Call for Papers for the 2021 Indiana/Leeds Summer Tax Workshop Series

By: Leandra Lederman

This summer, the Indiana University Maurer School of Law and the University of  Leeds School of Law will run the Indiana/Leeds Summer Tax Workshop Series again. Like last summer, Dr. Leopoldo Parada and I will host it. It will meet online via Zoom on Fridays from 11:30am-1pm Eastern time (4:30-6pm British Summer Time), starting May 28, 2021. We expect to invite a couple of speakers and select the remainder from a call for papers.

The Call for Papers opens today and will close on May 14, 2021 at midnight British Summer Time (7pm Eastern Daylight Time). If you are interested in presenting in the Workshop, please send the following before then to both llederma@indiana.edu and L.Parada@leeds.ac.uk, with “Indiana/Leeds Workshop submission” in the subject line of your email:

  1. Your name, title, and affiliation.
  2. The paper title and an abstract of no more than 1,000 words.
  3. Whether or not you already have a draft of the paper. (We plan to circulate a draft of each paper—a minimum of 10 pages—a week in advance of each talk.)
  4. Whether or not the paper has been accepted for publication, and, if so, when it is expected to be published.
  5. A list of any Fridays between May 28 and July 16 that you would not be available to present, or a statement that any Friday in that date range would work for you.

In selecting papers, preference will be given to tax topics of broad, general interest. These can involve international or domestic tax issues, but a preference will be given to topics that would be of interest to scholars in more than one country. Like last summer, we expect an international group of attendees. Note also that speakers will be strongly encouraged to limit their scripted remarks to 20 minutes, to allow ample time for questions and discussion.

Videos of all but one of last summer’s talks are online at http://www.tinyurl.com/indianaleeds. These recordings include only the introductory remarks and the scripted portion of the speaker’s presentation. We plan to take the same approach this summer for those speakers who grant permission.

If you have questions, feel free to email us at L.Parada@leeds.ac.uk and llederma@indiana.edu.

Tax Return of the Jedi

By: Leandra Lederman

It started on Twitter with the following tweet from Prof. Musgrave:

I replied with what became my most popular tweet to date. (The bar was not high.)

As Twitter replied with funny comments, the idea quickly became fodder for Break Into Tax, the YouTube channel that Allison Christians and I launched last month. So, here it is: TAX RETURN OF THE JEDI: UNOFFICIAL PARODY TRAILER. Don’t miss the Circular 230 disclaimer at the end!

Supervillainy and the U.S. Tax Code

By: Leandra Lederman

Recently, my resident D.C. comics fan, Nickolas Cole, asked me to watch with him Episode 3 of the animated Harley Quinn TV series, “So, You Need A Crew?”. (Warning: this show is not safe for work.) He thought I would enjoy the premise of the episode, which is that female supervillains face a glass ceiling. (You can’t make this stuff up. Well, actually, I suppose you can and someone did!)

I’m not much of a fan of cartoons but I thought the quirky humor was pretty well done. So, there I am watching Harley Quinn struggle to recruit a crew to work for her when all of a sudden, there’s the U.S. Master Tax Guide! And it has the voice of Wanda Sykes. The writers didn’t miss a trick. The intro to the tax stuff features the tax-preparation boutique “TAXES 4 FREE* *NOT 4 FREE,” seemingly ripped from the headlines. (That appears at 1:17 here, but if you don’t mind cursing cartoon characters, you may enjoy the whole three-minute segment, which captures a lot of the premise of the episode.)

Continue reading “Supervillainy and the U.S. Tax Code”

#TaxValentines 2021

By: Leandra Lederman

The Tax Valentines poems on Twitter are always a highlight of the winter for me. Tax folks can be very creative weaving together romance and tax concepts! This year, there seemed to be fewer overall, but there still are plenty to be found if you search #TaxValentines on Twitter. Prof. Kathleen DeLaney Thomas even shared Tax Valentines her students wrote as a fundraiser for public interest grants for UNC Law students!

Here are a couple of new ones I didn’t get a chance to post on Twitter:

Roses are red
You are so fine
If you were a deduction
You’d be above the line
#TaxValentines
Continue reading “#TaxValentines 2021”

Break Into Tax

By: Leandra Lederman & Allison Christians

We’ve started a new YouTube series we wanted to share with our readers! It’s called “Break Into Tax” (BiT) and can be found at tinyurl.com/BreakIntoTax.

The idea behind BiT is that we’ll discuss and break down tax-related concepts, broadly defined. This includes issues that may be of interest to law students and others newer to tax or to particular issues. The topics we plan to cover include substantive tax law concepts, tax policy concerns, the study of taxation, and the pursuit of tax as a career. We also welcome suggestions for topics in the comments on our videos!

We come at the issues from the perspective of tax law professors in the U.S. and Canada with cross-border interests. The BiT series is not at all designed to be of interest only to people from these two countries. We expect to focus on concepts that are foundational enough or general enough to be of broad interest.

Our introduction video, located here, is a good place to start. It shares more about us and the BiT channel. Our first playlist covers Tax Policy Colloquia: what are they, how to ask a good question in a tax workshop, and tips for students writing reaction papers.

Please join us as we break into tax!

Superman, Tax Evader?

By: Leandra Lederman, with thanks to my in-house comics expert, Nickolas Cole

Nick, who’s been a Superman fan since childhood, got me the Oct. 1961 issue of the Superman comic for Christmas. It’s got a story in it billed as “Superman Owes a Billion Dollars” in taxes! Here’s the splash panel:

The basic premise is that a new Revenue Agent “at the Internal Revenue Bureau in Metropolis,” Rupert Brand,* discovers “no record that Superman has ever paid taxes!” (In case you’re wondering, nope, the IRS was not called the “Internal Revenue Bureau” back then. In 1953, it changed its name from the “Bureau of Internal Revenue” to the “Internal Revenue Service.” Perhaps a clue that not to rely on any of the tax statements in the story!)

Brand figures out the quickest way to reach Superman about this apparent delinquency, and explains that even the President of the United States pays taxes (cf. these blog posts), and so must Superman!

Why does Superman owe tax? Well, the story explains that “each year, Superman captures countless criminals, collecting a fortune in reward money!” And not just that, “whenever he digs up buried treasure” [treasure trove, anyone?] “or squeezes coal into diamonds, he earns more untold millions! All that wealth is income!”

Continue reading “Superman, Tax Evader?”

Why Tax Losses Matter (for Pres. Trump’s Taxes and Everyone Else’s)

By: Leandra Lederman

Tax losses pose a special problem for the federal fisc. I’ll get to that in a minute, but first some set-up as to how tax noncompliance differs on the income side versus the deduction and credit side. The overall purposes of this post are to address some questions I’ve gotten and pull together some tax enforcement themes that are implicated by the recent NY Times reporting on Pres. Trump’s returns.

The Importance of Third-Party Reporting

A lot of tax noncompliance occurs with respect to income. Not for folks with mainly wage and salary income who maybe earn a little bit of interest from a bank account. All of that is reported by third parties (the payors) to the IRS, on information returns like Form W-2 or Form 1099. The taxpayer/payee receives a copy the information return and that both simplifies reporting and communicates what information the IRS has about the transaction. As Joe Dugan and I argue in a forthcoming article, third-party reporting is very effective. With the IRS able to do simple return matching to catch any incorrect reporting (intentional or otherwise), IRS figures like this bar graph show that there’s not a lot of noncompliance where there’s substantial third-party information reporting.

Where much tax noncompliance occurs is with respect to income earned by the self-employed and small businesses, where there’s much less third-party reporting and also more use of untraceable cash. (I added the red circle to the IRS image below.)

Continue reading “Why Tax Losses Matter (for Pres. Trump’s Taxes and Everyone Else’s)”

#TrumpTaxLimericks

By: Leandra Lederman

I was inspired last night while watching the debate to write some limericks about President Trump’s tax returns. I’m sharing them here to collecting them in one place. It would be great to see others add to the collection, too–there may not be as much love as on #TaxValentines Day–but #TaxLimericks could be a broader genre!

Continue reading “#TrumpTaxLimericks”

Wrap-Up of the 2020 Indiana/Leeds Summer Tax Workshop Series

Zoom Composite 2.0

By: Leandra Lederman

The 2020 Indiana/Leeds Summer Tax Workshop Series ended on Thursday, after 13 weeks of talks. It was terrific getting to spend the summer with so many tax enthusiasts–professors, practitioners, and students–from all over the world! Dr. Leopoldo Parada and I really enjoyed co-hosting this series, and we expect to continue it next summer!

We received speaker permission to share videos of most of the talks. The speaker’s scripted remarks and our introductions are included. Those videos can be found at this link.

The complete speaker list and papers presented were as follows:

May 21 Ruth Mason, University of Virginia The Transformation of International Tax
May 28 Stephen Daly, King’s College London Trust, Tax Administration and State Aid
June 4 Susan Morse, University of Texas Modern Custom in Tax
June 11 James Repetti, Boston College The Appropriate Roles for Equity and Efficiency in a Progressive Income Tax
June 18 Diane Ring & Shuyi Oei, Boston College Regulating in Pandemic: Evaluating Economic and Financial Policy Responses to the Coronavirus Crisis
June 25 Umut Turksen, Coventry University The Role of Human Factors in Tax Compliance and Countering Tax Crimes
July 2 Allison Christians, McGill University Accurately Counting Value in the International Tax System
July 9 Joshua Blank, University of California, Irvine Automated Legal Guidance
July 16 Michael Devereux, University of Oxford The OECD GloBE Proposal
July 23 Ana Paula Dourado, University of Lisbon The Concept of Digital Economy for Tax Purposes: a Reassessment
July 30 Ricardo García Antón, Tilburg University Enhancing the Group Interest in Transfer Pricing Analysis
Aug. 6 Steven Dean, New York University A Constitutional Moment in Cross-Border Taxation
Aug. 13 Monica Victor, University of Florida The Taxman’s Guide to the Galaxy: Allocating Taxing Rights in the Space-based Economy

Thank you again to all those who joined us, and we hope to see you next year! #IndianaLeedsSummerTax

More on Altera v. Commissioner

By: Leandra Lederman

Susan Morse and Stephen Shay have blogged on Procedurally Taxing on both May 22 and June 11 on Altera’s efforts to have the U.S. Supreme Court grant certiorari in Altera v. Commissioner. Altera is a closely followed case involving an administrative law challenge to the validity of a Treasury regulation, so I wanted to flag those blog posts for Surly Subgroup readers.

Recall that in Altera, the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld a cost-sharing regulation under IRC § 482, reversing the Tax Court’s unanimous decision invalidating the regulation as arbitrary and capricious. The Ninth Circuit ruled 2-1 for the government in both its original opinion, which was withdrawn due to the death of one of the judges on the panel, and again in a revised opinion. The Ninth Circuit also denied rehearing en banc, a victory for the IRS’s rulemaking process. (Full disclosure: in addition to joining in two earlier amicus briefs in favor of the Commissioner, which Susie and Steve spearheaded, I co-authored with them and Clint Wallace a 2019 amicus Brief in Opposition to the Petition for Rehearing En Banc.)

In February, Altera petitioned for certiorari, stating the following questions presented: Continue reading “More on Altera v. Commissioner”

Announcing the 2020 Indiana/Leeds Summer Tax Workshop Series!

Indiana Leeds PR image to useBy: Leandra Lederman

As I posted previously, this summer, Dr. Leopoldo Parada from the University of  Leeds School of Law and I (with the support of the Indiana University Maurer School of Law) will co-host the new Indiana/Leeds Summer Tax Workshop Series. It will meet online via Zoom on Thursdays from 10:30am-noon Eastern time (3:30-5pm British Summer Time). If you are interested in cutting-edge tax issues, we hope you will consider attending!

We received many terrific submissions in response to the Call for Papers. As stated there, we prioritized tax topics that would be of interest to scholars in multiple countries. We are very fortunate to have Professor Ruth Mason from the University of Virginia kicking off what promises to be an outstanding series! The following is the full list of speakers and the papers they’ll be presenting: Continue reading “Announcing the 2020 Indiana/Leeds Summer Tax Workshop Series!”

Call for Papers for the Indiana/Leeds Summer Tax Workshop Series

By: Leandra LedermanTwitter Second Proof 2.5

This summer, the Indiana University Maurer School of Law and the University of  Leeds School of Law will run a new Summer Tax Workshop Series. Dr. Leopoldo Parada from U. Leeds and I will host it. It will meet online via Zoom on Thursdays from 10:30am-noon Eastern time (3:30-5pm British Summer Time), starting May 21, 2020.

The Call for Papers opens today and will close on May 10, 2020 at midnight British Summer Time (7pm Eastern Daylight Time). If you are interested in presenting in the Workshop, please send the following before then to llederma@indiana.edu and L.Parada@leeds.ac.uk:

  1. Your name, title, and affiliation.
  2. The paper title and an Abstract of no more than 1,000 words.
  3. Whether or not you already have a draft of the paper. (We expect to circulate a draft of each paper—at least 10 pages—a week in advance of each talk.)
  4. Whether or not the paper has been accepted for publication.
  5. A list of any Thursdays between May 28 and August 6 that you would not be available to present, or a statement that any Thursday in that date range would work for you.

Continue reading “Call for Papers for the Indiana/Leeds Summer Tax Workshop Series”

Virtual Tax Policy Colloquia

Orly Mazur--edited
Prof. Mazur

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.

Rita de la Feria
Prof. de la Feria

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. Continue reading “Virtual Tax Policy Colloquia”

IU Tax Policy Colloquium: Liscow, “Equality, Taxation, and Law and Economics In the 21st Century”

IMG_0948By: Leandra Lederman

On February 20, 2020, the Indiana University Maurer School of Law welcomed our third Tax Policy Colloquium guest of the year: Prof. Zachary Liscow from Yale Law School. Zach presented his draft article titled “Equality, Taxation, and Law and Economics In the 21st Century.”

As its title suggests, the article takes on income inequality. The article argues that the standard approach of redistributing only through the tax system and hinging non-tax policies on efficiency is misguided. It makes the case that (1) people want more equality than we currently have; (2) people do not think of tax and transfers together and fungibly trade off between types of redistribution but instead have (conceptually) “separate public accounts” for taxation and other government activities; (3) in part, that is because people have an idea of “desert” that is linked to cash income, resulting in resistance to heavily redistributionist taxation; and thus (4) rather than striving for “optimal” taxation and efficient legal rules, the government should tilt non-tax policies (such as transportation policy) to increase their redistributive aspects. As the abstract states, this argument “turns standard economics prescriptions on their heads.”

The article is fascinating and a compelling read. The idea that people think separately about taxes and transfers seems very plausible. I had not thought before about the idea of desert applying to pre-tax income but it is quite persuasive. It adds a further layer to the argument I made in a 2004 article titled “The Entrepreneurship Effect.” That article argued that the Internal Revenue Code systematically favors business deductions over investment deductions; the difference between them is that the former require labor and the latter do not; and this reflects societal favoritism for entrepreneurship. The idea that “desert” particularly inheres in labor income adds a layer in that it helps source the societal value put on labor income and entrepreneurship. Continue reading “IU Tax Policy Colloquium: Liscow, “Equality, Taxation, and Law and Economics In the 21st Century””

IU Tax Policy Colloquium: Haslehner, “International Tax Competition—The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”

By: Leandra LedermanIMG_0665a

On February 6, 2020, the Indiana University Maurer School of Law welcomed our second Tax Policy Colloquium guest of the year: Prof. Werner Haslehner from the University of Luxembourg’s Department of Law, who is currently a Global Research Fellow and adjunct professor at NYU Law School. Werner presented his draft essay titled “International Tax Competition—the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.”

States of course compete for tax base. Werner’s essay explains that “States’ general freedom to act (which we may call sovereignty) and taxpayer’s freedom to choose (which we may call liberty) – although neither is without limits – inescapably lead to competitive pressures and reactions.” (p.4) And some of this competition has been labelled as “harmful” by the OECD, the European Commission, and others. Yet, the essay points out, there is no accepted definition of the phrase “harmful tax competition.” The essay briefly reviews the literature and points out differences in approach to defining this concept. This part of the essay draws in part on Lily Faulhaber’s compelling article, The Trouble with Tax Competition: From Practice to Theory, 71 Tax L. Rev. 311 (2018), which pointed out the lack of definitional consensus and offered a typology of tax competition.

Werner’s essay further argues that, as commonly understood, there is no economic standard that supports a distinction between “harmful” and other types of tax competition. The essay thus proposes to replace the phrase “harmful tax competition” with “unfair tax competition.” (p.13) The essay specifically proposes “to refer as a basis for such a constraint to one of the most salient principles of moral philosophy: Immanuel Kant’s categorical imperative. According to this norm’s first formulation, one is to ‘act only in accordance with that maxim through which one can at the same time will that it become a universal law’.” (p.16). The essay provides two examples of behaviors that would be considered “unfair” under this standard: (1) ring-fencing (the provision of a tax benefit only to foreigners, not domestic taxpayers) and (2) secrecy (which, in response to a question I posed, Werner clarified refers to “secrecy as a service”—assisting foreign taxpayers in tax evasion). Continue reading “IU Tax Policy Colloquium: Haslehner, “International Tax Competition—The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly””