Posts Tagged ‘taxes’

Social activism, the law, and the 501(c)(4) route

Many groups on the left, following the example of the right, have been de-emphasizing or even abandoning the old 501(c)(3) format of tax-deductible charitable endeavor in favor of the 501(c)(4) format, which has fewer tax advantages but allows a wider range of frankly political activity.

For some on the progressive side, writes David Pozen, who teaches law at Columbia, this is in part a matter of giving up on the Supreme Court as an engine of far-reaching social change. “The 501(c)(3) form fit snugly into the postwar theory of legal liberalism, in which the federal courts were seen as the key agents of social reform and professionally managed nonprofits as their partners in that effort.” [The Atlantic]

I would add one observation, which is that this shift of focus from strategic litigation to electoral politics and organizing is exactly what many legal conservatives have been urging the left to do for two generations: if you want the law to change, don’t take your case to an unelected caste of elite judges, take it to the people.

Ballot measures on tax issues

The Tax Foundation has published its guide for this year to tax-related ballot initiatives. Among the measures: easier transferability of Prop 13 limited assessment to another home (California), new taxes on business to fund homelessness programs (San Francisco), replace flat with progressive income tax (Colorado), require two-thirds legislative vote for tax hikes (Florida), create taxpayer cause of action against unlawful expenditures (New Hampshire), carbon tax (Washington).

New: Cato Supreme Court Review (including me on gerrymandering and the Constitution)

On Monday the Cato Institute published its annual Cato Supreme Court Review for the 2017-18 Supreme Court term. Included is my 7,000-word article on the Supreme Court’s cases last term on partisan gerrymandering, Gill v. Whitford (Wisconsin) and Benisek v. Lamone (Maryland). Several people have told me that I managed to make a dry and complicated subject understandable and even entertaining, which I take as the highest compliment.

The entire CSCR is online, and here are its contents. I assisted in the editing of the pieces by Joseph Bishop-Henchman on the Internet sales tax case South Dakota v. Wayfair, and by Jennifer Mascott on the government-structure case Lucia v. SEC.

FOREWORD AND INTRODUCTION

The Battle for the Court: Politics vs. Principles by Roger Pilon
Introduction By Ilya Shapiro

ANNUAL KENNETH B. SIMON LECTURE

The Administrative Threat to Civil Liberties by Philip Hamburger

IMMIGRATION AND NATIONAL SECURITY

The Travel Bans by Josh Blackman

POLITICAL GERRYMANDERING

The Ghost Ship of Gerrymandering Law by Walter Olson

THE CRIMINAL LAW

Katz Nipped and Katz Cradled: Carpenter and the Evolving Fourth Amendment by Trevor Burrus and James Knight

Class v. United States: Bargained Justice and a System of Efficiencies by Lucian E. Dervan

THE FIRST AMENDMENT AND THE CULTURE WARS

Masterpiece Cakeshop: A Romer for Religious Objectors? by Thomas C. Berg

To Speak or Not to Speak, That Is Your Right: Janus v. AFSCME by David Forte

NIFLA v. Becerra: A Seismic Decision Protecting Occupational Speech by Robert McNamara and Paul Sherman

Regulation of Political Apparel in Polling Places: Why the Supreme Court’s Mansky Opinion Did Not Go Far Enough by Rodney A. Smolla

FEDERALISM AND GOVERNMENT STRUCTURE

Betting on Federalism: Murphy v. NCAA and the Future of Sports Gambling by Mark Brnovich

Internet Sales Taxes from 1789 to the Present Day: South Dakota v. Wayfair by Joseph Bishop-Henchman

“Officers” in the Supreme Court: Lucia v. SEC by Jennifer Mascott

NEXT YEAR

Looking Ahead: October Term 2018 by Erin E. Murphy

September 12 roundup

  • Peer-to-peer car sharing platforms could reduce the costs of car usage, unless elements of rental car industry manage to strangle it through regulation [Jonathan M. Gitlin, ArsTechnica on Illinois Gov. Rauner’s veto of a bill to cripple startups] Are we headed toward a legal requirement that cars be designed to sense that a driver has high blood alcohol and not function then? Does it matter whether the car is self-driving? [Nicole Gelinas]
  • “11th Circuit rages against ‘incomprehensible’ shotgun complaint, concludes lawyer’s intent was delay” [ABA Journal]
  • Quackery and bluster define the lawsuit filed by NY, MD, NJ, and CT attorneys general against Congress’s curtailment of state and local tax (SALT) deduction [Reilly Stephens; more, Howard Gleckman, Tax Policy Center]
  • “Conservative/Libertarian Faculty Candidates Are Hired By Law Schools Ranked 12-13 Spots Lower Than Equally-Credentialed Liberal Applicants” [James Cleith Phillips via Paul Caron/TaxProf]
  • Coming next week: I’m set to host and moderate a Sept. 20 forum at Cato in D.C. on the Indian Child Welfare Act. Featured are three lawyers who have been involved in high-profile ICWA litigation, Timothy Sandefur of the Goldwater Institute, Matthew McGill of Gibson Dunn, and Charles Rothfeld of Mayer Brown and Yale Law School [details and registration; event not livestreamed, but video to be posted later]
  • And now for something completely different: “Charles Evans Hughes and Chevron Deference” [Gerard Magliocca]

Supreme Court roundup

Union group: Amazon should be prosecuted for threatening to pull jobs over per-worker tax

A “union-backed activist group says Amazon should be charged with a crime for its threat to roll back job growth” if the Seattle City Council follows through with a controversial tax idea to assess larger firms a new per-employee tax. “The group, Working Washington, is asking Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson to charge Amazon with a Class B felony: ‘intimidating a public servant,’ citing the company’s move to pause some construction and leasing in the city pending the outcome of the vote on the so-called ‘head tax.’…Former state Attorney General Rob McKenna called the group’s prosecution demand absurd, saying the law in question is aimed at protecting individual public employees from personal threat, particularly of physical force.” [Jim Brunner, Seattle Times] More: John Sexton.

Commenter @Living4Winter on Twitter: “It’s so fricken weird when Ayn Rand comes true.” On Monday the Seattle city council voted 5-4 to approve the tax; a final vote will come later and Mayor Jenny Durkan has signaled that she may veto the measure. [KOMO] Update: the council unanimously adopts a tax set lower, at $275 rather than $500 per worker. [Matt Day and Daniel Beekman, Seattle Times]

More: Eugene Volokh with a more thorough First Amendment legal analysis (Working Washington’s theory “would criminalize a vast range of ordinary political action” including “an advocacy group’s threatening to boycott a city if the city council doesn’t change some law that the threatener thinks unjust.”)

April 4 roundup

A tale of targeted property taxes

Congratulations! You may not have realized it was happening, but your municipality has put you in a special revitalization zone which means the property taxes you owe them will quintuple. That’s the message some suburban Maryland business owners got recently, subject of my new Cato piece. Excerpt:

Specialists in local and state government policy are full of ideas for business-by-business and location-by-location tinkering with tax rates, both downward (as part of incentive packages to lure relocating businesses) and upward (to finance special public services provided in some zones, such as downtown revitalization). But there is a distinct value in terms of both public legitimacy and the rule of law in having uniform and consistent taxation that does not depend on whether a property owner or business is on the ins or on the outs with the tax-setting authorities.

March 7 roundup

  • What’s worse than undermining Section 230, charter of Internet freedom? Turning it all into a pinata for trial lawyers [No go, NRO; earlier on SESTA and FOSTA] Carve-out to Section 230 in name of fighting sex trafficking could erode protection for other businesses against being sued [WSJ editorial] More: Karol Markowicz;
  • “If You Owe the IRS Over $51,000, It Can Trap You in the United States” [Brian Doherty, Reason]
  • How far can a theft ring go in stealing a rental vehicle before the police step in? [related Twitter threads, Sharky Laguana and Noah Lehmann-Haupt]
  • “Federalism as a Check on Executive Authority,” panel at Federalist Society 2017 Annual Texas Chapters Conference with Caitlin Halligan, Scott Keller, Ernest Young, moderated by Hon. Jeff Brown [video]
  • Revisiting an auto scare: “Will the Corvair Kill You?” [Larry Webster, Hagerty, earlier here and here]
  • No, peacocks-in-the-airline-cabin isn’t really some failure of “fetishizing [individualism over] communal well-being.” It’s a failure of collectivized legal compulsion overriding contract and choice [David Leonhardt, New York Times; Elizabeth Preske, Travel and Leisure on underlying episode; earlier on emotional-support and other service animals]

Law enforcement for profit roundup

  • “When you find yourself threatening to find more reasons to put even more citizens in jail in order to protect your revenue stream, it’s maybe time to take a step back and think about what you’re doing.” [Scott Shackford on Alabama forfeiture debate]
  • How IRS spent $20 million on debt collection program that generated $6.7 million in payments [Howard Gleckman, Tax Policy Center]
  • “Federal Judge Strikes Down New York City’s Dragnet That Seized Thousands Of Cars Without Warrants” [Nick Sibilla, IJ/Forbes]
  • Prison phone calls and other captive markets: “Stop squeezing prisoners’ families for cash” [Megan McArdle]
  • “The high price of being wrongly accused in Alabama’s ‘monetized’ criminal justice system” [Ashley Remkus, Al.com]
  • “Cop Who Called Asset Forfeiture ‘A Tax-Liberating Goldmine’ Sued for Illegal Traffic Stop and Seizure” [C.J. Ciaramella; Kane County, Ill.]