By Sam Brunson
I was reminded yesterday both why I love Twitter and why Twitter is such a valuable tool for tax academics (and others).
See, yesterday I participated in two (or, actually, three) conversations about different tax topics. And, notwithstanding the inherent limitations of the medium (especially the 140-character limit), the discussions were both substantive and informative.
Topic 1: Repatriation Holidays
What about a tax holiday to repatriate overseas accounts—with a mandate to invest 15% in infrastructure? https://t.co/oB4KS9x8fE
— Kriston Capps (@kristoncapps) October 18, 2016
Journalist Krison Capps linked to an article he wrote about perhaps encouraging repatriation through a tax holiday. Unlike the 2004 tax holiday, though, this one would require repatriating corporations to engage in infrastructure spending.
I responded, as did Professor Omri Marian, and the discussion went interesting places.[fn]
Topic 2: Marijuana REITs
Surly blogger David Herzig started this one:
@benmosesleff @EOTaxProf @BDGesq @smbrnsn can I call my REIT Mary Jane ? https://t.co/R1B5Pt20fS
— David Herzig (@professortax) October 18, 2016
The ensuing discussion of REITs that lease land to (legal) marijuana growers was far-ranging, but eventually coalesced around the question of section 280E. That is, is a marijuana REIT (for want of a better name) engaged in a trade or business that involves trafficking marijuana? If so, does it lose the dividends-paid deduction that makes the REIT form viable? And even absent tax considerations, do the economics of marijuana growing really make these REITs viable?
Topic 3: Trump’s Tax Return
WSJ reporter Richard Rubin suggested the other day that perhaps this election’s October Surprise would be Trump releasing his tax returns. After all, taxpayers who got filing extensions (including, presumably, Trump) had until yesterday to file their returns. And that gave Trump time to craft a politically-acceptable 2015 return for release.
So did it happen? Not yesterday:
Sadly, no. But all things are possible. https://t.co/7zKl3C4ie0
— Richard Rubin (@RichardRubinDC) October 18, 2016
This led to a brief discussion of, inter alia, whether the IRS would start auditing the new return immediately, or if Trump could get around his not-while-being-audited rule by releasing it before the IRS started looking.
The Value of Tax Twitter?
In many ways, Twitter tax discussions are an invaluable addition to the in-person discussions we can have with our colleagues, either at our own schools or at conferences. Why? Because the physically-unbounded nature of Twitter means that the discussions aren’t just between academics—in these discussions, there were tax academics, tax journalists, tax practitioners, and tax think-tank folks.
The collision of all of these perspectives and experiences is rarely feasible IRL, and yet we overlapped and talked on several disparate topics yesterday.
This Twitter love-fest isn’t to say, of course, that our online communities can or should substitute for the work of engaging with and talking to our colleagues in person. But it’s certainly a nice additional forum in which we can bounce ideas off of even more people to see what sticks.
[fn] The biggest problem with Twitter is figuring out how all of the threads are linked together. Which is uncomfortable when you’re trying to blog Twitter conversations, but not that bad when you’re in them. You can follow much of the discussion by clicking on the time and date of the embedded tweets, or the links to other tweets, and scrolling down. That doesn’t give the full conversations, though. If you really want to read through them, I retweeted most of the various conversations, so if you click on this link and scroll down, you’ll be able to find most of the conversation.