Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Tax Law Professors Get in the Truth Game

Alright, maybe I'm overloading on Palin news, but bear with me, please. This should all be over soon.

I read not long ago that the Palins had finally released their tax returns and, as I suspected, there were some issues regarding their treatment of travel expenses and the per diem charges. Ordinarily this kind of information makes me want to snooze (sorry Chuck Irish, my tax law professor), but fortunately now I've found some experts to do the hard work of figuring out what it all means.

Go to TaxProf Blog and read "Tax Profs Agree: Gov. Palin's Tax Returns Are Wrong." The article does a good job of bullet-pointing the highlights, but the devil is in the details when one follows the links. My favorite was the article on the Roger M. Olsen opinion letter. Olsen is a Washington D.C. tax attorney who wrote an opinion letter justifying the Palins' treatment of various expenses in their tax returns (funny how those Beltway folks can come in handy sometimes). As an attorney who remembers a little something from Tax I and Tax II more than twenty years ago, I am amazed at the following:
Undoubtedly the most amazing (brazen?) aspect of Mr. Olsen's opinion letter is that he cites absolutely no law in the four pages to support his conclusions -- no code or regulation sections, cases, or rulings.

Another discrepancy is the $196,531.50 income as Governor reported on her financial disclosure form (with the notation "[a]s reported to filer by State of Alaska"), compared to the $107,987 wages, tips, other compensation and $122,401.43 Medicare wages and tips reported by the state of Alaska on the W-2 attached to her tax return.

(Mr. Olsen has a tax LL.M. from George Washington and is a former Assistant Attorney General of the Department of Justice's Tax Division under President Reagan.)
Brazen, indeed.

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