Free ABA Teleconference: The Tax Code and Income Inequality: Limitations and Political Opportunities (April 27)

On Wednesday, April 27, the ABA Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice will be sponsoring a free teleconference, entitled “The Tax Code and Income Inequality: Limitations and Political Opportunities.” The event is co-sponsored by the ABA Section of Taxation. Our co-blogger, Francine Lipman, is one of the speakers.

From the website:

“Welfare” has become “workfare,” delivered through the Tax Code, e.g., the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit.  How well is that really working for low and middle income Americans, much less those in poverty?  At the same time, tax deductions, credits—and avoidance/evasion schemes—are increasingly benefitting wealthy individuals and big corporations, which increasingly pay a smaller portion of federal tax revenue—revenue that could fund government programs,  bolster economic growth and benefit the bottom 99% by providing jobs and increase skills of lower income American.  Panelists will discuss how changes to the Tax Code can address income inequality in the U.S. and political opportunities for reform.

Attendance is free and you can sign up on the website.


A New Republican Idea: Raising Taxes on the Rich

What a crazy day for Republican Presidential candidates as related to their tax positions!! Donald Trump wants to raise taxes on the wealthy and Kasich (the supposed mainstream candidate) still thinks that you can grow the economy through spending cuts!

For now, I will just discuss Donald Trump truly anti-establishment position. He appeared in a town hall meeting on the Today show this morning. During the segment Savannah Guthrie asked Mr. Trump if he believes that taxes should be raised on the wealthy (see about 16:52 of the clip). He said he does, including on himself. That must have been a shock to the Republican base!

Mr. Trump’s bombshell is a window into the main idea I discussed in my introductory post. There is a “huuuuge” difference between the absolute rates and effective rates. This problem is very evident in the corporate tax world.  However, Mr. Trump’s statement shows it is just as prevalent with individual taxes.

Almost everyone (other than tax professors), especially the candidates (including Trump here), discuss taxes as related to absolute rates and not effective rates. For example, we can make the stated tax rate 75% or 90%. This stated rate means very little because that rate is applied to an adjusted gross income number. What really matters is how adjusted gross income is determined.  Rates do matter, but only if gross income and adjusted gross income are fairly similar (I’m look at you middle America).

To explain this let’s use an example.  Assume Mr. Trump’s gross income is $100, we do not take a rate (let’s use 40%) and multiply that by the $100 for $40 in tax due. We first allow a series of above-the-line (non-phased out) deductions to that gross income. In Mr. Trump’s case, this allows him to reduce his income to zero. Richard Rubin of the Wall Street Journal has done a great job writing about how Mr. Trump has reduced his taxes (to what number we don’t know since he will not release his returns).  From Rubin’s research, Mr. Trump uses from the usual, depreciation deductions, to the unusual, goat herds.  Even if Mr. Trump wanted to raising his stated rate to 100%, it would not matter; his effective tax rate might still be zero.  100% of zero is zero (for those math geeks, the formula is: 100% * 0 =0)

Continue reading “A New Republican Idea: Raising Taxes on the Rich”

Hi, My Name Is Sam

Like those who have introduced themselves before me, I’m thrilled to be part of this tax-blogging experiment.

I’m Sam Brunson, and I teach a couple of tax classes (as well as Business Organizations) at Loyola University Chicago. My research interests are relatively catholic when it comes to tax law, but the primary strands of my research have been trending in two directions: the intersection of tax and religion and the taxation of investment stuff (most recently, focusing on mutual funds and other RICs). I also like to look at tax fairness (especially in the investment branch) and standing to challenge tax laws (especially in the religion branch).

When I teach federal income tax, I always let my students know my background. Which is this: I entered college as a saxophone performance major, and graduated as an English major. It wasn’t until law school that I discovered that tax law was a thing, much less that tax law was my calling.  Continue reading “Hi, My Name Is Sam”

Uber and Lyft Drivers and San Francisco Business Licensing

By: Shu-Yi Oei

As some of you know, Diane Ring and I have written a couple of papers recently about tax and regulatory issues in the sharing economy.

Well, here’s the latest news out of San Francisco: It was reported a few days ago that the San Francisco City Treasurer recently obtained data about the identities of a number of transportation network company (“TNC,” i.e., Uber and Lyft) drivers and has proceeded to send some 37,000 notices to drivers. The notices require those driving for seven or more days in a year to register as a business operating in the city and pay San Francisco’s business registration fee ($91 for those earning $100,000 or less). The Treasurer’s office apparently refuses to say how they got the data, in the interests of taxpayer confidentiality, but in any case, they now have it and are using it to enforce the business registration requirement and fee against TNC drivers operating in San Francisco.

The applicable regulation lives in San Francisco Business and Tax Regulations Code Article 12, sections 853 and 855 of which impose the registration requirement and fee. The registration requirement and fee are imposed on those “engaging in business” in the city, unless exempt, and as far as I can tell, Article 6, § 6.2-12 specifically imposes the regulation on a person who “utilizes the streets within the City in connection with the operation of motor vehicles for business purposes for all or part of any seven days during a tax year.” The move to require registration also seems consistent with the continued position of the TNC companies that their drivers are appropriately classified as independent contractors, as opposed to employees. So unless I’m missing something big, it’s hard to see how the law would not on its face apply to drivers.

Several aspects of this development are interesting:

Continue reading “Uber and Lyft Drivers and San Francisco Business Licensing”

Introducing myself

I’m so happy to be a part of this group!  My name is Ben Leff and I’m a professor at American University’s Washington College of Law.  I teach the introductory Federal Income Tax class, as well as a class called the Law of Nonprofit Organizations.  I have also taught Tax Policy and Estate and Gift Tax.

In my writing, I focus on nonprofit organizations.  I think my interest initially came from my involvement in the student cooperative movement while a student at Oberlin College in the late 1980s.  I got interested in religious organizations and church-state relations as a Ph.D student of American Religious History at the University of Chicago in the mid-1990s.  Finally, while in practice in Texas in the early 2000s, I represented a broad range of tax-exempt organizations while they grappled with a number of interesting issues.

Most recently, I’ve been thinking about ways in which non-profit laws interact with “entrepreneurial” activities, both for social enterprises generally, and specifically in the marijuana industry.  I’m also really interested in the student loan industry, and am especially following the emergence of so-called “income share agreements,” and so may comment on that occasionally.

I’m also interested in tax policy generally, especially the ideological and philosophical underpinnings of tax fairness.  I haven’t written much about this topic to date, but hope to do so in the future.

I’ll be on sabbatical for the 2016-17 academic year, and will be an academic visitor at the Oxford University Law Faculty, researching British and EU law, and so will likely write posts about differences from across the pond as well.


How exciting – my first ever blog post!  My name is Jennifer Bird-Pollan, and I am a tenured Associate Professor at the University of Kentucky College of Law, teaching a variety of tax classes.  My research over the past few years has focused primarily on wealth transfer taxation, in particular on the interaction between current policies taxing transfers at death and various philosophical views of distributive justice.  I am also in the final stages of drafting a dissertation on the subject of philosophy and wealth transfer taxation in completion of a PhD in Philosophy at Vanderbilt University.

Continue reading “Introductions”

Call for Papers: ClassCrits IX

Another call for papers has crossed our inbox; ClassCrits IX (“The New Corporatocracy and Election 2016”) is going to be on October 21-22. Like the SALT conference, it will be in Chicago (at my school, in fact!). And this one looks tailor-made for tax submissions. Excerpts from the call for papersContinue reading “Call for Papers: ClassCrits IX”

Call For Panels and Papers: SALT Teaching Conference

Hey look: it’s our first call for papers announcement: The Society of American Law Teachers, together with LatCrit, will be hosting a teaching conference at the John Marshall Law School in Chicago on September 30 and October 1, 2016. From the call for papers and panels:  Continue reading “Call For Panels and Papers: SALT Teaching Conference”

Introductory Post: Diane Ring

I am delighted to have joined my fellow tax bloggers in this consolidated blogging endeavor. I am Diane Ring, and I teach tax law in its many forms at Boston College Law School. Not surprisingly, my research has also focused on tax, with a primary emphasis on international tax, ethics, and corporate tax.

In the past few years, my international tax work has been examining the impact of contemporary trends in tax transparency and disclosure. On a separate track, my co-author (and fellow blogger) Shu-Yi Oei and I have been exploring a range of issues in the sharing economy, human capital contracts and other evolving commercial arrangements.

Although posts will likely reflect some of my formal research interests, I see tax everywhere and hope to share this view of the world through the blog. Although my students have pointed out that dogs have featured disproportionately (some might say excessively) in my exams over the years, I imagine canines will play a less prominent role in my posts — although I hold out hope.

My colleague at Boston College Law School, Jim Repetti, and I host a tax policy workshop bringing in outside speakers to present on a variety of interesting and diverse tax topics. These workshops will prove a great source of ideas, debates, and conversations, which I look forward to sharing in my posts.

Hello from David

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).

Continue reading “Hello from David”

Hello world!

By: Shu-Yi Oei

I’m excited to be blogging on this site!

By way of introduction, I’m Shuyi. I teach tax classes and a legal scholarship workshop at Tulane Law School. My research interests are largely in tax law, though I tend to get curious about bankruptcy law, debtor-creditor law, and social insurance issues as well.

A lot of my research to date has been about tax collections mechanisms (such as the federal tax lien and the offer in compromise procedure), social insurance issues, and forbearance in tax administration. More recently, I’ve been working on a series of projects with my co-author, Diane Ring, dealing with the sharing economy, income sharing, human capital contracts, and other innovative transactions. I’ve very much enjoyed both lines of research, for very different reasons. I’ll likely be posting about these and other topics on this blog.

Taxes aside, I’m also an erstwhile student of the martial arts and denizen of New Orleans. Expect to see posts about these things as well, to the extent that they relate to tax policy and tax teaching.

Finally, we’ve been fortunate at Tulane Law to have the opportunity to host a number of tax and non-tax scholarly events, including our regular faculty workshop series, an annual tax roundtable, a property law roundtable, and a legal scholarship workshop series focused on the regulation of economic activity. I’ll blog here about scholarly happenings at Tulane Law and Tulane’s Murphy Institute as well.

Introduction Post: Philip Hackney

My name is Philip Hackney. I am a professor of law  and a member of the Surly Subgroup who is particularly interested in Subchapter F. Today was not Tax Day for me – that is on May 15 instead. For the Surly Subgroup, I will focus primarily on issues surrounding nonprofit organizations. I worked for the Office of the Chief Counsel of the IRS in its Tax Exempt Government Entities division for 5 years with a focus on exempt nonprofit organizations. This experience deeply influences my work.

Many people think of only charitable organizations when they hear the term nonprofit organization, but it is a much more diverse sector than just charitable. The NFL and the NCAA are both nonprofit organizations. I often view nonprofits through an interest group lens. Trade associations, labor unions, and social welfare organizations (think Tea Party) all play a big part in our democracy and are subject to some of our most divisive issues such as campaign finance and fights over inequality. Although many might think of the nonprofit sector as a sleepy powerless backwater in our economy and in our political system, it is anything but. I hope to share my fascination with the nonprofit sector and its relationship to our taxation system with you on this blog. I will also blog about public policy, tax administration, nonprofit governance, and maybe occasionally my deep frustration with some significant tax and public policy problems with my home state of Louisiana.

Thanks for reading and I look forward to interacting with this surly subgroup and with you the readers.

Happy Tax Day. Also, Here We Are

Today is Tax Day. (Yes, we’re completely aware that the Code says returns are due on April 15, and that April 15 was last Friday. But, it turns out, Friday was also the day Emancipation Day—a holiday in D.C.—was observed. Which pushed Tax Day to the following Monday. Unless you live in Massachusetts or Maine, which celebrate Patriots’ Day today. So, for our readers in Massachusetts and Maine, we’re wishing you a happy Tax Day a day early.)

Wait, where was I? Right. Tax Day. We thought Tax Day would be an auspicious day to launch a new group tax blog. So here we are. We have a great stable of bloggers. Over the next couple weeks, we’ll start introducing ourselves and launching conversations about tax law, tax policy, and the intersection of tax and all sorts of other things. Also, we hope that someone will explain our name. We hope you’ll read, and we hope you’ll participate in the conversations with us.

Until then, this is the first of what we hope will be many Tax Day greetings.