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Law Library News for April 9, 2007

Law Library News Archive

Cheryl Nyberg, editor

Library Lifesavers Present Death, Taxes & Prizes

There's no better time than April for taking a look at life's two certainties: death and taxes, and the April 10 Library Lifesavers sessions will do just that.

At 12:45 we'll showcase two tools for online tax research: RIA CheckPoint and BNA’s Tax Management Portfolios. Then at 1:00 we'll tour resources available for estate planning in Washington State.

Join us for one or both of these fifteen-minute presentations on Tuesday, April 10, from 12:45-1:15 in Room 119.

Remember that attending a Lifesaver makes you eligible for the end-of-the-quarter drawing. You could win either a Washington Legal Researcher's Deskbook OR a $25 University Bookstore gift card. The more sessions you attend, the greater your chance to win! As if knowledge itself wasn’t enough of a prize!

Where Do My Tax Dollars Go?

by Kelly Aldrich, Law Librarianship Intern

It’s that time of year: Flowers are blooming, rain is falling, and . . . taxes are due!

[Before panicking, please note that because April 15 is a Sunday and April 16 is a legal holiday in DC (Emancipation Day), 2006 federal tax returns are due on April 17, 2007. If you don’t believe me, see Taxpayers Have Until April 17 to File and Pay.]

So, now that you’ve paid your federal income taxes or filed an extension (and congratulations to those of you receiving refund!), you may be wondering: How much income tax does the federal government collect in a given year? Where do my tax dollars go?

How much income tax does the federal government collect in a given tax year?

To answer a question like this, it is likely best to turn to the most authoritative source (i.e., “get it straight from the horse’s mouth”): the Internal Revenue Service.

According to the IRS, in 2006 the federal government collected $1,236,259,371,000 in federal income tax dollars and issued $242,630,468,000 in refunds for a net total of $993,628,903,000.

For other fun stats, see the IRS Tax Statistics page, where you can link to Data Books (i.e., spreadsheets containing statistical information about federal tax returns)

Need more information? Have a question about tax statistics that you’ve been dying to ask the IRS? Now’s your chance! Enter your question on the IRS webpage.

Where do my tax dollars go?

According to H&R Block, for every federal tax dollar you spend:

$0.23 goes to Social Security
$0.16 goes to national defense, veterans and foreign affairs
$0.14 goes to unemployment, disability and other income
$0.12 goes to interest payments
$0.11 goes to Medicare
$0.07 goes to Medicaid and
$0.17 goes to other expenses.

For more detailed information, check out the National Priorities Project (NPP) website. You’ll find an interactive tax chart that allows you to enter in the tax dollars you paid and see—in a colorful pie chart—where your money went.

NPP even lets you see how federal tax dollars are spent by state or even city. For instance, you can view a chart and statistics on where Seattle, WA federal tax dollars went.

So, get those tax returns in and check out these websites . . . Then take a deep breath and remind yourself that you don’t have to worry about paying taxes again until next year.

Book of the Week: The State of Play: Law, Games, and Virtual Worlds

by Cindy Dabney, Law Librarianship Intern

The State of Play tackles the question of law in the virtual world. It is a collection of works presented at the first annual State of Play conference on virtual worlds and the law in 2003. Now that multiplayer online games are so prevalent, it is increasing important to ask where the real world ends and virtual worlds begin. It focuses often on the broad, philosophical concepts of virtual worlds and features the work of a diverse group—not only legal scholars, but also game designers, owners, and journalists.

After introductions (both to the book itself and to the basic concepts of virtual worlds for the uninitiated), authors cover differing perspectives on four big questions presented by the recent popularity of online gaming.

  • Control of the Game—To whom should it belong?  Game owners need to be able to redesign and exclude to keep the game fun, but as the worlds become more and more real players, need to maintain some control.
  • Property Rights—Is there such a thing as virtual property? Certainly a great deal of real money is exchanged for virtual items. Should we apply real world property law to virtual worlds? For that matter, should real world criminal law apply?
  • Privacy and Identity—The ability of one player to take on several different roles brings up questions of identity and trust. Players never know who they are talking to, but game designers can track both virtual and real personalities with distressing ease.
  • Virtual Worlds as Tools in the Real World—This section explores the possibility of using virtual worlds for real worlds purposes—setting up experiments in which new legislation is tested, or dummy corporations are set up, and even the creation of new cultures that can be independent of geographical boundaries.

These articles provide a fascinating read for any gamer. The sparseness of hard legal principles can be forgiven in a field this new. This book is an easy read, thanks to editors Jack M. Balkin (Yale) and Beth Simone Noveck (New York Law School).

The State of Play: Law, Games, and Virtual Worlds
K3705.V53S74 2006 at Classified Stacks

Editor’s note: Who else is talking about virtual worlds? See Stephanie Francis Ward, Fantasy Life, Real Law, ABA Journal, March 8, 2007, at 42,(describing Second Life, an “animated, three-dimensional virtual world,” where real lawyers play virtual lawyers). For more articles, search LegalTrac by the phrase “virtual reality.