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Centre for Commercial Law Studies

US Tax Lecture: 'The Timing of Tax Transparency' by Professor Joshua D. Blank

14 November 2016

Time: 12:00 - 2:00pm
Venue: Centre for Commercial Law Studies, Queen Mary University of London, 67-69 Lincoln's Inn Fields, London WC2A 3JB

Professor Joshua Blank will discuss his paper The Timing of Tax Transparency, 90 S. Cal. L. Rev. ___ (2017)

Fairness in the administration of the tax law is the subject of intense debate in the United States. As recent headlines reveal, the US Internal Revenue Service has been accused of failing to enforce the tax law equitably in its review of tax-exempt status applications by political organisations, the international tax structures of multinational corporations, and the estate tax returns of millionaires, among other areas. Many have argued that greater 'tax transparency' would better empower the public to hold the IRS accountable and the IRS to defend itself against accusations of malfeasance. Mandatory public disclosure of taxpayers’ tax return information is often proposed as a way to achieve greater tax transparency. Yet, in addition to concerns regarding exposure of personal and proprietary information, broad public disclosure measures pose potential threats to the taxing authority’s ability to enforce the tax law.

Given the competing values of accountability and enforcement, what tax return information should be observable by the public? The Article argues that timing matters. The IRS continually engages in enforcement actions ex post, after taxpayers have pursued transactions and claimed tax positions, such as by conducting audits or settlements. But it also frequently engages in actions ex ante, before taxpayers pursue transactions and claim tax positions, by issuing advance tax rulings to and entering into agreements with specific taxpayers. While current law appears to require public disclosure of certain types of ex ante tax administration, many forms of ex ante tax administration remain concealed from public view. The Article argues that documents related to a specific taxpayer’s tax affairs that reflect ex ante tax administration should be publicly accessible as a means of accountability, but that documents that reflect ex post tax actions should remain private in order to preserve effective tax enforcement. Further, the Article proposes that the public should have access not only to ex ante tax administration actions where the taxing authority grants taxpayers’ requests, but also to those actions where the taxing authority denies such requests, even if it does so without issuing an official written determination, a concept it defines as 'dual tax transparency'.

Professor Blank will also discuss the implications of his proposal for other tax jurisdictions, including the United Kingdom.

Lunch will be provided.

About the speaker

Joshua Blank is Vice Dean, Professor of Tax Law and Faculty Director of the Graduate Tax Program at New York University School of Law. As Vice Dean, Professor Blank leads NYU Law’s technology-enhanced education initiatives. He also oversees the Graduate Tax Program, including curricular planning, adjunct faculty recruitment, alumni outreach and event programming. He joined joined the full-time faculty in 2010.

Professor Blank’s scholarship focuses on tax administration and compliance, taxpayer privacy and tax transparency, and taxation of business entities. His scholarly articles have appeared in the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, Southern California Law Review, UCLA Law Review, New York University Law Review, Emory Law Journal and Tax Law Review, among others.

In 2014, Professor Blank received the Podell Distinguished Teaching Award from NYU Law. From 2008 to 2009, he was an Assistant Professor of Law at Rutgers School of Law–Newark. From 2006 to 2008, he served as an Acting Assistant Professor of Tax Law at NYU Law. Prior to entering academia, he was a tax lawyer at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz.'


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