Justice Scalia’s Tax Decisions

Antonin_Scalia_Official_SCOTUS_PortraitIn the aftermath of his death, lots of people have written a lot of analysis, commentary, and conspiracy about Justice Antonin Scalia. It’s hard to overstate his influence on Supreme Court jurisprudence or on constitutional analysis. And it’s hard to overstate the virtuosity of his written opinions—whether you agree or not, they’re thoughtful, consistent, and they explode with the sheer joy of language. In a genre not always known for being fun to read, Scalia’s opinions were often fun to read.

And yet, while I’m aware of his judicial and constitutional philosophies, his opinions have had little direct application to my professional life. I decided to take a look at his tax opinions.  Continue reading

Powerball!!!1!

PowerballSince everybody else is talking about it, I figure I might as well, too.

Powerball. It’s offering a record-breaking $1.5 billion payday if you (and you alone) win. (Of course, to get the $1.5 billion, you have to take it over 30 years; otherwise, you can choose a $930 million lump-sum payment.)

I don’t plan on talking about the futility of winning, or whether you should play. I’d rather talk about the taxes that the lucky winner will end up paying.  Continue reading

Exonerees, Complexity, and the Tax Law

Innocentproject.21In 2014, at least 125 convicts were exonerated, a significant uptick from previous years.

Two-thirds of exonerees receive some sort of compensation from the state as a result of their imprisonment. In fact, thirty states, the District of Columbia, and the federal government all have statutory compensation schemes for the exonerated. And even in those twenty states that do not have statutory compensation, an exoneree may be able to sue the state and recover. Continue reading

NOM and Tax Disclosure

Over at Slate, Mark Joseph Stern reports that the National Organization for Marriage is refusing to release its IRS Form 990 to a Human Rights Campaign employee, who has unsuccessfully knocked on its door and left an official request under its door several times. As a result, Stern asserts that NOM is “blatantly violat[ing] federal law” and that it appears that “NOM is intentionally neglecting to comply with federal law.”

He may be right, but it’s not completely clear.

First, let’s take as a given that NOM is a horrible organization with terrible goals. Moreover, in the post-Obergefell world, it’s not just a horrible organization: it’s essentially an irrelevant organization. But just because it is a bad organization does not inherently mean that it is flouting federal law. To figure that out, we need to drill down on the law that NOM is purportedly violating. Continue reading

Tax Law in the Republican Debate

GOP debateWith less than a year to go until the 2016 presidential election, we’re entering the world of full-fledged campaigning. And full-fledged campaigning brings with it tax proposals and tax assertions. And there were plenty of those at last night’s Republican debate. How did they do? Let’s take a look at a couple of their assertions: Continue reading

Bush’s Tax Proposal

JebBush_PresidentialCampaignLogo15On Wednesday, Jeb Bush announced his plan for overhauling the US federeal income tax. It’s a mixture of innovative ideas, standard GOP tropes, and wishful thinking, but it’s also the most concrete plan that any of the presidential candidates have put forward. I’m not going to spend a ton of ink on the specifics—I don’t think I can say much more in that respect than the Tax Policy Center did[fn1]—but I want to address a couple things in his proposal.

80,000 Pages

First, Bush argues that, “[a]t 80,000 pages, it’s a tax code only an army of tax accountants and lobbyists could love—because they’ve written it.” And he’s absolutely right—an 80,000-page law would be totally and completely unwieldy.

Continue reading

Clinton and Long-, Medium-, and Short-Term Capital Gains

clinton logoHalfway through an extensive post on Hillary Clinton’s new tax proposal, announced Friday, I managed to lose the whole thing. Which is fine, I guess, because, while giving a lot of details about her proposal, and about capital gains in general, I wasn’t writing what I find really interesting about it: the fact that it is neither radical nor conceptually new. Continue reading