Tax

The settlement with Goldman Sachs was not a glorious episode in the history of the Revenue.

–UK High Court Judge Andrew Nicol, employing the spirit of British understatement in a written opinion dismissing a claim by activists that the tax settlement Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs made with Goldman Sachs in 2010 was an unlawful “sweetheart deal.”

Ed. note: This is the latest installment of Righteous Indignation, our new column for conservative-minded lawyers.

You probably saw this week’s topic coming. Until the folks at One First Street start tossing Elie and me some fresh meat to tussle over, my indignation — righteous as it is — must be directed elsewhere. Unless EM wants to argue that, when SCOTUS decided that Pelkey’s claim was not preempted by federal law in Dan’s City Used Cars, Inc. v. Pelkey, the Nine were, like, racist or something. (Query: what race is Dan? Where was the supplemental briefing?!)

So. The IRS’s targeting of conservative groups applying for 501(c)(4) status. I couldn’t not talk about this scandal, right?

Truly, I kept avoiding devoting this week’s column to the IRS abuses. Seriously.

For one thing, I was not initially so scandalized by this supposed scandal, though I was appropriately dismayed. Second, this story is still developing. So, I hereby reserve my right to be feverishly pissed off later….

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Dear Republicans who are multi-orgasmic over this IRS scandal, just skip this article. Skip the comments. We get it: “OBAMA… had the GOVERNMENT… like, DO STUFF… which PROVES that taxes are bad!!!” Click over to Red State and bathe in the echo chamber. Here, the adults need to have a talk.

My question for the lawyers is this: how are we supposed to check the validity of groups asking for 501(c)(4) tax-exempt status? I mean, let’s look at this “scandal” in the way the justice system will look at it, without all the partisan accusations:

  • Group asks for 501(c)(4) status.
  • Group has anti-government message in its very name.
  • Group doesn’t apply for 527 status as a political organization because???
  • IRS asks questions to figure out if these groups are really “social welfare” organizations.
  • ???
  • CONSERVATIVE OUTRAGE!!!!!

I’m open to the possibility that the IRS did something wrong. I’d just like somebody to tell me what the hell they were supposed to do? Just rubber stamp it? Because if that’s true, I certainly think this website is concerned about the “social welfare” and would like to be tax-exempt.

Maybe we should ask the woman in charge of the IRS Exempt Organization Division if we can get tax-exempt status? She’s actually getting an honorary tribute at a law school this weekend…

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Ted Ullyot

* Given the name and origins of the Tea Party movement, it actually makes perfect sense that their groups got grief from the IRS. [Washington Post]

* Wachtell Lipton weighs in against the practice of shareholder activists offering special compensation to director nominees. [Dealbook / New York Times]

* A law professor, Joshua Silverstein, argues that schools should embrace grade inflation. (But haven’t most of them done this already?) [WSJ Law Blog]

* Facebook shareholders might not “like” this news, but Ted Ullyot plans to step down as general counsel after about five years. We’ll have more on this later. [Corporate Counsel]

* The Brooklyn DA’s office is reopening 50 murder cases that were worked on by retired detective Louis Scarcella (who looks oh-so-savory in the NYT’s photo of him). [New York Times]

* In news that should shock no one, Nicholas Speath’s dubious discrimination case against Georgetown Law has been dismissed. [The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times]

* Not long after leaving Cravath for Kirkland, Sarkis Jebejian is putting together billion-dollar deals for private-equity clients. [Am Law Daily]

* Professor Jeffrey Rosen reviews an interesting new book, The Federalist Society (affiliate link), authored by Michael Avery and Danielle McLaughlin. [New York Times]

It looks like it’s been a while — almost a year, oops! — since we last discussed law-related vanity plates. That said, if you’re a fan of the Law License Plates series and you’d like to see more, please send in your photos via email (subject line: “Vanity License Plate”). We have lots to work with, but if we get more quality submissions from our readers, you may see this column pop up more often in the future.

Today, we’ll be writing about the geekiest (and some of the wealthiest) lawyers of all: those who practice tax law. It was a class most people loved to hate during law school, but if you salivated over the Kirby Lumber case and decided to get an LL.M. in taxation, you’re probably quite happy now.

You’re likely working in Biglaw, at a Big Four accounting firm, or teaching the topic at a law school, and any way you slice it, you’re not ashamed to proclaim your profession on your license plate….

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Many fine things can be said about Cleary Gottlieb. It’s prestigious (#8 in the latest Vault rankings). It’s profitable (#10 in the recently released Am Law 100 profit-per-partner rankings). It’s pleasant, known for a nice firm culture.

So what are the downsides of Cleary? Here’s one: the firm might be a bit… boring.

As you can see from our archives, we don’t write that much about Cleary. And when we do, it’s not always exciting stuff — e.g., Cravath-matching bonunses. Yawn.

Well, today we bring you some news about Cleary that might be at least slightly juicy: a mysterious partner departure, and possible stealth layoffs….

UPDATE (2:30 p.m.): Now with an important update, a statement from the partner in question.

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Unlike the latest Harmony Korine movie, filled with neon bikinis, former Disney princesses. and James Franco in bad dreads, my Spring Break consists of hanging with my kids while my wife works 24/7 on a grant application. We don’t make annual pilgrimages to Turks and Caicos; we make bi-weekly trips to Wegmans. But you know what? I signed on for this, and no amount of island sand can replace the sound of my younger boy reading a bedtime story to his little sister for the first time last night.

I read with interest the compensation package for the anonymous in-houser that Lat posted yesterday. In the comments, I pointed out that the package wasn’t outrageous or impossible, just that it was (way) outside of the norm. And that is okay. I chose this life and I am happy to say that it has been a soft landing for me. I have a good job, in a real estate market that is hard to beat — anywhere.

Lat is correct that Susan, Mark and I need to be circumspect about compensation; it would not do for our employers to see a pay scale pasted on these pages. So what can I say about my comp?

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In today’s increasingly interconnected world, economic opportunities present themselves at every turn. For example, you could leave the practice of law to start an import/export business. There’s money to be made, and satisfaction to be had, in taking great goods from one country and bringing them over to a new market. Free trade is a beautiful thing (unless you’re unskilled labor).

But how do you figure out what products to import or export? Today’s lawyer turned importer entered the business after buying the product for herself while on vacation. She checked it out with a friend and was blown away by the quality.

What kind of product are we talking about? Well, she started her legal career working for the U.S. Department of Justice, and now she’s a pot dealer….

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April’s right around the corner. Earlier today I finalized my taxes for last year. It’s never a pleasant task, but at least I had a better go of it than Stephen Baldwin.

Baldwin, the youngest of the Baldwin brothers, ran headlong into a mess of money troubles over the years and responded by ducking out on his taxes. To be precise, $350,000 worth of New York state taxes.

Now, according to his lawyer, the actor has reached an agreement with prosecutors that may not “restore” him, but is certainly better than the alternative…

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When it comes to the employee benefit known as “tax equalization for same-sex health benefits” (aka the “gay gross-up”), maybe the pertinent question should be which firms don’t offer it. Since our recent write-up, we’ve heard about more leading law firms that offer this perk, taking the total number of firms that have it to more than 40. (The new firms are mentioned below.)

So let’s move on to the next front, which we also alluded to in our prior post: adoption and surrogacy-related benefits. They’re not nearly as common as tax equalization for same-sex health benefits, but a handful of firms appear to offer them.

Let’s find out which ones, shall we?

UPDATE (2/8/2013, 1:00 AM): A noteworthy update about the legal status of surrogacy, after the jump.

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(Plus an update on the gay gross-up.)

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