The IRS Dials Up Its Opacity

irs-logoTax Analysts may be the most important magazine publisher you’ve never heard of. Founded in 1970, it publishes Tax Notes, a weekly compilation of tax news and analysis, and an indispensible read to tax practitioners, policymakers, and academics alike.[fn1]

For those of you not steeped in the world of tax practice and policy, that may not seem like such a big deal. But it is: in addition to reporting the news, Tax Analysts has had a real and significant impact on the public’s relationship to the IRS.  Continue reading

Super Bowl XLIX and (What Else?) Taxes

Super-Bowl-XLIX-PrimaryIt’s my understanding that, if I wanted to capitalize on this weekend’s Super Bowl game and optimize my search engines, I’d do a post about what time the game starts. That, though, doesn’t strike me as an interesting question. (Also, there’s no reason to ask me, when Google will tell you without your having to click a link.)

But the game does raise a couple interesting non-start-time questions, and I thought I’d address two of them here.  Continue reading

Best of 2014

So mostly this blog is about tax. But I don’t spend all of my time thinking about tax: sometimes, I think about music. And, as 2014 comes to a close, I thought it would be worth laying out my top five albums of the year.

These aren’t necessarily the best albums of 2014—though my number one pick is, unequivocally, the best album of 2014—but they’re all great albums, and albums I find myself returning to over and over.[fn]

Of course, being a law professor, I have to add some complexity in. So there are six albums in my top five, plus three that might have made it only I haven’t listened to them enough, plus one that, while not in my top five, is probably the most interesting conceptual listen of the year that is also terrific fun to listen to.

And, without further ado:  Continue reading

Pastors’ Housing, Take 2

ParsonageHarpersLast week, almost a year after a district court in Wisconsin declared the parsonage exemption unconstitutional, the Seventh Circuit has reversed her decision. And thus ends a (brief) chapter in the religious culture wars.

Or not . . . Continue reading

The Venue Formerly Known as Avery Fisher Hall

avery-fisher-hall_v1_460x285You’ve probably heard by now that Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall will soon be known as something other than “Avery Fisher Hall.”

Some background: in 1973, Avery Fisher (a music philanthropist and the founder of Fisher Electronics) donated $10.5 million (about $53 million in 2014 dollars) to the Lincoln Center to renovate the concert hall. In exchange, Lincoln Center agreed that his name would be on the building, programs, tickets, and the like in perpetuity.  Continue reading

The Tax Court(!) in the New York Times. Plus Art.

Earlier this week, the New York Times ran a fairly breathless story about Susan Crile, an acclaimed artist, and the Tax Court’s decision regarding her problems with the IRS. Ultimately, the Times says, this case is A. Big. Deal. The Times‘s lede:

If you say you are an artist, but you make little money from selling your art, can your work be considered a profession in the eyes of the Internal Revenue Service?

Spoiler: the answer is yes. Spoiler that the Times is apparently unaware of: we’ve known that the answer was yes for a long, long time. That is, although the Times assures us that the case is “seen by many as an important victory for artists,”[fn1] they’re wrong. This is, at best, a marginal victory (that will ultimately lead to a loss) for Ms. Crile. Continue reading

Ethics on Wall Street?

I recently started reading Confidence Games by Tanina Rostain and Milton C. Regan, Jr. The book is an overview and history of the late-90s early-2000s tax shelter explosion; I’m not far enough yet to have gotten to the details of the shelters (and the period slightly pre-dates the mid-2000s start of my legal career), but I just read a couple pages that made me reflect on my training in the tax department of Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLPContinue reading