At the Intersection of Tax & Tech
New associate professor Jonathan Choi brings expertise in taxation and computational analysis to Minnesota Law
TO JONATHAN CHOI, the tax system in the United States isn’t just a way to pay for a functioning society. It also is used to enact public policy and achieve broader goals. From providing affordable housing to promoting renewable energy, the tax code can be tailored to reward the pursuit of pro-social objectives.
Choi, a Canadian, found this model intellectually appealing, and it piqued his interest in the American tax system early in his higher education. “It surprised me how many government programs are conducted through the tax code in the United States,” he says. “The reach of those provisions—and making sure they go to the people they are intended to benefit—is an important part of social policy.”
AT A GLANCE
> Graduated from Dartmouth College summa cum laude with a triple major in computer science, economics, and philosophy
> At Yale Law was the founding co-director of the Yale Journal on Regulation Online
> Former contestant and winner on Jeopardy!
Since law school at Yale University, Choi has been researching, writing about, practicing, and teaching taxation. He brought his expertise to Minnesota Law as an associate professor this fall. A specialist in tax law and the computational analysis of law, Choi will teach courses on corporate law and federal income tax. He also will continue his technology-fueled research into tax law and how bodies like the IRS and the U.S. Tax Court interpret statutes.
“Traditionally, if you want to see how courts apply statutes, you and a research assistant would read all the statutes and summarize the cases and try to draw conclusions from that,” Choi says. “I program computers to analyze the cases and statutes so that I can look at much larger data sets and do it in a consistent and replicable way.”
Choi uses cutting-edge tools like machine learning and natural language processing to pore over huge sets of data and compare the way laws are written, interpreted, and implemented. This year alone, he has published articles in the New York University Law Review and the Stanford Law Review. The pieces explore anti-abuse doctrines and how they are applied, as well as how agencies respond to judicial deference and change their methods of interpretation over time.
It’s a unique approach, and one that will be a welcome addition, says Dean Garry W. Jenkins, William S. Pattee Professor of Law. “We are delighted to have Jon Choi join the Minnesota Law faculty. As a rising scholar in tax law and computational analysis of law, Professor Choi brings outstanding new expertise, insights, and methodological approaches. His teaching and research will benefit our students and enrich the Minnesota Law intellectual environment.”
Choi comes to Minnesota Law from the New York University School of Law, where he was a fellow. Previously, he practiced tax law at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz in New York for four years. At Yale, he served as executive Bluebook editor for the Yale Law Journal. Choi also was founding co-director of the Bulletin, an online supplement to the Yale Journal on Regulation.
Choi’s work unites many of the interests he pursued at Dartmouth College, where he majored in computer science, economics, and philosophy. His philosophy courses, he says, particularly inspired his interest in the role taxation plays in issues of issues of justice and fairness.
At Minnesota Law, Choi aims to share with students his experiences as a tax lawyer in private practice, a job he thoroughly enjoyed. “I think it’s really underrated. I’ve almost never met an unhappy tax lawyer,” says Choi, who always aspired to work as a law professor.
Fascinating discussions with Minnesota Law faculty and a student body that’s sharp and highly engaged drew Choi to the University of Minnesota. He’s looking forward to living in the Twin Cities and enjoying the outdoors in both summer and winter. He says it feels a bit more like home than New York, and he expects it will be a fruitful place to continue his research and open students’ eyes to the appeal of tax law.
“Being a law professor is the perfect job," he says. "At Minnesota Law, I have the opportunity to influence the next generation of lawyers and to discuss crucial public policy issues with brilliant colleagues.”