Tax Courses, Seminars, and Reading Groups (2015-2016)

Complete course descriptions will be available on-line through the Harvard Law School Registrar's Office.

Foundational Course

Taxation (4 credits) This course focuses on the U.S. federal income tax and the policy considerations that inform the design of the tax, which has become an important governmental tool for influencing many aspects of modern American life. The course accordingly examines not only the concept of taxable income, but also how the federal government uses the tax to influence the behavior of taxpayers, whether wealthy (e.g., the capital gains preference), middle-income (the education credits) or lower-income (the earned income credit). A principal goal of this course is also to teach students to analyze and apply a complex federal statute. Unless otherwise indicated below or waived by the instructor, Taxation is a pre-requisite for J.D. students in the advanced tax courses.  Brennan (Fall 2015), Desai (Fall 2015), Schizer (Fall 2015), Warren (Spring 2016)

Advanced Courses

(These courses can be taken in any order. The only prerequisite is Taxation.)

Taxation of Businesses (4 credits) This course covers the federal income tax issues involved in the organization and operation of business entities in the U.S. Both corporations and partnerships are studied, and attention is given to the choice of entity and federal income tax classification. The course provides the background  necessary for understanding and participating in many types of business transactions involving both publicly and closely held organizations. Please note that the taxation of corporate mergers, acquisitions and divisions is covered separately in a different course. Taxation is a prerequisite for this course, or you must seek permission from the instructor. Corporations is a recommended preparation.  Brennan (Sptring 2016)

Taxation of International Income (3 credits) This course examines U.S. income tax laws and policies relating to the taxation of foreign income of U.S. persons and U.S. income of foreign persons. Emphasis will be on fundamental issues, such as jurisdiction to tax, source of income, U.S. taxation of foreign persons, the credit for foreign taxes paid by U.S. persons, U.S. taxation of foreign income earned by foreign entities owned by U.S. persons, pricing transactions between related parties, and income tax treaties. Taxation is a prerequisite, but may be waived.  Shay (Fall 2015)

Taxation of Estates and Gifts (2 credits) This course examines the federal wealth transfer taxes, including the estate, gift, and generation-skipping transfer taxes. Not scheduled to be offered in 2015-2016. See Taxation Seminar: Estate Planning (below).

Taxation of Corporate Mergers, Acquisitions, and Divisions (2 credits) This course covers the major tax law and policy issues that arise in corporate acquisitions, mergers, and divisions. In the U.S. the structure of these major corporate transactions is very heavily influenced by the applicable tax provisions. Prerequisite: Taxation or permission of the instructor. Note: This course is not open to students who took Taxation of Business Corporations from Professor Warren in 2014-2015. Warren (Spring 2016)

Law of Nonprofit Organizations (2 credits) Students will learn about forming and advising nonprofit organizations, boards, and donors with emphasis on public charities and private foundations. Students will read and discuss federal and state statutes, regulations and cases and then draft governing documents, filings, and memoranda related to public charities, foundations, donor-advised funds, and social enterprise entities. Students will also consider legal aspects of charities' operating issues. Each student's written assignments will be collected in a portfolio of his or her work, which the professor will mark up as if the student were an associate in a law firm or organization. In addition to classes, each student will meet individually with the professor to discuss her markups of each work product.  Bjorklund (Spring 2016)

Taxation: Comparative Law Tax and Policy (2 credits) This course examines different solutions to common problems of tax system design in several major industrialized countries. Examples of the kinds of issues to be discussed include different national approaches to the definition of income, jurisdiction to tax, prevention of tax avoidance, and the relationship of corporate and individual taxes.  Not scheduled to be offered in 2015-2016.

Trusts and Estates (4 credits) This course examins freedom of disposition in American succession law by way of: (a) intestate succession; (b) wills (including execution, revocation, interpretation, and contests); (c) will substitutes (i.e., nonprobate transfers) and planning for incapacity; and (d) trusts (including creation, fiduciary administration, modification, termination, spendthrift and other asset protection trusts, and charitable trusts).  Sitkoff (Fall 2015)

Seminars and Reading Groups

Federal Tax Clinic (1-2 credits)/Taxation Seminar: Federal Tax Clinical Seminar (2  credits) You must enroll in both. Students in the Federal Tax Clinic represent low-income taxpayers in controversies with the IRS, both before the IRS and in federal court. Students will work individually and in teams to represent taxpayers involving examinations, administrative appeals, collection matters and cases before the United States Tax Court and Federal District Courts. Students will represent taxpayers with the goal of maximizing financial well being and protecting taxpayer rights, including securing refunds and credits to which taxpayers are entitled, providing relief from joint and several liability for innocent spouses, and reducing tax liabilities through successful negotiated resolutions or compromises of liabilities based upon taxpayer financial hardship. The Clinic provides a singular opportunity to have extensive client contact, to conduct fact investigation and legal research, and to develop, present, and argue cases on behalf of vulnerable taxpayers who would otherwise not have access to justice. In the Federal Tax Clinical Seminar students learn the substantive law, procedural context, advocacy skills, and ethical rules necessary for the effective representation of low-income taxpayers before the IRS and in federal court. The seminar will cover an array of topics, including tax practice and procedure at the agency level and in federal court, administrative law, client interviewing, fact investigation, offers in compromise, negotiation, refund litigation. Due to Massachusetts court practice rules, L.L.M. students are not eligible to apply.  Fogg (Fall 2015), Fogg (Spring 2015)

Taxation Seminar: Current Issues in Tax Law, Policy and Practice (2 credits) will consider a range of current issues in taxation focusing on works-in-progress by invited participants. Students will be asked to write short response papers to the papers to be presented.  Students may take fall session for 1 credit, spring session for 1 credit or yearlong for 2 credits.  Shay (Fall 2015), Shay (Spring 2016)

Taxation Seminar: Estate Planning (2 credits) will examine basic and sophisticated estate planning techniques.  It will take a practical perspective, studying how the estate planner navigates the federal transfer tax and property law rules with sensitivity to a client's personal circumstances and concerns in order to achieve the client's objectives.  Grading will be based upon practice exercises and class participation.  Pre-requisite is Trusts and Estates (may be taken concurrently).  Bloostein (Spring 2016)

Taxation Seminar: Tax Law, Finance, and Strategic Planning (2 credits)This seminar develops tools for understanding and evaluating the effect tax laws have on strategic planning in both business and personal contexts. The perspective taken is generally that of financial economics, with cash flows resulting from transactions being viewed as items which are subject to valuation using asset pricing techniques This approach allows for a precise understanding of where the value in a transaction comes from and how careful tax planning can help maximize this value. Consideration is also given to policy responses to strategic planning. No advanced course work in finance is assumed, but a variety of concepts are introduced in the course, and students are expected to learn how to use them effectively in the context of arriving at optimal tax strategies. Techniques covered include present value analysis, the use of payoff diagrams, option pricing using the Black-Scholes formula, and, as time permits, valuation using Monte Carlo simulation methods.  Pre-requisite: Taxation  Brennan (Spring 2016)

Last modified: April 28, 2015

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