuot: A Holiday For The Rule Of Law

ShavuotWall Street Journal op-ed:  Shavuot: A Holiday for the Rule of Law, by Joe Lieberman (Former U.S. Senator (D-CT)):

[Lawyers] play a crucial role in maintaining the rule of law, which creates order. A good legal system makes the difference between a civilized society and a chaotic one, and it all began when God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses on Mount Sinai.

For Jews, now is the perfect time of year—between Passover and the much less observed holiday of Shavuot—to contemplate the role of law in our lives.

In the Bible, the exodus from Egypt is not an insulated experience. It is part of a larger cycle that goes from slavery in Egypt, to freedom in the desert, to the Ten Commandments. Every year, religiously observant Jews count the 49 days from Passover to Shavuot, which begins this Saturday evening. The former holiday emphasizes liberty, the latter law. These values balance each other, which is why it’s unfortunate that so few people who observe Passover continue to Shavuot. ...

How do the children of Israel serve God? By accepting and obeying a code of law, the Ten Commandments. Freedom is not enough. Liberty without law leads to chaos, immorality and violence. Law without liberty is what the Israelites endured under Pharaoh’s tyrannical rule.

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May 19, 2018 in Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

University Of Kentucky Moves To Fire Tenured Professor For Assigning His Book In His Classes And Keeping The $6k Royalties

UK Logo (2018)Lexington Herald Leader, UK Moves to Fire Professor, Says Book Sales 'Stole From Students.' He Vows to Fight.:

University of Kentucky officials are trying to fire a tenured professor because they say he made students buy his book for classes he taught and then kept the proceeds without telling administrators.

The move against journalism faculty Buck Ryan – who was sanctioned for inappropriate behavior in 2016 — is nearly unprecedented for tenured faculty in the last 50 years at UK, and will be a test of UK’s tenure policies and procedures.

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May 19, 2018 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (4)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1834: Why Are We Still Arguing Over The Facts?

IRS Logo 2Forbes:  Why Are We Still Arguing Over The Facts Of The IRS Scandal?, by David Herzig (Valparaiso):

There has been a politically charged debate in academic circles for a while now about events that happened in 2013 regarding IRS investigations into groups purportedly because of the use of the term "Tea Party" in their name.

Paul L. Caron on the TaxProf Blog has been running a mostly continuous post (up to around day 1830) about "The IRS Scandal." The blog series is controversial in academic circles because it frames the issue of alleged IRS targeting of a typology of groups as a definite scandal.  As Professor Philip Hackney wrote, "This so-called scandal over what conservatives saw as the persecution of right-leaning nonprofits erupted at a meeting of Washington tax lawyers in May of 2013."  To be sure, it would be true if there was a direct use of the IRS to harm opposition groups.  For example, it was a clear scandal when Nixon used the IRS to target his political enemies. Yet, as we saw over the weekend, the facts associated with this particular allegation are not so certain and open to debate even after many Congressional, internal IRS, and other investigations.

This weekend an interesting feud between Bradley A. Smith (and others) and David Cay Johnston (and others) percolated over the facts associated with Professor Smith's Wall Street Journal Op-ed. In a series of posts on the TaxProf Blog, Mr. Johnston, Professor Smith, and others, continued to debate and litigate the underlying facts related to the IRS investigations.

Professor Smith and others are of the belief that there was a clear scandal and targeting of right leaning groups.  Mr. Johnston, is of the belief that the issue is less opaque.  After all, the IRS did not just use right leaning terms to identify groups for targeting.  What is clear from the series of posts is that even armed with a series of documents, either side in the debate can find clarity in their position and fault in the opposition.

How one interprets the facts, seems to be based on the lens of one's glasses. But, missing in a dispute over the facts, is what they mean. Rather that continue the downward spiral of arguing over the facts of what happened, here I want to offer a more productive use of the spot-light. We should be focused on two important points.

May 19, 2018 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (5)

Friday, May 18, 2018

Weekly SSRN Tax Article Review And Roundup: Eyal-Cohen Reviews Cauble's Superficial Proxies For Simplicity In Tax Law

This week, Mirit Eyal-Cohen (Alabama) reviews a new article by Emily Cauble (DePaul), Superficial Proxies for Simplicity in Tax Law:

Mirit-Cohen (2018)In her article, Cauble reminds us that tax laws are always a popular target for political rhetoric. She aims in this Article to derail the public discourse about the concept of tax simplification by highlighting the dangers of focusing solely on numeric metrics relating to volume in order to describe complexity. We often hear unsophisticated, superficial proxies of tax complexity such as word counts, page counts, number of regulations, and other metrics. For example, there is much commentary that points to the length of IRS publications or tax forms instructions as evidence of the intricate nature of tax law. According to Cauble, these often leave the public susceptible to policies under the appearance of simplification while their real purpose is much more than that. They enable politicians to advance provisions under the guise of achieving simplicity – a prospect with broad appeal - when the true effect of the proposal is something that would be much less popular. She exemplifies with the latest tax legislation that while the rhetoric around the proposal to remove some tax brackets may have portrayed it as a simplification move, in her opinion its real goal was to reduce progressivity. 

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May 18, 2018 in Scholarship, Tax, Weekly SSRN Roundup | Permalink | Comments (2)

Weekly Legal Education Roundup

Tax Policy In The Trump Administration