Category Archives: Current Events

National Taxpayer Advocate Blog

While I was attending the Tax Controversy Forum hosted by New York University’s School of Professional Studies in New York City, I had the pleasure of hearing the National Taxpayer Advocate give a keynote speech.  National Taxpayer Advocate, Nina Olson, started off her talk with the potential impact of upcoming budget cuts on the IRS and the release of her upcoming report on June 28th.  She also informed everyone that the National Taxpayer Advocate Blog has restarted its regular weekly blog postings on Wednesdays.  Check it out for some summer reading.

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Facebook Forced To Turn Over Account Info, Photos, and Conversations

The New York Court of Appeals, its highest state court, approved in a 5-1 decision a search warrant that forces Facebook to turn over material on 381 accounts including account information, private photos, and conversations.  This ruling is based significantly on New York law which the court interpreted to mean search warrants issued by judges cannot be appealed to a higher court and the proper venue for challenging search warrants is during a pretrial hearing when a party argues the search warrant is an illegal search.

Read more about this case in this New York Times article here.  The underlying case deals with disability fraud and the Brennan Center provides a concise summary, along with its amicus brief, on its website available here.

One could argue that this opens the door to New York search warrants giving prosecutors access to users’ data on other social networking sites.

The full slip opinion is available here.

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Suffolk Law Admitted Students Reception in DC on 4/13/2017

Suffolk Law alumni are hosting a reception for the newly admitted Suffolk Law students on April 13, 2017 from 5:30 to 7:30pm at Stinson Leonard Street in Washington, DC.  This event is open to Suffolk alumni, current Suffolk students, admitted Suffolk students, and prospective students.  Please RSVP here and hope to see you there!

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Alternative Sentencing: Judge Approves A Punishment of Reading

Five teenagers in Loudoun County were caught and pleaded guilty to vandalizing a historic schoolhouse in Ashburn, Virginia with racist graffiti.  As punishment, the prosecutor compiled a list of books for the teenagers to read and write reports on.  The Virginia judge condoned the sentence and probation agreed to enforce this alternative form of punishment.  The New York Times published an article about this with further details about the sentence, reasons behind this arrangement, and the full list of books approved.  The article is available here.  In addition, Loudoun County’s Attorney’s Office released a press statement available here.

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Bill to Terminate Department of Education

The first question that went through my mind when I saw in the news that there is a bill pending in Congress to terminate the Department of Education:

What will happen to my student loans?

Here is a link to the bill that was introduced by Representative Thomas Massie (R-Kentucky).  The Congress.gov website does not have the text of the bill available yet.  But, a local news outlet reported that this Republican sponsored bill proposes termination of the Department of Education on December 31, 2018.  The article goes further to explain the past history of legislators trying to dismantle the Department of Education with little success.

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ABA Releases Top Blawgs List

The results are out.  The American Bar Association released their list of 100 of the top law blogs as of this year.  The full list is available here.

A shout out to Procedurally Taxing for finally making the list this year!

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Impending Tax Bomb of Student Loans

I posted about this last year, but I think it bears repeating.  Back in 2015, law professor Gregory Crespi coined the term “tax bomb” in reference to student loans.  A “tax bomb” is oftentimes unexpected and seen when a taxpayer has surprise income that will be taxed.  It can blow up a taxpayer’s taxes and result in money owed to the IRS.  This concept of a “tax bomb” is also seen in retirement planning.

In the context of student loans, a “tax bomb” can be when a taxpayer has student loan debt that gets forgiven either through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF) or Income Based Repayment (IBR).  But, it becomes a bomb when the cancellation of student debt is viewed as income under 26 U.S.C. sec. 108(f) which results in a tax and requires payment to the federal government.  However, in Professor John Brooks’ Tax Notes article, he confirmed that current interpretation allows an exception for PSLF, but not IBR.  This means that if you have student loans forgiven under the PSLF program, then you will presumably not have to pay taxes.  But, if you have student loans forgiven under IBR, then you may be stuck with a tax bill.  The Treasury Department issued guidance on the issue in Rev. Proc. 2015-57.  Brooks’ article does a great job explaining the nuances.  Check it out here.

On a happier note, Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced the Student Loan Tax Relief Act which would exclude income created from the cancellation of student debt or student loan forgiveness.  The bill is available here.

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Legal Biscuit Returns From Brief Hiatus

Hello, readers!  My Tax Court internship has officially concluded, so I have returned to my blogging platform.

Two more disclaimers:

  1. These views on my blog are my own and not my employers’ views.
  2. My posts are not legal advice.  If you would like legal advice then feel free to contact me directly.  Advice, strategies, and tactics may vary depending on a person’s situation and a lot of legal advice contingent on a person’s specific facts.

Thanks for reading!

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Updates and Disclaimers

First, the postings on my blog are my own words and Legal Biscuit’s words.  Second, I will be taking a brief hiatus from providing legal advice and posting on my blog because tomorrow I start my judicial internship/summer law clerkship.  Third, because I consider myself an ethical person and I abide by the rules of professional responsibility, during the duration of my internship/clerkship, I will not be publishing or blogging.

Thank you for being my avid readers and followers.  I hope to return once my employment is completed.

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Microsoft Sues DOJ

In order to sue the Department of Justice, Microsoft has brought out the big guns by hiring law firms Covington and Burling LLP, where partner James Garland used to work for former Attorney General Eric Holder, and Davis Wright Tremaine LLP.  Yesterday, Microsoft’s complaint was filed in the Western District Court of Washington State and the complaint is available on the Wall Street Journal website here.  The complaint is also available on Pacer, but the Wall Street Journal has the free version.

In the past, the U.S. government has requested information about certain users from Microsoft, presumably when warranted Microsoft complied with the production of information, and then the U.S. government could temporarily bar Microsoft from telling its users about the request for data.  Under 18 U.S.C. Section 2705, a governmental entity, with a court order, may delay notification to customers for a period not exceeding 90 days if the government has reason to believe that the notification would result in adverse results.  So, a customer would not be notified that a provider, like Microsoft, supplied information to a governmental authority until well after the production of information.  Adverse results include endangering the life or physical safety of an individual, flight from prosecution, destruction of evidence, tampering with evidence, intimidation of a potential witness, or otherwise seriously jeopardizing an investigation or unduly delaying trial.

Microsoft argues that this is unlawful and that tech companies should be allowed to tell their users when their cloud database and private information has been turned over to the government.  The U.S. government may argue that the disclosure to users would compromise an investigation.  However, Microsoft asserts that the U.S. government’s behavior is a violation of the Fourth Amendment.  But, is it?

This lawsuit is no easy feat.  It can be difficult to sue the U.S. government due to sovereign immunity issues.  Furthermore, the lawsuit boils down to a fundamental right to privacy argument that seems almost basic and may merit standard Fourth Amendment treatment regardless of all the discussion about cloud computing and the digital age.

Under F.R.C.P. 12, a U.S. governmental agency has 60 days from when they were served to file an answer.  It will be interesting to see who from the DOJ is assigned to the case and what the DOJ’s answer will be.

Furthermore, this case is not likely to settle.  Rather than Microsoft’s typical way of hiring lobbyists to change the law through Congress, it looks like Microsoft is using the courts and this lawsuit to change Fourth Amendment law.  Read more about this new case in this Wall Street Journal article here.

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