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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Pepperdine Bible Study

With my friend and colleague Jim Gash away this semester teaching in Pepperdine's London Program, my wife and I have the honor of hosting the law school's Wednesday night Bible Study, which kicked off last night:

Bible Study 2

August 28, 2014 in Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 476

IRS Logo 2New York Post editorial:  IRS Back-up Baloney:

Some 15 months after Americans learned about the IRS’ targeting of conservative groups, we still have no clue how such an abuse was allowed to happen. And every day, the story only gets murkier.

This week, for instance, a government watchdog group, Judicial Watch, said administration officials admitted that all the “missing” e-mails belonging to Lois Lerner (the woman at the heart of the scandal) had been backed up after all — as part of a practice to back up all the government’s e-mails. ...

An administration official later denied it had said anything new to Judicial Watch and claimed the group was mischaracterizing the facts. The problem for Americans is that the government’s story has always seemed incredible — so why believe anything it says now?

There’s more: According to a sworn declaration, Lerner had two Blackberries, one of which contained all of the e-mails that would have been sent to her crashed computer. But that Blackberry “was removed or wiped clean of any sensitive or proprietary information and removed as scrap for disposal in June 2012” — even after the hard drive “crash” and months after an initial congressional inquiry. How did that happen?

The more we learn, it seems, the less we know. And the less the public can trust their own government. It’s long past time for real answers.

Continue reading

August 28, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Tax Court Approves the IRS's Taxation of Frequent Flyer Miles

CitiBank LogoThe Tax Court yesterday required the taxpayer to include $668 in income as reported by Citibank on Form 1099-MISC as the value of an airline ticket received by the taxpayer upon redemption of 50,000 "Thank You Points" from opening a Citibank account. Shankar v. Commissioner, 143 T.C. No. 5 (Aug. 26, 2014).

(Hat Tip: Phil Hackney.)

Update:  Sam Brunson (Loyola-Chicago), Tax Court: Frequent Flier Miles Are Income

August 27, 2014 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Visualizing Employment by Law School

Lawyer Metrics:  Visualizing Employment By Law School, Part I, by Christopher Zorn:

We looked at the schools in the top 50 of the U.S. News 2014 rankings, and plotted the percentages of each school’s graduates in each of the ABA’s summary outcome categories. Higher values are indicated by blue, and lower values by orange or red (with grey in the middle). We also included a “dendrogram” at the top; this is a visual representation of how similar each of the categories are to each other, based on the distributions of their values across the different schools.

Visualizing I

Lawyer Metrics: Visualizing Employment By Law School, Part II, by Christopher Zorn:

Returning to the ABA’s employment data for 2014, we can use a shaded area plot to see how the various employment outcomes vary as we move through the U.S. News rankings. Each shaded area represents the proportion of a school’s graduates who achieved a particular type of employment outcome, with the schools ordered by their 2014 U.S. News ranking.

Visualizing II

August 27, 2014 in Law School Rankings, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

CBO: An Update to the Budget and Economic Outlook

Congressional Budget Office, An Update to the Budget and Economic Outlook (Aug. 2014):

Figure 1-1

 

August 27, 2014 in Congressional News, Gov't Reports, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

IRS Ethics Lawyer Facing Possible Disbarment

IRS Logo 2Washington Times, IRS Ethics Lawyer Facing Possible Disbarment, Accused of Lying:

A lawyer in the IRS ethics office is facing the possibility of being disbarred, according to records that accuse her of lying to a court-appointed board and hiding what she’d done with money from a settlement that was supposed to go to two medical providers who had treated her client.

The disciplinary arm of the D.C. Court of Appeals has recommended that Takisha McGee, a section manager in the IRS Office of Professional Responsibility, lose her law license over the charge, which stems from a personal injury case she worked about a year before she joined the tax agency.

Continue reading

August 27, 2014 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

More Tax Inversion News

(Hat Tip: Bruce Bartlett.)

August 27, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

SSRN Tax Professor Rankings

SSRN LogoSSRN has updated its monthly rankings of 944 American and international law school faculties and 3,000 law professors by (among other things) the number of paper downloads from the SSRN database.  Here is the new list (through August 1, 2014) 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):

 

 

All-Time

 

Recent

1

Reuven Avi-Yonah (Mich.)

39,751

Reuven Avi-Yonah (Mich.)

6758

2

Paul Caron (Pepperdine)

26,455

Richard Ainsworth (BU)

2727

3

Louis Kaplow (Harvard)

22,821

Paul Caron (Pepperdine)

2672

4

D. Dharmapala (Chicago)

20,152

D.Dharmapala (Chicago) 

2537

5

Vic Fleischer (San Diego)

20,011

Richard Kaplan (Illinois)

1986

6

James Hines (Michigan)

19,710

Bridget Crawford (Pace)

1917

7

Ted Seto (Loyola-L.A.)

19,094

Omri Marian (Florida)

1868

8

Richard Kaplan (Illinois)

18,976

Katie Pratt (Loyola-L.A.)

1841

9

Katie Pratt (Loyola-L.A.)

16,044

Robert Sitkoff (Harvard)

1802

10

Dennis Ventry (UC-Davis)

15,375

Ed Kleinbard (USC)

1708

11

Carter Bishop (Suffolk)

15,025

Brad Borden (Brooklyn)

1596

12

Jen Kowal (Loyola-L.A.)

14,304

Jen Kowal (Loyola-L.A.)

1585

13

David Weisbach (Chicago)

14,244

Dick Harvey (Villanova)

1482

14

Chris Sanchirico (Penn)

14,190

Louis Kaplow (Harvard)

1474

15

David Walker (BU)

13,911

Jeff Kwall (Loyola-Chicago)

1448

16

Richard Ainsworth (BU)

13,907

James Hines (Michigan)

1436

17

Francine Lipman (UNLV)

13,819

Francine Lipman (UNLV)

1352

18

Bridget Crawford (Pace)

13,794

Ted Seto (Loyola-L.A.)

1338

19

Robert Sitkoff (Harvard)

13,744

Dan Shaviro (NYU)

1337

20

Brad Borden (Brooklyn)

13,725

David Gamage (UCBerkeley)

1330

21

Ed Kleinbard (USC)

12,950

Vic Fleischer (San Diego)

1268

22

Herwig Schlunk (Vanderbilt)

12,479

Carter Bishop (Suffolk)

1251

23

Dan Shaviro (NYU)

12,023

Dan Simmons (UC-Davis)

1248

24

Ed McCaffery (USC)

11,724

Brian Galle (Boston College)

1190

25

Wendy Gerzog (Baltimore)

11,715

David Weisbach (Chicago)

1179

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.

Continue reading

August 27, 2014 in Legal Education, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Prof Rankings | Permalink | Comments (0)

Schizer Named to Ginsburg Visiting Chair in Taxation at Georgetown

SchizerGeorgetown Press Release, Georgetown Law Appoints David Schizer to Ginsburg Chair:

Georgetown University Law Center Dean William M. Treanor is pleased to announce the appointment of David Schizer to the Martin D. Ginsburg Chair in Taxation. Schizer will hold the chair as a visiting professor during the 2015 spring semester.

“David Schizer is an extraordinarily gifted scholar of tax law and policy and a wonderful teacher, and he left a great mark as dean at Columbia. We are delighted that he will be visiting at Georgetown, and he is the ideal choice to hold the Ginsburg Chair. Marty Ginsburg was an important mentor for David, who also clerked for Justice Ginsburg,” said Treanor. “We are deeply grateful to H. Ross Perot for his generosity in endowing this chair, a fitting tribute to Marty’s great contributions as a lawyer, a scholar and a teacher.”

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August 27, 2014 in Legal Education, Tax, Tax Prof Moves | Permalink | Comments (0)

E&Y: The Outlook for Global Tax Policy in 2014

E&YErnst & Young, The Outlook for Global Tax Policy in 2014 (226 pages):

Taxes around the world are on the rise. But these rises may be a bit less obvious than in the past.

Governments are generally making fewer changes to headline corporate, personal and indirect tax rates in 2014 compared with 2013 and 2012. Instead, more are putting legislative changes in place that will adjust and expand the tax base for 2014 and beyond, often at the net expense of taxpayers.

Overall, just 10 countries of the 61 we surveyed have so far announced reductions to statutory corporate income tax (CIT) rates for 2014. Conversely, our respondents expect corporate tax burdens to be higher in 16 countries, although the increase in just 3 of those (France, India and Israel) can be attributed in part to a higher statutory rate. The higher burden forecast for the others stems from changes that broaden their tax base. The most common base-broadeners seen in new legislation so far include:

  • Increased tax enforcement, including more demands for disclosure and transparency, renewed focus on audit activities, and new or amended General Anti-Avoidance Rules (GAAR)
  • Changes to R&D tax incentives
  • Refinements to incentives designed to encourage capital investment
  • Changes to withholding taxes • Tighter transfer pricing regulations and oversight
  • Limits on interest and business expense deductibility, including a growing focus on payments made to “low tax” jurisdictions
  • Decreases to the statutory corporate income tax rate
  • Limitations to the tax treatment of losses
  • Tougher controlled foreign company (CFC) rules
  • More stringent thin capitalization rules

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August 27, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

The IRS Scandal, Day 475

IRS Logo 2Real Clear Politics:  George Will on IRS: "It Is Off The Rails And It Is Now Thoroughly Corrupted":

I can just hardly wait until the IRS lawyers go into that courtroom and tell the judge that it would be too onerous to stop obstructing justice in this case. That's a really interesting defense. You know, Lily Tomlin, the comedian, used to have a character, the Bag Lady, who said, 'no matter how cynical you get you, just can't keep up.' And that's the way it was with the IRS.

Remember this thing began in deceit with Lois Lerner planting a question to reveal this getting ahead of the Inspector General of the IRS report. Then there were a few rogue agents in Cincinnati. The IRS is the most intrusive and potentially punitive institution of the federal government and it is a law enforcement institution and it is off the rails and it is now thoroughly corrupted.

People are saying, 'well, the Justice Department can take care of this.' There is a reason why Jack Kennedy had his brother [as] Attorney General. There is a reason why Richard Nixon had his campaign manager John Mitchell [as] Attorney General. It is an inherently political office and it can't be trusted in cases like this.

 

 

The order from U.S. District Court Judge Emmett Sullivan was certainly clear enough. In a landmark victory for Judicial Watch, the federal judge ordered the IRS to submit sworn declarations detailing what happened to Lois Lerner’s “lost” emails and what steps were being taken to find them. What was provided was a garbled explanation from no less than five IRS officials with more holes than a block of Swiss cheese. ...

These sworn declarations came from five IRS officials: Aaron G. Signor, John H. Minsek, Stephen L. Manning, Timothy P. Camus, and Thomas J. Kane.

We noted that the IRS and DOJ filings seem to treat as a joke Judge Sullivan’s order requiring the IRS to produce details about Lois Lerner’s “lost” emails and any efforts to retrieve and produce them to Judicial Watch as required under law.

This is the story we’re supposed to believe, according to these IRS officials: Lerner’s crashed drive was analyzed by two technicians who employed a variety of tech tactics to recover the data, to no avail. The drives – which, mind you, had no recoverable data according to these experts – were then “degaussed” (wiped clean) “to protect against any possible disclosure of… taxpayer information.” Anyone with even a passing familiarity with the IRS email scandal would have realized that these filings were a blatant continuation of the cover-up.

Well, if there’s one thing I know, it is that most federal courts don’t take kindly to being treated disrespectfully and expected to act like a somnolent member of Congress as administration officials mislead, omit, and play games.

Sure enough, in a stunning move, Judge Sullivan took the extraordinary step of launching an independent inquiry into the issue of Lerner’s missing emails. ...

Judicial Watch has filed hundreds of FOIA lawsuits. I have never seen this type of court action in all my 16 years at Judicial Watch.

Judge Sullivan has already authorized Judicial Watch to submit a request for limited discovery into the missing IRS records after September 10. So stay tuned for further details very soon.

Judge Sullivan took the additional step of appointing Magistrate Judge John M. Facciola to manage and assist in discussions between Judicial Watch and the IRS about how to obtain the missing records. Magistrate Facciola is an expert in e-discovery.

August 27, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Today Marks My 25th Year as a Law Professor

25 YearsToday I taught my first class of the 2014-15 academic year, my 25th year as a full-time law professor. Things certainly have changed in my Estate & Gift Tax course:

 

1990

2014

Exemption

$600,000

$5,340,000

Rate

55%

40%

Estates Subject to Tax

1.19%

0.15%

Annual Exclusion

$10,000

$14,000

August 26, 2014 in Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

Harvard Business Review: The Conversation We Should Be Having About Corporate Taxes

Harvard Business Review, The Conversation We Should Be Having About Corporate Taxes:

Harvard Business Review LogoThe corporate inversion — when a U.S. company takes on the legal identity of foreign subsidiary, usually in order to reduce its taxes — has become about as controversial as corporate finance topics get. President Obama has called such transactions “unpatriotic.” Others have defended them as a way for American companies to stay competitive in the face of a uniquely intrusive tax code.

Harvard Business School’s Mihir Desai and Bill George both fall mostly in the second camp, but with some surprising twists that came out when I spoke with them recently. Desai is a professor at Harvard Business School and Harvard Law School who has done a lot of research on corporate taxes, and wrote the July-August 2012 HBR article “A Better Way to Tax U.S. Businesses.” George is a professor at HBS and the former CEO of Medtronic, which has been involved in one of this year’s highest-profile inversion transactions, a merger with Ireland-based Covidien.

Part of our conversation was recorded for an HBR Ideacast, which you can listen to below. What follows that is an edited, much-condensed transcript of both the Ideacast and the progressively wonkier discussion that ensued after the podcast was done.

(Hat Tip: Bruce Bartlett.)

August 26, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Fleischer: In Burger King-Tim Hortons Inversion, Consumer Reaction Could Be Key

New York Times Deal Book:  In Burger King-Tim Hortons Deal, Consumer Reaction Could Be Key, by Victor Fleischer (San Diego):

BKTHBefore Burger King, there was Stanley Works.

The news that Burger King is merging with Tim Hortons should shift our attention to the voice of consumers in such cross-border deals. A new Canadian parent company would own both brands after the merger, technically making the deal an “inversion” and removing residual profits from the Burger King business out of the United States corporate tax base.

Deals are usually analyzed in terms of how they affect shareholders and managers. But consumers, and the politicians who represent them, can also make a deal stand or fall.

Continue reading

August 26, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Rethinking the Temporary Taxation Debate

Frank Fagan (Erasmus University Rotterdam), The Fiscal Cliff as Reelection Strategy: Rethinking the Temporary Taxation Debate, 116 W. Va. L. Rev. 783 (2014):

Recent scholarship [Rebecca Kysar, Lasting Legislation, 159 U. Pa. L. Rev. 1007 (2011); Frank Fagan & Michael Faure, The Role of Lawmakers, Lobbyists, and Interest Groups in the Normative Evaluation of Timing Rules, 160 U. Pa. L. Rev. PENNumbra 61 (2011)] contends that temporary tax provisions are socially costly because they increase rent-seeking activity and create uncertain investment environments. This Article challenges that view, and shows that, while temporary tax provisions may increase rent-seeking activity, such activity is not always socially costly; and while temporary tax provisions may create uncertain investment environments, such environments are not always unfavorable for private investors. The real problem with temporary tax provisions, simply put, is that legislators use them to win reelection and externalize a number of costs in the process.

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August 26, 2014 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Arizona State Hosts 6th Annual Aspiring Law Profs Conference on Sept. 27

Aspiring Law Profs 2Arizona State is hosting the 6th Annual Aspiring Law Professors Conference on Saturday, September 27 (details here):

  • Learn to succeed in the entry-level law teaching market
  • Obtain an insiders perspective on the appointments process from faculty with extensive hiring experience
  • Participate in a mock interview or mock job talk and gain feedback from law professors

I will be delivering the keynote address on Law School Rankings, Faculty Scholarship, and the Missing Ingredient. Previous keynote speakers were Brian Leiter (2009), Dan Filler (2010), Eugene Volokh (2011), Paul Horwitz (2012), and Christine Hurt (2013).

The conference is free of charge to all attendees.  See here to register.

August 26, 2014 in Conferences, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

NY Times Debate: Should We Repeal the Corporate Tax?

New York Times:  One Way to Fix the Corporate Tax: Repeal It, by N. Gregory Mankiw (Harvard):

If tax inversions are a problem, as arguably they are, the blame lies not with business leaders who are doing their best to do their jobs, but rather with the lawmakers who have failed to do the same. The writers of the tax code have given us a system that is deeply flawed in many ways, especially as it applies to businesses.

The most obvious problem is that the corporate tax rate in the United States is about twice the average rate in Europe. National tax systems differ along many dimensions, making international comparisons difficult and controversial. Yet simply cutting the rate to be more in line with norms abroad would do a lot to stop inversions.

A more subtle problem is that the United States has a form of corporate tax that differs from that of most nations and doesn’t make much sense in the modern global economy.

A main feature of the modern multinational corporation is that it is, truly, multinational. It has employees, customers and shareholders around the world. Its place of legal domicile is almost irrelevant. A good tax system would focus more on the economic fundamentals and less on the legal determination of a company’s headquarters.

Most nations recognize this principle by adopting a territorial corporate tax. They tax economic activity that occurs within their borders and exclude from taxation income earned abroad. (That foreign-source income, however, is usually taxed by the nation where it is earned.) Six of the Group of 7 nations have territorial tax systems. Continue reading the main story Continue reading the main story.

The exception is the United States, which has a worldwide corporate tax. For companies incorporated in the United States, the tax is based on all income, regardless of where it is earned. Again, moving our tax code toward international norms would help slow corporate inversions.

Perhaps the boldest and best response to corporate inversions is to completely rethink the basis of corporate taxation. ... Major tax reform may be too much to hope for, given the current dysfunction in Washington. Nonetheless, it’s worth keeping the possibilities in mind. Corporate tax inversions aren’t the largest problem facing the nation, but they are a reminder that a better tax system is within reach, and that only politics stands in the way.

New York Times:  Cutting the Corporate Tax Would Grow Other Problems, by Jared Bernstein (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities):

The current debate over corporate inversions, in which American companies like Burger King consider renouncing their citizenship for tax-reduction purposes, is only the latest reminder that the United States corporate tax code has deep problems.

Ideas for reforming the business side of the tax code abound, but there are those on both the left and the right who argue that it cannot be salvaged and should simply be abolished. N. Gregory Mankiw made the argument from the right on Sunday in The Times.

The basic idea behind abolition is that the current corporate tax code is fraught with wasteful loopholes — each of which has politically power defenders — that both lose revenue and distort business decisions. The abolitionists ask: Why not give up on the fiction that we can adequately and efficiently tax companies and instead tax their shareholders at higher income-tax rates?

But as imperfect as the corporate tax may be, the end of it would create all kinds of problems and disadvantages. Here is a breakdown of those drawbacks: ...

Believe me, as someone who’s been debating this issue for decades, I recognize how tempting it is to just chuck the whole corporate code. But to do so now would only further encourage tax avoidance and erode an already diminished tax base.

August 26, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Call for Tax Papers and Panels: Law & Society Annual Meeting

SeattleNeil H. Buchanan (George Washington) has issued his annual call for tax papers and panels for next year's annual meeting of the Law & Society Association in Seattle (May 28-31, 2015):

For the eleventh consecutive year, I will organize sessions for the the Law, Society, and Taxation group (Collaborative Research Network 31).

Although there is an official call for papers, please remember that you are not bound by the official theme of the conference.  I will give full consideration to proposals in any area of tax law, tax policy, distributive justice, interdisciplinary approaches to tax issues, and so on.

Continue reading

August 26, 2014 in Conferences, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 474

IRS Logo 2Judicial Watch, Statement on Discovery of Backups for “Missing” Lois Lerner IRS Emails:

Department of Justice attorneys for the Internal Revenue Service told Judicial Watch on Friday that Lois Lerner’s emails, indeed all government computer records, are backed up by the federal government in case of a government-wide catastrophe.  The Obama administration attorneys said that this back-up system would be too onerous to search.  The DOJ attorneys also acknowledged that the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) is investigating this back-up system.

We obviously disagree that disclosing the emails as required would be onerous, and plan to raise this new development with Judge Sullivan.

This is a jaw-dropping revelation.  The Obama administration had been lying to the American people about Lois Lerner’s missing emails. There are no “missing” Lois Lerner emails – nor missing emails of any of the other top IRS or other government officials whose emails seem to be disappearing at increasingly alarming rate. All the focus on missing hard drives has been a diversion. The Obama administration has known all along where the email records could be – but dishonestly withheld this information. You can bet we are going to ask the court for immediate assistance in cutting through this massive obstruction of justice.

New York Observer:  IRS Shocker: Filing Reveals Lerner Blackberry Destroyed; The Device Was Wiped AFTER Congressional Inquiry Began:

The IRS filing in federal Judge Emmet Sullivan’s court reveals shocking new information. The IRS destroyed Lerner’s Blackberry AFTER it knew her computer had crashed and after a Congressional inquiry was well underway. As an IRS official declared under the penalty of perjury, the destroyed Blackberry would have contained the same emails (both sent and received) as Lois Lerner’s hard drive. ...

With incredible disregard for the law and the Congressional inquiry, the IRS admits that this Blackberry “was removed or wiped clean of any sensitive or proprietary information and removed as scrap for disposal in June 2012.” This is a year after her hard drive “crash” and months after the Congressional inquiry began.

The IRS did not even attempt to retrieve that data. It cavalierly recites: “There is no record of any attempt by any IRS IT employee to recover data from any Blackberry device assigned to Lois Lerner in response to the Congressional investigations or this investigation,” according to Stephen Manning, Deputy Chief Information Officer for Strategy & Modernization.

House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform:  Justice Dept’s IRS Representation Conducted by Former IRS Attorney Involved in Targeting of Conservatives Himself:

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Regulatory Affairs Subcommittee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) today sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder reiterating bipartisan calls for the appointment of a special counsel for the Administration’s Justice Department investigation of Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) targeting of conservative groups after new documents obtained by the Committee showed additional conflicts of interest within the Justice Department. Among other examples, a current Justice Department attorney who represented the IRS in litigation relating to the IRS’s targeting of conservatives was in fact previously an IRS employee and was involved in the IRS’s scheme to target conservatives.

The Committee has learned that Andrew Strelka, currently an attorney at the Justice Department’s Tax Division, worked from 2008 to 2010 at the IRS in the Exempt Organizations (EO) Division, formerly headed by Lois Lerner. Emails show that Strelka was directly involved in the IRS targeting of conservative tax-exempt applicants. In March 2010, Strelka received an e-mail from IRS manager Ronald Shoemaker directing him to “[b]e on the lookout for a tea party case.” Shoemaker directed Strelka: “If you have received or do receive a case in the future involving an exemption for an organization having to do with tea party let me know.”  Strelka also received an e-mail in June 2011 about the crash of Lois Lerner’s hard drive.  Until recently, Strelka represented the IRS in civil litigation relating to the IRS targeting.

Continue reading

August 26, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Details Emerge in Murder of Dan Markel

Markel[Continually Updated]  More details are emerging in the July 18 murder of Dan Markel, D’Alemberte Professor of Law at Florida State and founder of PrawfsBlawg, as the result of a shooting in his home:

I have collected links to the many tributes to Dan here.

Dan Markel Memorial Fund To Benefit His Sons, Benjamin Amichai Markel and Lincoln Jonah Markel:

Markel

August 26, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (9)

Monday, August 25, 2014

Tax Dodge Used by Bain Escapes Scrutiny on Inversions

Bloomberg:  Tax Dodge Used by Bain Escapes Scrutiny on Inversions, by Zachary R. Mider:

Bain LogoConsider the business founded in 1916 as General Plate Co., a maker of sensors and controls for everything from Fords and Frigidaires to the spaceship that first carried Americans to the moon. While its top executives are still based in Attleboro, Massachusetts, it’s now known as Sensata Technologies Holding NV (ST) of the Netherlands.

Sensata didn’t become Dutch by using the strategy known as “inversion” that has alarmed President Barack Obama and that the U.S. Treasury Department and some Democrats in Congress are trying to curb. That technique, which involves reincorporating overseas without a change in majority ownership, has helped more than 40 U.S. companies lower their tax bills.

Instead, Sensata is one of at least 13 firms that have left the U.S. tax system through a sale to an investment fund, according to a tally by Bloomberg News. Although these companies have a combined market value of about $75 billion, this tax-avoidance strategy has gotten less attention in Washington than inversions and may be harder to discourage.

These buyouts mean profits for the U.S. private equity firms like Boston-based Bain Capital LLC that orchestrated them. Bain earned more than $3 billion after it took Sensata public as a Dutch company in 2010, with an effective tax rate about one-tenth of some competing manufacturers.

Continue reading

August 25, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Google Law Review Rankings

Google Scholar LogoMy friend and colleague Rob Anderson (Pepperdine) has updated his Google Law Review Rankings to cover 229 law reviews.  Here are the Top 25:

Rank

Law Review Name

H5 Index

H5 Median

Avg

1

Harvard Law Review

39

71

55

2

Stanford Law Review

34

63

48.5

3

Yale Law Journal

37

56

46.5

4

Columbia Law Review

37

56

46.5

5

University of Pennsylvania Law Review

38

49

43.5

6

Michigan Law Review

31

56

43.5

7

UCLA Law Review

32

51

41.5

8

Duke Law Journal

31

52

41.5

9

Georgetown Law Journal

30

52

41

10

Cornell Law Review

31

48

39.5

11

Virginia Law Review

32

46

39

12

Texas Law Review

31

47

39

13

New York University Law Review

29

46

37.5

14

California Law Review

31

43

37

15

Minnesota Law Review

29

44

36.5

16

Journal of Law & Economics

27

46

36.5

17

Northwestern University Law Review

28

43

35.5

18

Iowa Law Review

27

43

35

19

University of Chicago Law Review

27

41

34

20

William and Mary Law Review

27

37

32

21

Vanderbilt Law Review

25

37

31

22

University of Illinois Law Review

24

38

31

23

Notre Dame Law Review

26

35

30.5

24

Boston College Law Review

24

37

30.5

25

Emory Law Journal

22

39

30.5

August 25, 2014 in Law Review Rankings, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Inversion Express Slows to Crawl as Obama Condemns CEOs

Bloomberg, Inversion Express Slows to Crawl as Obama Condemns CEOs:

President Barack Obama’s full-throated denunciation of overseas mergers that lower U.S. companies’ taxes is throwing cold water on potential deals.

On July 24 Obama referred to companies looking to shift their domicile as “corporate deserters” and aides pledged to curtail the practice with or without Congressional approval. Since then, no companies have announced any of these deals -- known as inversions -- and it’s no coincidence, according to lawyers and investment bankers. The presidential rhetoric has caused several companies exploring inversions to put on the brakes to see what emerges from the political debate, people familiar with the preparations said. ...

“Tax-inversion deals is a topic that companies are quite worried about because of the political risk,” said Colin Mayer, a professor of management studies at Said Business School at Oxford. “The issue is now much more politically sensitive, especially after Pfizer’s attempt to buy AstraZeneca.”

August 25, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Who Is the Vanguard Tax Whistleblower?

VanguardFollowing up on my previous posts:

Philadelpha Inquirer, Who Is Whistle-blower David Danon, Who Is Suing Vanguard?:

Who is David Danon, and what drove him to take on his old bosses at Vanguard Group Inc., alleging that its nearly $3 trillion in assets were built on an illegal tax strategy? ...

The struggle with Vanguard, where he worked for nearly five years as a tax lawyer, is Danon's toughest fight. In a lawsuit made public in July, Danon alleged that Vanguard's tax avoidance and a lack of regulatory oversight have cost federal and state governments more than $1 billion. Danon told the Securities and Exchange Commission that the company fired him after he refused to go along with wrongful practices. He has also told his story in complaints to the Internal Revenue Service and in a New York State whistle-blower lawsuit.

To Vanguard, the nation's largest mutual fund group and the largest business employer in Chester County, with about 10,000 workers at its Malvern campus, Danon is a turncoat employee whose "theft and disclosure" of secret company tax and financial documents breached the attorney-client privilege that keeps internal corporate matters private, according to an Aug. 15 court filing in the New York case. Vanguard also wants its documents back.

Danon and his attorney, Brian Mahany, say he is protected by whistle-blower laws that rate disclosure of illegal activity above attorney-client privilege. ...

In 1995, he enrolled in Fordham University's law school, where he says he won honors as the top first-year student, top tax graduate, top contracts student, and a member of the law review and the honor society Order of the Coif. "He was great. Very bright. That's why he ended up at Sullivan & Cromwell," said Fordham professor Jeffrey Colon, referring to one of the nation's top financial-law firms.

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August 25, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Disclosure of Tax Returns of Publicly-Traded Companies

Washington Post op-ed:  Shareholders, Public Deserve Tax Transparency, by Catherine Rampell:

Tax inversions. Double Irish with a Dutch sandwich. Spinning off tangible assets into real estate investment trusts. Son-of-BOSS shelters.

These are among the array of eye-glazingly complicated tax avoidance strategies adopted by America’s biggest companies. Each gets a moment in the sun when some enterprising journalist stumbles upon a particularly egregious example of its use; the public expresses outrage; policymakers denounce the behavior, which they themselves have incentivized; and then maybe Congress plays whack-a-mole trying to close the loophole. Then the public forgets, firms come up with inventively aggressive new strategies, and the pattern repeats.

Here’s a proposal to try to curb this cycle: Require all publicly traded companies to make their tax returns public. Period.

This is not a new idea. In fact, when the modern federal corporate income tax was introduced in 1909, it came with a requirement to disclose the returns. Such transparency mandates were fought over bitterly for the next couple of decades, and U.S. returns have been confidential since 1935.

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August 25, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Microsoft Admits Keeping $92 Billion Offshore to Avoid Paying $29 Billion in U.S. Taxes

International Business Times, Microsoft Admits Keeping $92 Billion Offshore to Avoid Paying $29 Billion in U.S. Taxes:

MicrosoftMicrosoft Corp. is currently sitting on almost $29.6 billion it would owe in U.S. taxes if it repatriated the $92.9 billion of earnings it is keeping offshore, according to disclosures in the company’s most recent annual filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The amount of money that Microsoft is keeping offshore represents a significant spike from prior years. ...

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August 25, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

George Washington Tells Faculty Not to Inform Students of Cheaper Textbook Alternatives to Protect Campus Bookstore, Then Relents

George Washington University LogoInside Higher Ed, Don't Shop Online:

Faculty members at George Washington University are once again free to tell students they can save money by buying their textbooks online, after the university initially urged professors to stop pointing students to sources other than the campus bookstore.

In a letter dated July 17, the university reminded faculty members of its “contractual obligation” with Follett, which runs the campus bookstore. Since the company has the “exclusive right” to provide textbooks and other course materials for all of the university’s courses, “alternative vendors may not be endorsed, licensed or otherwise approved or supported by the university or its faculty.”

The letter irked many faculty members -- not only did it prevent them from helping students save some money on textbooks, but it also seemed to prohibit them from listing on their syllabuses open educational resources, online exercises and other content that could help students understand the material.

With students heading to college this month, the additional expenses they incur while on campus -- particularly the cost of textbooks -- are again making headlines. On Monday, Mark J. Perry, a University of Michigan professor and scholar with the American Enterprise Institute, shared a graph showing the cost of textbooks has grown by 150 percent since 1998.

 Chart

On Aug. 11, the university sent a clarification, walking back the guidelines and reiterating its commitment to curbing the rising cost of textbooks. “Individual faculty have discretion as to what information they put on their syllabus, including any options available to students to obtain texts,” Nancy M. Haaga, managing director of campus support services wrote, apologizing for the confusion. ...

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August 25, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (5)

50% of Concordia 3Ls to Take Fall Semester Off Amidst ABA Delay of Provisional Accreditation

The IRS Scandal, Day 473

IRS Logo 2Personal Liberty Digest: IRS Answers Due Today In Lawsuit Over Missing Lerner Emails:

The Internal Revenue Service is expected to present sworn testimony today to a federal judge who cracked down on the agency after it offered dismissive responses to a previous discovery order aimed at explaining how Lois Lerner’s infamous “lost” emails went missing. ...

Judicial Watch’s lawsuit against the IRS is faring better than a similar one filed by Texas-based conservative group True the Vote. Earlier this month, federal judge Reggie Walton denied True the Vote’s request for an independent forensic audit of IRS computers connected with Lerner’s emails, saying it would only duplicate the investigative efforts of the government’s Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

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August 25, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

TaxProf Blog Weekend Roundup

Sunday, August 24, 2014

WSJ: Bull Market, Possible Cutbacks in Charitable Deduction & Spate of Inversions Drive Surge in Donor-Advised Funds

Wall Street Journal:   Tax-Smart Philanthropy Made Easy: Many Donors Should Consider a 'Charitable Gift Trust' or 'Donor Advised Fund', by Laura Saunders:

FidelityWhat do the bull market, booming mergers and acquisitions, and possible changes to the tax laws have in common? They all signal that it is a good time to open a charitable-gift fund—or add to one that already exists.

Also called donor-advised funds, the accounts offer charitably-minded investors an easy, low-cost and tax-favored way to manage their giving—and even to maximize it.  ... Charitable-gift funds enable investors to earmark funds for gifts and get an immediate tax deduction, while allowing them to postpone making decisions about specific recipients. Meanwhile, the money is invested and grows tax-free until it's disbursed. ...

[M]ore than 200,000 donors have accounts with more than 1,000 sponsors of charitable-gift funds, according to the most recent survey by National Philanthropic Trust, an administrator of the funds. Grants made from donor-advised funds still amount to less than 5% of total giving in the U.S., though such funds are by far the fastest-growing charitable vehicle. New contributions to them at the four largest sponsors, which account for half the total, rose to $7.4 billion for the fiscal year ended June 30, more than triple the amount for 2009. Last year Fidelity Charitable's gift fund by itself ranked as the second-largest U.S. charity by contributions, after the United Way.

WSJ 1

For people who are charitably inclined, the advantages of donor-advised funds boil down to their ease of use, especially in capturing tax benefits. Here's how they work: A person opens an account with a fund sponsor and makes an irrevocable gift of an asset, which can range from cash to stock to a "complex" asset such as shares of a private business or an ownership interest in a racehorse (which the Fidelity fund once accepted). Because the donor can't get the asset back, he gets an immediate tax deduction for the gift. The cash or proceeds from an asset's sale go into the donor's account, where the money is invested as he directs. There it grows tax-free until the donor "recommends" (translation: designates) one or more tax-exempt charities to receive grants of specified amounts, which the sponsor sends to the groups. There isn't any additional tax deduction, even if the account has grown in value.

Wall Street Journal:  A Charitable Escape Hatch for Investors With ‘Inversion’ Tax Woes, by Laura Saunders:

Special accounts for charitable giving can help ease the tax sting for stockholders in “inversion” merger deals.

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August 24, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Number of Prospective Law Profs Drops 17% from 2013 (26% From 2010)

Sarah Lawsky (UC-Irvine), Number of FAR Forms in First Distribution Over Time:

The first distribution of the FAR AALS forms came out this week. Here are the number of FAR forms in the first distribution for each year since 2009.

FAR

August 24, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (5)

Top 5 Tax Paper Downloads

SSRN LogoThere is a bit of movement in this week's list of the Top 5 Recent Tax Paper Downloads on SSRN, with a new paper debuting on the list at #1 and rocketing to #29 in all-time downloads among 10,253 tax papers:

  1. [2446 Downloads]  'Competitiveness' Has Nothing to Do with it, by Edward D. Kleinbard (USC)
  2. [409 Downloads]  Guide to FATCA Compliance (Chapter 1, Background and Current Status of FATCA) (LexisNexis 2d ed. 2014), by William Byrnes (Thomas Jefferson), Denis Kleinfeld, & Alberto Gil Soriano
  3. [216 Downloads]  Unconstitutional Perpetual Trusts, by Steven Horowitz (Sidley Austin, Chicago) & Robert Sitkoff (Harvard)
  4. [166 Downloads]  The Futility of Tax Protester Arguments, by Allen D. Madison (South Dakota)
  5. [142 Downloads]  The Most Critical Issue Facing Tax Administration Today -- And What to Do About It, by George K. Yin (Virginia)

August 24, 2014 in Scholarship, Tax, Top 5 Downloads | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 472

IRS Logo 2The American Thinker: IRS E-mails: The Perfect Storm:

August 22 is another deadline for the Obama administration’s IRS officials to come clean about their clear malfeasance in office. Judge Emmet Sullivan, who has acted sua sponte to compel IRS officials to provide all the details surrounding the “lost” e-mails, has the reputation of a judicial pit bull, a federal judge who insists that his orders and his office be treated with proper respect.

This is a scandal ordinary Americans can completely grasp in all its incarnations. The Obama administration picks out its political opponents for particular persecution. The organ of federal power chosen for this persecution, the IRS, is despised and feared by millions of Americans. Did Obama’s flacks forget that the last major congressional action to rein in the IRS, the IRS Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998, passed the Senate by a vote of 97 to 0 and the House by a vote of 402 to 8, and was signed into law by Bill Clinton? ...

The explosion of information technology expertise among ordinary Americans means that even the relatively apolitical snicker at the hapless efforts of the IRS bosses to pretend that all the e-mail records have been lost. Most Americans use e-mails all the time and know just how difficult it would be to utterly scrub forever even casual e-mails sent to friends and acquaintances. Most Americans in their ordinary lives assume that an e-mail they send will exist in myriad places, and that if their computers crash, this will not affect these independent records of e-mails sent.

The scandal then is the perfect storm of political corruption. Obama’s IRS partisans do something very bad. They complement this misbehavior with condescending e-mails that seem to relish their abuse of political opponents. When confronted by the proper regulating agency within our constitutional system, Congress, they smirk, dissemble, rebel, and ignore. These bad folks then assume that ordinary Americans know much less about information technology than they do and think that they can lie with impunity. When the third branch of government, the Judicial Branch, is brought into the argument, these IRS clowns lie and hide again. ...

What all this means is that when these records appear – and with a federal judge threatening IRS employees with jail time, these records will appear – then the whole sordid mess will implode like a deck of cards. The depth of corruption, like the depth of corruption in the VA scandal, will be impossible to fob off as rogue employees acting badly. Heads will have to roll, and this grim knowledge will move those who know the truth – very likely people we have not heard of yet – to come out of the shadows and to spill their guts to save themselves. It is the perfect storm, and it is coming up fast.

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August 24, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Slate: 170+ LSAT Scorers Are Returning to Law School

Slate:  One Group of Law School Applicants That’s Growing: High-Scoring Students, by Jordan Weissmann:

When law school applications began collapsing a couple of years back, a troubling pattern emerged. Some of the biggest percentage drops were among elite applicants with high LSAT scores. The smallest declines, meanwhile, were among candidates with especially low LSAT scores. ...

The number of top-tier applicants—those with at least a 170 on their LSAT—is growing again. ... Their numbers are still well down from a few years ago but seem to have stabilized—they're realizing that now really is a good time to go to law school.

 Slate 1

For those who are extra-obsessive about this topic, I've put together this chart showing the three-year changes to law school applications by LSAT band.

Matt Leichter, Slate Thinks LSAT-Takers Are Clairvoyant:

Jordan Weissman argues that the ~7.5 percent growth in law school applicants in the 170-174 and 175-180 LSAT brackets this year is a sign that “the right people” have decided to go to apply to law school again. It might have helped readers if he’d told them that these applicants only account for about 5 percent of the total applicant decline since 2010.

Change in Applicants by LSAT Score Share of Net Change in Applicants (2010-2014)

August 23, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (3)

IRS Releases 2012 Individual Income Tax Return Data

IRSThe IRS yesterday released  (IR-2014-83) Publication 1304, Individual Income Tax Returns 2012:

U.S. taxpayers filed 144.9 million individual income tax returns for tax year 2012, down 0.3 percent from 2011. The adjusted gross income less deficit reported on these returns totaled $9.1 trillion, which is an 8.7-percent increase from the prior year.

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August 23, 2014 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Academics and the Social Network

The IRS Scandal, Day 471

IRS Logo 2Washington Examiner op-ed:  The Case for Impeaching Lois Lerner and Other Lawbreakers at the IRS, by Ken Cuccinelli & Mark Fitzgibbons:

In April, the House Ways and Means Committee referred Lois Lerner to the Department of Justice for criminal prosecution. Nothing has come of it. Given the politicization and lawlessness of the DOJ under Attorney General Eric Holder, nothing likely will.

The House should move to impeach Lerner instead, and other IRS officials who have broken the law. Federal bureaucrats need to be sent a message that lawbreaking is not part of their job descriptions, and that notwithstanding our recalcitrant Justice Department, our constitutional system provides this remedy against executive branch officials gone rogue under the law.

More importantly, Americans deserve to know that lawbreaking within their own government will have consequences. ... If criminal conduct within the IRS and the federal bureaucracy won’t be prosecuted, our Constitution at least gives our elected representatives a check of impeachment on unelected “civil officers.”

Impeaching Lerner and others may actually help restore some faith that someone in government takes the rule of law seriously.

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August 23, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, August 22, 2014

Weekly Tax Roundup

Weekly Roundup

August 22, 2014 in Tax, Weekly Tax Roundup | Permalink | Comments (0)

Shadow Syllabus

SyllabusSonya Huber (Fairfield University), Shadow Syllabus:

  • I could hardly hear my own professors when I was in college over the din and roar of my own fear.
  • Those who aim for A’s don’t get as many A’s as those who abandon the quest for A’s and seek knowledge or at least curiosity. ...
  • The goals and outcomes I am required to put on my syllabus make me depressed; they are the illusion of controlling what cannot be controlled. 
  • I end up changing everything halfway through the semester anyway because the plan on paper is never what the living class ends up being about. 
  • I desperately needed A’s when I was in college because I didn’t know what else I was besides an A. 
  • Our flaws make us human; steer toward yours. I steer toward mine. That won’t always be rewarded in “the real world.” ...
  • I realize that I, as the authority figure in this room, might trigger all kinds of authority issues you have. Welcome to work and the rest of your life. ...
  • One of you who is filled with hate for this class right now will end up loving it by the end.
  • One of you who I believe to be unteachable and filled with hate for me will end up being my favorite.
  • One of you will drive me bat-shit crazy and there’s nothing I can do about it.
  • Later I will examine the reason you drive me bat-shit crazy and be ashamed and then try to figure out my own limitations. ...
  • Sometimes I will be annoyed, sarcastic, rushed, or sad; often this is because you are not doing the readings or trying to bullshit me. 
  • Students are surprised by this fact: I really really really want you to learn. Like, that’s my THING. Really really a lot. ...
  • Everyone sees you texting. It’s awkward, every time, for everyone in the room. ...
  • Secret: I get nervous before each class because I want to do well.
  • Secret: when I over-plan my lessons, less learning happens.
  • Secret: I have to plan first and THEN abandon the plan while still remembering its outline.
  • Secret: It’s hard to figure out whether to be a cop or a third-grade teacher. I have to be both. I want to be Willie Wonka. That’s the ticket. Unpredictable, not always nice, high standards, and sometimes candy. ...
  • Secret: Every single one of your professors and teachers has been at a point of crisis in their lives where they had no idea what the fuck to do. 
  • Come talk to me in my office hours, but not to spin some thin line of bullshit, because believe it or not, I can see through it like a windowpane.
  • Some of you will lose this piece of paper because you’ve had other people to smooth out your papers and empty your backpack for as long as you can remember, but that all ends here. There’s no one to empty your backpack. That’s why college is great and scary.
  • Maybe there’s never been anyone to empty your backpack. If there hasn’t been, you will have a harder time feeling entitled to come talk to me or ask for help. 
  • I want you, especially, to come talk to me. 
  • You can swear in my classroom.
  • Welcome. Welcome to this strange box with chairs in it. I hope you laugh and surprise yourself.

August 22, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Weekly SSRN Tax Roundup

August 22, 2014 in Scholarship, Tax, Weekly SSRN Roundup | Permalink | Comments (0)

Weekly Legal Education Roundup

Weekly Student Tax Note Roundup

Distribution of Household Wealth in the U.S.: 2000 to 2011

Census Bureau, Distribution of Household Wealth in the U.S.: 2000 to 2011:

Median household net worth decreased by $5,046, or 6.8 percent, between 2000 and 2011. ... Between 2000 and 2011, experiences of households varied widely depending on their net worth quintile (See Figure 1). Median household net worth decreased by $5,124 for households in the first (bottom) net worth quintile, $7,056 (or 49.3 percent) for the second quintile, and $5,072 (or 6.9 percent) for the third quintile. Median household net worth increased by $18,433 (or 9.8 percent) for households in the fourth quintile, and by $61,379 (or 10.8 percent) for households in the highest (top) quintile.

Census Bureau

(Hat Tip: Bruce Bartlett.)

August 22, 2014 in Gov't Reports, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

LLCs: The Hot New Trend Among Sole Proprietors

Small Business Trends, LLCs are a Hot New Trend Among Sole Proprietors:

llcs are a new trend

Unless you are an accountant specializing in small business, you may not be aware of a new trend in the world of sole proprietorships: registering with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as a limited liability company (LLC). While LLCs have been around since 1977, their popularity among sole proprietors has accelerated in the past decade, data from the IRS reveals.

The figure above shows the fraction of sole proprietorships organized as LLCs along with their share of the revenues of all Schedule C filers from 2001, when the IRS first began to provide these data, and 2011, the most recent year for which these numbers are available.

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August 22, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Faculty Development, Faculty Incentives, and Law School Innovation

Stephen Daniels (American Bar Foundation), William M. Sullivan (Denver) & Martin Katz (Dean, Denver), Analyzing Carnegie's Reach: The Contingent Nature of Innovation, 63 J. Legal Educ. 585 (2014):

Our interest is curricular innovation, with a focus on the recommendations of the 2007 Carnegie report – Educating Lawyers. Recognizing that meaningful reform requires an institutional commitment, our interest also includes initiatives in the areas of faculty development and faculty incentive structure that would support curricular innovation. Additionally, we are curious as to what might explain change and whether certain school characteristics will do so or whether external factors that challenge legal education offer an explanation. To explore these issues we surveyed law schools (a 60.5% response rate). The results show that while there is much activity in the area of curriculum – including the key matters of lawyering, professionalism, and especially integration – there is much less in the important areas of faculty development and faculty incentive structure. School characteristics, including rank, do not provide a sufficient explanation for the patterns emerging from the survey’s results. Additionally, activity by law schools with regard to curriculum, faculty development, and faculty professional activity is not simply a response to external challenges either. However, it appears that those pressures are providing a potential window of opportunity for innovation, reinforcing the need for change, and accelerating its pace.

Table 2

August 22, 2014 in Legal Education, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 470

Thursday, August 21, 2014

DOJ Allows Bank of America to Deduct $12 Billion of $17 Billion Settlement

Wall Street Journal, BofA Could See $4 Billion in Tax Savings From $16.65 Billion Settlement; Parts of Settlement Reached Over Soured Mortgage Securities Will Be Tax Deductible:

BOA Logo (2014)Bank of America will pay roughly $4 billion less to the government after-tax than the $16.65 billion it agreed to in a settlement over soured mortgage securities, because parts of the settlement will be tax deductible, the bank said Thursday.

The bank has already taken some of the savings from the settlement's tax deductions in previous quarters, so the savings won't all come in the current third quarter. But tallying the total tax savings to roughly $4 billion "would be fair," a bank spokesman said.

Federal law allows companies to deduct large portions of the costs of settling with federal agencies on their tax returns. But that effectively shifts part of the settlement's burden to taxpayers, and some lawmakers and consumer advocates have expressed concerns that the public can be misled when regulators tout giant settlement amounts that companies aren't fully paying. ...

Fines and penalties imposed as part of a settlement can't be deducted, so that knocks out the $5.02 billion in fines Bank of America agreed to pay. But other amounts paid can be deducted as ordinary business expenses—including the $4.63 billion in compensatory payments that Bank of America agreed to pay, and the costs it incurs in providing $7 billion in mortgage modifications for struggling homeowners and other consumer relief.

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August 21, 2014 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Why Did American University’s Law School Plunge in the Rankings?

Washington City Paper, Why Did American University’s Law School Plunge in the Rankings?:

American Logo (2014)American University’s law school woos its students with a chance at the kind of international law jobs in which they might handle classified documents. In the spring of 2012, however, one graduate says his classmates got some practice being secretive about something decidedly less important to national security: their own job prospects.

In order to avoid offending classmates who faced unemployment after racking up more than $150,000 in student debt—nine months after graduation, just 42 percent of the class had jobs that required passing the bar—students who actually had offers had to engage in their own cover-ups. “Everything was sort of hush-hush,” says the graduate, who asked not to be named to avoid so as not to damage his new, nonlegal career.

Lately, the prospects for American University’s Washington College of Law have looked just as grim. Since 2013, the school has plummeted down the U.S. News and World Report law-school rankings, dropping 23 positions from 49th in the country to 72nd. Thanks to its graduates’ dubious employment prospects, meanwhile, Washington College of Law has become a target for activists who see it as one of the worst examples of a law school that dupes students with unlikely legal ambitions, only to stick them with a mountain of inescapable debt when they graduate. 

All the same, the school has started construction on a new campus in Tenleytown that the university expects will cost $130 million. As the Washington College of Law expands its goals in the face of its ratings collapse and a nationwide drop in law applications, it looks headed for a collision between its aspirations and the realities of what a mid-tier law school can realistically offer its students. ...

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August 21, 2014 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (2)

ObamaCare Tax Forms Pose Challenge for Enrollees, Exchanges

Washington Times, Obamacare Tax Forms May Pose Challenge for Enrollees, Exchanges:

Obamacare customers won’t be able to file their tax returns next year until the government sends them a form detailing their coverage and tax credits, and if those forms are late some taxpayers could face a delay in seeking their refunds.

1095A

Federal and state officials said they’re working on the forms, known as the 1095A, and vowed to meet the Jan. 31 deadline for issuing them. But some tax professionals are skeptical, citing the administration’s iffy track record on being able to meet other deadlines in the massive health overhaul law. “It really strains credulity to think 1095A is not going to be a big problem,” said George Brandes, vice president for health programs at Jackson Hewitt Tax Service.

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August 21, 2014 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)