NewYorkUniversity
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Volume 82, Number 2

May 2007
Articles

Taxing Citizens in a Global Economy

Michael S. Kirsch

This Article addresses a fundamental issue underlying the U.S. tax system in the international context: the use of citizenship as a jurisdictional basis for imposing income tax. As a general matter, the United States is the only economically developed country that taxes its citizens abroad on their foreign income.

Despite this broad assertion of taxing jurisdiction, Congress allows citizens abroad to exclude from taxation a limited amount of income earned from working outside the United States. Influential lobbying groups, including businesses that employ significant numbers of U.S. citizens abroad, argue that this exclusion is necessary in order to keep American business competitive overseas. Recently, these groups have argued that modern developments, including lowered barriers to trade and the increased mobility of workers, strengthen this argument, and that the United States must allow an unlimited foreign earned income exclusion, or perhaps abandon citizenship-based taxation altogether, in order to remain competitive.

This Article analyzes how modern developments in the global economy affect the case for citizenship-based taxation. The Article concludes that recent globalization trends strengthen, rather than weaken, the case for taxing U.S. citizens living abroad. Moreover, it concludes that these modern developments weaken the case for giving preferential treatment to income earned by citizens working abroad.

Lower Court Discretion

Pauline T. Kim

Empirical scholars typically model the judicial hierarchy in terms of a principal-agent relationship in which the Supreme Court, the principal, sets policy and the lower federal courts, as agents, must faithfully implement that policy. The law is a signal—the means by which the Court communicates its preferences. This Article argues instead for recognizing the law as an independent normative force. Empirical scholars fail to take seriously the role of law because they reject as implausible formalistic accounts of its operation. This Article advances a more nuanced account of how law shapes the decisionmaking environment of the lower federal courts, one that focuses on the presence of discretion. It explores how different types of discretion afford distinct types of power over lawmaking and case outcomes, and how that discretionary power is allocated between district and appellate courts. Paying attention to discretion suggests features of the judicial hierarchy that are commonly overlooked in principal-agent models. For example, judges’ goals, and therefore their strategies, will vary depending upon whether they seek to influence law development or merely to shape case outcomes. The Article also questions the normative assumption, implicit in principal-agent models, that lower federal courts should decide cases in accordance with the policy preferences of the Supreme Court. Because judges inevitably have discretion when applying the law, a norm of compliance with superior court precedent does not necessarily require lower courts to follow the policy preferences of the Supreme Court. The reasons judicial discretion exists, such as allocating power within the judicial hierarchy, may argue against such a centralization of power in the Supreme Court.

Compelled Cooperation and the New Corporate Criminal Procedure

Lisa Kern Griffin

In response to the broad scope of the Enron-era frauds, the federal government has adopted novel strategies to investigate and prosecute corporate crimes. This Article examines the use of stringent cooperation requirements and deferred prosecution agreements, pursuant to which corporate internal investigations have become extensions of government enforcement efforts. At the same time, liability has shifted markedly to the employee level: Over one thousand individuals have been indicted and convicted since the July 2002 creation of the Corporate Fraud Task Force, while few corporations have been charged. The convergence of corporate cooperation doctrine with the focus on individual targets results in significant unfairness for employees who are compelled to incriminate themselves in the context of internal investigations that are directed by the government. Because of the awkward partnering of public governmental investigations with private corporate compliance efforts, that normative burden on employees may not be offset by enforcement benefits. This Article suggests that the government’s application of a civil regulatory model to criminal cases creates distortions because individual liberty rather than a financial sanction is at stake, because prosecutors do not engage in negotiated governance, and because judicial oversight at the investigative stage is minimal. This Article also addresses the constitutional implications of outsourcing corporate criminal investigations and argues that employees interviewed by internal investigators pursuant to the terms of a pending deferred prosecution agreement should enjoy immunity analogous to the Garrity shield that protects public employees. Several strands of Fifth Amendment theory are consistent with the argument that economic pressure, such as the threat of job loss, can rise to the level of constitutionally significant coercion. When that pressure is brought to bear pursuant to a deferred prosecution agreement, it is delegated coercion, but may be attributed to the government as state action.

Notes

Sunset Provisions in the Tax Code: A Critical Evaluation and Prescriptions for the Future

Manoj Viswanathan

In this Note, the author argues that sunset provisions associated with tax legislation are, in their current form, the product of political maneuvering designed to bypass budgetary constraints and are exploited as a means of enacting what is, in reality, permanent legislation. The use of sunsets in this manner has lead to considerable uncertainty regarding the future of their associated tax provisions. This uncertainty, in turn, has created opportunities for legislators to extract rents from lobbyists, generated inefficiencies for both taxpayers and the government, and increased overall tax code complexity. These problems can be minimized, however, if sunsets are used in a more principled manner. This Note argues that sunset clauses in tax legislation can be made more efficient by limiting both the occasions in which sunsets are employed as well as the procedures used to implement them. First, sunsets should only be used in conjunction with certain kinds of tax incentives: The incentives should be simple, of limited duration, and provide diffuse rather than concentrated benefits. Second, sunsets should only be implemented through a limited set of congressional budgetary procedures: They should only be included as part of the reconciliation process for enacting fiscal legislation if the underlying bill increases rather than decreases revenue, and if Congress enacts and adheres to a revenue-neutral, pay-as-you-go set of budgetary rules. These changes, both substantive and procedural, will increase overall efficiency in the use of sunset provisions in tax legislation.

Counterterrorism and Checks and Balances: The Spanish and American Examples

Ari D. MacKinnon

Although the United States’ so-called “War on Terror” has entailed significant military action, it has also involved the augmentation of the executive’s law enforcement powers. The result has been the emergence of a distinct “counterterrorism” model of coercive government action, falling between the traditional models of war and criminal law enforcement. This Note seeks to place the U.S. counterterrorism model within a larger international context by comparing it with that of another Western democracy, Spain. The author contends that the U.S. model evinces less respect for customary checks and balances than does the Spanish. Nonetheless, the author questions whether the Spanish model’s greater relative commitment to checks and balances has in practice prevented government overreaching. The author concludes that both the Spanish executive and Parliament have overstepped the bounds of their constitutionally prescribed counterterrorism competences, despite the existence of checks and balances. In addition to suggesting that these excesses may be partially attributed to the institutional heritage of Francoist Spain, the author surmises that government overreaching may be endemic in any regime, such as the Spanish, that transparently vests special counterterrorism competences in the executive and legislative branches.

Understanding “Judicial Lockjaw”: The Debate over Extrajudicial Activity

Leslie B. Dubeck

Federal judges are expected to conduct themselves differently than their counterparts in the political branches. This Note considers the policy and historical reasons used to justify this different standard of conduct and concludes that these justifications are largely unsupported or overstated. These erroneous justifications obfuscate the debate over extrajudicial conduct and may result in a suboptimal level of extrajudicial activity.

A Child’s Expertise: Establishing Statutory Protection for Intersexed Children Who Reject Their Gender Assignment

Emily A. Bishop

Intersexed children are born with genitalia and/or reproductive organs that do not look like those of most biological males or females. Doctors and parents usually assign an intersexed child a gender at birth or during early childhood. Occasionally, an individual will reject his or her gender of assignment and will want to take on a different gender role. Some clinicians and intersex advocates instruct parents to accept an intersexed child’s expressions of gender identity and to support the child’s gender role change. There is a risk, however, that parents may resist or prevent a child’s gender transition due to their own discomfort with the idea or based on a physician’s recommendation. A statutory framework that allowed intersexed minors to complete a “social gender transition,” coupled with a provision equating parental interference with this transition with actionable neglect, would protect intersexed children’s autonomy and prevent the trauma that can result from a forced existence in a gender role with which a child does not identify. The proposed framework would likely survive a constitutional challenge by the parents of an intersexed child because the harm caused by the parental decision to interfere with a child’s gender expression removes such interference from the realm of constitutionally protected parental decisionmaking.