New article (coming soon) on minimum taxes

I’ve just completed a new article draft, entitled “What Are Minimum Taxes, and Why Might One Favor or Disfavor Them?” It addresses, among other topics:

(1) the purposive, technical, and semantic contours of what the term “minimum tax” is generally used to mean, along with the reasons why these matter – relating, for example, to the creation of clientele effects and discontinuous marginal incentives,

(2 the lessons to be learned from the rise and fall of the alternative minimum tax (AMT),

(3) the Biden versus Warren design question of whether, if one gave tax consequences to highly profitable companies’ financial statement accounting income, this should involve the use of a minimum tax structure or a standalone structure,

(4) the relationship between avowed minimum taxes and provisions, such as loss nonrefundability and applying foreign tax credit limitations, that set a zero percent floor on a particular tax rate,

(5) the issues posed by global minimum taxes, including GILTI in U.S. law and the OECD’s recent GloBE minimum tax proposal.

In general I am quite skeptical about minimum taxes, although there may at times be optical or political economy reasons for preferring them to a given, limited set of realistically available alternatives.

I’ll post it on SSRN soon, but probably not until I get some feedback from presenting it. The problem with posting too soon is that some of one’s readership looks at it too early, before it’s been improved. Barring travel restrictions from the coronavirus, I’ll be presenting it at the Critical Tax Conference in Gainesville, FL, on April 3 or 4, and then at the Maurer Law School’s 2020 Tax Policy Colloquium (in Bloomington, IN) on April 9. Also possibly in Oxford this summer, if international travel is feasible.

Embracing (or not) new technologies

I made the transition to Kindle long ago, a format that many whom I know have resisted. I still read physical books too, but I find the Kindle format (on an iPad) reasonably manageable. Plus:

(1) books that interest me go on sale periodically on Kindle (reflecting the zero marginal cost to the seller), so if you’re patient then pounce it can work well,

(2) I don’t have to further crowd the shelves of my home library (I have an old school aversion to throwing books out),

(3) I can stand reading it on my iPhone in the subway, and

(4) it’s nice to be able to go on vacation and have dozens of choices at hand without cramming one’s suitcase.

But I hadn’t tried audiobooks, until the last few days, when I’ve started using Audible. The draws were:

(1) it’s free for a month, and I can ditch it after that if it isn’t working for me,

(2) you get two free books when you start, then I think one a month. So I can get things that I’ve had on my patient-then-pounce list for months or years, and

(3) when I’m at the health club, it can be hard finding music that I want to listen to right at that moment. (I’m an album person, reflecting the technology of my youth, so I don’t go much for letting Spotify choose.)

But I don’t know yet if Audible will work for me. I’ve started on Jon Clinch’s quite delightful novel, Marley. But I miss small things in the narrative, and seem reluctant to go back 30 seconds, as it lets you do. I’ve always known what’s generally happening, but the details of his often flashy (in a good way) writing sometimes speed by me unapprehended.

Being at a noisy health club with headphones, and peddling away on a mechanical device while giant TV screens loom in front of one’s eyes, admittedly isn’t the ideal way to focus on a book. It might work better to listen while driving long distances, but as a New Yorker I don’t do that. Perhaps while walking? (This being something that New Yorkers, myself included, do a lot.) But it’s under 10 minutes to work (not to complain), and the last couple of days have simply been too cold anyway.

One rather obvious thing about reading is that, if you like, you can actually read every single word. Indeed, if you want to and the book is well-written, you can even pause every now and then to savor things. Audible is not well-suited for that. But then again, it can potentially expand my reading horizons by a few hours a week, as well perhaps as making health club visits feel shorter.

Will I stay or will I go; don’t know yet.

Cover art for “Literature and Inequality”

The cover art for my forthcoming (April 1) Anthem Press book, Literature and Inequality, is now set. It’s a public domain image of a caricature of Charles T. Yerkes (aka Frank Cowperwood in Dreiser’s The Financier and The Titan) that was drawn in 1905 by Max Beerbohm. You can see it here.

I had been intrigued by the idea of using, for the cover, the image you can see at the far right here, but couldn’t determine where the rights to it might reside.

Upcoming tax event at Columbia Business School

Next Monday (February 24) at the Columbia Business School, I’ll be participating in a panel discussion that is entitled “The Global Consequences of the US Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. Event and registration info are available here. My co-panelists will be Joseph Stiglitz and Stephan Eilers.
Although I will aim to be measured and fair, I will not, on balance, be adhering to the old maxim that states: “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” 

Revised paper on digital services taxes and the source of income

I have posted on SSRN a revised, and pretty close to final, version of my paper, Digital Service Taxes and the Broader Shift from Determining the Source of Income to Taxing Location Specific Rents. Available here. I’ll be submitting it shortly to the Singapore Journal of Legal Studies for expected publication there, in keeping with the lecture on the topic that I gave at NUS Law on January 14.

The main change this time around was simply to fill in the footnotes (with the help of my research assistant).

ABA slides on the BEIT, raising income tax rates, and broadening the estate and gift tax

As discussed in prior posts, last Friday I participated in a panel at the ABA Tax Section Annual Meeting in Boca Raton, FL, along with co-panelists Roger Royse, Linda Beale, and Richard Prisinzano. The panel discussed the rising U.S. wealth gap between the very rich and everyone else, and sought to lay out, in a reasonably neutral and balanced way, various options for responding, such as via enactment of a wealth tax.

As we divided up the issues among the panelists, my comments (and share of the slides) focused on Ed Kleinbard’s dual BEIT proposal, and on recent talk of raising income tax and/or estate and gift tax rates at the top.

Not a whole lot of brand-new or startling content here, but in particular because I offered a well-deserved shout-out for, and brief summary of, the dual BEIT, I am attaching my portion of the session slides here.

Another milepost towards the publication of my literature book

I have just completed reviewing the page proofs of my literature book, aka Literature and Inequality: Nine Perspectives from the Napoleonic Era Through the First Gilded Age. This is my last input in the process, which should now move smoothly (or even inexorably) towards fulfillment of the projected April 1 publication date.

The book is now also referenced here on the Anthem Press website, although the page hasn’t fully been fleshed out yet, pending further progress in the publication process.

The page proofs indicate that the book is 226 pages, including the bibliography and index (210 pages without them), so not at all a behemoth – rather, I am hoping, a smooth and enjoyable read that doesn’t require advance familiarity with all of the books that I discuss.

On April 13, we’ll be having a discussion of the book at an NYU Law School event. Branko Milanovic and Kenji Yoshino have graciously volunteered their services as commentators. Branko is a leading economic historian of inequality who also has written about the use of literature in developing sociological insights regarding the topic, and Kenji is a leading law and literature scholar (among other bows in his quiver). So I am very much looking forward to their comments.