First, I am very excited to be part of this ambitious tax blog platform. Thanks Sam and Shu-Yi for organizing this!
Since we do not know each other, I will put up my blog version of a tinder profile. Hopefully, according to tinder protocol, I get some “right-swipes.”
As a way of introduction, I am a tenured law professor at Valparaiso School of Law with a visiting position for the next two summers a Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. You can find my opinions in 120 characters on twitter @professortax.
I am an employed as a full time law professor. Therefore, it goes without saying that I write law review scholarship. But, based on citations, I assume only 5 or 6 of you read it. Rather than talk to this select few, last year, I made a conscious decision to be more involved with the public. I hoped to impart to the general public better understanding of taxes and how taxes relate to one’s everyday life. I accomplished this through writing articles and serving as background for reporters (with an occasional quote).
My foray into actually writing stories instead of acting as background occurred at the end of 2014. It so happened that the issue I was spending my time thinking about was the tax issues associated with same-sex marriage. By December, the Supreme Court had taken the Obergefell case. Thus, my first attempt at public discourse was a Slate article (yes, I had a Slate pitch accepted!) on the impact to same-sex taxpayers related to the lack of stays issued by the Supreme Court. I thought the Court was signaling the result of the same-sex marriage cases. From there I have gone on to comment on a wide range of issues from how the tax code could be used to impact racially discriminatory fraternities to Mark Zuckerberg’s philanthropy.
I actually love writing for the public (the comments section notwithstanding). Unlike law review articles, the public actually reads my work. My toe-dip into being a public intellectual has become an immersion. I have been fortunate enough since last year to write for The Washington Post, Slate, Forbes and Huffington Post. I hope to expand my mission here.
The key to good writing is knowing audience. Who are the readers of this blog? Right now, to the best of my knowledge, my sole audience are the other bloggers of surlygroup (if I am lucky). Given that my audience is essentially no one (insert your “in the woods” joke here), this is my best Jerry Maguire manifesto on what I hope to accomplish. I would like to use this blog as platform that bridges my public work and law reviews.
My main goal is to tackle some bigger concepts in multiple posts. By way of an example, I have been thinking a lot lately about blended corporate tax rates, e.g., what is the normative baseline for a corporate rate? This question is playing out in a very public way with multinational corporations. Companies, like Verizon, have been in the news lately and not just for labor unrest. This has triggered a secondary examination of other examples of corporate “greed” exhibited by the company. Many have started to look at the corporate tax rates of these MNCs. For example, Verizon on page 18 of the annual report claims that it pays a 34.9% tax rate while Citizens for Tax Justice attributes a 23% rate. Which baseline is correct? Why is there such a discrepancy? I want to think about this problem, illuminate those who are interested and have my ideas tested through this forum.
I am also realistic enough to understand that I can’t help myself from commentating on many issues. Therefore, you should also expect to see some current commentary on my favorite topics; I love to write about charities, transfer taxes and international taxation. Not all my thoughts are WaPo ready – therefore, prepare yourself for some of my half-baked ideas. Finally, since this is an election cycle, get ready for many snarky comments on candidates tax positions!
Looking forward to talking to you soon.