Thursday, January 18, 2018

Trust in the Tax System: The Problem of Lobbying, in Building Trust in Taxation

Governance and Recordkeeping Around the World, an online newsletter published regularly by Library and Archives Canada (LAC), highlights issues pertaining to government and recordkeeping practices in the public and private sectors. January 2018, vol. 5, no. 10. ISSN: 1916-5714 [h/t Library Boy] “Governance and Recordkeeping Around the World, an online newsletter published regularly by Libraryand Archives Canada (LAC), highlights issues pertaining to government and recordkeeping practices in the public and private sectors.”

Diane Butrus, a business executive from St. Louis, wandered the streets of Zurich, looking for a bank that would help her keep $1.5 million hidden from America tax collectors.
One bank after another turned her down on that afternoon in 2009. They were worried about a United States crackdown on tax evasion and were no longer willing to shelter American money.
Finally, across the street from a city park, up a discreet elevator, seated in a luxurious conference room, Ms. Butrus found a banker ready to help. His name was Stefan Buck.
Mr. Buck said that his employer, Bank Frey, would be happy to take Ms. Butrus’s money, according to court documents and interviews with Mr. Buck and Ms. Butrus. He instructed her to wire the $1.5 million to Bank Frey. He told her that her name wouldn’t be attached to the new account. It would be known internally as Cardinal, an alias she chose in a nod to her favorite baseball team.
After that, Ms. Butrus contacted Mr. Buck via prepaid cellphones she picked up at a Walgreens drugstore. Every six months or so, she flew to Zurich to withdraw money directly from Mr. Buck. She would return to the United States secretly carrying just under $10,000 in cash — the cutoff for having to make a customs declaration.
The setup allowed Ms. Butrus to avoid paying tens of thousands of dollars in income taxes. And it wouldn’t have been possible without Mr. Buck and Bank Frey.
As much as chocolate and watches, Switzerland is known for bank secrecy. That made the country a destination for money that the wealthy wanted to hide. Last decade, it also made Swiss banks targets for an assault by the United States government, which was tired of Americans escaping taxes on money in offshore accounts.
Many banks came clean, divulging their clients to American authorities. Many Americans, including Ms. Butrus, searched for new places to park their money.
Bank Frey was among the very few to defy the legal onslaught. And Mr. Buck, a clean-cut and self-confident 28-year-old at the time he met Ms. Butrus, was the bank’s public face, responsible for landing and then managing American accounts.

Cause of Action Institute (“CoA Institute”) today released a groundbreaking investigative report, Evading Oversight: The Origins and Implications of the IRS Claim that its Rules Do Not Have an Economic Impact, that reveals how the IRS has developed a series of self-bestowed exemptions allowing the agency to evade several legally required oversight mechanisms. The report outlines in detail how the IRS created this exemption to exempt itself from three critical reviews intended to provide our elected branches and the public an opportunity to assess the economic impact of rules before they are finalized.
Read about the report in today’s Wall Street Journal [The IRS Evades Accountability—And Its Excuse Is Ridiculous], including suggestions for how the White House and Congress can work together to end this harmful practice.

Sami Ahmed (J.D. 2017, Yale), Cryptocurrency & Robots: How to Tax and Pay Tax on Them, 68 S.C. L. Rev. ___ (2018):
New technologies, such as blockchain, cryptocurrency (e.g., Bitcoin), and artificial intelligence are rapidly changing how transactions occur in the United States. While scholars have started to examine how a number of areas of law should adapt, very little work has been done on what these changes mean for taxation. Yet these developments could have a huge impact on tax revenues. For example, some approaches to taxing transactions using cryptocurrency could result in these transactions being conducted abroad, beyond the reach of the U.S. taxing authorities. And if robots replace large segments of the labor force, this could drastically shrink federal and state income tax bases.

Rory Van Loo (Boston University), Consumer Law As Tax Alternative:

The law and economics paradigm has traditionally emphasized tax and transfer as the best way to achieve distributional goals. This Article explores an alternative. Well-designed consumer laws—defined as the set of consumer protection, antitrust, and entry barrier laws that govern consumer transactions—can make markets more efficient and lessen inequality.

It has been about a month since Craig Avedisian was declared an almost-genius, a finalist in a “genius challenge” contest with a $1 million prize. Whatever else is going on in the right and left hemispheres of his brain, the designation has not sunk in yet, he said.

“Here’s a guy, a solo lawyer, who thought he had an idea, and I got this far,” he said. “It was David versus Goliath, and David got heard. That’s the essence of it.”
Mr. Avedisian, 54, is not one of those a disheveled-looking Nobel Prize types who has tramped around an Ivy League campus the way Albert Einstein or John F. Nash Jr., of “A Beautiful Mind,” did. He is tallish and looks trim in a dark suit, a crisp white shirt and a carefully knotted tie. A commercial litigator, he lives on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. ...
Other measures of exceptionalness? He said he did not know his I.Q. He said he had a B average in law school.
But then, he is only an almost-genius. For now. Maybe he will win the contest and become a full-fledged genius.
He reached his current status because of an idea he submitted when the Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced the “genius challenge” last summer, a few days after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo declared a state of emergency for the city’s failing subway system. By the agency’s count, Mr. Avedisian’s was one of 438 entries from 23 countries. ...
Mr. Avedisian ... said his idea could expand capacity on subway trains by 40 percent on average and by 65 percent on some trains. He called it “simple” and “user-friendly.” ...

Building TrustAllison Christians (McGill), Trust in the Tax System: The Problem of Lobbying, in Building Trust in Taxation (Bruno Peeters, Hans Gribnau, Jo Badisco ed., 2017):

Fairness in the tax system seems unachievable when the well-advised free-ride on the many benefits of an organized global economy paid for by tax revenues extracted from others. While those publicly accused of ‘tax-dodging’ point to their full compliance with all applicable laws, they are substantially less forth-coming about their efforts to influence the shape of the law to their own benefit. All too often, tax policy appears to respond primarily to those with the resources to influence the policy-makers. As the system becomes increasingly unresponsive to legitimate policy goals and increasingly out of touch with justice — perceived and actual — public perceptions about the system understandably trend toward the cynical.

MetricsWall Street Journal:  A Cure for Our Fixation on Metrics, by Jerry Z. Muller (Catholic University; author, The Tyranny of Metrics(Princeton University Press 2018)):

Measuring results is all the rage in organizations, but it is often wrongheaded and counterproductive.

In recent decades, what I call “metric fixation” has engulfed an ever-widening range of institutions: businesses, government, health care, K-12 education, colleges and universities, and nonprofit organizations. It comes with its own vocabulary and master terms. It affects the way that people talk and think about the world and how they act in it. And it is often profoundly wrongheaded and counterproductive.

Metric fixation consists of a set of interconnected beliefs. The first is that it is possible and desirable to replace judgment with numerical indicators of comparative performance based on standardized data. The second is that making such metrics public (transparency) assures that institutions are actually carrying out their purposes (accountability). Finally, there is the belief that people are best motivated by attaching rewards and penalties to their measured performance, rewards that are either monetary (pay for performance) or reputational (rankings).

But not everything that is important is measurable, and much that is measurable is unimportant. Most organizations have multiple purposes, and that which is measured and rewarded tends to become the focus of attention, at the expense of other essential goals.

Awkward Metaphors - Chop wood, carry river: Shantih shantih shantih

Chop wood, carry water

Bitcoin drops below $10000 with $36 billion of value wiped off in a day as cryptocurrency sell-off deepens

Israel searches for a tourist who may have Jerusalem syndrome, where people believe they’re Biblical figures.

AN IDEA SO CRAZY IT JUST MIGHT WORK: Treating People Well: The Extraordinary Power of Civility at Work and in Life.

"Roy Moore's wife reveals their 'Jewish attorney' and he's a Christian": Greg Garrison of Alabama Media Group has this report

"Law Clerks, Judicial Power, and the Code of Silence": Eric Segall has this blog post at "Dorf on Law."

After accusations that he pressured female students for sex, made merit scholarship recipients sign secrecy and loyalty oaths and implemented a dress code that mandated miniskirts for women, an Italian judge and law school leader has been barred from teaching and faces removal from the bench.
Francesco Bellomo, who the Washington Post says sits on one of the country’s highest courts, was also director of Diritto e Scienza, a school that prepares students for the state exam to become a judge.
"More Women Acknowledge Judge Kozinski's Behavior Was An 'Open Secret'; This is what happens when you dare women to tell their stories": Kathryn Rubino has this post at "Above the Law."
Online at "The Cut," Rebecca Traister has an essay titled "This Moment Isn't (Just) About Sex. It's Really About Work."
Online at The Washington Post, columnist Petula Dvorak has an essay titled "How many men are harassers or predators?"
And if you think reporting on the matter sounds creepy in English, consider how it sounds in Filipino, as Abante of Manila reports that "US judge inireklamo, staff pinaghuhubad, pinapanood ng porn video."

Gill, Lex, Law, Metaphor and the Encrypted Machine (2017). Available at SSRN: – “The metaphors we use to imagine, describe and regulate new technologies have profound legal implications. This paper offers a critical examination of the metaphors we choose to describe encryption technology in particular, and aims to uncover some of the normative and legal implications of those choices. Part I provides a basic description of encryption as a mathematical and technical process. At the heart of this paper is a question about what encryption is to the law. It is therefore fundamental that readers have a shared understanding of the basic scientific concepts at stake.

Three Australians arrested in Serbian cocaine sting that hauled in over US$778,000 in cash | South China Morning Post

Murdoch's ex a Chinese agent?

You can't quite imagine reading  this saga in The Wall Street Journal while owner Rupert Murdoch was still married to Wendi Deng Murdoch, with whom he broke up amid his reported belief that she'd carried on with others, notably former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. In case you're late to this tabloid delight, Vanity Fair detailed it all here in 2014.
But, yes, the notion of her as handmaiden to the totalitarians in Beijing is now found in The Journal.
"U.S. counterintelligence officials in early 2017 warned Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, that Wendi Deng Murdoch, a prominent Chinese-American businesswoman, could be using her close friendship with Mr. Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, to further the interests of the Chinese government, according to people familiar with the matter."
This all tuns on a planned $100 million Chinese garden at the National Arboretum. It was deemed a security risk "because it included a 70-foot-tall white tower that could potentially be used for surveillance." Yes, surveillance in a garden "planned on one of the higher patches of land near downtown Washington, less than 5 miles from both the Capitol and the White House."
Yes, this Kushner-Murdoch tale may actually divert your attention from the adjacent saga, "Platinum, Clinging to its Status as a Top Precious Metal, Faces a Crisis."

The appeal of the ‘flat’ organisation — why some firms are getting rid of middle managers.
Hierarchies at work can stifle new ideas and increase costs. The flat organisation is increasingly in vogue in the private sector.

CALIFORNIA MAN IS GIVING FLORIDA MAN A SERIOUS RUN FOR HIS MONEY:Drugged driver crashes car into second story of California building, officials say.

That’s pretty impressive air for a Nissan Altima.

Most literature and film is mediocre or worse. Yet reviewers spout effusive praise. Why aren’t critics critical enough? Ben Yagoda has a few thoughts Thick Skin of Grid Ironmen 

When I visited Ken Inglis early last month, a few weeks before he died, I found him engrossed in the day’s edition of the Sunday Age. It was perhaps eighty years since he’d begun reading the papers as a schoolboy in the inner-Melbourne suburb of Preston, and during that time he’d become one of Australia’s most highly (and warmly) regarded historians. But his passion for the press — his fascination with the way it recorded “the history of the present”, as the historian Timothy Garton Ash calls it — was undiminished. And not just newspapers — on the table beside his bed were copies of the New Yorker, the magazine that helped shape his style and fuel his remarkable curiosity. Continue reading 

In his book review on Inequality and the Coming Storm, Edoardo Campanella comments: “the super-rich are not all the same. Some are entrepreneurs or entertainers who create real wealth for society. Others run hedge fund, private equity firms or other rent seeking businesses who contribute nothing or little.” Inequality and the Coming Storm by Edoardo Campanella – Project Syndicate

Laura Kipnis in the New York Review of Books says ‘Like  beauty contestants, women at Fox are hired on the basis of looks, then laminated into near mannequins…the optics at Fox make clear what’s expected from women’. Rupert Murdoch boasts his businesses reflect his values.
At a time when the word ‘migrant’ is often accompanied by the word ‘crisis’, we at Europeana are focusing our 2018 activities on gathering and enriching Europe’s cultural heritage relating to migration in cooperation with museums and the people of Europe. Making Europe richer – From folklore and traditions to visual arts, our cultural heritage shows us that the Europe we inhabit today is the result of a flow of people and ideas, and that migration is woven through our everyday lives. As a pan-European campaign encouraging us all to think of migration differently, Europeana Migration will promote values of diversity and inclusivity: in looking at migration to and from Europe historically, we’ll show that how the geographical moving of people has made culture richer, and even more than that, that migration is intrinsic to what it means to be European. Our thematic collection, Europeana Migration, will bring together collections dedicated to the theme of migration to, from and within Europe. An alpha version is already online, gathering just under 200,000 objects from more than 750 museums, galleries, libraries, audio-visual archives and archives across Europe. Throughout 2018, our intention is to build this collection by improving and adding content from cultural heritage institutions across Europe. New content will be sourced and digitised via partners in the Migration in the arts and sciences project, dedicated migration museums, our network of existing Europeana data providers, and new providers. Does your organisation hold collections relating to migration? Read more on how you can contribute your collections!?

Russ Kick – The Memory Hole 2: “The governments of several countries (plus the European Union and the United Nations) have programs for medical practitioners, members of the public, and pharmaceutical companies to report “adverse events” regarding prescription and over-the-counter drugs (as well as medical devices, personal care products, and occasionally other things). As defined by the FDA, “adverse events” include hospitalization, surgical intervention, permanent disability/damage, “substantial risk of dying,” death, birth defects, seizures, and more. These reports can also cover “product use errors, product quality problems, and therapeutic failures.” Several countries have set up publicly accessible databases containing details from these reports. The full reports themselves usually aren’t there, but in some databases you’ll find details from each report, such as type of adverse event, age and gender of the patient, etc. Other databases present overall statistics but not details of individual reports. You can bet that the pharmaceutical industry is not happy that these exist…”