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August 02, 2021

Sion Bell

Blog Post

cryptocurrencyIRS

Good News for the IRS: The Economic Substance Doctrine Already Prevents Crypto Tax Avoidance

Much has been made of the ways that crypto investors have been able to skirt existing tax rules to reap massive financial gains tax free. The underlying premise is that because of loopholes in tax laws, crypto investors are able to legally avoid taxes — as opposed to illegal tax evasion — and that only by fixing our laws to close those loopholes can we ensure that crypto holders pay their taxes.

July 28, 2021

Sion Bell

Blog Post

Ethics in Government

Perdue’s Sweetheart Land Deal Demonstrates Need for Stronger Ethics Rules

Since the Trump administration, the Revolving Door Project has repeatedly brought attention to the importance of strong government ethics rules, including by ensuring that presidential nominees are free from corporate conflicts of interest and forthcoming about their financial ties. But while rules already exist that require nominees to disclose financial information, including assets and recent major purchases, a recent story by the Washington Post illustrates a lingering loophole in our ethics laws for Cabinet nominees. The story centers on Trump’s then-prospective nominee for Agriculture Secretary, Sonny Perdue, and a particularly fishy real estate deal.

July 27, 2021 | Washington Monthly

Sion Bell Timi Iwayemi

Op-Ed

cryptocurrencyFinancial RegulationFintechTax

How to Catch Bitcoin Tax Cheats

Crypto is a global phenomenon, and one with a rapidly growing capacity to upend tax administration worldwide. The U.S. has been slow to act to combat this threat, but clever use of extant unilateral and multilateral laws on information sharing and programs that capitalize on expertise and information outside government provide opportunities for much better protection against tax evasion. If Biden and his administration are committed to closing tax loopholes, they must use every tool available.

July 08, 2021 | The American Prospect

Sion Bell

Op-Ed

IRS

One Weird Trick to Force Billionaires to Pay Taxes

Last month, ProPublica, aided by a trove of tax information on the richest Americans delivered by an anonymous whistleblower, began a series of reports on the staggeringly low to nonexistent tax bills paid by specific billionaires and the tactics they use to achieve that end.

In its most recent release, ProPublica detailed PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel’s use of a Roth IRA, a specialized retirement account in which contributors pay taxes up front but not on distributions, to shelter billions in investment income gains. This involved questionable valuations and other strategies that are either explicitly or implicitly illegal.

June 09, 2021

Andrea Beaty Eleanor Eagan Nika Hajikhodaverdikhan Sion Bell

Blog Post

Administrative LawDepartment of Justice

The Trump Administration Made a Mockery of the Law. Why Hasn't Biden Tossed its Cases?

Donald Trump and his Department of Justice consistently made a mockery of the law throughout his four years in power. And while their laughable reasoning and indefensible positions were struck down at a historic rate, many cases were still waiting for Biden. The new administration tossed out a handful immediately but an alarming number remain, either in some form of pause or advancing forward with the Biden administration adopting Trump’s position.

April 27, 2021

Sion Bell

Blog Post

BankruptcyDepartment of Justice

Biden Must Fire and Replace the Bush-Era Head Bankruptcy Overseer

Since the passage of the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act (BAPCPA) of 2005, the bankruptcy process has been more onerous for poor debtors, who now must go through myriad additional hoops to prove their worthiness for financial relief. While many of the problems with our current bankruptcy system require legislative fixes, there is one thing that President Biden can do immediately to improve the system: fire and replace the Director of the Executive Office for US Trustees, Clifford J White, III.

April 16, 2021

Sion Bell

Blog Post

Independent AgenciesIRS

To Achieve Tax Justice, Biden Must Restore IRS Oversight Board

It is relatively well known, for example, that the Internal Revenue Service has long suffered from under-investments in its budget. Less appreciated, however, are independent facets within the IRS which, rather than being primarily burdened by budget constraints, have simply been forgotten. One such facet is the IRS Oversight Board (IRSOB), which is supposed to provide guidance to the president on the IRS Commissioner and develop long-term strategic plans for the agency. The Board has lacked the five members necessary for a quorum since 2015.

April 14, 2021 | The American Prospect

Henry Burke Sion Bell

Op-Ed

Government Capacity

Biden’s Budget Should Build Back Even Better

President Biden’s inaugural annual budget request, which encompasses only discretionary spending (about a third of the federal budget), is a $1.52 trillion proposed investment in the federal government. The rest of the request, to be released later this spring, will include tax reforms and mandatory spending (which includes programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid) and provide a fuller picture of the administration’s priorities.

April 08, 2021

Sion Bell

Blog Post

CoronavirusDepartment of CommerceIntellectual Property

Secretary Raimondo Must Act Quickly to Support the TRIPS Waiver

As the Biden administration continues to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo holds one of the most critical but under-appreciated roles for ensuring vaccine distribution. Indeed, the Commerce Secretary is a key player determining more generally whether America and the planet prioritize Big Pharma’s wealth or public health.

February 17, 2021

Sion Bell

Blog Post

Department of JusticeIndependent Agencies

Neglected US Parole Commission a Crucial Component of Criminal Justice Reform

President Biden has committed his administration to countering economic and racial injustice. One area in which such injustices are notoriously and particularly prevalent is the criminal justice system, a reality all too clear for the millions of currently incarcerated Americans. Numerous studies have demonstrated the effects of systemic racism and classism on likelihood of arrest and imprisonment, but such discrimination also extends to the end of one’s sentence when an individual has the opportunity to begin their reintegration into society.

February 16, 2021

Dorothy Slater Sion Bell

Blog Post

2020 Election/TransitionClimateFinancial Regulation

How A Little-Known Treasury Position Could Move Mountains For Climate Action

President Biden has promised to take a “whole-of-government” approach to tackling the climate crisis, and so far his appointees appear to be following suit. The National Climate Task Force met for the first time in a crowded zoom room last week, and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and International Climate Envoy John Kerry met earlier this month to discuss their “climate finance plan” to shift capital towards investments in line with a low-carbon economy.

February 04, 2021

Sion Bell Miranda Litwak

Blog Post

2020 Election/TransitionFinancial Regulation

Biden's Newest Treasury Tax Appointees Delight and Disappoint

Some mixed news for progressive tax enthusiasts: Joe Biden’s administration has chosen both a committed progressive tax advocate and a Republican career expert in corporate tax avoidance for its first two appointees to the Treasury’s Office of Tax Policy. We’re now in a strange situation where experts who testified on opposite sides of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will now serve shoulder-to-shoulder.

January 21, 2021

Ella Fanger Sion Bell

Blog Post

2020 Election/TransitionEthics in GovernmentGovernment Capacity

To Build Back Better, Biden Must Fix Government

Yesterday, Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th President of the United States. President Biden has promised to build back a better America, but he faces a steep climb to reach this lofty goal. The nation is still reeling from an ongoing pandemic and recession, and the government has had to cope with massive shocks to the civil service, morale, and its basic functions during the Trump administration. To make good on his promise, Biden will need to undo the damage from Trump and decades of right-wing actions to undermine governance.