By: Leandra Lederman
The Tax Policy Colloquium at Indiana University Maurer School of Law, which I’ve been blogging about, ran in person in Bloomington until our Spring Break. The fourth talk of the semester was given by Prof. Orly Mazur of SMU Dedman School of Law on March 5, 2020. She presented her interesting law-and-technology paper titled “Can Blockchain Revolutionize Tax Compliance?” (In general, she argued that it can’t: blockchain is unlikely to dramatically change tax enforcement by, for example, replacing third-party information reporting.)
The subsequent IU Tax Policy Colloquium talk, by Prof. Rita de la Feria of the University of Leeds School of Law, was on March 27. She presented a paper, coauthored with Michael Walpole of UNSW, titled “The Impact of Public Perceptions on VAT Rates Policy,” which is part of a larger project proposing a progressive VAT. The paper argues that, although having a single consumption tax rate that is broadly applied is most equitable, there typically are numerous exemptions and/or lower rates, for political economy reasons.
With the move to online classes due to the pandemic, this talk occurred via Zoom. It was unfortunate that, due to the pandemic, we were not able to host Rita in Bloomington. However, the silver lining was that I was able to invite tax experts and other faculty from all over the world to attend. Rita and I also both publicized the talk on social media. As a result, several academics and other tax experts either asked to attend, or, if they saw the notice too late, asked if there is a video they could watch, which there is. In addition to me, Rita, and the students in the class, there were 22 attendees, which produced a terrific discussion. The students later told me how wonderful it was to have so many international tax experts asking questions and making comments.
This potential for geographic inclusiveness seems to me to be one of the best aspects of the sudden transition to online talks and conferences. There is no real substitute for meeting in person and experiencing the beautiful Indiana University campus. But the reality is that most of the people attending the talk from various countries would not have made it to Bloomington for this talk.
I used Zoom’s typed “chat” feature to notify everyone of the question queue. (I encouraged raising one’s blue virtual “hand” to get in the queue.) For the next talk, I think I’ll ask everyone to briefly introduce themselves in the chat area. As people join, they’ll be able to do that even before the talk starts.
The next Tax Policy Colloquium talk will be this Thursday, April 9, from 1:15-3:15pm Eastern time. Prof. Daniel Shaviro of NYU Law School will present his very interesting paper titled “What Are Minimum Taxes, and Why Might One Favor or Disfavor Them?”. The paper covers a range of minimum taxes, include the AMT, BEAT, GILTI, and the OECD’s Pillar Two GloBE proposal. Interested professors and tax experts, feel free to email me for the Zoom link.
The semester is wrapping up, so the final talk session will be on April 16. At 1:15pm, Professor Jennifer Bird-Pollan from the University of Kentucky College of Law will present her work-in-progress titled “Taxing the Ivory Tower.”
At 2:15pm Eastern time also on April 16, Professor Tina Ehrke-Rabel from the University of Graz’s Institute of Fiscal Law will present her paper titled “How Much Tax Surveillance Can Human Dignity Afford?”. This pair of talks will occur via Zoom, as well.
This has been an unusual semester, with a lot of disrupted plans, but I’m glad that we have been able to continue the IU Tax Policy Colloquium and even extend its reach. Although there are risks involved with using Zoom, particularly if the meeting link is shared widely, so far the benefits of including other interested experts have far outweighed the costs. #IUZoomington