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How Technology Is Shaping Tax Jobs of the Future

David D. Stewart: Welcome to the podcast. I'm David Stewart, editor in chief of Tax Notes Today International. This week: tax jobs of the future, today.

Technology is an ever increasingly important aspect of the professional world and the tax field is no exception. We've previously looked at how technology is affecting tax educators, which we'll link to in the show notes. But today we're discussing how technology is changing the tax jobs of today and what kind of impact it could have on the tax jobs of the future.

Here to share his insights on this is Benjamin Alarie, professor at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law and co-founder and CEO of Blue J Legal. Ben, welcome to the podcast.

Benjamin Alarie: Thanks, David. It's a pleasure to be here.

David D. Stewart: Why don't you start off with tell me a bit about yourself and your background in tax.

Benjamin Alarie: Sure. Well I've been a tax professor at the University of Toronto since 2004. Before that, I studied economics, finance, philosophy, as an undergraduate, completed my law degree at the University of Toronto. I did a graduate degree in economics with my law degree, and then completed graduate studies in law at Yale Law School before doing a judicial clerkship and ultimately becoming a professor. It was while I was a law student that I totally fell in love with tax. I had some exposure to tax and public finance as an undergraduate. But it was really as a law student that I got totally fascinated by tax and really started to understand its social, political, economic importance, and really just fell in love with a lot of the philosophical problems, the policy problems, and really wanted to make a career out of tax. And so, I've been at this for quite a while.

Over the past several years, I have made a bit of an addition to my academic career, which is I started Blue J and started to leverage technology in the tax base. So, to compliment my interest in tax, really leveraging technology now to improve our understanding of tax and ultimately the goal is law more generally.

David D. Stewart: Yeah, I always find it fascinating. I love asking people how they wound up in tax. And the story always comes out roughly the same. It's always sometime during law school. Oftentimes there's some professor that just was super interesting and that's how people wound up here.

Benjamin Alarie: Yeah. In my case, it was precisely that. So, I'd had some earlier exposure to public finance and I took accounting courses as an undergraduate and it didn't light the spark for me. But what really lit the spark for me was taking income tax law with professor David Duff at the University of Toronto. Professor Duff has since moved to the University of British Columbia, but he really kindled my interest in tax, and that was fostered as well when I did my graduate studies in law at Yale. And I took income tax law with Michael Graetz and took additional tax courses and really just fell into it head over heels.

David D. Stewart: So, this Blue J Legal firm and you're talking about use of technology in tax research. First of all, tell me how this got started and what is the technology allowing you to do?

Benjamin Alarie: Sure. I think there's a very long origin story, which probably we're not going to accommodate in this podcast, but the very quick version of the story is that it came out of my role as associate dean at the law school, at the University of Toronto. And we were doing a curricular reform of the JD program. So, looking quite deeply at, "OK, how are we delivering a law school education now? What are the appropriate building blocks? How should we approach this?" And as co-chair of this committee, this curriculum reform committee, I started to think about what does legal education look like 10 years from now, 20 years from now, 30 years from now? Because we're not going to want to build a curriculum just for today. We're going to want to build a curriculum that stands the test of time. And it got me thinking about, "Well, where is this going?"

And I felt like I was struck by lightning because it became obvious to me that technology is going to make major, major changes possible. And in my view, at the time, inevitable to how we understand law, how law operates. It's going to have wide reaching implications for legal education, for the judiciary, for the legal profession. And with respect to my specific domain expertise in tax law, I saw immediately that it's going to change how tax law is practiced and how tax is researched. And then I started to think, "Well, what does this mean for me personally?" Because here I am at the law school and my favorite instrument in class is a piece of chalk. And my favorite writing technology is a chalkboard. And I suppose I could stay at the law school, chalk in hand for the next two decades or three decades. See my career through to the normal end of an academic career and watch as, what I regard is totally inevitable, changes happen to tax and happen to law more generally.

Or, it struck me, I could become part of the movement to use technology, incorporate technology, and improve the tax system, improve research about taxes, improve the legal system. And I got to thinking this would be a very wise thing for me to do with the following questions. Right? If not me and my colleagues, then who? And if not now, then when? And who else is doing this?

And it struck me that it wasn't going to be folks who are in elite tax practices who are going to take a step back and figure out, "OK, how do we build something using technology that's going to be helpful in tax?" Because they're extraordinarily busy. They have clients who are quite demanding. They have great practices and they're probably fully engaged with that. And probably more than fully engaged, probably working 20 or 30 percent more than they would want to. They don't have time to pursue this.

And I also thought, it's not going to be a new graduate out of a computer science department or someone who's just learning software development who's going to understand enough about the tax system, understand enough about the legal system to be able to leverage technology to improve things. So, you need enough domain expertise in law, and in tax law specifically, to understand the nature of problems. And then you need to have enough facility with quantitative method statistics to be able to understand, "OK, what can we use technology for?" And a lot of machine learning and AI technology, it amounts to math. Right? We're talking about math, we're talking about quantitative methods applied to certain kinds of problems. And yes, there are new algorithms and new techniques for applying that, but really it boils down to quantitative methods to gain insights into how things operate.

In tax, it's really applying it in a nontraditional kind of domain. And so my thinking was, "Well, this is going to happen. I can't think of very many people who are in this intersection of these two sets of people who understand enough about tax and law and understand enough about statistics and technology and have time or space in their lives to pursue this." And so, I started to chat with some of my colleagues at the law school, Anthony Niblett, Albert Yoon, and others about this idea. And they're both brilliant individuals. And they both have law degrees and PhDs in quantitative disciplines that are adjacent to law. And so, they got very excited about the idea too, and that led to the creation of Blue J. And we started in 2015. We're now several years into this journey and it's already really gratifying and exciting to see what technology is able to do in tax law.

David D. Stewart: What do you see as being the role of technology in the tax field? What areas can it help?

Benjamin Alarie: I think everyone can agree about a few things in tax. I think one is it's extraordinarily deep in the sense that tax touches virtually everything in society that we see. So, tax is very personal. It affects families. It affects professions, occupations, livelihoods, of course, right, personal income taxes. It affects business quite deeply, so it affects corporations. It affects the nonprofit sector, foundations, charities. It's kind of omnipresent. And tax by its nature must kind of have application to all these different areas. So, it's very deep and it kind of— it covers a lot of territory. It's also very complex. So, if you've contended with a physical copy of the Internal Revenue Code, you know it's really hefty. And usually the physical copies are selected provisions from the Internal Revenue Code. You don't get the full version unless you really want to splurge on the full version.

And then once you add the regs, we're talking about many volumes to represent all of tax law. So, there's no question it's very deep and it's very complex. And there are a bunch of interactions among the different parts. I think technology has a role to play in helping us to contend with this complexity, to navigate the complexity, and to get insights to apply the tax law to real problems, real situations that we're contending with in providing professional advice. Whether we're CPAs or lawyers. Or maybe we're in house in a tax department at a large corporation. We're all contending with this serious complexity and the depth of tax law and trying to make sure that we're not missing something in putting together the advice that we're putting into place. And we don't want to miss something because there are serious pitfalls. If you miss something, it could be quite damaging for the tax position of the person or the corporation, the business that you are advising.

So, you don't want to do that. And also, ideally, you want to optimize, so you want to make sure that you're not paying more than your fair share of tax, and you're paying what's legally required, but not necessarily more than what's legally required. And so, we are all kind of caught in the tax profession between these two things of wanting to be careful, wanting to make sure that we don't inadvertently run into any pitfalls and put our— the recipient of our advice into a disadvantageous position. But we also really want to pay our freight. Right? We want to pay for ourselves, ideally, with some tax savings and some tax optimizations that otherwise wouldn't have been obvious without our assistance. And so, it's a tricky position. And it's a tricky position because tax is so complex, and so technology can help us navigate that complexity.

And I think maybe I'll just— I'll give you a very concrete example to make this more attractable. And that is, often when you do tax research in the traditional way, you have in mind a certain messy situation in the world, and you understand it because you spent some time talking to the client or you just by dent of your position, you understand the situation that the business that you're advising is in. And you then go into secondary sources. Maybe you start with a search engine, and you search for particular terms and you find a blog post, you find, maybe you find reference to some recent revenue rulings, or you find reference to a court case or some commentary by a law firm or a CPA firm. And you can read around the area and you kind of get your bearings.

And then you go and you read the relevant code provisions. You read the relevant regs. That whole time, you have to keep in your mind the situation you're constantly translating and trying to apply that information to the party that you're advising, their situation. And it's a lot of work. And there's going to be fidelity loss in that translation as you're applying it to your situation. Using new technology, you can invert that process. So, what you can do is do a lot of work in finding or figuring out what precisely is the nature of the problem that I need to solve here. Using Blue J's system, you find the problem, the module that corresponds to the problem that you have, and the system will ask you questions about the situation. It will elicit from you, the information necessary to get to a good answer, and a really strong starting point for additional research on that situation.

And so, it kind of flips it on its head a little bit. So the system's asking you for the information, and then it will take, all the cases, all the rulings, all of the source information available in tax law, apply it to the facts as you've stipulated them to the system, and advise you on the basis of the scenario that you're presenting to Blue J, this is the likely outcome. And it'll provide an explanation in plain language. It generates a short kind of memo about why that's the predicted outcome. It'll provide you with the leading cases that are similar to the scenario as you've presented it to the system. And you can go and then work through those cases, understand what's similar or not. And it just opens up a different way of thinking about tax research that doesn't put all of the weight on you. It puts the weight on the system and then allows you to focus on going deeper, where there are parts that you should go deeper into. And so, it's all about using technology to really make tax research less effortful and more effective.

David D. Stewart: Now, do you see that the tax field as a whole becoming more tech heavy and less analog?

Benjamin Alarie: Again, I think this is completely inevitable. I think we see it throughout our lives. Right? So, we're recording this podcast right now. Twenty years ago, there weren't podcasts. There were radio shows, yeah, sure, you could get on radio show, but podcasts are a relatively new thing. I think 20 years from now, we'll look back on where tax is now and we'll say, "Wow, that was remarkably antiquated. I kind of am amazed how tax professionals in 2021 got through their day. How did they actually cope with all the complexity? And how did they have any confidence that the advice that they were giving was right? And gosh, they must have been really nervous about giving advice without having these, the double checks provided by advanced software. Like how did people actually do this?"

And David, you and I will be the old hands at that point in 20 years from now in 2041, and we'll say, "Well, you know, what people used to do is they used to go down the hall and find the smartest tax person in the line of offices. That, and yes we used to go into offices, and you would go in and you'd have a conversation with another tax professional at your firm. You'd have a conversation about it and you'd describe the situation, and they would reflect on it, ask you some probing questions, and then they would say, 'Yeah, I think that's right' or, 'No, I think you're missing this. Or you should look into this other issue.' And you would do that two or three times with two or three very smart people, and you would end up getting reasonably comfortable with the position, and then you'd advise the client on that basis."

And I suspect people in the future will marvel at that and say, "That was the state of the art way that you provided tax advice?" And you'll say, "Well, I wasn't. I mean, we also, we read the law, of course, and we did that stuff and we engaged in our own individual statutory interpretation. And we parsed the language and we were very careful with it." But I think people will be completely amazed 20 years from now about the state of play with respect to giving tax advice now. And what will be amazing is that we're not leveraging really systematically advanced software in double checking or verifying or doing a systematic synthesis of all of the relevant tax law to just kind of do an integrity check about the advice that we're giving. Instead, we're relying on sometimes really small groups, sometimes individuals who are reading the tax law and then saying, "Well, based on my reading, I think this is okay," or, "Based on my reading, I think this is a big problem. And so, we should be doing X, Y, and Z to address that problem."

And I think it'll kind of be like how I struggled to imagine what life would've been like 150 years ago before the widespread electrification of North America. And if I didn't have the electrical grid, and I couldn't rely on a lot of electrical appliances, and never mind information technology, I'm kind of amazed how folks would've muddled along in 1870 without widespread electrification. It's really kind of impressive to me. And I'm curious about, how did that actually work? I think as we see technology improve exponentially over time, we see a compression in the length of time, in calendar time, that it takes to see really amazing progress. And so I think the 20 years between now and 2041 are going to see the same magnitude, possibly more, in terms of technological change that we've seen between 1870 and now.

David D. Stewart: Now, as a professor, you are educating the next generation of tax professionals. So, there's a workforce coming into what could become a more tech-centered profession. So, what would your advice be to them to prepare for these jobs? And at the same time, many of our listeners are already in this field. What would be your advice to them to stay up to date and be prepared as this transition is happening?

Benjamin Alarie: I'm going to say two things. One is, for those who are already in the tax profession, I think the prescription is a pretty natural one, which is to stay abreast of new technology and adopt the new technology as it becomes available to you. I think this is the way to stay smart and to stay at the top of your game. Technology is enabling for professionals. And if you're already an expert, you've already done the hard work of building these mental models of how tax works. You understand a ton of stuff. You have huge advantages when it comes to adopting the technology to get the work done, because you understand how things work now. So, you have those preexisting schema that you can plug into the technology, and that'll make you— it'll give you an unfair advantage in adopting this new technology, in that you're just familiar with a lot of the underlying techniques.

You're familiar with the problems of your clients. You know how to interact with your clients. Those are major, major advantages. So, the way to stay relevant is to adopt the new technology that is going to improve certain slices of the work that you do. And that's going to maintain your relevance and really maintain happy clients, robust business and that sort of thing. So, that's for the folks who are already in the tax industry, are already experts. I think that's relatively clear and straightforward advice. I think it's somewhat more challenging when you think about, "OK, so if I'm entering the profession now, maybe I don't have those well-honed instincts for the kinds of tax problems that my clients are going to be confronting. Maybe I'm not a tax expert yet. I'm not a tech expert yet. And everything feels very inchoate and uncertain, and I don't know where I should go."

As I hear you ask the question, I'm reminded of this idea of talent stacking or, it's sometimes called, I think, skill stacking. That I think I first heard from a guy named Scott Adams who is the creator of the Dilbert cartoon. And I found this very interesting. It goes something like this. Scott says that there are different ways to be extraordinary in your career. One way to be extraordinary in your career is to just invest in one thing and become the absolute best in the world at that one thing. And then you'll be very successful kind of like automatically, because you are like the winner. You're like the gold medalist at this thing that you are, you've like really dedicated yourself to becoming the number one person in. That's a possible path to go and just say, "I'm just going to become the very best tax person in the entire world. And I'm just going to dedicate myself to honing that skill." That's one way to do it.

But this idea of talent stacking is, well, you could do that, that's just extremely difficult to become the very best one person in a particular precise area. The other thing you can do is stack a number of competencies on each other and become the very best person who understands taxation and then understands technology. And maybe within technology, maybe it's data science or maybe it's software development, or maybe it's something else. Maybe it's understanding data pipelines and how data pipelines can feed into automated systems. But the idea here is whatever it is, maybe it's public speaking, maybe it's something else, but the idea is, if you can become in the top 25 percent of say tax law, or tax for CPAs, tax accounting and become top 25 percent in data science, and then you combine those two skills together, there is enormous opportunity for you.

And then, if you add subsequent skills that you're going to be better than average in, you really start to develop a niche for yourself in which you are extraordinary. There will be very few people in that overlap. And that's an exciting place to be, because if you look at where the numbers are projected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics for the coming decade in terms of job creation, what you'll see is that professional scientific and technical careers are set to grow at a very high rate. Hundreds of thousands of jobs are going to be added in those fields. I think it's the second biggest category. So, that's the category in which tax lawyers would appear, CPAs would appear in those professional scientific and technical services careers. There's a ton of growth in that area. The third biggest growth area is in technology. So, the tech industry is going to grow exceptionally strongly as well over the course of the next decade.

Number one is healthcare. We're not going to touch healthcare in our conversation. But what this suggests to me is if you can become extremely adept at tax law, and by extremely adept I don't mean that the one unique person who is the very best at some aspect of tax advice, but instead, if you can get to be above average and clearly above average in providing tax advice and you can become, not the best in the world at algorithms, but in the top quartile at algorithms and data science, there's a huge potential there. Because we're going to see that overlap in that venn diagram between providing tax advice and using automated technologies to improve that advice, accelerate that advice, give that advice superpowers. That's going to be a major growth area in the coming decades. And so I said, this was the second piece of advice, and it's difficult for those folks who are feeling kind of nervous about the future.

I'm actually hugely optimistic because there are a bunch of structural reasons why this isn't going anywhere. So, you probably heard this aphorism, I think that usually gets attributed to Benjamin Franklin, that two things are certain: death and taxes. Taxes are how we finance government. Government is not going anywhere. Taxes are inevitable. And taxes are just going to become more, and more and more complex. Tax complexity kind of follows in lockstep with technological developments. As technology improves, it permits more tax complexity and tax complexity is just better specified tax law. So, there are a bunch of social and economic and political factors that continue to conspire to make tax more complex. And then technology is what enables that complexity to go ever further ahead and become more and more complex. So, those two things together, this is like the perfect area to start building a career and building competencies in tax and technology. There's so many reasons to think that this is— this might be among the very best places to start building a career.

David D. Stewart: Do you see any other hiring trends out there that tax professionals in whatever stage they are should be on the lookout for?

Benjamin Alarie: Gosh. I think one of the things that is a new kind of place for tax people to find a career is in technology firms themselves. And not in technology firms as part of the tax department, necessarily. I'm talking about technology firms that are like Blue J, that are hiring tax professionals to come in and help build some of these systems that are going to improve tax advice and tax research in the future. So, when I think about this, I usually think about the consumers of tax technology and the producers of tax technology. The consumer side is where a lot of us just naturally gravitate in our thinking because we think, "Oh, OK, what about the law firm? Or what about the CPA firm that I'm going to be working at. Or if I'm working in a big business, what about the tax department? What are the tools that we're going to be using in doing our work in the future? And how's that going to affect my job in that consumer of tax technology kind of role?"

But there's this whole new set of roles, producers of tax technology that is an important growth industry. So, at Blue J, we're expecting to double our head count in tax researchers. So, these are CPAs, tax lawyers, year-over-year for the next several years. Now we've done that for the past several years. The thing about doubling year-over-year is that eventually the numbers start to become really material and quite large. At some point this'll taper off, but Blue J is not alone. There are other technology companies working in tax and technology that are equally hiring folks who have tax understanding, can do the tax research, really understand what those who are providing tax advice need in terms of resources to help them provide the very best advice.

There's a huge growth area among technology firms that are looking for tax professionals, not simply to provide tax advice to that tech company, but also to build the tools that other tax professionals are going to use in providing their advice. So, I have a front row seat for this and I'm interviewing people all the time. This is like a nonstop thing for me. Almost every day I'm interviewing tax lawyers and explaining what life at a technology firm would be like for these tax lawyers, for these CPAs who are interested in tax and technology as a producer of these solutions. It's a very different kind of role. And as the industry develops, there are going to be more and more of these roles, and they're going to become more and more specialized on the producer side. Just as we see a ton of specialization on the consumer side of tax technology. As you know, tax folks are often really specialized in what they really know well, and they go deeply in particular subsets of tax.

I guess the other thing that, just to complete the thought, would be "OK, Ben, but how do you think about government? How do you think about tax administration? So, what's going to happen to tax administration? Is that a growth area for tax professionals to think about?" I think it absolutely is. And not because the government is going to be necessarily a big producer of tax technology. I think there are elements in government that think that they will be. They'll be modest producers of tax technology. I think they're much more likely to be consumers, advanced consumers of tax technology, help shape how tax technology gets developed, work hand in glove with private sector firms to develop this technology, simply because private firms can move much more quickly and more nimbly in producing the technology and the infrastructure that's going to be supportive of modern tax administration.

So, no question governments are going to be huge consumers. They'll also be producers to some extent. Probably, especially with certain sensitive areas relating to enforcement and criminal investigations. And a lot of that stuff is likely to be quite deftly dealt with in-house by governments. But the interesting thing is with technology, governments can become much more effective at leveraging human resources to implement and administer tax systems. Because you can have someone who's serving as a tax auditor cover a lot more territory, a lot more intelligently leveraging technology, focusing on those pockets where there's likely to be the biggest sorts of issues. And then spotting those issues very quickly and kicking off that process of investigating and clearing, or following up with taxpayers that may or may not be compliant. And so, if you can improve the productivity of a particular human leveraging technology, that often means that you're going to hire more humans, because the humans are more valuable because they're complimented by that technology. At least to a point. If it goes too far, then of course it's bad luck for humans.

So, there's a bit of an optimization process here. But I think right now, technology is very underutilized. We're talking about not really making humans as productive as they possibly could be in tax administration. There's a lot of low hanging fruit for the government to leverage technology, to improve tax administration. I'm not picking on any state level government or federal government here. I think around the world, this is a fair characterization of tax administration. There have been lots of improvements. Things are definitely better than they were 20 years ago. But I think 20 years from now, it's going to be impressive what governments are able to do leveraging technology. And so, that's also a huge growth area for folks who are looking for tax careers. Look for tax careers in government. Those are going to be terrific jobs.

David D. Stewart: You've alluded a couple times to what you see as this transition over the next 20 years. So, predicting, what do you see the landscape, the tax landscape, the hiring landscape, what do you think it's going to look like in 2041?

Benjamin Alarie: Oh, Dave, this is a really challenging question. Again, there's this quote, it gets attributed to different people. Sometimes it's Yogi Berra, sometimes it's Niels Bohr, the famous Nobel prize winning physicist, but, it's difficult to make predictions, especially about the future. 2041 is very far in the future, as far as I can tell. In fact, I've just completed a draft manuscript for an academic book that's coming out with the University of Toronto Press, probably in the first half of 2022, I would say. The book is tentatively titled, "The Legal Singularity," where my co-author Abdi Aidid and I kind of turn our minds to what's likely to happen for law going forward? And not necessarily pinned to 20 years from now, but kind of saying, "OK, given where we are now, what's likely to happen in the next, I don't know, 20 years maybe, but 50 years, 100 years to the legal system?"

And we predict a general reduction overall in legal uncertainty, a profound increase in the level of specificity of the law. So, it just becomes much more specified. Right now, one of the challenges that legislators have, that judges have is that the law is relatively sparse I would say. We don't— we leverage case law, we leverage precedent, we leverage statutes, we leverage regulations, but there are tons of gaps in the law. This is a theme that every first year law student encounters in contracts class, for example. Right? So, you've got a contract between two parties. It sets out the mutually supporting promises and the consideration, but there are tons of things that are inevitably left unsaid in a contract. And so, this is the problem of incomplete contracts in the domain of private law and between two parties who are trying to come up with a bargain and trying to put into writing what the terms of the agreement are.

The challenge in contract law, of course, is things happen, unexpected things happen, and then the parties need to figure out, "OK, well, we didn't say anything explicitly about what happened, so now what happens? Is the whole deal off? Is it one party's problem? Is it the other party's problem? Do they bear, kind of the problems equally? What does it mean if one party is frustrated from performing because a meteor struck their facility and they just can't produce the widget that they were supposed to deliver, whose problem is that? Is that the promisors or is it the promisees' challenge that the widget factory has been destroyed?" And a lot of contracts just will not talk about what happens if a meteor strikes the facility. It's not going to talk about it. So, this is the problem, that's a microcosm of the problem writ large in law.

We don't have really well specified laws across all the things that can potentially happen. It's definitely better. It's deeper and richer than it used to be. But it's far from complete law. We just don't have complete law. And so, I think generally in the legal system, we're going to see a vast reduction in legal uncertainty because these gaps are going to be filled in intelligently by systems that are able to anticipate what our legal system would like to do based on certain principles in those circumstances that we haven't explicitly upfront specified an outcome for. Now in tax, what does that mean? I think what it means in tax is that there's going to be a continuation of this arms race between taxpayers, who are trying to avoid taxes, and by governments who are trying to protect the tax space and both are going to be leveraging technology to improve their abilities.

First, the private sector is going to be probably a few steps ahead of the government in leveraging technology to avoid tax. So, this is where the systems by 2041 are likely to go. They're probably going to be extremely adept at finding wrinkles in tax law, as it's promulgated, and coming up with optimal strategies to avoid tax based on the law, as it's written, as it stands. Governments are going to be leveraging similar technologies to come up with patches to the tax law, to counteract those new tax avoidance strategies that those tax-optimizing bots are coming up with on the private side and implementing algorithmically patches to the tax law. And it doesn't take a ton of imagination to see that when both sides are leveraging technology in this arms race, it's going to move in the direction of completing tax laws. So, there will be less uncertainty in tax law.

Things will tend to be pretty well understood. You'll know what the tax consequences are. There'll be a ton of pressure on unfair tax laws. So, unfair tax laws will tend to get amended quickly. There'll be political pressure martialed to those combat unfair tax laws. There's going to be sophisticated policy arguments about what makes for an optimal tax system. So, I don't know if 2041 is the right year, but I think this thought experiment, this intuition does tend to push in the direction of having much better specificity in tax law. And then, a lot of tax work, tax professionals, will be involved in operating this system because the system is not going to operate autonomously. There's a lot of engineering work that needs to go into building these tax optimization engines, whether you're trying to protect the tax space, or you're trying to minimize the amount of tax that has to be paid.

This is a really challenging optimization problem and the underlying technologies, social realities are going to be changing all the time. And so, there's going to be a major industry of folks who are operating on this giant system, and this is just in tax. Right? But there'll be similar systems I would argue or be part of a much larger system where the legal system is going to be basically fed and maintained and nurtured and brought along and judges will play a role and legal professionals are going to play a role. Politicians are going to play a role, legislators, policy makers, philosophers. This is going to be a very active space. It'll be different than what we see now. And I think it'll be disquieting. I think a lot of my colleagues at the law school would be pretty disquieted to hear me talk in this way, but I think I'd explain to them, "Look, it's not that much different. A lot of what we do as legal academics is critique, criticize, find fault with Supreme Court judgments. Find fault with new legislation. Criticize how discretionary powers are being used by whether it's the police or by regulatory agencies and others. We're already kind of the gadflies of the legal system. I just think this is going to become something that is super charged with technology."

David D. Stewart: Well, it sounds like we have some interesting decades ahead. Ben, this has been a great conversation. Thank you for being here.

Benjamin Alarie: Thanks for having me, Dave. It's been a real pleasure.

David D. Stewart: And now, coming attractions. Each week, we highlight new and interesting commentary in our magazines. Joining me now is Acquisitions and Engagement Editor in Chief Paige Jones. Paige, what will you have for us?

Paige Jones: Thanks, Dave. In Tax Notes Federal, Jeffrey Gould contends that the Build Better Act's amendment of the foreign tax credit provisions would impose double taxation on U.S. citizens who are resident in treaty countries. Frank Colella examines the Crispino decision and argues that it all but seals the validity of regulations regarding the common law mailbox rule. In Tax Notes State, three KPMG practitioners examine the application of section 304(c) to public mergers and acquisitions transactions. Kathleen Quinn and Arthur Rosen explain that a recent New York ruling reflects a larger trend of taxpayers successfully challenging taxes that the state has attempted to impose on sales of services using software. In Tax Notes International, Kathy Nicolaou-Manias and Yuchen Wu compare representative best practices regarding beneficial ownership and draw policy implications from those best practices. Jeff Ferry and David Morse examine the advantages and disadvantages of pillar 1’s proposed tax reforms for the digital economy. And finally, in Featured Analysis, Marie Sapirie highlights Democratic lawmakers and coalitions that have been influential in shaping the budget reconciliation legislation still being considered in Congress as 2021 draws to a close.

David D. Stewart: That's it for this week. You can follow me online @TaxStew, that's S-T-E-W. And be sure to follow @TaxNotes for all things tax. If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions for a future episode, you can email us at And as always, if you like what we're doing here, please leave a rating or review wherever you download this podcast. We'll be back next week with another episode of Tax Notes Talk.

Tax Analysts Inc. does not provide tax advice or tax preparation services. The information you have seen and heard today represents the views of the presenters, which may not be the same as those of Tax Analysts Inc. It may include information obtained from third parties, and Tax Analysts Inc. makes no warranties or representations of any kind, and is not responsible for any inaccuracies. Nothing in the podcast constitutes legal, accounting, or tax advice. The tax laws change frequently, and neither Tax Analysts Inc. nor the presenters, can guarantee that any information seen or heard is accurate. Also, due to changing tax laws, any information broadcast or downloaded after its original air date may no longer represent the current views of the presenters. If you have any specific questions about any legal or tax matter, you should always consult with your attorney or tax professional.

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