22 September 2017

The Little Known Tort Of Harming Others With A False Tax Return

It isn't every day that I discover a new tort after having practiced law for more than twenty years. So, it bears mentioning. I've been aware of the underlying improper tactic for a long time, but didn't know about the statutory remedy for it until now. The basic concern is that you can cause a tax mess for someone if you create a Form 1099 or K-1 which you issue to someone to them saying that they have earned income when they haven't, and there are very few limits on creating a 1099 or K-1 in the first place. 
[Internal Revenue Code] Section 7434(a) provides: “If any person willfully files a fraudulent information return with respect to payments purported to be made to any other person, such other person may bring a civil action for damages against the person so filing such a return.” . . . 
[There is a] surprisingly large amount of case law on this section to address a variety of common issues that arise in these lawsuits. For a good overview of these issues see Stephen's useful blog post here.
From TaxProf Blog.

20 September 2017

The Marshmallow Test Results Have Improved Over Time

Children, on average, are significantly better at delaying gratification in the "marshmallow test" than they were 50 years ago. The abstract of the new paper is as follows:
Have children gotten worse at their ability to delay gratification? We analyze the past 50 years of data on the Marshmallow test of delay of gratification. Children must wait to get two preferred treats; if they cannot wait, they only get one. Duration for how long children can delay has been associated with a host of positive life outcomes. Here we provide the first evidence on whether children’s ability to delay gratification has truly been decreasing, as theories of technology or a culture of instant gratification have predicted. Before analyzing the data, we polled 260 experts in cognitive development, 84% of who believed kids these days are getting worse or are no different. Contrary to this prediction, kids these days are better able to delay gratification than they were in the past, corresponding to a fifth of a standard deviation increase in ability per decade. 
The magnitude of the change is comparable to that of the Flynn effect that was observed in the same time period, i.e. a secular increase in average IQ over time. As the introduction in the body text of the paper explains:
All cognitive abilities have undergone secular increases over the past century (Flynn, 1984). The increase generally runs between 2.3–3 points of overall intelligence per decade (around 1/5 of a standard deviation; Trahan et al., 2014).
The reason for this not known and this empirical result contradicts conventional wisdom in the field.

Some examinations of the Flynn effect have pointed to the improvements mostly coming from a reduction in the number of people scoring at the low end of IQ tests, rather than an improvement at the top, suggesting that a decline in developmental disabilities, perhaps due to better pre-natal care and reduced pollution (e.g. from lead exposure) or improved nutrition, could be a factor, which might also apply to the Marshmallow test improvements over time, even if the Marshmallow test implicates cognitive abilities orthogonal to IQ that involve different brain processes.

Notably, another mention of the related concept of "attention" has remained constant over time in a study comparing results in 1983 to those in 2012, despite increasing diagnosis of attention deficit disorder conditions.