"Nota Bene" means "note this well" or "take particular notice." We at the O'Quinn Law Library will be posting tips on legal research techniques and resources, developments in the world of legal information, happenings at the Law Library, and legal news reports that deserve your particular attention. We look forward to sharing our thoughts and findings and to hearing from you.
N.B: Make a note to visit "Nota Bene" regularly.

-Spencer L. Simons, Director, O'Quinn Law Library and Associate Professor of Law


Friday, May 22, 2015

U.S. Treasury Department Proposes Changes to the U.S. Model Income Tax Treaty

This week, the U.S. Treasury Department released five sets of draft revisions to the U.S. Model Income Tax Convention for public comment. The model tax conventions are not binding themselves, but they are very important because they provide the starting point for bilateral tax treaty negotiations between nations. The OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development), United Nations, and the U.S. Model tax conventions are three main model tax conventions that are used, with the U.S. model being used by the United States in negotiating tax treaties with other nations. These drafts would make potentially substantial changes to the U.S. model tax convention and subsequently, to future bilateral tax treaties between the U.S. and other countries. Some of the changes to be made by the draft revisions include the following:
  • Discourage the use of corporate inversions to avoid tax by implementing full withholding on payments by "expatriated entities" such as dividends, interest, and royalties.
  • Target abuse stemming from "special tax regimes" that provide low tax rate for movable income such as royalties. The provisions would deny benefits if the "special tax regimes" are used in conjunction with particular provisions of a tax treaty to move such deductible income around.
  • Avoid allowing nonresidents (who reside outside of the two nations who have entered into a bilateral tax treaty) from improperly obtaining benefits  from the treaty.
  • Adds a "derivative benefits" rule to the provisions, that would widen the term "ownership" to include third country ownership.
The draft revisions along with the 2006 U.S. Model Tax Convention and technical explanations are now available on the Treasury Department's website.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Bloomberg BNA Federal Tax Guide

Tax attorneys are already familiar with the CCH Master Tax Guide by Wolters Kluwer and RIA Federal Tax Handbook by Thomson Reuters. These tax almanacs, published annually, are resourceful because they contain information about deadlines, tax tables, tax rate schedules, and ACRS and MACRS depreciation tables. They also provide quick information regarding virtually every tax subject ranging from capital gains and losses to credits and deductions. The summaries provide examples to illustrate concepts and include references to primary and secondary sources for further research. Bloomberg BNA has recently published the first edition of the Federal Tax Guide, which has a table of contents and index and features references to the Bloomberg BNA Tax Management Portfolios (a series of over 500 mini-treatises covering different tax topics and are authored by tax attorneys or scholars) and the Bloomberg BNA Tax Practice Series. The law library now has the Federal Tax Guide (KF6301.A329B57) in the reference collection and on reserve.

Friday, May 15, 2015

UHLC Convocation Tomorrow


The University of Houston Law Center Convocation will take place tomorrow, May 16, at 2:00 in the Hofheinz Pavilion.  Justice Eva Guzman of the Supreme Court of Texas will be the convocation speaker.  A celebration will follow at the Law Center. 

Congratulations and best wishes to the graduating class.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Chicago Chosen to Host Obama Presidential Library


The Barack Obama Foundation has announced that the Obama Presidential Library will be located in Chicago.  The winning bid by the University of Chicago will see the library located on one of several sites in the South Side of the city.

The presidential library system was established by the Presidential Libraries Act of 1955 (codified as 44 U.S.C. 2112 – Presidential Archival Depository) and modified by the Presidential Libraries Act of 1986 (100 Stat. 495).  For legal researchers, presidential libraries are primarily valuable as repositories of documents preserved pursuant to the Presidential Records Act of 1978 (codified as 44 U.S.C. 2201 et seq.).

Friday, May 8, 2015

New CRS Reports


We at Nota Bene have written before about Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports and where to find them online. The CRS prepares these reports to provide legislators with background information on issues that are being considered in the U.S. Congress. When researching an unfamiliar topic, a CRS report can be a very useful resource because it provides a brief but informative introduction. Here are links to a few recent CRS reports on matters of current interest.

·         Iran Sanctions – In the recent negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program, one of the key issues has been the question of how and when to ease sanctions on the country. This study looks at the history and effectiveness of various sanctions against Iran by the U.S. and other countries, and considers the possible effects of easing sanctions.

·         Access to Broadband Networks: The Net Neutrality Debate – This is a useful introduction to the current debate over regulation of the internet, including a summary of legislative actions taken so far, and a discussion of the role of the FCC.  

·         An Introduction to Health Insurance: What Should a Consumer Know? – This report provides a brief overview of the private market for health insurance and is written in a jargon-free style that will be accessible to the ordinary consumer.

·         Mexico’s Oil and Gas Sector: Background, Reform Efforts, and Implications for the United States – Recent energy reforms in Mexico could have profound implications for trade and energy cooperation with the U.S. This report examines the effects of those reforms and suggests possible oversight roles for Congress.

·         Changes in the Arctic: Background and Issues for Congress – This report looks at the effects of declining levels of Arctic sea ice and the implications for U.S. interests in the region.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

New Project From EPIC Surveys State Privacy Laws


While there has been heightened public awareness of the law of privacy in recent years, much of the debate has focused on federal law and policy to the exclusion of the states. But state laws can provide civil liberties protections above and beyond the baseline guarantees of the U.S. Constitution, and in privacy law, as in many other areas, a state can provide what Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis called a “laboratory” for “novel social and economic experiments.”

The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) has taken those words of Justice Brandeis to heart with its new State Policy project, which tracks developments in privacy law among the states. The project’s website provides resources on state law in a number of issue areas: student privacy; drones and UAVs; consumer data security; data breach notification; location privacy; genetic privacy; the right to be forgotten; and auto black boxes (EDRs). In each issue area, EPIC also highlights what it calls an “exemplary law,” such as the Florida Information Protection Act, which provides strong consumer data protection, or an Oregon law that limits the use of drones for surveillance in law enforcement.

For more on EPIC and its mission, see the website’s “About EPIC” page.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Texas Legislature to Consider Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act

Yesterday, the Texas House of Representatives committee on Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence favorably reported on HB 1799, a bill that would make the Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act (UELMA) law in Texas. The purpose of the proposed law is to ensure that official electronic legal materials, such as the Texas Constitution, statutes, and state agency rules, are authenticated, preserved, and accessible by citizens online. The bill is authored by Rep. Senfronia Thompson, of District 141 in Houston. Now that the bill has been favorably reported out of committee by unanimous vote, it will be placed on the calendar for debate and vote in the Texas House of Representatives.

Already law in twelve states, UELMA provides a technology-neutral, outcomes-based approach to ensuring that online state legal material deemed official will be preserved and will be permanently available to the public in unaltered form. While readers may be aware that the text of the Texas Constitution, Texas statutes, and regulations are available to view online, UELMA would require that the materials be authenticated, preserved, and permanently available to the public. An authentic text is one “whose content has been verified by a government entity to be complete and unaltered when compared to the previous version approved or published by the content originator.” American Association of Law Libraries, State-By-State Report on Authentication of Online Legal Resources (2007). Authentication provides assurances to users that the constitutional provisions, laws, and regulations promulgated on official state websites are in fact the unaltered and verifiable law of the state.


You can read the committee’s analysis of the bill, as well as the text and the fiscal note on the Texas Legislature Online website. For more information about UELMA, read the Frequently Asked Questions created by one of UELMA’s chief supporters, the American Association of Law Libraries.