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Course Descriptions

Course Descriptions

Taxation (Fall 2017)

Course Description

An introduction to the basic legal principles and underlying policies of the federal personal income tax. The course is designed both to present the fundamentals of tax law and to provide a foundation for those students who wish to take advanced tax courses. The course emphasizes both a close reading of the complex statute and the tensions that then follow from decades of judge-made interpretative rules unique to the area.

Fall 2017 will mark the rollout of the 17th edition of the leading casebook in the field, this time with a new co-author. For the first time since joining USC, I therefore will be compelled not to criticize the casebook we use. I look forward to getting your reactions to it.

The income tax course should be considered even by students with no native interest in the subject, for several reasons. First, there is utility to gaining experience in reading complex statutory drafting – and there is no better example of that than the Internal Revenue Code. Second, the tension between the words of the Code and the efforts of judges to do justice, by their lights, is inherently interesting. Third, tax considerations are woven deeply into every commercial decision, and many personal ones. It is difficult to be a lawyer in private practice in any capacity without some familiarity with tax law modes of thought and basic rules. Fourth, the Internal Revenue Code is the principal income and wealth redistribution mechanism in the United States, as well as a vehicle for much hidden government spending; its consequences thus are important to the entire economy.

The course, or indeed the practice of tax law, requires no greater mathematical skills than those developed by the 9th grade.

Student participation is extremely important to the success of our time in the classroom. Because it should be viewed as part of every student’s commitment to a productive classroom environment, participation points are not awarded.  

Course Details

  • Unit Value: 4
  • Grading Options: Numerical or CR/D/F
  • Schedule: T/Th 4:00 pm - 5:50 pm
  • Room Number: Room 101
  • Exam: In-class, open-book exam; simple function calculator permitted
  • Writing Requirement: No
  • Skills Requirement: No
  • Participation: Expected but not graded