Bringing Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity into the Tax Classroom
Journal of Legal Education, Vol. 59, p. 3, 2009
33 Pages Posted: 7 Jan 2009 Last revised: 15 Jun 2021
Date Written: January 1, 2009
A recent piece in the Journal of Legal Education analyzing student surveys by the Law School Admission Council reports that, despite improvement in the past decade, LGBT students still experience a law school climate in which they encounter substantial discrimination both inside and outside the classroom. Included among the list of "best practices" to improve the law school climate for LGBT students was a recommendation to incorporate discussions of LGBT issues in non-LGBT courses, such as tax. In a timely coincidence, the Section on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Issues held a day-long program at the 2009 AALS annual meeting to consider LGBT issues across the law school curriculum. I prepared this essay as a hand-out for a break-out session on tax during that day-long program to help other tax teachers think about how they might incorporate LGBT issues into their tax classes.
In this essay, I identify several areas likely to be covered in tax courses in which a discussion of LGBT issues is relevant. The general areas of the tax curriculum that I have identified for inclusion are: fringe benefits, health insurance, attribution rules, medical expenses, property transfers, and income splitting. In each of these areas, I first discuss the general tax rules that serve as the backdrop for the discussion. Next, I recount a narrative that - in a concrete, personalized setting - raises the question of how these general tax rules apply to LGBT individuals. I then explain how the rules apply to the situation faced by the LGBT individual(s) in the narrative. Finally, I explore some of the policy considerations that one might raise (or that might surface on their own) in the course of a class discussion of the narrative situation.
Keywords: tax, teaching, LGBT, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, sexual orientation, gender identity, classroom, medical expenses, fringe benefits, health insurance, income splitting, attribution rules, and property transfers
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