Friday, December 6, 2013
Philip Hackney (LSU) has posted No 'Fagin' School of Pickpockets Allowed - A Response to Professor Leff on Tax Planning for Marijuana Dealers, 99 Iowa Law Review Bulletin (forthcoming 2014). Here is the abstract:
Professor Benjamin Leff argues in a forthcoming article entitled Tax Planning for Marijuana Dealers that a tax-exempt social welfare organization described in Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(4) may sell medical marijuana without putting its exempt status in jeopardy. He argues that (1) the “public policy” doctrine applicable to charitable organizations under section 501(c)(3) does not apply to social welfare organizations, and (2) a social welfare organization may consider “community” law and ignore federal law in considering whether its activity meets the idea of social welfare. I argue that Leff is wrong and that the public policy doctrine applicable to charitable organizations applies to social welfare organizations equally. Tax-exempt organizations derive exempt status primarily by supplying significant public benefits. Violating federal, state or local law causes public harm; thus, any tax-exempt organization, including a social welfare organization, may not violate established public policy as a substantial purpose. Additionally, the “community” requirement for social welfare organizations is to ensure the organization is dedicated to a public purpose rather than a private one. Violating any law, including federal, is more likely to ensure an organization is operating for a private rather than public purpose. Contrary to Leff’s claim therefore, this article argues that a social welfare organization may not sell medical marijuana and maintain its exempt status.
John Montague (Hogan Lovells) has published The Law and Financial Transparency in Churches: Reconsidering the Form 990 Exemption, 35 Cardozo Law Review 203 (2013). Here is the abstract:
Most tax-exempt organizations are required to file the IRS Form 990, an information return that is open to the public. The Form 990 is used by watchdogs and donors to learn detailed financial information about charities. However, churches are exempt from filing the Form 990 and need not disclose any financial information to the IRS, the public, or their donors. In December 2012, the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability recommended to Senator Charles Grassley that Congress should preserve the exemption, despite recent financial scandals at churches.
Examining the legislative history, this Article argues that the primary function of the information return has become its utility to donors, and policymakers have recognized the role that public access can play in keeping nonprofits honest and efficient. Unfortunately, because churches do not have to be transparent or accountable, few of them are.
Using research and insights from sociology, this Article contends that because of their opacity and the unique nature of religious authority, churches are more likely to foster and shelter malfeasance. Churchgoers are unlikely to challenge leaders because doing so can endanger their position in the religious community, making it imperative that transparency be mandated by outside authorities. Ironically, increased transparency may actually be good for churches because, as studies suggest, it is likely to increase donations and because, by minimizing opportunities for financial improprieties, it may preserve the religious experience of churchgoers. In addition, transparency is consistent with the teaching of many Christian leaders and with the expressed preferences of a large portion of churchgoers.
Ross E. Davies has posted Preface 2013: The Capacity to be Taxed is the Capacity to Self-Destruct, Green Bag Almanac & Reader 1 (2013), detailing the automatic reovcation of the Green Bag Almanac & Reader's section 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status for failure to file annual returns and the saga of its attempt to reclaim that status. Here is the abstract:
This is the eighth Green Bag Almanac & Reader. This year is a special one, though, for reasons given after our customary salute to our diligent board and before our customary confessions of editorial error. There are two big problems with this Almanac. First, it is late — printed in September 2013, not in the winter of 2012-13, as it should have been. Second, it is relatively plain and boring — it lacks both the elaborate design and the voluminously numerous entertaining tidbits featured in previous Almanacs. (The exemplary legal writing is still excellent, of course, as are the annual reviews on pages 19-78 below.) Both problems are our own fault, because we screwed up the Green Bag, Inc.’s taxes. Permit me to explain. The Green Bag, Inc. — publisher not only of this Almanac but also of the Green Bag (a law journal) and several other publications, as well as producer of such works of scholarly artistry as the Supreme Court Sluggers trading cards and a series of bobbleheads of Supreme Court Justices — was a not-for-profit corporation blessed by the IRS with limited tax-exempt status under section 501(c)(3) of the federal internal revenue code. We received our 501(c)(3) determination in 1998, shortly after the company was formed. But in August 2010 we lost it. Like many not-for-profits, the Green Bag, Inc. had been stupidly failing to engage in the fairly simple process of filing the required tax forms. As a result, when the IRS launched its automatic revocation system in 2010, we were one of the roughly 275,000 not-for-profits whose tax exemptions were revoked. Since then, we have developed a deeper appreciation for the old adage about it being easier to get into trouble than to get out of it, as this preface illustrates.
Thursday, November 21, 2013
Maria Di Miceli has recently published Drive Your Own PILOT: Federal and State Constitutional Challenges to the Imposition of Payments in Lieu of Taxes on Tax-Exempt Entities, in the Tax Lawyer. Here is the abstract:
With the recession raging on, state and local governments continue to look for innovative ways to save money and slash state and local government programs. Despite providing a public good to states and municipalities, the nonprofit, tax-exempt sector is no exception to state and local government's purview. One of the methods used by governments is to levy ad hoc, coerced payments in lieu of taxes ("PILOTs") on tax-exempt organizations. Major cities such as Boston, Philadelphia, and Madison have taken a myriad of approaches and, thus far, nonprofits have generally been on the weak side of the bargaining table. But what state, local, and federal constitutional challenges might a nonprofit make against the imposition of a PILOT? And what is a PILOT anyway: a tax, fee, contract, penalty, or some combination? This Article will explore those and other areas in an attempt to help entities effectively drive their own PILOT.
Hat Tip: TaxProf Blog
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
Illinois Law Professor and fellow blogger John D. Colombo has recently posted the following papers on SSRN, listed by title and accompanying abstract.
Here is the first:
The IRS University Compliance Project Report on UBIT Issues: Roadmap for Enforcement ...Reform...or Repeal?
The recent completion of the IRS College and University Compliance Project again raises questions about the rationale for and purpose of the Unrelated Business Income Tax (UBIT). This paper addresses these questions in three main parts. Part I reviews existing UBIT law, particularly as it applies to colleges and universities. The second part is a short summary of the IRS findings on UBIT compliance. The final part then examines whether the UBIT should be reformed or even repealed. The paper concludes that while expansion of the UBIT to an all-inclusive commerciality tax (a proposal I have made in previous papers) is still my preferred solution, absent such reform, Congress should consider simply repealing the UBIT and relying on disclosure and non-tax incentives to control commercial activity by charities.
And the second:
Private Benefit: What Is It -- And What Do We Want It to Be?
Beginning with the landmark decision American Campaign Academy v. Commissioner in 1989, the Internal Revenue Service has used the “private benefit” doctrine as a primary tool to police the activities of charitable organizations exempt under Code Section 501(c)(3). Unfortunately, the doctrine literally has no doctrinal content. Unlike its sibling, the private inurement doctrine, the private benefit doctrine has no statutory basis in 501(c)(3). Though the IRS claims the doctrine flows from the 1959 Treasury Regulations, it is a claim that is questionable given the language used, and in any event, this interpretation of the regulations appears not to have been “discovered” until some at least a decade after the regulations were promulgated. This paper reviews the history and application of the private benefit doctrine, and suggests a specific normative test for application of the doctrine to situations involving a “failure to conserve” charitable assets.
And the third:
The Role of Redistribution to the Poor in Federal Tax Exemption for Charities
Over the past several years, many commentators have suggested that federal tax exemption for charities should be limited to organizations that help the poor – that is, organizations with a redistributive mission. This paper reviews and comments on three areas of existing federal exemption law where the redistribution view either already controls tax benefits or is being pushed by policy makers as a change to existing law: the push for a charity care standard for exempting nonprofit hospitals, the current university endowment debate, and a hodge-podge of rulings relating to what I will call “middle class charity” in which the IRS has denied exemption to nonprofit organizations providing services to the middle class (as opposed to the poor). Part I provides a brief introduction to the history of the redistribution concept in federal exemption under 501(c)(3) prior to the current regulations introduced in 1959. Part II then provides a summary of current law and proposals in the three areas described above (nonprofit hospitals, programs aimed at the middle class, and university endowments). Part III then turns to some analysis and observations. The main observations are (1) that the redistributive push in the areas identified by this paper is almost certainly bad policy and inconsistent with the IRS’s supposed adoption of the broad common-law view of charity in the 1959 regulations; (2) that the redistributive paradigm seems to pop up most in areas where the organizations in question carry on activities that look very similar to commercial enterprises – in other words, what we may be seeing is the use of the redistribution paradigm to help distinguish charitable services from ordinary for-profit business; (3) limiting the definition of charitable for tax exemption purposes to relief of the poor is inconsistent with the historical definition of charity; and (4) the effort to limit the scope of tax exemption/deductibility to redistribution to the poor is inconsistent with virtually all the theories proposed to explain tax exemption and essentially adopts one particular view of distributive justice that may not be appropriate in formulating tax benefits for charities. Until tax policy chooses an underlying rationale for charitable tax exemption, however, the inconsistencies in applying exemption are likely to continue.
Wednesday, November 6, 2013
David S. Miller (Cadwalader) has posted "Reforming the Taxation of Exempt Organizations and Their Patrons" to SSRN. The abstract provides:
The paper contemplates a radical reformation of our entire system for taxing exempt organizations and their patrons. First, all non-charitable exempt organizations that compete with taxable commercial businesses (such as fraternal benefit societies that provide insurance (section 501(c)(8)) and credit unions (501(c)(4))) would become taxable. Also, business leagues, chambers of commerce, and the Professional Golf Association and National Football League would be taxable but could operate as partnerships. Thus, section 501(c)(6) would be repealed.
Most other tax-exempt organizations would be reassigned into one of five categories, corresponding roughly to current section 501(c)(1) (U.S. governmental organizations), section 501(c)(3) (charitable), section 501(c)(4) (social welfare), section 501(c)(7) (social clubs, but stated more generally as mutual benefit organizations), and retirement plans.
The paper leaves section 501(c)(1) entirely intact, and largely leaves section 501(c)(3) alone, except that it proposes that certain very large public charities with “excessive endowments” be taxable on their investment income to the extent the income is not used directly for charitable purposes.
This paper also generally leaves section 501(c)(4) alone, except that any 501(c)(4) (or other tax-exempt organization) that engages in a significant amount of lobbying or campaigning would be taxable on all of its investment income.
The fourth catchall category – corresponding roughly to the tax treatment of social clubs ‒ would cover virtually all other tax-exempt organizations (other than retirement plans). Very generally, these organizations would not be subject to tax on donations or per capita membership dues, but would be taxable on investment income, fees charged to non-members, and fees charged to members disproportionately.
The paper proposes two significant changes to the treatment of donors. First, section 84 would be expanded to treat any donation of appreciated property to a tax-exempt organization as a sale of that property. Second, any donation to a tax-exempt organization that engages in significant lobbying or campaigning and does not disclose the name of the donor would be treated as a taxable gift by the donor (subject to the annual exclusion and lifetime exemption).
Finally, the paper proposes two measures of relief for tax-exempt organizations. First, the unrelated debt-financed income rules would be repealed. Second, limited amounts of political statements by the management of 501(c)(3) organizations (like election-time sermons) would not jeopardize the tax-exempt status of the organization.
Matthew J. Lindsay (Baltimore) has posted "Federalism and Phantom Economic Rights in NFIB v. Sebelius" to SSRN. The abstract provides:
Few predicted that the constitutional fate of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act would turn on Congress’ power to lay taxes. Yet in NFIB v. Sebelius, the Supreme Court upheld the centerpiece of the Act — the minimum coverage provision (MCP), commonly known as the “individual mandate” — as a tax. The surprising constitutional basis of the Court’s holding has deflected attention from what may prove to be the decision’s more constitutionally meaningful feature: that a majority of the Court agreed that Congress lacked authority under the Commerce Clause to penalize individuals who decline to purchase health insurance. Chief Justice Roberts and the four joint dissenters endorsed the novel limiting principle advanced by the Act’s challengers, distinguishing between economic “activity,” which Congress can regulate, and “inactivity,” which it cannot. Because the commerce power extends only to “existing commercial activity,” and because the uninsured were “inactive” in the market for health care, they reasoned, Congress lacked authority under the Commerce Clause to enact the MCP. Critically, supporters of the activity/inactivity distinction insisted that it was an intrinsic constraint on congressional authority anchored in the text of Article I and the structural principle of federalism, rather than an “affirmative” prohibition rooted in a constitutional liberty interest.
This Article argues that the neat dichotomy drawn by the Chief Justice and joint dissenters’ between intrinsic and rights-based constraints on legislative authority is false, and that it obscures both the underlying logic and broader implications of the activity/inactivity distinction as a constraint on congressional authority. In fact, that distinction is animated less by the constitutional enumeration of powers or federalism than a concern about individual liberty. Even in the absence of a formal constitutional “right” to serve as a doctrinal vehicle, the justices’ defense of economic liberty operates analogously to the substantive due process right to “liberty of contract” during the Lochner era — as a trigger for heightened scrutiny of legislative means and ends — through which the justices constricted the scope of the commerce power.
Current scholarship addressing the role of individual liberty in NFIB v. Sebelius tends to deploy Lochner as a convenient rhetorical touchstone, to lend an air of illicitness or subterfuge to the majority’s Commerce Clause analysis. I argue that the Lochner-era substantive due process cases are both more nuanced and more instructive than judges and many scholars have realized. They illustrate, in particular, that constraints on legislative authority that are rooted in individual liberty and constraints on legislative authority that are rooted in enumerated powers and federalism can and do operate in dynamic relationship to one another. Reading NFIB v. Sebelius through this historical lens better equips us to interrogate the role that economic liberty plays in the majority’s Commerce Clause analysis, and provides an important alternative analytical framework to the structure/rights dichotomy advanced by the Chief Justice and joint dissenters. The activity/inactivity distinction not only portends a constitutionally dim future for federal purchase mandates, but may also herald more far-reaching restrictions on congressional interference with individual liberty, in which individual sovereignty assumes a place alongside state sovereignty in the Court’s federalism.
Daniel C. Willingham (Husch Blackwell, St. Louis) has published "'Are You Ready for Some (Political) Football?' How Section 501(c)(3) Organizations Get Their Playing Time During Campaign Seasons," in 28 Akron Tax J. 83 (2013). The introduction to the article provides the following:
The purpose of this Article is to analyze the ways in which Section 501(c)(3) organizations take part in lobbying activities while still maintaining their tax-exempt status. This topic is crucial as we revisit these same issues at all levels of government every election season.
This Article examines the Tax Code, treasury regulations, revenue rulings, case law, and scholarly research. Its purpose is to provide a detailed analysis of the current law and how exempt organizations can apply it in practice. To achieve this goal, this Article is broken down into seven parts. Section II provides the statutory framework under which Section 501(c)(3) organizations operate. Sections III and IV examine the "substantial part" test and the Section 501(h) expenditure election, respectively. If an organization routinely fails both the "substantial part" test and the Section 501(h) test, then it should establish an affiliated Section 501(c)(4) organization, which is covered in Section V. Section VI attempts to tie all the rules together for the "substantial part" test, the Section 501(h) election, and the use of a Section 501(c)(4) affiliate. Section VI then provides a proposal on how Section 501(c)(3) charitable organizations advance their tax-exempt purposes through lobbying while still protecting their tax-exempt status during campaign seasons. Section VII offers some final thoughts on why the study of this area of the law is so important.
Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Grace Soyon Lee, Associate Professor at the University of Alabama School of law, has recently published “Mitigating the Effects of an Economic Downturn on Charitable Contributions: Facing the Problem and Contemplating Solutions,” 22 Cornell J. L. & Pub. Pol'y 589 (2013). Here is the abstract:
Hat Tip: TaxProf Blog
Charitable giving has been a foundation of American society almost since the nation began, but the issue of how such giving should be treated for tax purposes has been the subject of frequent debate. Scholars have proposed various theories explaining why the positive effects of this deduction on both donors and donees outweigh the negative impact on government coffers of this tax expenditure, although many still criticize certain features of the deduction in its current form. However, one area of this research that has previously been neglected is how the charitable sector is affected by changes to the economy at large. Contributions to charitable organizations tend to decline during an economic downturn, and such a decline may be catastrophic to the charitable sector. In particular, an economic downturn can affect charitable organizations in three different ways. First, some organizations may experience an increase in donations but simultaneously experience an increase in demand for their services. Other organizations may experience an increase in demand for their services without experiencing an accompanying increase in donations. Finally, some organizations may experience such a steep decline in donations that their very survival is put in jeopardy, regardless of whether the demand for their services increases. In order to meet the recessionary needs of all three types of organizations, the government should: 1) convert the current charitable deduction to a refundable credit that is available to all taxpayers; 2) provide a tax credit to employers who second their employers [sic] to work for charitable organizations; and 3) provide direct funding to those charities that can demonstrate dire financial need.
Thursday, October 3, 2013
Charities must serve public rather than private interests. Much of the enforcement effort in this area of the law tries to ensure that such organizations do not engage in impermissible self-dealing, that is, in providing unreasonable benefits to insiders. That is, limits on self-dealing are crucial to regulation of this section. Both state law and federal tax law include provisions designed to prevent such behavior. These laws, however, often exhibit inefficiencies and differences that impose unnecessary burden on organization seeking to comply with applicable law.
State law regulates both trusts and nonprofit corporations. If the organization is formed as a trust, the “no further inquiry rule” of common law applies. Under this rule, a trustee, whether of a charitable trust or a private trust, is per se liable so long as a beneficiary shows that the trustee had a personal interest in the transaction; harm to the trust is irrelevant. If the organization is formed as a corporation, nonprofit corporation statutes generally include requirements as to the procedures for board approval of self-dealing transactions, procedures that, in practice, are usually easy to meet.
Tax law supplies self-dealing rules for organizations exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Under federal tax law, public charities must satisfy the so-called intermediate sanction rules, which impose excise taxes on transfers between the organization and an insider that confer an “excess benefit” on the insider. Private foundations, which are section 501(c)(3) organizations that, in general, receive their support from a single individual or corporate source or family group and make grants to other charitable organizations, face stricter rules than public charities regarding self-dealing. They face two-tier excise taxes that in practice prohibit transactions between the private foundation and certain specified insiders, even when the transaction would benefit the organization.
This article uses both the economic theory of deterrence and norms theory to argue for a change to both state law and federal tax law. Using the California nonprofit corporation statute and the availability of individual exemptions from the prohibited transactions rules of ERISA, it argues for advance approval procedures. Making state and federal self-dealing rules as similar as possible would best carry out the rules’ shared purpose. Reconciling these rules would aid nonprofit charitable organizations in adopting a set of operating procedures to ensure compliance with the various laws applicable to them. Similar rules would also render state and federal enforcement easier and more efficient.
Part I describes why self-dealing rules are so important in the nonprofit context. Part II details and evaluates the various self-dealing regimes in which nonprofit tax-exempt entities operate. Part III considers how these various approaches could be reconciled with use of administrative advance approval.
Wednesday, October 2, 2013
Michael J. DeBoer (Faulkner) has posted "Religious Hospitals and the Federal Community Benefit Standard - Counting Religious Purpose as a Tax-Exemption Factor for Hospitals" to SSRN. Here is the abstract:
This Article argues that the religious purpose of religious hospitals should be explicitly counted for purposes of determining tax exemption under federal corporate income tax law as well as state tax law. This argument is premised upon the special protections secured to religious institutions under federal and state constitutions, the history of tax exemptions extended to religious and charitable institutions, the separate enumeration of religious purpose as an exempt purpose in § 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and the important role of nonprofit organizations in American society.
This Article develops this argument in several steps. First, it traces some of the historical background regarding the tax exemption of nonprofit and religious hospitals in the United States, including the development of the community benefit standard. Second, it examines recent federal legislative and regulatory initiatives, including the Affordable Care Act, that have amplified the community benefit standard with additional requirements that hospitals must meet to qualify for and retain tax-exempt status under federal income tax law. Third, it offers a range of reasons that support counting the religious purpose of religious hospitals for determining tax-exempt status. Fourth, it sets forth a typology of nonprofit hospitals and offers two sets of proposals — the first suggesting revisions to federal income tax exemption law and regulation, and the second encouraging religious hospitals to make their religious purpose more evident in their organizations and operations.
Jeremy M. Christiansen (Utah) posted "'The Word Person...Includes Corporations': Why the Religious Freedom Restoration Act Protects Both For- and Nonprofit Corporations" to SSRN. Here is the abstract:
In recent months, lawsuits challenging the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s (“ACA”) requirement that providers of health insurance pay for contraceptives and abortifacient drugs have attracted attention from legal commentators, the news media, and even the Supreme Court. Plaintiffs argue that the contraception mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (“RFRA”) by imposing a substantial burden on their religious exercise without meeting strict scrutiny requirements. Early circuit court decisions at the preliminary injunction phase foreshadowed a circuit split on the issue, with some siding with the plaintiffs, and others siding with the government. While this Note was going to print, the Tenth Circuit issued a complicated en banc decision in Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. v. Sebelius, that reversed a lower court ruling in favor of the government. Although that case signaled a victory for the plaintiffs, the fractured nature of the decision only underscores the likelihood that this issue will ultimately land on the Supreme Court’s doorstep.
Hobby Lobby highlights a novel issue — whether for-profit corporations can seek exemptions from the ACA by invoking RFRA. This Note will consider the arguments put forward by the majority in Hobby Lobby, as well as those put forward by the dissenters. Moreover, this Note will address additional textual and contextual factors that courts have failed to consider, ultimately concluding that RFRA draws no distinction between for- and nonprofits. Policy arguments against allowing for-profits protection under RFRA are then considered. In the end, if courts will stay true to RFRA’s text and context, they will be led to two ultimate conclusions. First, for-profits are within RFRA’s auspices. And second, the sacrifice of conscience is not the cost of incorporation in America.
Susannah Camic Tahk (Wisconsin) has posted "Crossing the Tax Code's For-Profit/Nonprofit Border" to SSRN. Here is the abstract:
The federal tax code erects and enforces a firm border between for-profit and nonprofit organizations. Multiple provisions of the code monitor the boundaries of the tax-exempt, or nonprofit, sector to ensure that no nonprofit organization slips over the border to become a for-profit organization. Other code provisions restrict entry into the tax-exempt sector by for-profit organizations. Despite serious legal impediments, however, organizations on both sides of the boundary have increasingly found means by which they can cross the border. Arrangements such as corporate social responsibility, for-profit philanthropy, and social enterprise illustrate this recent trend. Through these arrangements, for-profit organizations are beginning to embrace social goals, while nonprofit organizations have started to use methods more traditionally associated with efficient business organizations. Research in organizational sociology provides tools by which to understand these new cross-border developments. This body of research has shown that organizational sectors, or fields, evolve according to well-understood patterns, whose significance tax scholars have overlooked. Then, federal tax law has failed to recognize and to make productive use of these organizational trends. This Article proposes that tax law should acknowledge the cross-sector movements of for-profit and nonprofit organizations, as well as the major advantages that these movements can produce. Tax law could then harness border-crossing activity to create social benefits. To achieve this result, federal tax law needs significantly to loosen the for-profit/nonprofit boundary. This change would enable the tax code to encourage cross-sector "collaborations" between for-profit and nonprofit organizations. This change to the tax law is one that Congress and the IRS could now accomplish through several basic measures. These measures would make it possible for federal tax law to realize the large potential for social good that lies at the changing for-profit/nonprofit border.
Daniel E. Chand (New Mexico State) has posted "Nonprofit Electioneering Post Citizens United: Has the System Become More 'Complex'? to SSRN. Here is the abstract:
Nonprofits face a complex web of congressional statutes and administrative rules designed to regulate their advocacy activities. As a result, most politically active nonprofits have formed “complex organization structures” of multiple tax-exempt statuses, which are intended to bolster an organization’s overall advocacy by allowing the group to delegate specific activities to different entities. Citizens United v. FEC (2010) and the subsequent rise of “super PACs” has further incentivized groups to develop these complex structures. This study describes the system of regulations governing nonprofits involved in elections and examines the electioneering activities of 50 of the most politically active nonprofits involved in the last four elections: 2006 through 2012. The findings show that groups – especially 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations – are relying less on their traditional PACs to make direct contributions to candidates and are, following Citizens, increasingly making independent expenditures directly from their 501(c) tax-exempt status and from loosely affiliated super PACs.
Philip C. Blackman (Penn State) and Kirk J. Stark (UCLA) have posted "Too Good to Be True? How State Charitable Tax Credits Could Increase Federal Funding for California" to SSRN. Here is an abstract of the article:
An IRS chief counsel memorandum published in 2010 found that a taxpayer was permitted to claim a charitable contribution deduction for the full amount of a gift, even thought a substantial portion of the gift was effectively refunded to the taxpayer through a charitable state tax credit. In this article, Blackman and Stark explain that the IRS memorandum permits states to adopt charitable tax credits that effectively enable taxpayers to convert state taxes to charitable gifts — a strategy that would be attractive to alternative minimum taxpayers. Those state charitable tax credits (some with extraordinarily high credit percentages) appear to be on the rise, perhaps in part because they effectively enable a transfer of revenue from the federal government to the states. The authors believe the memorandum should be repudiated (as a matter of appropriate federal tax policy), but if it is not, states should consider taking advantage of it. The article discusses how the strategy applies in the case of proposed California legislation that would permit a 60 percent tax credit for contributions to a state fund designed to increase financial support for low- and middle-income students to pursue secondary education.
Sunday, September 22, 2013
Adam Chodorow (Arizona State) has posted Charity with Chinese Characteristics, UCLA Pacific Basin Law Journal (forthcoming). Here is the abstract:
Over the past 30 years, scholars and activists have called on the Chinese government to ease the registration and oversight rules governing non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and to increase funding for such organizations by, among other things, broadening the charitable deduction. While China has made significant progress in this regard, the government continues to throw up roadblocks for NGOs, suggesting that it has not fully embraced this path.
This article considers the extent to which the justifications for a broad charitable deduction adduced in the West make sense in China. The goal is to develop a normative basis consistent with Chinese values and interests that Chinese authorities would find compelling and which might lead to additional efforts to develop China’s civil sector. This article also considers the extent to which China’s political and social culture may affect such efforts, concluding that, even if China were to adopt Western-style laws governing NGOs and provide for a broad charitable deduction, China’s culture would shape both how government officials implement the laws and how the Chinese people respond to them, leading to a system of charity, but one with Chinese characteristics.
Danshera Cords (Albany) has posted Charity Begins at Home? An Exploration of the Systemic Distortions Resulting from Post-Disaster Giving Incentives. Here is the abstract:
Looking back to the turn of the twenty-first century, there have been many major disasters, both here and abroad. These disasters all require significant private charitable assistance to provide for victims immediate needs and also see the area through cleanup and recovery.
This article reviews a number of past efforts to encourage charitable giving through temporary tax provisions. While these are well-meaning efforts on Congress’ part, temporary provisions have some significant disadvantages. First, they treat different victims with similar harm differently. Second, they are not enacted following each major disaster. Third, both equity and efficiency would be improved if disaster relief contributions were addressed in a single permanent provision with fixed triggers and established thresholds for incentivizing charitable giving for disaster relief.
This article concludes that a permanent approach should be adopted to improve the aid available to disaster victims. This would also reduce political infighting at the time a disaster has occurred. Ex ante any Congressional district could be hit by a major disaster, everyone should support a permanent solution.
Brian Galle (Boston College) has posted Social Enterprise: Who Needs It?, 54 Boston College Law Review (forthcoming 2013). Here is the abstract:
State statutes authorizing firms to pursue mixtures of profitable and socially-beneficial goals have proliferated in the past five years. In this invited response essay, I argue that for one large class of charitable goals the so-called “social enterprise” firm is often privately wasteful. While the hybrid form is a bit more sensible for firms that combine profit with simple, easily monitored social benefits, existing laws fail to protect stakeholders against opportunistic conversion of the firm to pure profit-seeking. Given these failings, I suggest that social enterprise’s legislative popularity can best be traced to a race to the bottom among states competing to siphon away federal tax dollars for local businesses. Not all hybrid forms inevitably are failures, however. For example, the convertible debt instruments proposed by Brakman Reiser and Dean -- the inspiration for this response -- offer a promising route forward for “cold glow” firms wishing to promise to clean up some easily-measured but harmful business practices.
Friday, August 23, 2013
Once I put away the blogging about the Van Hollen v. IRS case, I started to tackle the pile of journals and magazines that the College of Law's circulation department dutifully sends me daily. And what did I see on the cover of the Virginia Tax Review, Volume 32, No. 4 (Spring 2013):
- Chevron's Conflict with the Administrative Procedures Act by Patrick J. Smith, a partner with Ivins, Phillips & Barker in Washington D.C.
Given the apparent issue in the Van Hollen case, this seems very timely - it's in the "to read over the weekend pile." Which weekend, of course, remains to be seen, but that has nothing to do with the article!
Friday, August 2, 2013
This paper explores whether ownership matters in a fundamental sense by comparing the performance of stockholder-owned firms with the much less analyzed nonprofit firms. No stakeholder has residual cash flow rights in nonprofit firms, and the control rights are held by customers, employees, and community citizens. Accounting for differences in size and risk and comparing only firms in the same industry, we find that stockholder-owned firms do not outperform nonprofit firms. This result is consistent with the notion that the monitoring function of stockholders may be successfully replaced by other mechanisms. We find evidence that product market competition may play this role as a substitute monitoring mechanism.