Issues to Watch

The Annual Filing Season Program: A Brief Examination of AICPA v. IRS and the Resulting Regulations on Tax Return Preparers


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*Brenton Conrad

I.  Introduction

On August 14, 2018, the United States Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) Annual Filing Season Program, which was enacted to serve as a means of combatting the growing concerns involving fraudulent tax returns.  AICPA v. IRS, No. 16-5256, 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 22583 (D.C. Cir. Aug. 14, 2018).  This program seeks to incentivize unenrolled tax preparers (preparers not subject to any licensing requirement with the IRS) to voluntarily obtain a “Record of Completion.”   Id. at 3.  A Record of Completion grants these preparers a “limited practice right” in representing a taxpayer in the audit and tax return process and places their names on the IRS’s online directory of tax preparers.  Id. at 3, 4.  While on its face the IRS’s program may benefit taxpayers, the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) disagrees.  Then-AICPA President Barry C. Melancon made this clear when he stated, on behalf of the association and its constituents, “[w]e believe a voluntary program would create confusion regarding the relative proficiencies of the various types of preparers.”  Isaac M. O’Bannon, AICPA Says IRS Voluntary Preparer Regulation System Doesn’t Protect Taxpayers, CPA Practice Advisor (May 21, 2014), https://www.cpapracticeadvisor.com/news/11474865/aicpa-says-irs-voluntary-preparer-regulation-system-doesnt-protect-taxpayers.  Then-chair of the AICPA Tax Executive Committee Jeffery A. Porter said that “any voluntary regime constructed would still not address the problems with unethical and fraudulent tax return prepares.”  Id. (more…)

Issues to Watch

Study Showing Racial Bias in Death Penalty Sentencing Leads Washington State’s Highest Court to Rule Washington’s Death Penalty Statute Violated State’s Constitution


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*Ryan W. Fish

The Supreme Court of Washington recently ruled in State v. Gregory that the state’s death penalty was unconstitutional because it was imposed in “an arbitrary and racially biased manner.”  State v. Gregory, 427 P.3d 621, 621 (Wash. 2018).   This marks the fourth time that Washington has done so.  Id. at 626.  Washington is now one of twenty states which have abolished the death penalty.  Mark Berman, Washington Supreme Court Strikes Down State’s Death Penalty, Saying It Is ‘Arbitrary and Racially Biased, Wash. Post (Oct. 11, 2018), https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2018/10/11/washington-supreme-court-strikes-down-states-death-penalty-saying-it-is-arbitrary-and-racially-biased/. (more…)

Issues to Watch

How Future Generations are Suing the Federal Government for a Habitable Planet


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“The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” – Donald Trump*

** Joseph Rossi

In 2015, a group of twenty-one children filed an official complaint against the United States government, then-President Barack Obama, and several governmental agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  Juliana v. United States, 217 F.Supp.3d 1224, 1233 (D. Or. 2016).  In the complaint, these children alleged that the government had infringed on their rights by failing to ensure a habitable climate for their future, despite decades of knowledge of the risks posed by man-made climate change.  Complaint at 3-6, Juliana v. United States, 217 F.Supp.3d 1224 (D. Or. Aug. 12, 2015) (No. 6:15-cv-01517-TC).  In the history of the United States court system, the government has been sued for climate change close to 900 times, but these claims have been dismissed due to various reasons related to the plaintiffs’ standing or claim of injury.  See Katy Scott, Can ‘Climate Kids’ Take on Governments and Win?, Cable News Network (July 24, 2018, 10:51 PM), https://www.cnn.com/2018/07/24/health/youth-climate-march/index.html.  In 2016, however, Juliana v. United States became the first such case of private citizens suing the government to survive the government’s motion for dismissal.  See Juliana, 217 F.Supp.3d at 1262.  Juliana, which is currently being argued in front of the Ninth Circuit, has the potential to drastically change not only the course of environmental law, but the entire environmental policy of the United States regarding climate change.  Id. (more…)

Issues to Watch

Patients Can Try Experimental Treatments Before They Are Approved by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) . . . What Could Possibly Go Wrong?: Maryland’s Right to Try Law and the Potential for Federal Preemption.


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* Alana Glover

Establishing “Right to Try” legislation throughout the country has been a concept that proponents of the law have been working toward for years.  What Is Right To Try?, Right To Try, http://righttotry.org/about-right-to-try/, (last visited Nov. 8, 2018).  Many proponents of this legislation support the concept of creating alternative options for terminally ill patients who have exhausted government approved treatment options and cannot secure a position in a clinical trial.  See id.  As of today, forty-one states, and recently Congress, have passed Right to Try laws, which allow terminally ill patients to try an experimental drug or treatment that has only completed a Phase 1 trial of the Federal Drug Administration’s (FDA) multi-phased process.  Id.  Although, on its face, providing terminally ill patients with access to use an experimental drug at their choice seems ideal, there may also be many complications. (more…)

Issues to Watch

Educating the Next Generation: Is Education a Fundamental Right?


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* Jessica Rotondo

In the fall of 2018, 50.7 million children in the United States will be attending public schools.  Fast Facts: Back to School Statistics, Inst. Educ. Sci.: Nat’l Ctr. for Educ. Stat., https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=372 (last visited Nov. 8, 2018).  Experiences of public school students can vary widely as a result of the amount of funds and resources expended per student, depending on their geographic location.  See Stephen Q. Cornman et al., U.S. Dep’t Educ.: Nat’l Ctr. For Educ. Stat., Revenues and Expenditures for Public Elementary and Secondary Education: School Year 2014-15 (Fiscal Year 2015) 2 (2018), https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2018/2018301.pdf.  The average revenue spent per pupil in the United States during fiscal year 2015 was $12,903.  Id. at 2.  During that same year, the spending per pupil varied in each state, ranging from $7,858 in Idaho, to $27,810 in the District of Columbia.  Id. at 6.  Spending per pupil is also different in each school district within a state.  Id. at A-2.  Given this financial disparity, some public schools can provide a better education than others.  See id.  What level of financial support do we consider enough to prepare the next generation for their future?  And is a certain level of educational funding a fundamental right? (more…)