Friday, January 19, 2018

Willful Blindness Wrapped in Razor Blades

"'I Wish You Bad Luck,' He Said With Good Intentions; Chief Justice John Roberts elaborates on this spring's famous ninth-grade graduation speech": Bob Greene has this essay online at The Wall Street Journal
  "States Pay the Price When You Buy Online": In Tuesday's edition of The New York Times, law professor David J. Herzigwill have an op-ed that begins, "Can online retailers be compelled by law to collect a sales tax? According to the Supreme Court, no -- but that could change if, in the next few weeks, it decides to take up a case challenging the current rule."

Bureaucratic efforts to undermine Freedom of Information laws by insisting it prevents “frank and fearless advice” hurts democracy and further estranges the governing class from the electorate. Bernard Keane reports.

"Why Judges Matter": Linda Greenhouse has this essay online at The New York Times

A shake-up at a key Pentagon agency is making employees fear they’re being replaced by artificial intelligence Foreign Policy 

Robot ‘dystopia already here’: AI to sink us into ‘unemployed despair’ Daily Star 

Alexa gets Aussie accent as Amazon launches smart speakers down under

Arthur J. Cockfield (Queen's University), Examining Canadian Offshore Tax Evasion, 65 Canadian Tax J. 651 (2017):

This article reviews academic and government studies that assess the magnitude of Canadian offshore tax evasion, as well as what tax-haven data leaks such as the Panama Papers have told us. This evidence, along with Canada’s historically poor performance in auditing, investigating, and prosecuting offshore tax cheats, calls for an ongoing and measured legal and policy response to inhibit offshore tax evasion.

In 2016, the island nation’s police reported 135 total days without any crimes including snatch-theft, house break-ins and robbery. That low crime rate means many small businesses enjoy little concern about shoplifting.
In fact, as CNBC recently observed, many local businesses take few precautions when closing shop at night.
For instance, in the ground floor lobby of a mixed-use building in the downtown business district, many shops don’t have windows, locks — or even doors.

Picture by John BiehlerCC BY-NC-SA 2.0

You may have heard that the IRS spent $20 million last year on private debt collection, and managed to raise … almost $7 million.[fn1] So what’s up with that? A number of things.
First things first, though: in 2015, Congress mandated that Treasury enter into one or more debt collection contracts with private debt collectors. The IRS missed its initial deadline, but started the program in April 2017.[fn2] Initially, the IRS contracted with four debt collection agencies, assigning them about $920 million of inactive tax receivables.[fn3] (“Inactive tax receivables” basically means tax debt that the IRS has stopped trying to collected, and where it has had no contact with the taxpayer-debtor for at least a year.) The debt collectors receive a fee of up to 25 percent of the amounts they collect. (They seem to be paid additional amounts, too, as I’ll lay out later.) Continue reading

Fourth Circuit NonPublished Opinion Offers Little on Willful Blindness Instruction (1/15/18)

In United States v. Parker, 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 712 (4th Cir. 2018) (unpublished), here, the Fourth Circuit affirmed Parker's conviction for "conspiring to file false tax returns, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371, and presenting false claims to the Internal Revenue Service (the "IRS"), in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 287."  As a nonpublished opinion, it may have diminished precedential value.  Still, there are some items in the opinion that I find worthy of mention.

First, the trial court gave the following willful blindness instruction:
If you find that the defendant was aware of a high probability that the tax returns at issue were false and that the defendant acted with deliberate disregard of the facts, you may find that the defendant acted knowingly. However, if you find that the defendant actually believed that the tax returns at issue were true, he may not be convicted.

Everyone Is Getting Hilariously Rich and You’re Not NYT. “The goal may be decentralization, but the money is extremely concentrated. Coinbase has more than 13 million accounts that own cryptocurrencies. Data suggests that about 94 percent of the Bitcoin wealth is held by men, and some estimate that 95 percent of the wealth is held by 4 percent of the owners.” We might, then, consider reframing “scam” to “primitive accumulation” in the context of the neoliberal legitimacy crisis we are all enmeshed in.

A single actor likely drove the USD/BTC exchange rate from $150 to $1000 in 2 months. That is from the JME (JME Publication)


The EU tax commissioner, Pierre Moscovici, admits the process for creating the first tax haven blacklist was less than perfect and talks about the impact of U.S. President Donald Trump on the effort to create an international tax solution.

The second in our three-part series, this week we show you how to make sense of the hundreds of networks in our database. We also explain how to know which leak the data is from.