Washington Law Review


Professor Ginsburg compares the teaching of individual income taxation before and after the extensive statutory revisions of the 1980s. The pervasive question, what is income, remains the central inquiry in the basic tax course, he observes, and the great classifications, personal versus commercial and current versus capital, unavoidably persist. The development in tax law that has most significantly changed the way the subject is taught, he believes, is embodied in the recent enactment of a variety of Internal Revenue Code provisions which, while facially inconsistent in their approach to particular cases, have in common an appreciation of differences in present values. The generalized question that now dominates much of tax teaching, when is income, is explored in his paper, as in the tax course, through a series of hypothetical cases designed to demonstrate that what appear to be disparate problems in fact are variations on a single theme, and that the tax law's seemingly disparate resolutions often reach economically equivalent results.

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