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Jeesoo Nam finds, and teaches, the fun in tax law
USC Gould School of Law

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

New Gould professor looks forward to helping students understand complex laws 
 
By Leslie Ridgeway
Prof. Jeesoo Nam looks forward to helping students understand complex laws 

The Internal Revenue code – tedious or interesting? Professor Jeesoo Nam leans toward the latter, and aims to demonstrate to his students the engaging and even amusing aspects of tax law.

For example, Nam, who comes to USC Gould this academic year from New York University, where he was a visiting professor of tax law, will introduce students in both of his classes this coming year to the unforgettable case of Blackman v. Commissioner (1987). A rocky marriage breaks up when the husband accuses his wife of cheating, then dumps her clothes on the kitchen stove and sets them on fire, which spreads to and destroys the entire house. The husband ran afoul of the IRS when he tried to claim a nearly $100,000 loss on his taxes.
 
“It’s an interesting theoretical and legal question,” says Nam, who will teach Taxation and a seminar on the philosophy of law. “Should Mr. Blackman be able to take a tax deduction given that his malicious acts caused the fire? What is the right approach from the legal perspective and the justice perspective?” 
 
Returning to LA to “fertile academic environment”
 
Teaching at USC Gould brings Nam back to Los Angeles, where he was a tax associate at Latham and Watkins for two years after he earned his JD at Yale Law School.
 
“I’m excited to be in this fertile academic environment, with top-notch faculty at the law school and USC’s philosophy department,” he says. “I’m looking forward to more opportunities for people like me doing interdisciplinary work in law and philosophy. I’ve also heard students are interested in studying tax law. One of the pleasures of teaching tax law is that it’s tremendously useful for lawyers to know.”
 
Becoming a professor is a long-time career goal for Nam, who finds helping students understand complex laws stimulating.
 
“It’s exciting to see students’ progress from not knowing about tax law, or how to read the Internal Revenue code, to picking up the materials and learning to approach them from an analytical perspective in one semester,” he says. 
 
Nam hopes to equip students to examine tax law from a base of traditional knowledge.
 
“One of the principal tasks of the introductory course, Taxation, is to give students the tools to think about the tax law and whether it promotes certain values that might be preferred,” he says. “I want them to think about tax law, in terms of reform, in terms of how it could be.”
 
Nam’s current research focuses on some less explored areas of tax law, including how to tax the financial consequences of wrongdoing, and how moral wrongdoing figures into the calculus of distributive justice. 

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