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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



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



100 Years of Tax in Canada: McGill Tax Policy Colloquium 2017

Published Sep 05, 2017 - Follow author Allison Christians: - Permalink

2017 marks the centennial of Canada's federal income tax, so it is appropriate that this year’s tax policy colloquium at McGill Law will focus on the theme of 100 Years of Tax Law in Canada. The colloquium is made possible by a grant from Spiegel Sohmer. 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.

The distinguished speakers who will contribute to this year’s colloquium include:

  • Kim BrooksProfessor of Law, Dalhousie University. Former Dean, Dalhousie Law, Prof. Brooks is an internationally recognized tax scholar. On October 2, she will present a keynote and take part in a half-day symposium on the history of tax law in Canada.
  • Amir Pichhadze Lecturer, Deakin University, Australia. Prof. Pichhadze is an emerging scholar who studied comparative tax law in the U.S. and U.K. and completed a Judicial Clerkship at the Tax Court of Canada. On October 23, he will present work in progress on the development of value added taxes in Canada, the U.K., and the U.S.
  •  Ajay MehrotraExecutive Director and Research Professor, American Bar Foundation, and Professor of Law, Northwestern University. Professor Mehrotra is a leading voice on tax history in North America who has studied various aspects of interrelationships and influences in Canadian and U.S. tax law history. On November 20, he will present a work in progress on intersecting developments in Canadian and U.S. tax law history. 
  • Ashley StaceyAssociate, Olthuis, Kleer, Townshend. Ms. Stacey is a junior associate whose practice is focused on advising First Nations and First Nation-owned businesses on corporate and commercial transactions and who blogs at on tax and governance issues relevant to First Nations communities. On December 4, Ms. Stacey will present her work in progress on historical and contemporary intersections of taxation, sovereignty, and autonomy of First Nations in Canada.

The colloquium is open to all.


Tagged as: colloquium McGill scholarship tax policy



Upcoming event on Delivering Tax Benefits through the Tax System

Published Apr 13, 2015 - Follow author Allison Christians: - Permalink

On April 24, the American Tax Policy Institute is live-streaming an all-day conference "Delivering Benefits to Low-Income Taxpayers through the Tax System."  The conference is organized by Les Book, Villanova University School of Law and Deena Ackerman, U.S. Department of Treasury.  

You can view the program and also register to attend the conference in person here.  

Beginning at 8:45 a.m. (EST) on April 24, you can view the livestream conference webcast

I will be presenting on panel 4, "The International Approach to Delivering Benefits Through the Tax System." 

One focus of this panel is a comparative approach to the delivery of benefits (US/UK/Australia), but I plan to focus on the international implications of the US approach to delivering benefits through the tax code from the perspective of a specific group of “end users” whose financial situations would make them eligible for benefits delivery but who are nevertheless systematically denied these benefits. 

This group is the globally dispersed population of “US persons” who are deemed to be permanently resident in the United States for tax compliance and financial reporting purposes but are not so deemed for purposes of benefits delivered through the tax code, notably, the earned income tax credit. 

The premise I am studying: The inclusion of all US persons in the tax base regardless of domicile, juxtaposed with the blanket denial of eligibility for income support based solely on domicile, reveals the manifest injustice of citizenship-based taxation. I'll examine three inter-related rights-based claims in support of this premise. First, dispersed geographically and without a unified voice in Congress, the diaspora is inevitably denied effective civil and political rights in the design of the US tax system. Second, subject to the most complex aspects of the U.S. tax code regardless of any activity in the United States, and facing extraordinary compliance costs and disclosure risks even for nil returns, this group is effectively denied the administrative rights articulated in the taxpayer bill of rights. Finally, this group is systematically denied income support accorded to similarly situated taxpayers, in contravention of any normative policy. 

These are ideas in progress, so I really look forward to having the opportunity to work through them a little further by participating in this event.

Tagged as: citizenship conference tax policy u.s.



McGill Tax Policy Colloquium 2013

Published Sep 09, 2013 - Follow author Allison Christians: - Permalink

This fall marks the fourth installment of the McGill University Faculty of Law Tax Policy Colloquium.  This year’s colloquium features a number of distinguished invited speakers who will contribute a rich variety of scholarly works in progress on cutting edge topics involving national and international tax law and policy.  If you will be in Montreal on any of these dates, I invite you to join the tax policy class to hear presentations by this illustrious group.  All presentations begin at 2:35 in New Chancellor Day Hall, Room 203, at the Faculty of Law, 3644 Rue Peel, Montreal, Quebec.

September 23: Reuven Avi-Yonah (University of Michigan Law School)
·         Professor Avi-Yonah is the Irwin I. Cohn Professor of Law and director of the International Tax LL.M. Program at the University of Michigan Law School, and specializes in corporate and international taxation. He has served as a consultant to the US Treasury Department and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) on tax competition, and is a member of the steering group for the OECD’s International Network for Tax Research.

September 30: J. Clifton Fleming (BYU J. Reuben Clark Law School)
·         Professor Fleming is the Ernest L. Wilkinson Chair and professor of law at BYU’s J. Reuben Clark Law School where he teaches courses on US and international tax law, European Union law, and public international law. Previously, he has been the Fulbright Distinguished Chair at the Vienna University of Economics and Business, the Fulbright visiting professor of law at the University of Nairobi, and the Professor-in-Residence for the IRS Chief Counsel’s Office.

October 7: Lyne Latulippe (Département de fiscalité Université de Sherbrooke)
·         Professor Latulippe currently teaches in the tax department at the University of Sherbrooke and was previously on the faculty at UQAM. She researches and publishes on topics of comparative and international taxation, international tax cooperation, and tax policy.

October 28: Sagit Leviner (SUNY Buffalo Law School & Ono Academic College Faculty of Law)
·         Professor Leviner is on faculty at SUNY Buffalo Law School and is also affiliated with Ono Academic College Faculty of Law in Israel. Her research explores the coming together of normative and pragmatic aspects of tax policy design, particularly with respect to tax enforcement, behavioral attributes of taxation, and the tax burden distribution.

November 11: Shirley Tillotson (Dalhousie University)
·         Professor Tillotson is a member of the history department at Dalhousie University. Her research and publications focus on the cultural history of taxation in Canada, the evolution of the welfare state, and how gender, class, and social norms affect personal finance.

November 25: Diane Ring (Boston College Law School)

·         Diane M. Ring is a Professor of Law at Boston College Law School, where she researches and writes primarily in the field of international taxation, corporate taxation, and the taxation of financial instruments. Her recent work addresses issues including cross-border tax arbitrage, advance pricing agreements, and international tax relations.

Tagged as: conference McGill scholarship Tax law tax policy



Collected Scholarly Work by Ivor Richardson being posted to SSRN

Published Aug 16, 2013 - Follow author Allison Christians: - Permalink

The Victoria University of Wellington SSRN Legal Research Papers has begun to publish the collected scholarly work of the Right Honourable Sir Ivor Richardson, one of the leading tax judges of the late twentieth century. He already has 96 papers posted, and over the rest of 2013, fifty papers are planned, in about ten issues, with more to come in future years. This is a tremendous resource for anyone looking at historical or comparative trends in international and national tax policy development: the most recent issue of the working paper series includes some older articles which are as timely now as they were when first published, for example:

Inaugural Address, Victoria University of Wellington, 1967
This paper discusses the growing importance of income tax law, the corresponding increase in tax avoidance, and the different perspectives on tax avoidance. A brief history of income tax is given, and an analysis of the competing objectives of an income tax system, its inherent problems, and the possible solutions to these. There follows an explanation of what is meant by tax avoidance, the features of the New Zealand income tax system which create opportunities for tax avoidance, and the arguments against permitting this on a large scale. The paper then outlines the attitudes towards tax avoidance of the legislature, judiciary, revenue, and taxpayers, before concluding with an observation as to the increased interest which income tax law holds for both lawyers and teachers and students of law. 
2 Australian Tax Forum 3, 1985
IVOR RICHARDSON, Victoria University of Wellington - Faculty of Law
The subject raises two questions for consideration: the interpretation of tax legislation, and the characterisation of transactions for tax purposes. This paper briefly outlines the problems of drafting tax legislation, before describing the different judicial approaches to interpretation of tax legislation, including the scheme and purpose approach of New Zealand courts. In considering when the scheme and purpose of the legislation will necessitate re-characterisation of transactions for income tax purposes, there is a discussion of the business purpose requirement, and an analysis of the tax effect of the assignment of personal exertion income to a third party. Concerning the manner in which the character of a transaction is to be determined at law, the paper provides a discussion on form and substance, analysing the English ‘fiscal nullity’ approach and its reception in other jurisdictions, and concluding that such an approach must be firmly grounded in the scheme and purpose of the legislation.

Much more at Ivor Richardson's SSRN page, linked above. Thanks to Prof. John Prebble for alerting me to this info.

Tagged as: scholarship tax policy



New Book: Looking through the Corporate Structure

Published May 25, 2013 - Follow author Allison Christians: - Permalink

Since the introduction of the term “beneficial owner” to the OECD Model Tax Convention in 1977, courts and the OECD have struggled to interpret the term, and to use it as a test for deciding conduit company cases. 
If applied in a formal legalistic sense, the beneficial ownership test has no effect on conduit companies because companies are legal persons that, in law, own both their assets and their income beneficially. By contrast, in a substantive sense, a company can never own anything because economically a company is no more than a matrix of arrangements that represents individuals who act through it.
Faced with these opposing considerations, courts and the OECD have adopted surrogate tests for the beneficial ownership test. These tests, however, were originally meant to counter different kinds of tax planning strategies. They did not indicate the presence of beneficial ownership. Therefore, they are inappropriate for determining the correct tax treatment of passive income derived by conduit companies. 
This book examines the conflict between the general policy of double tax treaties embodied in the beneficial ownership requirement and the concept of corporations. The work highlights the shortcomings of surrogate tests with the help of analyses of reported conduit company cases. It offers an alternative approach for interpreting and applying the beneficial ownership test. It contains a critique of the work of the OECD Committee on Fiscal Affairs before the insertion of the term, and suggests appropriate amendments to relevant parts of the official Commentary on the OECD Model Tax Convention.

John Prebble alerted me to this book and he says:
The book is particularly timely because it addresses one of  the principal means by which multinational companies siphon profits to low-tax jurisdictions. One apparently obvious way to address the conduit company problem is for states to re-draft and to renegotiate their tax treaties. But that is easier said than done, and usually very time-consuming.
Until there can be wholesale re-drafting of treaties, the book argues persuasively that within current legal frameworks it is not only possible but legally correct for tax administrations and courts to interpret beneficial ownership provisions in tax treaties purposively. The result would be to thwart the use of stepping-stone strategies that shift profits from high-tax countries in Europe, Asia, and the Americas to low-tax jurisdictions.
The book adopts a comparative approach, analysing reported cases from a number of jurisdictions, comparing judgments that have interpreted treaties purposively with formalistic reasoning that creates loopholes that states never intended.
I agree, this is a particularly timely topic. It's technically and conceptually difficult, and it is difficult to solve as a matter of law as well.  The book is available at the link above, and at a 20% discount until May 31 using promotional code EBOT_2013.

Tagged as: institutions OECD scholarship tax policy



Call for Papers on Securities Litigation-of interest to those working on corporate tax transparency.

Published May 07, 2013 - Follow author Allison Christians: - Permalink

Securities regulations are near and dear to the hearts of tax practitioners and accountants who must deal with tax disclosures required in SEC filings.  Perhaps these regs have been less central to the work of tax law academics, but those of us following the extractive industries transparency initiative in particular (since it is already law) and country-by-country reporting more generally may soon find ourselves immersed in SEC compliance and litigation research. This upcoming workshop in Chicago could be a good opportunity to make some progress--paper submissions are due May 31:
The University of Illinois College of Law and the University of Richmond School of Law invite submissions for the First Annual Workshop for Corporate & Securities Litigation.  This workshop will be held on Friday, November 8, 2013, in Chicago, Illinois. 
OVERVIEW: This annual workshop will bring together scholars focused on corporate and securities litigation to present their works-in-progress.  Papers addressing any aspect of corporate and securities litigation or enforcement are eligible.  Appropriate topics include, but are not limited to, securities litigation, fiduciary duty litigation, or comparative approaches to business litigation.  We welcome scholars working in a variety of methodologies, including empirical analysis, law and economics, law and sociology, and traditional doctrinal analysis. 
Authors whose papers are selected will be invited to present their work at a workshop hosted by the University of Illinois College of Law in Chicago, Illinois, on Friday November 8, 2013. Local costs (lodging and workshop meals) will be covered.  Participants are asked to pay for their own travel expenses.
The workshop is designed to maximize discussion and feedback. All participants will have read the selected papers.  The author will provide a brief introduction to the paper, but the majority of the individual sessions will be devoted to collective discussion of the paper involved. 
SUBMISSION PROCEDURE: If you are interested in participating, please send an abstract of the paper you would like to present to Jessica Erickson at  not later than Friday, May 31, 2013.  Please include your name, current position, and contact information in the e-mail accompanying the submission. Authors of accepted papers will be notified by Friday, June 28. 
QUESTIONS: Any questions concerning the workshop should be directed to the organizers—Professor Verity Winship ( and Professor Jessica Erickson (

Tagged as: conference CSR EITI



Monday: Lisa Philipps on Income Splitting at McGill

Published Nov 04, 2012 - Follow author Allison Christians: - Permalink

Professor Lisa Philipps will be at McGill this Monday, where she will present a paper as part of our Tax Policy Colloquium Series.  Her paper, entitled Income Splitting and Gender Equality: The Case for Incentivizing Intra-household Wealth Transfers, is a chapter in Challenging Gender Inequality in Tax Policy Making: Comparative Perspectives (Kim Brooks, Asa Gunnarsson, Lisa Philipps, Maria Wersig, eds., Oxford: Hart Publishing Inc, 2011).

It opens as follows:
In this chapter, I examine the problem of income splitting under an individual tax unit and Canadian legal developments that have expanded the scope for such tax planning by spouses. Income splitting poses a dilemma for tax policy analysts concerned with gender equality because, left unchecked, it opens a back door to joint taxation, with its troubling impact on labour-market incentives for secondary earners, who are mainly women. Yet ignoring intra-familial transfers in order to prevent income splitting may disrespect women's individual agency over property to which they hold legal title, and it may close off a potential source of economic power for those who do the bulk of the unpaid work in a household. This tax policy dilemma engages fundamental, normative debates about the meaning of gender equality and whether it is possible to enhance women's access to markets while also valuing and compensating their unpaid contributions. 

The Colloquium is open to all.  If you will be in Montreal tomorrow, I invite you to join us at 11:35 am at the McGill Law Faculty, Chancellor Day Hall Room 202, 3644 Peel Street.

Tagged as: Canada McGill scholarship tax policy



Carter Commission After 50 Years

Published Sep 27, 2012 - Follow author Allison Christians: - Permalink

Tomorrow is the first day of the Dalhousie Law conference, The Carter Commission 50 Years Later: A time for reflection and reform."   On the schedule for tomorrow:

Neil Brooks - The Carter Report: Brilliant, Imaginative and One of a Kind
Ajay Mehrotra - The VAT Laggards: A Comparative History of US and Canadian Resistance to the Value-Added Tax
Miranda Stewart - Tax Reform and Legitimacy in the Global Era
Faye Woodman - Should the Tax Burden on Babyboomers Be Reduced Because They are Getting Older?: The Age Tax Credit, the Pension Income Credit, and Income Splitting of Pension Income
Claire Young - Beyond Conjugality: Time for the Tax System to Take that Concept Seriously
Allison Christians - Drawing the Boundaries of Tax Justice
Peter Dietsch - Fiscal Obligations to Redistribute in an International Setting
Thaddeus Hwong - A Comparison of Trends in Tax Levels and Tax Mixes in Canada and Other OECD Countries Before and After Carter
Chris Sprysak - Taxing Me or We: Yet Another Look at the Carter Commission’s Recommendation for Joint Returns
Tamara Larre - Dependency Under Canada’s Income Tax System
Kirk Collins - Capital Markets, Interest Imputation, and the Carter Report’s Proposed System of Full Integration of the Corporate-Shareholder Income Taxes
Martha O’Brien - Corporate Group Taxation: Here and Now, There and Then

And that's just the first day.  You can access the full schedule at the link.

Tagged as: conference scholarship Tax law tax policy