portrait of professor richard beck

Richard C.E. Beck

Professor of Law, Emeritus
Founding Director, Graduate Tax Program

Richard C.E. Beck

Professor of Law, Emeritus
Founding Director, Graduate Tax Program

A former Sanskrit professor at Brown University, Richard C.E. Beck finds that the tax code he now teaches, with its multitudinous rules and layers of exceptions, has parallels in the study of languages.

“Puzzle-solving enthusiasts gravitate to tax law because of the enormous number of rules which can intersect in complicated and unpredictable ways,” Professor Beck says. “It is certainly the most intricate law we have.”

An expert in federal individual income tax who has testified for reform of spousal liability for income taxes before the Oversight Subcommittee of the House Ways & Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee, Professor Beck teaches Individual Tax, Tax Policy, International Tax, and the Taxation of Property Transactions. He has also taught Corporate & Partnership Tax.
While an assistant professor at the University of Denver College of Law, he taught in an LL.M. program in tax and he is now Co-Director of a similar program which he founded at New York Law School.

He says tax law involves all aspects of life, personal and business, and has an impact on every area of legal practice, from divorce and personal injury to bankruptcy and corporate law. It represents the “most continuous and important relationship we have with our governments.”

“I’m very pro-taxpayer for an academic,” he says. “I look at the way tax law and administration work in the trenches. It’s often unfair to individuals who don’t have the same resources as big organizations. I like to expose bad case law and misguided rulemaking. I see myself, in part, as sort of a gadfly.”

Professor Beck coauthored a casebook on taxation of business enterprises, and has published numerous articles on a wide variety of income tax issues.

Professor Beck grew up in Chicago and earned a B.A. and Ph.D. in linguistics from the University of Chicago, where he also taught for a year. He then taught Indo-European linguistics and Sanskrit at Brown for seven years before turning to the study of law at Yale.

After practicing in New York City for five years, Professor Beck published a tax article that reignited his academic interests, and he went back to teaching. He has also taught in Paris at the Sorbonne, at the University of Osnabrück, and at the Wirtschaftsuniversität in Vienna.

He loves New York City and lives with his wife in the Village.


“Federal Income Taxation of Business Enterprises: Cases, Statutes, Rulings.” Michie, 1995 (with R.A. Westin & J.K. McNulty).


“Income Tax Consequences of Divorce and Separation.” Chapter 9 in Taxation for the General Practitioner, (R.V. D’Alessandro, ed.). New York State Bar Association, 1999.


“Treble Damages in National Health Service Corps Contracts, Public Policy, and Hawronsky v. Commissioner,” 22 Akron Tax Journal 129-168 (2007).

“The Failure of Innocent Spouse Reform (New York Law School Faculty Presentation Day III),” 51New York Law School Law Review 929-955 (2006-2007).

“Deductibility of Treble Damages Paid for Breach of National Health Service Corps Scholarship Contracts: The Misuse of I.R.C. 265(a)(1) in Stroud v. United States and of the Origin of the Claim Test in Keane v. Commissioner,” 1 Charleston Law Review 1-36 (2006).

“Cancellation of Debt and Other Incidental Items of Income: Puritan Tax Rules in the U.S. (New York Law School Faculty Presentation Day II),” 49 New York Law School Law Review 695-715 (2004-2005).

“The Kiddie Tax: A Nuisance Solution to a Nonexistent Problem (Special Tax Symposium).” 30 Family Law Quarterly 103–122 (1996).

“Loan Repayment Assistance Programs for Public-Interest Lawyers: Why Does Everyone Think They are Taxable?” 40 New York Law School Law Review 251–310 (1996).

“Is Compromise of a Tax Liability Itself Taxable? A Problem of Circularity in the Logic of Taxation.” 14Virginia Tax Review 153–208 (1994).

“Looking for the Perfect Woman: The Innocent Spouse in the Tax Court.” 15 Review of Taxation of Individuals 3–38 (1991).

“The Innocent Spouse Problem: Joint and Several Liability for Income Taxes Should Be Repealed.” 43 Vanderbilt Law Review 317–408 (1990).

“The Deductibility of a Worthless Right to Contribution for Joint Income Taxes: The Mistaken Line of Cases Under Rude v. Commissioner.” 9 Virginia Tax Review 313–356 (1989).

“Joint Return Liability and Poe v. Seaborn: Should Both Be Repealed.” 49 Tax Notes 457–467 (October 22, 1990).

“Liabilities Arising from Joint Tax Returns: The Innocent Spouse Rule.” 1 New York Domestic Relations Reporter 129–134 (Matthew Bender, 1989).

“Distributions in Kind in Corporate Liquidations: A Defense of General Utilities.” 38 Tax Lawyer 663–687 (1985).


“Cancellation of Debt and Other Incidental Items of Income: Puritan Tax Rules in the U.S.,” originally published in 49 New York Law School Law Review, republished in Tax Digest Monthly (February 2006).

“Defaulted Child Support: The Better Tax Approach.” 89 Tax Notes 1073 (November 20, 2000).

Moderator, Panel II: Assessing Proposed Solutions (Symposium: Women, Equity and Federal Tax Policy: Open Questions). 16 New York Law School Journal of Human Rights 167–202 (1999).

“The Innocent Spouse Rules.” 15 Family Advocate 30 (Fall 1992).

2nd ed. Michie, 1999 (with R.A. Westin & J.K. McNulty).