I’ve gotten a good number of private emails in the last few days – unfortunately, none of them from law professors – from my recent, and increasingly desperate, attempts to attract the attention of the law professor bloggers and to prove that the current divide between law professors and practicing lawyers is not as absolute as it may seem and that, in fact, my outreach efforts can help bridge the chasm.
The emails are from practicing lawyers lamenting the split between academia and the practice and generally telling the story of one perceived slight or another. It’s kind of sad.
Other emails are of the nudge-nudge, wink-wink variety and suggest that I really do know and have conversations with many of the law professor bloggers and that the Law Professor Blog Tour is, in fact, an elaborate joke. If only that were true.
I will admit that I have at various times over the years met a few of the law professor bloggers or been on the same email lists with them, including a short conversation with the captain of the A-List law professor blogging team, Larry Lessig. (Does anyone think that Professor Lessig’s occasional struggles with relatively straightforward technology issues (see comments to this post for a few of many alternatives) undercut his credibility on technology law issues?)
But, I digress.
On the tour today, we visit Paul Caron‘s unfailingly excellent TaxProf Blog. I must confess to having been a tax lawyer for more than ten years of my legal career, so I may find more appeal in this blog than others do. But it is getting to be tax season.
Caron’s blog is the model I would point any law professor considering a blog to study as part of the preparation for launching his or her own blog. It’s informative, it’s interesting and it has a great mix of academic materials and popular materials, along with links to great resources. Again, I’m not sure Professor Caron has tenure (he definitely should), so I hope I’m not blowing his chances by making favorable comments about his blog.
Interestingly, Caron has a recent post on the issue of the taxability of money received via “tip jars” on blogs. He sums up the issue and the relevant case law nicely and it’s a very good introductory discussion of the legal issues.
However, I’m not really persuaded by the arguments or the academic analysis that urges that these “tips” are not income for tax purposes. They might not be, but the case law analysis gives me little comfort.
My approach is both more practical and more simple. It goes like this:
1. Does Amazon send you a 1099 or other IRS form reporting the tips as income? I admire the courage of anyone who files a return using different numbers (or not including numbers) reported to the IRS.
2. It’s called a “tip” jar, not a “gift” jar.
3. Waiters, waitresses and others have onerous requirements and procedures for reporting tips. Not to make class arguments, but should professor bloggers soliciting tips by tip jars be treated any differently? Why? If I like a waiter’s service and tip 20%, is he entitled to treat the amount over the standard 15% tip as a “gift”? I don’t think so.
4. Bloggers with tip jars actively solicit funds and the language used by bloggers when telling their audiences about “tip jars” almost invariably refers to helping the bloggers “monetize” their blogs or cover costs.
5. In my experience, the IRS will not roll over an play dead when you cite a law review article or two in support of your decision not to report income or take an aggressive stand on a tax issue. Hoewever, you might get lucky and find an agent who is so inclined.
As I’ve always said, I’m the practical kind, especially on tax issues, but I’m always interested in learning good ways to save money on taxes. If I used a “tip jar,” I’d be reporting the income. Of course, the tax on the extra $5 of tip money I’d be fortunate to get is not all that big a deal.
The TaxProf Blog – highly recommended, even for people who are not tax lawyers.
[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (https://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]