Thursday, April 30, 2015
Jacob L. Todres (St. John’s University School of Law) recently published an article entitled, Bad Tax Shelters—Accountability or the Lack Thereof: Ten Years of Tax Malpractice, St. Johns Legal Studies Research Paper No. 14-005 (2014). Provided below is the abstract from SSRN:
In the 1990’s and early 2000’s the tax landscape in the United States was overrun by an epidemic of tax shelters that was unprecedented. The shelters were designed and sold by seemingly reputable large accounting and law firms. The same shelters were sold to many taxpayers. They became generic, off-the-shelf, products. However, the tax shelters had no business substance. The shelters were eventually found to be invalid by the courts. In light of the invalidity of the shelters, the large fees paid for the shelters and the large damages caused by participating in the invalid shelters, there were predictions that many malpractice suits against the sellers of the shelters would ensue.
For this article I attempted to determine whether the predicted wave of tax malpractice suits occurred and what impact, if any, resulted in the area of tax malpractice litigation.
Much to my surprise, there ended up being very few cases focusing on substance. There were several class actions that were settled but, in light of the settlements, offered no useful insights. Most of the other reported cases dealt with procedural issues such as whether the action must be arbitrated, federal versus state venue, statute of limitations, etc. In the end, there were only a few cases that addressed any issue of substance. The only exception was a huge case in Kentucky, Yung v. Grant Thornton LLP , that was decided in late November, 2013. The case was huge because of its length (over 200 pages) and because it awarded $20 million in compensatory damages and $80 million in punitive damages.
In the article I analyze the few existing generic tax shelter cases and try to fit them into the general principles governing tax malpractice. I then also review the other developments in the tax malpractice area during approximately the last decade.