Federal and State Tax Laws: Poe v. Seaborn - A Contrarian View
Course Demo. No credit provided in demo mode.
Faculty: Leon Gabinet -
When the Supreme Court decided Poe v. Seaborn in 1930, it did not foresee the mischief its decision would cause in later years. Seaborn held that, under the community property law of the state of Washington, each spouse had a vested interest in one half of all community property, including income, notwithstanding the husband's right to control and manage the property. The IRS argued that it couldn't possibly be Congress' intent to include such a large example of horizontal inequity between those living in common-law States vs. community property States. The Trial Court found for Seaborn. The IRS appealed. The US Supreme Court affirmed the lower court?s decision.
This course will explore the ramifications of Poe v. Seaborn and ask if repealing Seaborn and all of the code sections that give favored treatment to taxpayers in community property states will make the tax code more equitable. The course will discuss Congress? attempts to remedy the geographical disparity of Seaborn over the years. The course will examine how the joint filing provisions created by Congress in 1948 ended up creating more problems, ie. the marriage penalty, innocent spouse issues, problems in division of marital assets in divorce, and estate issues. The course discusses how the California legislature extension of its community property law to cover Registered Domestic Partners (RDPs) by referencing the Seaborn case, allowed income splitting for California RDPs, who are not spouses under federal law. This again has produced a series of geographic disparities in tax treatment of same sex unions in common law and community property states. Moreover, the extension of the community property regime to non-married persons is itself a departure from the age-old understanding that community property is a marital property regime solely applicable to married persons. The course ends with a Question and Answer session, taking questions from the attending audience.