Friday, December 05, 2008

End of the semester

I have just completed teaching my last Tax I class of the fall 2008 semester. I'm always ambivalent when this happens. Certainly, having more free time until the next semester is welcome; teaching has elements of being a chore and isn't necessarily the main reason one goes into this line of work. But a semester-long class is kind of a living thing that the professor & students share and that can be fun; you really get to know each other though just in this formalized setting. And I felt we had pretty good relations and some fun together plus a sense of shared enterprise. I enjoyed teaching this class, and the next time inevitably will be different; possibly not as good since these things inevitably vary each time around.

As a parting gesture various students brought in items of fruit on the last day. This referred in part to a couple of early twentieth century Supreme Court tax cases that (following Marvin Chirelstein) I mocked for their labored and unhelpful metaphors about "fruit and tree": Eisner v. Macomber, saying that only the fruit is income; and Lucas v. Earl, saying that the fruit can only be taxed to the tree on which it grew. Other references behind the gesture: someone brought in an apple earlier in the semester, and when I forgot it he brought in a persimmon the next time; also, I've mentioned my mania for the Union Square farmer's market when fresh fruit is in season. So the gesture was literarily rich; multiple layers of reference.

Anyway, here was my net haul: 4 bananas, a persimmon, a few lychees, a pomegranate, a kiwi, a pineapple, a mango, an orange, a tangerine, a Clementine, an Asian pear, a Comice pear, and a potato (perhaps because in French it's a "pomme de terre"?). Plus an NYU canvas bag so I can carry my loot home.

Luckily I do not plan to respond by asking them on the exam whether this haul is taxable income. Detached generosity? (I'd like to think so.) Might section 102(c) apply? (No, they aren't the employer.)

Final chapter of the class saga, other than the exam, is recruitment to the lifestyle. We tax profs are all alike. We are hoping people will be interested enough to take more classes in the subject, and perhaps to give more thought than they had expected to tax policy as a subject or tax practice as a career. I'd certainly be happy to see people from this class again over the next few semesters. On this angle, on verra.

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