Posts Tagged ‘taxes’

But you can’t check out

Why did a GOP Congress just give the Internal Revenue Service new power to yank Americans’ passports and with it, the right to travel? “Renouncing citizenship isn’t necessarily a way out any more -– the State Department just raised the fee for that by 422%, to nearly $2,500.” [Iain Murray, National Review] And: “We think of passports as being needed only for international travel, but some people may find that passports are also required for domestic travel in 2016.” [Robert Wood, Forbes]

“A right to speak anonymously?”

Attorneys general in California and New York are demanding that 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organizations disclose their donor lists to the state. At the recent Federalist Society National Lawyers’ Convention, that issue and others were discussed by a panel consisting of Andrew Grossman (BakerHostetler), Stephen Klein (Pillar of Law Institute), Paul S. Ryan (Campaign Legal Center), Hans von Spakovsky (Heritage Foundation), with Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert P. Young, Jr. as the moderator. From the summary:

Supporters of mandated disclosure of the source of speech (or of money used to pay for speech) claim it can provide important information to the public and the legal system. But opponents say it violates privacy rights and can also deter the sources from speaking or contributing.

This debate also applies to reporters’ confidential sources. In both situations, disclosure (of who contributed or spent, or who a confidential source was) may provide useful information to voters, prosecutors, civil litigants, judges, or jurors. In both situations, requiring disclosure of the source may deter people from contributing to controversial campaigns or organizations, or from talking to journalists. Politically, people tend to react differently to these reactions – confidentiality of contributors tends to be more supported by conservatives, while confidentiality of journalists’ sources tends to be more supported by liberals. But structurally, are these issues similar? This panel will consider both these questions together.

A playlist of all the videos from the Federalist Society convention is here.

August 26 roundup

  • Government as source of product misinformation [David Henderson notes my City Journal discussion of NY AG Eric Schneiderman’s crusade on herbal supplements]
  • “Under Armour is suing pretty much every company using the name ‘Armor'” [Washington Post]
  • Maryland police unions defend LEOBR (“bill of rights”) tenure laws [my Free State Notes, Ed Krayewski, Scott Greenfield]
  • Someone uses an iPhone to transact Islamic State business; could a court find Apple liable for providing material support for terrorism? [Benjamin Wittes, Zoe Bedell, Lawfare]
  • Maybe green-lighting a union for tax collecting staff wasn’t such a hot idea in the first place [Washington Post]
  • Seventh Circuit: “Appeals court apologizes for literally misplacing case for five years as lawyers wondered what was taking so long” [Jacob Gershman, WSJ Law Blog]
  • For the sake of professional dignity, in future employ authorized methods only: “Italian lawyer steals French tourist’s wallet” [The Local, Italy]

Contingency fees + IRS = sound policy?

Yet again — we covered this issue last year — lawmakers on Capitol Hill are considering sending private debt collectors on contingency fee after those who owe money to the Internal Revenue Service. Here’s an issue where I can agree with Washington Post columnist Catherine Rampell: contingency fees and tax collection don’t make for a good mix. Will we ever learn our lesson on law enforcement for profit?

Bring Your Own Device legal exposure

Businesses have grown dependent on the practice of employees’ using their own mobile devices in the workplace and for work. Yet the legal complications are rising, including a California appellate decision that “reaffirmed employer obligations to reimburse employees for work related mobile usage on personal devices.” In part because there is no standard metric for breaking down an employee’s data usage bill into work-related and non-work-related portions, it is not easy to attempt tailored reimbursement practices to reflect changing usage: by one estimate, “just the processing of [a manually submitted] expense report alone costs a company between $18 and $29.” As a result, many employers simply settle on a ballpark figure, such as $70/month, as the reimbursement. “If those subsidies were even lightly scrutinized, they’d be deemed, at least partially, an employee benefit subject to taxation to subsidize Netflix and other personal habits.” Add-on services, for a cost, may serve to navigate between the demands of labor regulations on the one hand and tax authorities on the other. [vendor Ben Rotholtz, Forbes]

“The Church Will Not Lose Its Tax-Exempt Status”

Sam Brunson, a Loyola (Chicago) professor specializing in tax law, searched IRS private letter rulings and sums up the results at the Mormon website By Common Consent (via Paul Caron/TaxProf, who assembles other links). For some academics’ views on whether the Bob Jones U. precedent (exemption denied to educational institution on grounds of race discrimination) will or should be pushed further into other areas, see Inside Higher Education and Caroline Corbin, SSRN (sex discrimination).

More on the Bob Jones U. case: Regulation magazine, Jan./Feb. 1982, more via Steven Hayward. More on the parsonage (housing) allowance, one bit of the tax code that does favor religious entities over otherwise comparable nonprofits: Ronald Hiner and Darlene Pulliam Smith/Journal of Accountancy, Erwin Chemerinsky/Duke (anti), Jonathan Whitehead and Becket Fund (pro). Journalists stirring the pot recently: Felix Salmon, Fusion; Mark Oppenheimer, Time.

July 15 roundup

Banking and finance roundup

  • “But the questions of fairness are real and seem to be bolstered by the S.E.C.’s win/loss record in its home court versus its performance in district courts.” [Gretchen Morgenson, New York Times, earlier here, etc.]
  • With Greece as with subprime crisis, same regulators who messed up credit markets will probably ask for and get more power [Arnold Kling]
  • “In fact an AIG-and-taxpayer bailout of Wall Street firms engineered by government officials and Wall Street professionals with deep and ignored conflicts of interest” [Lawrence Cunningham, National Interest via Bainbridge]
  • CSR by way of SEC? “Disclosure Rules Are the Wrong Way to Push Social Change” [Thaya Knight, American Banker/Cato]
  • “Supreme Court Blasts Maryland Taxman’s Double-Dipping” [Elizabeth BeShears, Heartland on this year’s Supreme Court decision in Comptroller v. Wynne, I’m quoted]
  • Dodd-Frank: “Are State Regulators A Source of Systemic Risk?” [Mark Calabria, Cato]
  • Feds’ latest round of mega-settlements against banks prompts usual demands to jail execs. Is it really that simple? [Scott Greenfield]

Police and prosecution roundup

  • Consumer Financial Protection Bureau cracks down on “rent-a-D.A.” scheme in which private debt collector acquired right to use prosecutor’s letterhead [Jeff Gelles, Philadelphia Inquirer, earlier here and here]
  • What Santa Ana, Calif. cops did “after destroying –- or so they thought –- all the surveillance cameras inside the cannabis shop.” [Orange County Weekly via Radley Balko]
  • Maryland reforms mandatory minimums [Scott Shackford/Reason, Sen. Michael Hough/Washington Times]
  • Locking up past sex offenders for pre-crime: “Civil Commitment and Civil Liberties” [Cato Unbound with Galen Baughman, David Prescott, Eric Janus, Amanda Pustilnik; Jason Kuznicki, ed.]
  • Two strikes and you’re out, Sen. Warren? Or is there some alternative to DPAs/NPAs (deferred prosecution agreements/non-prosecution agreements?) [Scott Greenfield, Simple Justice]
  • Covert cellphone tracking: “Baltimore Police Admit Thousands of Stingray Uses” [Adam Bates, Cato, related on Erie County/Buffalo]
  • “Citizens face consequences for breaking the law, but those with the power to administer those laws rarely face any.” [Ken White, Popehat] “61% of IRS Employees Who Cheated On Their Taxes Were Allowed To Keep Their Jobs” [Paul Caron, TaxProf]