Wadlinger gets creative while instilling federal tax concepts

February 1, 2019

Students in Nate Wadlinger’s federal tax accounting courses never know what character the assistant lecturer will be when he turns up in the classroom. So far, he’s appeared as Sherlock Holmes, Darth Vader, Uncle Sam, Nintendo’s Mario, a lobster and a chef, among others.

Wadlinger credits his effective, yet entertaining, approach to teaching to the combined inspiration of two of his professors. His accounting professor went out of his way to make his federal income tax course fun by posing problems as puzzles. His business law professor’s approach to explaining legal concepts included performing skits, singing original songs and portraying various characters.

Wadlinger’s course, Federal Tax Accounting II (TAX 4011/5015), introduces students to various tax provisions related to individuals, corporations, partnerships, exempt entities, among other more sophisticated tax provisions such as corporate and partnership distributions and liquidations. He also covers topics on the CPA examination.

Wadlinger says he plans on dressing up as various characters as long as he is teaching and doesn’t mind investing in the costumes, which he purchases on Amazon. Read on to see how each of his personas relate to that day’s tax lesson:


Class theme: Corporations: Organization and Capital Structure (Part 1)

“After I give the overview of how C Corporations have minimal tax consequences during their formation, double taxation during their regular operations and heavy taxation during their liquidation, I display posters with a quote from the famed corporate tax professors Boris Bittker and James Eustice. They compare the ramp-up of corporate taxation to a lobster pot [trap] which is easy to enter, difficult to live in and painful to get out of.”




Class theme: Corporations: Organization and Capital Structure (Part 2)

“When covering corporate formation and contribution, we discuss Code Section 351 and corresponding tax basis rules. In the famous Peracchi vs. Commissioner Opinion, the 9th Circuit analogized the concept of having negative tax basis to Bigfoot. Elusive equity can lead to penalizing tax consequences. This costume helps students remember that in our complex basis calculations, you cannot have negative tax basis!”

Big Foot


Darth Vader: The Dark Side of the Force

Class theme: Corporations—Introduction and Operating Rules (Part 1)

“During our corporate tax discussion, we talk about the dreaded—some say, evil – double taxation.”

Darth Vader


Luke Skywalker: May the Force Be with You

Class theme: Corporations (Part 2)

“To balance the dark side, it’s important to stress the light side. Alongside the many negatives of corporate taxation, there are many positives, such as the dividends-received deduction.”

Light Side



Class theme: Property Transactions: Capital Gains and Losses

“Students learn that if the Section 1231 calculation results in a gain, it will be treated as a long-term capital gain. If the calculation results in a loss, it will be treated as an ordinary loss. This is the best of both worlds for the taxpayer—like having your cake and eating it too!”



Sherlock Holmes

Class theme: Working with Tax Law

“We spend the entire class learning about the structure of tax law, legal reasoning and tax research techniques. Sherlock Holmes is known as an expert in deductive reasoning, and we do quite a bit of that with this topic. Elementary, my dear Watson!”




Class theme: Qualified Business Income

“The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 created a tax provision like no other – the Qualified Business Income Deduction. This is a new deduction on up to 20 percent of pass-through business income on certain qualifying businesses. This deduction is a real game changer for many taxpayers and packs a HUGE PUNCH when it comes to lowering tax amounts.”


- Barbara Ash