TAX, SOCIETY & CULTURE

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Today at McGill: Brooks on Comparative Tax Law: Development of the Discipline

Published Dec 04, 2017 - Follow author Allison Christians: - Permalink

Today at McGill, Professor Kim Brooks will present her current work in progress as the final speaker of the 2017 tax policy colloquium at McGill Law. Here is the abstract:

The new millennium has inspired renewed interest in comparative law generally and comparative tax law in particular, with practitioners and scholars rapidly building the literature that defines the modern field. Despite the increase in authors undertaking comparative tax work, however, the contours of the theoretical and methodological debates lack definition; despite several leading articles that call on scholars to actively engage with each other on matters of approach, most scholars continue to “write alone”; and despite the increasing availability of thoughtful comparative law textbooks and monographs, tax scholars do not connect their work with debates in comparative law generally.

In this paper, I provide a foundation for future comparative tax law research. Part 1 reviews the major debates and theoretical directions in comparative law scholarship, focusing on the recent work in the field. Part 2 offers an intellectual history of comparative tax law scholarship, identifying the major contributors to the discipline of comparative tax law and conceptualizing the field’s development in five stages. Finally, Part 3 generates a taxonomy of modern comparative tax law research based on its
underlying purpose, explores how that work connects to the comparative law field, and identifies approaches to comparative tax law method, in the light of the work to date, that best advance tax knowledge.

The tax policy colloquium at McGill is supported by a grant made by the law firm Spiegel Sohmer, Inc., for the purpose of fostering an academic community in which learning and scholarship may flourish. The land on which we gather is the traditional territory of the Kanien’keha:ka (Mohawk), a place which has long served as a site of meeting and exchange amongst nations.


This fall, in celebration of the centennial anniversary of the introduction of federal income taxation in Canada, the Colloquium focuses on the historical significance and development, as well as the most recent challenges, of the modern tax system in Canada and around the world. 

The Colloquium is convened by Allison Christians, H. Heward Stikeman Chair in Taxation Law. 

Prof. Brooks' talk will take place from 2:35-5:35pm in the newly renovated Chancellor Day Hall Room 101, 3644 Peel Ave, Montreal. All are welcome to attend.

Tagged as: colloquium comparative law history international law McGill tax policy

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Next week at McGill: Van Apeldoorn on Taxation, Exploitation, and Human Rights

Published Dec 01, 2017 - Follow author Allison Christians: - Permalink

On December 6, Prof. Laurens van Apeldoorn of the University of Leiden will present a working paper at McGill, hosted by the Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism at McGill Law and the Stikeman Chair in Tax Law (me). Here is the abstract:
Exploitation in global supply chains impacts prices that in turn bear on the allocation of corporate income tax revenue to jurisdictions where multinational enterprises transact. This presentation will develop a concept of exploitation based on the violation of the right to a living wage, put this in the context of discussions of transfer mispricing in multinational enterprises, and consider the economic dimension of the allocation of corporate income tax revenue in relation to public goods provisions in low-income countries where exploitation occurs.
Prof. Van Apeldoorn is currently visiting McGill’s Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism as an O’Brien Fellow in Residence (Sept-Dec 2017). He is Assistant Professor of Philosophy and a member of the Centre for Political Philosophy at Leiden University, where his research broadly focuses on the nature and prospects of the sovereign state and more recently considers the principles of international taxation in relation to global justice. As some readers will no doubt be aware, Laurens' presentation connects to collaborative work he and I are undertaking that probes the meaning and significance of taxing income "where value is created," working paper forthcoming.

The talk will be held from 1pm to 12:30 with lunch being served beginning at 12:30, in Chancellor Day Hall, Stephen Scott Seminar Room (OCDH 16), 3644 rue Peel, Montreal, Quebec. This event is free and open to all.

Tagged as: justice McGill scholarship sovereignty tax policy transfer pricing

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Today at McGill: Mehrotra on value added taxation

Published Nov 20, 2017 - Follow author Allison Christians: - Permalink

Today, Ajay Mehrotra, Northwestern University and the American Bar Foundation, will present "The VAT Laggard: A Comparative History of U.S. Resistance to the Value-Added Tax, as part of the annual Spiegel Sohmer Tax Policy Colloquium at McGill Law. This is a fascinating topic as the United States considers major tax reform without explicitly embracing VAT as much of the rest of the world has done. Prof. Mehrotra's new project will explore the U.S. position in light of how Canada, Japan, and other jurisdictions were able to overcome historical resistance to a national VAT by adopting a Goods and Services Tax (GST).

The tax policy colloquium at McGill is supported by a grant made by the law firm Spiegel Sohmer, Inc., for the purpose of fostering an academic community in which learning and scholarship may flourish. The land on which we gather is the traditional territory of the Kanien’keha:ka (Mohawk), a place which has long served as a site of meeting and exchange amongst nations.


This fall, in celebration of the centennial anniversary of the introduction of federal income taxation in Canada, the Colloquium focuses on the historical significance and development, as well as the most recent challenges, of the modern tax system in Canada and around the world. The complete colloquium schedule is here.

The Colloquium is convened by Allison Christians, H. Heward Stikeman Chair in Taxation Law. 

Ajay Mehrotra's talk will take place from 2:35-5:35pm in New Chancellor Day Hall Room 101, 3644 Peel Ave, Montreal. All are welcome to attend.

Tagged as: colloquium history McGill tax policy

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Today at McGill: Tillotson on the Citizen-Taxpayer and the Rise of Canadian Democracy

Published Nov 06, 2017 - Follow author Allison Christians: - Permalink

On Monday November 6, Shirley Tillotson of Dalhousie University will present her new book,  Give and Take: The Citizen-Taxpayer and the Rise of Canadian Democracy, as part of the annual Spiegel Sohmer Tax Policy Colloquium at McGill Law.

The tax policy colloquium at McGill is supported by a grant made by the law firm Spiegel Sohmer, Inc., for the purpose of fostering an academic community in which learning and scholarship may flourish. The land on which we gather is the traditional territory of the Kanien’keha:ka (Mohawk), a place which has long served as a site of meeting and exchange amongst nations.


This fall, in celebration of the centennial anniversary of the introduction of federal income taxation in Canada, the Colloquium focuses on the historical significance and development, as well as the most recent challenges, of the modern tax system in Canada and around the world. The complete colloquium schedule is here.

The Colloquium is convened by Allison Christians, H. Heward Stikeman Chair in Taxation Law. 

Shirley Tillotson's talk will take place from 2:35-5:35pm in New Chancellor Day Hall Room 101, 3644 Peel Ave, Montreal. All are welcome to attend.

Tagged as: colloquium history McGill tax policy

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Monday at McGill: Pichhadze on Transfer Pricing and GAAR in Canada

Published Oct 21, 2017 - Follow author Allison Christians: - Permalink

On Monday October 23, Amir Pichhadze, Lecturer at Deakin University, Australia, will present his work in progress, entitled "Canada’s Federal Income Tax Act: the need for a principle (policy) based approach to legislative (re)drafting of Canada’s transfer pricing rule" as part of the annual Spiegel Sohmer Tax Policy Colloquium at McGill Law.

Pichhadze's new paper builds on his prior work with Reuven Avi-Yonah on GAARs and the nexus between statutory interpretation and legislative drafting and draws on insights from Judith Freedman's work on the topic of legislative intention in statutory interpretation. The working draft explores the evolution of arm's length transfer pricing in Canada and makes the case for Canada’s parliament to adopt and apply a more explicit principle/policy-based approach to legislative drafting. It argues that Canada’s courts cannot effectively distill relevant policies and principles unless they are clearly conveyed by parliament, using Australia's experience as relevant and constructive.

The tax policy colloquium at McGill is supported by a grant made by the law firm Spiegel Sohmer, Inc., for the purpose of fostering an academic community in which learning and scholarship may flourish. The land on which we gather is the traditional territory of the Kanien’keha:ka (Mohawk), a place which has long served as a site of meeting and exchange amongst nations.


This fall, in celebration of the centennial anniversary of the introduction of federal income taxation in Canada, the Colloquium focuses on the historical significance and development, as well as the most recent challenges, of the modern tax system in Canada and around the world. The complete colloquium schedule is here.

The Colloquium is convened by Allison Christians, H. Heward Stikeman Chair in Taxation Law. 

Amir Pichhadze's talk will take place from 2:35-5:35pm in New Chancellor Day Hall Room 101, 3644 Peel Ave, Montreal. All are welcome to attend.

Tagged as: Canada colloquium McGill scholarship tax policy transfer pricing

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OECD seeking "technical" input from the public on "multilateral instrument" to modify tax treaties

Published Jun 08, 2016 - Follow author Allison Christians: - Permalink

The OECD recently released what it calls a "public discussion draft" in connection with its work on the multilateral instrument (MLI), and seeks public input until June 30. As I explained in a post a  few months ago, the MLI is be used to 'modify' all existing tax treaties in force among signatory countries to conform to BEPS standards and recommendations. However, the released document is not actually a discussion draft of the MLI--there are no terms to be reviewed. The drafting committee, which currently includes 96 members (OECD members and "BEPS Associates"), only met for the first time two weeks ago so this is decidedly not a draft of substantive provisions to be debated in the public discourse. No, that would be chaos and contrary to the plan:

"the draft text of the multilateral instrument is the subject of intergovernmental discussions in a confidential setting."
Instead it is in effect a crowdsourced, and very carefully framed, issue-spotting exercise. The document consists of three pages: page one is the BEPS narrative (why the OECD undertook this project and what has happened so far). Page two describes what BEPS changes will be covered in the MLI once drafted. Page three lays out three "technical issues" the OECD faces in drafting the MLI, and finally gives the call for input. The discussion is very brief and in OECD-passive-speak so it's almost comical to summarize but here are the three issues, as I understand them:
  1. the MLI must be able to modify existing treaties, and this will be done with "compatibility clauses."
  2. the MLI will be broadly worded so will require commentary and maybe explanatory notes for consistent interpretation
  3. the MLI will be in French and English but will interpret thousands of treaties written in different languages.
These are all very interesting international law issues and not technical tax law issues at all. They are also clear expressions of intent to cement the OECD's role as the principal curator of international tax norms. This is especially clear in respect of point 2, because consistent interpretation means that the OECD commentary and "guidance" must harden ("ossify") into more persuasive and ultimately binding legal authority. For a discussion of what that implies for the rule of law, see this old thing I wrote a long time ago.

Point 1 raises the issue that seems to me most difficult in terms of the transition to complete OECD domination of global tax policy: I am still not sure how the MLI is supposed to work on top of a network of individualized and distinct bilateral agreements among sovereign nations. The OECD says "If undertaken on a treaty-by-treaty basis, the sheer number of treaties in effect would make such a process very lengthy." Indeed it would but as a matter of law in many countries, revising an existing international agreement requires another international agreement that is ratified in the same manner as the original, which appears to require the signatories to come to a meeting of the minds as to the terms that govern their unique relationship. The OECD says that distinguished experts have carefully considered the public international law questions at hand. But I haven't seen any study and I don't quite understand how you get a coherent international tax law regime in anything like a "quick" process. The OECD's implied answer in point 1 only raises another question for me: what is a compatibility clause? Is this a well-understood mechanism in play in other areas of international law? Can I get a precedent somewhere to anticipate where we are going with this?

Further, is the MLI going to be a matchmaking exercise in practice? If country A agrees to revisions 1 through 6 as to countries B and C, but only revision 5 as to country D, and country B agrees to revisions 1-3 for countries A and D but only 5 and 6 for C, and countries C and D agree in principle but never ratify anything, then what, exactly, are the agreements between and among these countries?

I am also not sure what the agreement matrix looks like when there are multiple standards for several of the BEPS items.  Notably the "prevent treaty shopping" minimum standard provides multiple choices for defending treaties against "abuse": a principal purpose test, a limitation on benefits provision, an anti-conduit provision, or some combination. May each of countries A, B, C, and D choose a different combination vis a vis each of the others? It is difficult to see convergence. At the panel I attended in Montreal a couple of weeks ago this was a topic of vigorous discussion. The more I think about this, the increasingly uncertain I become regarding how this is going to work out in practice.

Any thoughts on these observations are welcome as I develop my thinking on these issues. And if you are submitting comments, please note:
 Comments and input should be submitted by 30 June 2016 at the latest, and should be sent by email to multilateralinstrument@oecd.org in Word format (in order to facilitate their distribution to government officials). Please note that all comments received will be made publicly available. ... Persons and organisations who submit comments on this document are invited to indicate whether they wish to speak in support of their comments at a public consultation meeting that is scheduled to be held in Paris at the OECD Conference Centre on 7 July 2016 beginning at 10.00 am.






Tagged as: BEPS international law OECD tax policy treaties

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Today at McGill: Dan Shaviro on Recent International Tax Policy Developments

Published Nov 10, 2015 - Follow author Allison Christians: - Permalink

The Spiegel Sohmer Tax Policy Colloquium at McGill continues today with a presentation by Daniel Shaviro, Wayne Perry Professor of Taxation at New York University School of Law, on his paper entitled The Crossroads Versus the Seesaw: Getting a 'Fix' on Recent International Tax Policy Developments. Here is the abstract:

U.S. international tax policy is at a crossroads, say those who urge the United States to adopt what common parlance would call a territorial system. They argue that one of the two ways forward they identify – trying to fortify the current U.S. system – would lead to ever-costlier outlier status for our tax system, and ever-declining competitiveness for U.S. multinationals. They therefore urge U.S. policymakers to embrace what they identify as the other way forward: conforming to global norms by adopting a territorial system. An alternative metaphor to that of the crossroads, more likely to appeal to proponents of addressing stateless income than to pro-territorialists, is that of the seesaw. Under this view, while policymakers in OECD countries may long have deliberately tolerated profit-shifting by multinationals – perhaps as an informal way of lowering effective tax rates for these often highly mobile taxpayers – at some point they became convinced that it had gone too far. Thus, proponents of restricting stateless income want to tip the balance somewhat (but not too far) back in the other direction. For example, they may want to ensure that each increment of a multinational’s global income will be subject to tax somewhere – but just once, rather than either zero times or twice, under what has been called the “single tax principle.” 
In my 2014 book Fixing U.S. International Taxation, I tried to offer a better analytical framework for international tax policy than either of the above. The concepts that I hoped to sideline or even banish included not only the single tax principle, along with the “worldwide versus territorial” framework – which I disparaged as conflating multiple margins, even leaving aside countries’ hybridity in practice – but also normative reliance on the whole rancid “alphabet soup” of single-margin neutrality benchmarks such as capital export neutrality (CEN), capital import neutrality (CIN), and capital ownership neutrality (CON). A number of important things have happened in international tax policy since Fixing went to press. For example: (1) The United States has faced a rising tide of corporate inversions, in which foreign companies acquire U.S. companies, at least partly with the aim of lessening the sting of residence-based U.S. rules. (2) The OECD’s BEPS project has been steaming forward, although its long-term prospects, with respect both to ongoing multilateral cooperation and results on the ground, remain uncertain. (3) The U.K. government has announced plans for enacting the so-called “Google tax,” controversially aimed at profit-shifting by multinationals, and in particular those that by non-U.K. companies. (4) A number of leading U.S. policymakers have issued ambitious international tax reform proposals, in several instances offering novel approaches that vary from current practice both in the United States and elsewhere. 
This paper offers a brief review of how the main principles I advanced in Fixing, as proposed substitutes for the standard “worldwide versus territorial” framework, relate to, and may help us in evaluating, these recent developments.
This year's colloquium focuses on the fundamentals of corporate tax policy by critically examining issues in national and international tax policy; more information about the colloquium here. Today's talk will take place from 13:30-16:30 in Room 312 of New Chancellor Day Hall, 3644 Peel Ave, Montreal. Students, faculty and the McGill community in Montreal are welcome to attend.

Tagged as: colloquium corporate tax McGill scholarship tax policy

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Tax Cooperation and Competition Conference tomorrow in Montreal

Published Nov 02, 2015 - Follow author Allison Christians: - Permalink

Tax Coop Montreal will be taking place tomorrow at the Musee des Beaux Arts in Montreal. It promises to be an action-packed day. Here is the conference program:

8:30-9:00 Welcome and Registration
9:00 - 09:10 Opening Remarks
9:10 - 10:15 COMPETITION AND TAXATION: A LOOK AT THE LANDSCAPE: Katharina Becker,  Allison Christians,  Peter Dietsch and Lyne Latulippe
10:15 - 10:40 TAX COMPETITION AMID ASYMMETRICAL INFORMATION: Elise J. Bean
10:40 Break11:00 - 11:40 COMPETING WHEN YOUR COMPETITORS DON’T PAY TAX. INSIDERS’ VIEW: Steven Adams,  Tasso Lagios and Natalie St-Pierre
11:40 - 12:30 FROM GLOBAL TO LOCAL TAX COMPETITION: WHEN TAX COMPETITION HITS CLOSE TO HOME: Governor Sam Brownback,  Blanca Moreno-Dodson and Paul Waldie
12:30 Lunch14:00 - 14:35 THE OECD’S BEPS PROJECT UPDATE: Pascal Saint-Amans
14:35 - 15:10  IT’S LEGAL, BUT IS IT MORAL? TAX MORALITY AND ITS LIMITS: Brian J. Arnold,  Alison Holder and Jean-Pierre Vidal
15:10 - 16:00 OPINION LEADERS WHO HAVE MADE A DIFFERENCE: Brigitte Alepin,  Margaret Hodge and Lee Sheppard
16:00 Break16:30 - 17:45 CORPORATE TAX ON TRIAL: Dan Mitchell and Richard Murphy go head to head: Moderated by  Louise Otis and Jay K. Rosengard.
17:45 - 20:00 Closing Cocktail: Toward Tax Coop 2016

Tagged as: conference Montreal tax culture Tax law tax policy

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Today at McGill Law: Richard Murphy on the Fair Tax Mark

Published Nov 02, 2015 - Follow author Allison Christians: - Permalink

The Spiegel Sohmer Tax Policy Colloquium at McGill University continues today with a presentation by Richard Murphy of Tax Research LLP and the Tax Justice Network, on the Fair Tax Mark. This event is presented in conjunction with a collaborative project between the Stikeman Chair in Taxation and the Centre for Intellectual Property Policy at McGill Law on the topic of how regulation impacts innovation.

The Fair Tax Mark is a self-regulation project that seeks to intervene in the ongoing relationship between corporations, society, and the state. Like other certifications such as Fair Trade, the Fair Tax Mark is a voluntary program intended to project an image of openness, honesty and trustworthiness in tax matters to consumers and investors. The Mark is about paying taxes, but it is also about dramatically increasing transparency about how multinationals undertake tax planning as a business strategy. This places the payment of tax and the attendant planning and scheming squarely within the realm of corporate social responsibility. The Mark suggests that demonstrating some level of compliance with NGO expectations about global tax justice is becoming a cost of doing business, thus comprising a (or contributing to an existing) social license to operate.

This year's colloquium focuses on the fundamentals of corporate tax policy by critically examining issues in national and international tax policy; more information about the colloquium here. Today's talk will take place from 14:30-17:30pm in Room 202 of New Chancellor Day Hall, 3644 Peel Ave, Montreal. Students, faculty and the McGill community in Montreal are welcome to attend.

Tagged as: activism colloquium corporate tax CSR governance McGill tax culture Tax law

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Mitchell. Murphy. Head to Head Nov 3 in Montreal: Corporate Tax on Trial

Published Oct 21, 2015 - Follow author Allison Christians: - Permalink


On Nov 3, there will be a big conference in Montreal on the topic of tax cooperation and competition with presentations by political, business, and academic leaders from around the world; program at the link and I'll post more info soon. A highlight of the day will be a formal debate between Dan Mitchell of the Cato Institute and Richard Murphy of Tax Research UK, on the topic of corporate taxation: continue it, change it, abolish it? These two titans will debate three resolutions:
  1. First, be it resolved that: the current approach to corporate taxation is a necessary and appropriate means of raising tax revenue.
  2. Second, be it resolved that: corporate taxation is fundamental to preserve personal taxation.
  3. Third, be it resolved that: To the extent that governments tax corporate income, they should do so comprehensively, and not use tax incentives to favour selected types of investment or commerce.
It likely goes without saying that arguing on the “affirming side” of each resolution will be Richard Murphy; arguing on the “opposing side” of each resolution will be Dan Mitchell; the debaters are free to interpret the resolutions broadly and form their arguments accordingly. Evidence from all jurisdictions will be admissible. The debate will be moderated and judged by two eminent judges: Louise Otis (OECD Admin Tribunal & McGill Law) and Jay Rosengard (Harvard Kennedy School of Business). The emphasis will be on persuasive, clear and logical argumentation. This promises to be a lively debate. Registration information for the conference is here.

Tagged as: conference corporate tax Tax law tax policy

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