I quote Samuel Johnson’s famous definition of excise in my new Philadelphia Inquirer op-ed on the city’s recently enacted soda levy. More: Peter Van Doren, Cato; Jacob Sullum and Elizabeth Nolan Brown on claims of a food deserts problem, both at Reason.
The Washington Post has published my letter to the editor responding to an editorial that had depicted the Internal Revenue Service targeting episode as merely the “thoughtless” result of “carelessness” and “incompetence.” Yet the scandal wasn’t just the flagging of right-of-center (c)(4) groups for challenge not faced by their left-of-center counterparts, but the outrageous information demands placed on many of those groups, including copies of all literature distributed, transcripts of speeches and radio guest appearances, printouts of all social media output, names of both donors and family members, and more.
Earlier coverage here.
- Trying to pressure banks to cease tax refund anticipation lending, FDIC staff crossed several lines of impropriety [inspector general executive summary via Kevin Funnell]
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, class action lawyers’ best friend, aims to suppress arbitration [WSJ, The Hill, earlier here, here, here]
- When CEOs campaign for their view of social justice, do they disserve shareholders’ interest? To the point of incurring liability? [Kevin LaCroix]
- “Insider Trading: The Unknowable Crime” [Thaya Brook Knight and Ilya Shapiro on Cato amicus brief in Salman v. U.S.]
- “The Number of Publicly Traded Firms Has Halved” [Alex Tabarrok; Naomi LaChance, Inside Sources, on decline of IPOs] Does SEC Chairman Mary Jo White get it? [Hodak Value]
- Tax havens and tax competition serve vital policy function, to “curtail the greed of the political class” [Dan Mitchell] Related: “The War Against Cash, Part III”
- Not the theater’s fault, says a Colorado jury, rejecting Aurora massacre suit [ABA Journal, earlier here, here, and here, related here, etc.]
- Senate GOP could have cut off funds for HUD’s social-engineer-the-suburbs power grab, AFFH. So why’d they arrange instead to spare it? [Paul Mirengoff/PowerLine, more, earlier] Related: federal judge Denise Cote denies motion to challenge supposed speech obligations of Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino under consent decree with HUD [Center for Individual Rights; earlier here, here, etc.]
- “Earnhardt Family Fighting Over Whether One Earnhardt Son Can Use His Own Last Name” [Timothy Geigner, TechDirt]
- Freddie Gray charges, bad new laws on pay, the state’s stake in world trade, armored vehicles for cops, bar chart baselines that don’t start at zero, and more in my latest Maryland policy roundup [Free State Notes]
- “You can be fined for not calling people ‘ze’ or ‘hir,’ if that’s the pronoun they demand that you use” [Eugene Volokh on NYC human rights commission guidance]
- Despite potential for schadenfreude, please refrain from taxing university endowments [John McGinnis]
“IRS and federal prosecutors have launched a criminal investigation into serial disability access plaintiff Scott Johnson, who has moved his lawsuit operation to the Bay Area in recent months, to determine whether he has paid taxes on his alleged millions of dollars in settlements, multiple sources told this newspaper.
“Unless a plaintiff suffered physical injuries as a result of a civil settlement, that individual must pay taxes on the monetary award, tax experts said. It is unclear whether Johnson paid any taxes on any of his Americans with Disabilities Act settlements with thousands of businesses in California that he alleged obstructed his access as a paralyzed customer using a wheelchair. He and his attorney did not return requests for comment.” [San Jose Mercury-News, more of its coverage on Scott Johnson, earlier on ADA filing mills generally and on Johnson in particular here, here, here, here, and here]
- “Why We Could not Bail Out Mortgage Borrowers” [Arnold Kling]
- Here come the Wall Street pay clawback rules [John Carney/WSJ MoneyBeat Blog, more, yet more] Jesse Fried on “Rationalizing the Dodd-Frank Clawback” [SSRN via Bainbridge]
- Price controls on credit card interchange fees: “the folks who supported the Durbin amendment [to Dodd-Frank] should be ashamed of themselves” [Bill Isaac, quoted by Kevin Funnell]
- New light on whether Treasury handling of Fannie and Freddie bailouts violated existing creditor or shareholder rights [Peter Van Doren, Cato]
- “Dollar Value of Securities Class-Action Settlements Surges” [WSJ Law Blog on Cornerstone Research analysis, Insurance Journal]
- Some reasons to think that actual tax evasion falls far short of what was speculated in the wake of the Panama Papers story [Tim Worstall] Legal confidentiality was breached in that episode. Should we be celebrating? [Tyler Cowen] Economist mag proposes more regulation of offshore, not so fast [Bainbridge first, second]
- HBO back with “Confirmation” docudrama on the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill episode and Stuart Taylor, Jr. not greatly impressed [Mollie Hemingway, The Federalist]
- Another rogue Eastern District of Texas patent outcome falls, this time it’s Google for $85 million [Joe Mullin, ArsTechnica] “New Bill Designed To Stop Egregious Venue Shopping By Patent Trolls” [Nathan Leamer and Zach Graves, TechDirt]
- “Life in California — A Tax on a Tax” [Coyote]
- Washington Post looks at jury nullification in multi-part series;
- Michael Greve recommends this article on unorthodox methods of lawmaking and administrative law, and his recommendation is good enough for me [Abbe Gluck, Anne Joseph O’Connell, and Rosa Po, SSRN]
- Are public bureaucracies really a fount of innovation? Not really, despite vogue for new Marianna Mazzucato book The Entrepreneurial State [Alberto Mingardi, EconLog]
After relatively cautious regulatory tightening on corporate inversions failed to deter a plan by Pfizer to embrace foreign domicile, the Obama administration came out with drastic new guidance that will keep accountants and lawyers busy for years with new disputes and uncertainties. Tax law is supposed to be relatively stable, predictable, and reliable for purposes of letting enterprises plan rationally, but that’s when political considerations don’t come first [Paul Caron, TaxProf citing Victor Fleischer, NYT and other links; earlier on inversions including Burger King episode] The underlying arrogance of U.S. overseas corporate tax policy: “We are unique among advanced nations in claiming taxes on global profits” [Hodak Value] Why corporate inversion makes moral sense and promotes healthy tax competition between jurisdictions [Daniel Mitchell, Cato and in January at Fortune]
Related: voters who believe in rule by executive fiat have so many choices this year, Bernie Sanders high among them [@joshgreenman on Twitter]
“A tax proposed by top legislators on the earnings of Yale’s sizable endowment was shot down Tuesday by the administration of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy. …The proposal – backed by Senate President Pro Tem Martin Looney and Appropriations Committee Co-chair Toni Walker, both Democrats from New Haven – [had] generated national attention.” [Connecticut Mirror] I modestly proposed that Yale consider moving in part or full to some jurisdiction that would leave its endowment alone, much as General Electric, which had been the largest corporation headquartered in Connecticut, chose recently to toddle off to Boston in search of a better climate. Ira Stoll picked up and expanded on my idea in a column reprinted in the Hartford Courant, and Florida Gov. Rick Scott promptly got into the act by inviting Yale to relocate to the Sunshine State. More: Courant editorial (“Idea Of Yale Fleeing Taxes Makes Connecticut Look Bad”) And I’m interviewed in this WTNH story.
- Bernie Sanders still rants and raves about Glass-Steagall Act. Who will break the news to him? [Catherine Rampell/WaPo, P.M. Carpenter (Krugman, Pearlstein in accord with Rampell), earlier] “Hillary Clinton vows to go ‘well beyond’ Dodd-Frank” [Housing Wire via Kevin Funnell]
- “In the past, ‘financial institutions were unwilling, for relationship reasons, to litigate against each other…That has changed dramatically.'” [Daniel Fisher quoting New York attorney Brian Fraser]
- “Government Thinks You’re Too Dumb To Try Crowdfunding” [Ben Weingarten, The Federalist]
- “If every bank behaved like Abacus, the financial crisis wouldn’t have occurred.” So guess which bank got prosecuted [Jiayang Fan, The New Yorker back in October]
- Billions in free money for consumers, just by regulating credit card fees! Sorry, it’s not that simple [Todd Zywicki]
- “The war against cash”: government vs. the cash economy [Daniel Mitchell, Cato, first and second post]
- New IRS authority to secure revocation of passports should give pause to everyone concerned about American liberty [Investors Business Daily]