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

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 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

Note to Utah’s Newly-Married Same Sex Couples

wedding ringsOn December 20, 2013, Judge Shelby of the District Court of Utah ruled that Utah’s prohibition on same-sex marriages violated the U.S. Constitution.[fn1] For various reasons, there was no stay of the decision, and approximately 1,300 same-sex couples married in Utah.

On Monday, January 6, the Supreme Court issued a stay of Judge Shelby’s decision, halting same-sex marriages at least until the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has a chance to rule on the issue. Continue reading