Ezra Prager, LL.M. ’11, Wins David H. Moses Prize

Congratulations to Ezra Prager, LL.M. ’11, who has been awarded the 2011 David H. Moses Prize by the Law School.  The Moses Prize is awarded annually to the member of the LL.M. class (tax and non-tax) with the highest academic average.  In addition, Prager has won the 2011 Harry J. Rudick Memorial Award for distinction in the Graduate Tax Program.

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Chris Kotarba, LL.M. ’11, receives Tax Executives Institute Scholarship

Chris Kotarba

Chris Kotarba, LL.M. ’11, has received a William Duffy  Memorial Scholarship from the New York state chapter of the Tax Executive Institute.  He was presented with the scholarship at the Tax Executive Institutes annual tax symposium luncheon on December 8, 2010.   Chris earned his J.D. at Columbia University, where he published a note on Transfer Pricing Methodology.   He interned at the IRS Office of Chief Counsel’s LMSB division prior to undertaking the LL.M., and he is currently writing a paper on tax issues facing the private company stock market.

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Executive LL.M. in Taxation can now be completed entirely online

The Graduate Tax Program has announced that it has eliminated the two-credit residency requirement for the Executive LL.M. in Taxation, meaning that the degree can now be completed entirely online.

During the past year, the Executive LL.M. in Taxation program has expanded globally; in order to make the program more flexible and available to more students, NYU Law petitioned the New York State Department of Education to eliminate a two-credit residency requirement, which has been part of the program since its inception in 2008. That had meant that students had to physically appear on campus and take two credits of class. But the Department of Education has now granted NYU Law’s request, and the requirement has been completely eliminated, effective immediately and retroactively.

“Many of our students are experienced attorneys with busy practices throughout the U.S. and in Europe and Asia.  Elimination of the two-credit residency requirement will only enhance the flexibility that our online program already offers,” said Associate Professor of the Practice of Tax Law Joshua Blank, who is also faculty director of the Graduate Tax Program. Students in the Executive LL.M. in Taxation program can now complete the entire 24 credits toward the degree by taking online courses; if they are in New York during the summer or academic year, they may still enroll in on-campus tax courses.

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“Circular Argument” by Steven Z. Hodaszy, LL.M. ’10

Steven Hodaszy (LL.M. '10)

Steven Z. Hodaszy, LL.M. ’10, has published Circular Argument: What is Wrong, and Right, with the Circular 230 “Covered Opinion” Regulations in the latest issue of the Columbia Journal of Tax Law. A brief abstract is below:

The covered opinion regulations set forth in Treasury Department Circular 230 impose a number of stringent requirements on the provision of written tax advice by attorneys, accountants and others admitted to practice before the Internal Revenue Service. Since they became effective in 2005, the covered opinion regulations have been disparaged by both practitioners and scholars as overly broad and unduly burdensome. The regulations were originally intended to govern advice concerning potentially abusive tax shelters; however, they are drafted so broadly that they actually apply to written opinions regarding virtually any tax matter—including routine and legitimate tax planning. On the occasion of their five-year anniversary, attorney Steven Z. Hodaszy examines the covered opinion regulations and analyzes whether their benefits justify their burdens. Hodaszy contends that, because of a continuing need to reign in unscrupulous opinion practices in the tax shelter area, some form of the regulations must remain in place. Yet he also maintains that the regulations should be reformed so that they clearly apply only to tax shelter advice (as they were meant to). To accomplish this, Hodaszy proposes a specific textual revision to the regulations’ definition of a “covered opinion.” In conjunction with that proposal, he argues for the repeal of rules that presently allow practitioners to opt out of compliance with the regulations under some circumstances. Similarly, he rejects calls to restrict application of the regulations to practitioners who “opt in” to compliance with them. Neither the current “opt-out” rules nor an alternative “opt-in” approach would be justifiable, once the covered opinion regulations are appropriately restricted to advice concerning tax shelters. Moreover, as Hodaszy explains, either maintaining the “opt-out” rules or replacing them with an “opt-in” regime could effectively vitiate the regulations altogether, in the advent of a new strict-liability accuracy-related penalty for transactions lacking economic substance. Hodaszy asserts that, with the changes he proposes, the covered opinion regulations can instead continue to function as an important tool to deter abusive tax shelters, but without imposing detrimentally on other areas of tax practice.

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Caroline Waldner ’10 (LL.M. ’11) Wins First Prize in 2010 Tannenwald Competition

Caroline Waldner

Caroline Waldner ’10 (LL.M. ’11) has been awarded first prize in the Theodore Tannenwald Jr. Foundation for Excellence in Tax Scholarship’s 2010 writing competition.  Waldner is currently a Tax Policy Fellow in the Graduate Tax Program .  Her competition paper is entitled In Defense of College Savings Plans: Using 529 Plans to Increase the Impact of Direct Federal Grants for Higher Education to Low- and Moderate-Income Students.  Waldner received a $5000 prize for winning the annual competition.

The paper, which will appear in an upcoming issue of the Florida Tax Review, was written as part of Professor Lily Batchelder’s Tax and Social Policy Seminar. Waldner argues that direct federal grants to low- and moderate-income students are more likely than other forms of aid (such as subsidized loans, work study programs, and tax incentives) to incentivize these students to obtain a higher education. The amount of the direct grant can be maximized by offering it as a matching grant for amounts that a family saves in a 529 plan. The program, Waldner says, would effectively turn the family’s savings into a direct grant for the student, thus increasing the total amount of the “grant” the student would receive at the time the college decision is made.

This is the second year in a row that an NYU Law student has won first place in the Tannenwald competition. In 2009, David Warner (LL.M. ’09), was given first prize for his paper on the taxation of healthcare and healthcare reform.

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