TAX, SOCIETY & CULTURE

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Introduction to Tax Policy Theory

Published Jun 14, 2018 - Follow author Allison: - Permalink

Every year I make this primer, an Introduction to Tax Policy Theory, available to my tax policy students (and otherwise send it whenever I'm asked for an overview look at tax policy basics), so I decided to post it on SSRN. It is not a published piece but may be some day. Here is the description:

Taxation involves the compulsory transfer of resources among members of society. Tax policy is concerned with how societies carry out taxation. That is a technical and legal question, but it is inescapably a political, social, and cultural one as well. To study tax policy is to engage simultaneously with the existential philosophical foundations of taxation: why and how societies tax. This introduction to tax policy theory presents an overview of tax policy discourse. The goal is to outline a working framework for reflection and analysis to examine the ways in which current assumptions and approaches require further development.  
Part I asks why we tax, and posits state-building, internal management, and negotiated expansion as three broad goals. Part II asks how we should tax, and examines the conventional frameworks of equity, efficiency, and administrative capacity as the three guiding principles for most tax policy analysis. Part III concludes.
And here is the brief TOC:

I.          Why Do We Tax?        
A.         State Building
B.         Internal Management
C.         Negotiated Expansion
II.         Normative Foundations          
A.         Equity
B.         Economic Efficiency
C.         Administrative Capacity
III.        Conclusion

Input as to what is missing is welcome; this is a work in progress. 

Tagged as: scholarship tax policy theory

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For female law students: 5 warning signs your important interview with that law firm won't yield you a job offer

Published Apr 06, 2018 - Follow author Allison: - Permalink



[Update: I understand that some find this post to be (1) making a causal claim that is (2) sexist or misses sexism as a main causal factor of an unsuccessful job interview. I can see that I used the word "reasons" in the title, and that isn't right. As the blog post makes clear, I offered these as warning signs, not reasons: as I say below, "I have no way to know any more than they did who got the job or why they didn't get the job." The idea of this post is to explore some of the flags that might indicate an interview is not going as well as it seems on the surface. The reasons for which the interview might not be going well are many, and among them are pernicious behaviours and expectations. I revised the title to better reflect the content of the blog post but have not revised the text of the post below.]

I hear from law students all the time that an interview they thought went very very well didn't land them the job. A lot of the time (not always) these are female students. A lot of the time (not always) they were perfectly qualified and very capable. A lot of the time (not always) I think they probably would have done very well in a law firm job. I have no way to know any more than they did who got the job or why they didn't get the job.

However, I can identify some warning signs from my own experiences (not all horrible) and through countless conversations with my students over the years. In the hopes that this will help someone in some future interview, I offer five signs things didn't go as well as you thought they did:

1) You were wearing something uncomfortable. Believe me, it showed. If something is itchy or your feet hurt or whatever, if you thought for even one nanosecond about anything you were wearing, the interview was over that moment. Doubly over if you happened to inspect any part of yourself at any time. You were distracted, and your distress was noticeable. You did not go to this interview to impress someone with your impeccable taste in fashion. Be professional yes but be comfortable and laser focused at all times on why you are there.

2) The interviewer at any time looked at any piece of paper or a phone or iPad or anything but you. Clearly whatever was on the paper or the screen was more more important than you. You were supposed to be the star of this show, and you didn't command the full attention of your audience. Why is that? Are you waiting for the interviewer to ask you a good question, hopefully one that you meticulously prepared to answer? Why are you waiting for that? Your job in the interview is to actively engage the interviewer. Not the other way around.

3) There was more than one interviewer, and at some point they looked at or talked to one another instead of you. These interviewers are tired and they sat through a lot of interviewees today, making constant, mostly negative, judgments and decisions about a lot of people they don't know. They are looking for a way to take a mental pause during your interview. When you got lulled into that energy, you gave them the excuse; this is not a serious candidate, so we are on break now. If you don't wake them up, get them sitting straight in their chairs and laser focused on you, you will not get the job.

4) The interview mainly focused on your hobbies/other interests/places you've traveled; the firm's pro bono work; or its strong commitment to work-life balance. This is a job interview. You are being inspected for signs that you might not be 100% committed to living out your full life within the four walls of your office, serving the firm's paying clients with selfless dedication. You don't have any hobbies that don't involve reading the business section of the newspaper. (Note: take the hobbies or outside interests etc section off your resume and if anyone asks you what your hobbies are, they are: reading the business section of the newspaper, e.g., to see what new deals are unfolding. And then steer the conversation back to the job).

5) A day or a week after the interview, the thing you recollect the most is that the interview seemed pleasant and easy, and everyone was nice. You got a few minutes to make an impression that you are serious, capable, and a boss, and instead, you spent your time trying to be pleasant and unobtrusive. Stop trying to make people like you: you need to think about what you are doing that makes people not take you seriously. Is it your passive or deferential behaviour? Why do you think any law firm would want to hire a lawyer with those characteristics? They don't want to. So stop it.

You can commit a lot of perception errors in an interview. These are only five of the ones I note on an annual basis. If you notice them happening, realizing you are in a hole could be the first step to changing the conversation.









Tagged as: general life advice for law students

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Heyka on Tax Treaty Arbitration and A World Tax Court

Published Feb 22, 2017 - Follow author Allison: - Permalink

Last fall I via twitter I shouted out two of my students who won the Tax Analysts Student Writing Competition, in the international category:

I posted about the first paper long ago but I inadvertently neglected to post the second.  Correcting that oversight, here it is, available at Tax Analysts: A World Tax Court: The Solution to Tax Treaty Arbitration, by Jake Heyka. Here is the brief abstract by TA:
Jake Heyka examines tax treaty arbitration standards while demonstrating that as a matter of fundamental justice, arbitration should be revamped. He proposes the creation of a world tax court.
Heyka begins by observing that "[t]he institution of international tax treaty arbitration (ITTA) is hotly debated in international business and tax law. While the process is helpful because it pressures governments to resolve contested tax decisions, opponents have called it 'secret and evil.'"
He then makes the provocative observation that "the use of ITTA ultimately frustrates the resolution of tax disputes and should be supplanted by a world tax court." In support of his proposal, Heyka lays out the history and critique of tax treaty arbitration (including by me) and concludes:
Standardizing ITTA will create some procedural certainty but does not guarantee consistent use of those procedures, allow the public to see whether the process is fair, or establish reliable precedent. As Lindencrona and Mattson suggested over 30 years ago, ITTA should be a stepping stone to what the world ultimately needs: a world tax court.
As radical as it may seem, the idea is not far-fetched. World courts exist in many commercial and noncommercial contexts, and those that deal with money rather than crime are followed by many countries and used quite often. Moreover, state authority is regularly ceded to resolve disputes between commercial parties in arbitration courts such as the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, the London Court of International Arbitration, and many other arbitration institutes. A world tax court would merely serve as a place to resolve tax disputes in a similar manner while sustaining the public nature of tax law.
While I am late to post it, Heyka's article remains timely as the inclusion of arbitration in the recently released MLI is sure to keep the issue front and center in international tax discourse. Congrats Jake, and sorry for the delay in posting your accomplishment.

Tagged as: arbitration governance institutions international law McGill OECD scholarship

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Tax justice and human rights: call for essays on litigation strategies

Published Jan 26, 2016 - Follow author Allison: - Permalink

I received the following notice by email, of interest:
Oxfam and the Tax Justice Network are joining together to launch a tax justice and human rights essay competition for legal students and professionals. With tax justice rising up the human rights agenda, we want to hear your ideas on how human rights law can be used in the fight against tax dodging.

Tax justice is a human rights issue

International tax dodging by multinational corporations and wealthy elites costs countries both rich and poor billions of dollars a year in lost revenues. This is undermining vital public services where they are most needed and further driving inequality at a time when the richest 62 people in the world have as much wealth as half the world's population.  Overall, substantial damage is done to human rights through the use of tax havens, the opacity of corporate accounting, the manipulation of trade prices and the disguising of beneficial ownership. But national and international fora may provide scope for redress.

What we want

We're inviting 3,500-word complaints to identify the plaintiffs, defendants, remedies sought, and arguments that are considered enforceable in an existing legal forum. We seek complaints that could form the basis of effective  advice to developing countries, or to groups of citizens in countries at any income level who have suffered, and want to know how they could best use law to protect their or their people's human rights in the face of tax injustice.
I have a few thoughts on this and I really look forward to seeing the results of the competition.

Tagged as: justice scholarship Tax law tax policy

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

Published Nov 10, 2015 - Follow author Allison: - 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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Today at McGill Law: Richard Murphy on the Fair Tax Mark

Published Nov 02, 2015 - Follow author Allison: - 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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Today at McGill: Steven Dean on Taxing Social Enterprise

Published Oct 05, 2015 - Follow author Allison: - Permalink

The Spiegel Sohmer Tax Policy Colloquium at McGill University continues today with a presentation by Steven Dean on “SE(c)(3): A Catalyst for Social Enterprise Crowdfunding.” 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. In the paper, Prof. Dean proposes a novel tax regime that offers entrepreneurs and investors committed to combining financial returns and social good with a means of broadcasting that resolve and screening out "greenwashed" ventures.

This year's colloquium focuses on the fundamentals of corporate tax policy by critically examining issues in national and international tax policy. 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: colloquium McGill scholarship tax policy

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Spiegel Sohmer Tax Policy Colloquium at McGill Law

Published Sep 28, 2015 - Follow author Allison: - Permalink

McGill Law's annual Speigel Sohmer Tax Policy Colloquium kicks off today with a presentation by Roseanne Altshuler on the viability of a switch from worldwide to territorial corporate taxation in the United States. This year's colloquium will focus on the fundamentals of corporate tax policy by critically examining issues in national and international tax policy. 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.

Here is the colloquium line-up for the fall:

Monday, September 28: Rosanne Altshuler

Rosanne Altshuler is Dean of Social and Behavioral Science and a Professor of Economics at Rutgers University. She was the Chair of the Department of Economics at Rutgers from 2011 to 2015. She has written widely on federal tax policy, including her most recent article “Lessons the United States Can Learn from Other Countries’ Territorial Systems for Taxing Income of Multinational Corporations.”

Monday, October 5: Steven Dean

Steven Dean is a Professor at Brooklyn Law School and a specialist in tax law. His research addresses a range of tax and budgetary issues, including unconventional solutions to problems such as tax havens, regulatory complexity and tax shelters. His recent article, “Tax Deregulation,” considered the surprising implications of enhancing taxpayer autonomy.

Monday, November 2: Richard Murphy

Richard Murphy is a chartered accountant and economist. He is the founder of the Tax Justice Network and the director of Tax Research LLP, which undertakes work on tax policy, advocacy and research. Mr. Murphy is the co-author of several publications on tax policy, including his most recent book, “Over Here and Undertaxed: Multinationals, Tax Avoidance and You.”

Tuesday, November 10: Daniel N. Shaviro

Daniel Shaviro is a Professor of Taxation at the New York University School of Law. Professor Shaviro has written several books examining tax policy, budget policy and entitlements issues. His most recent book, “Fixing US International Taxation,” offers an analytical framework for international tax policy that sidesteps the standard worldwide taxation vs. territorial taxation framework.

Monday, November 23: Kim Brooks

Kim Brooks is Dean and Weldon Professor of Law at the Schulich School of Law, Dalhousie University. Dean Brooks’ research focuses on corporate and international tax law and policy. She focuses on using a discrete area of tax law to understand a larger tax concept, and using the tax system to promote international economic justice. Dean Brooks has written widely on tax treaties and international taxation, including her recent chapter, “The Troubling Role of Tax Treaties” in the volume 51 of “Tax Design Issues Worldwide: A Series on International Taxation.”

Monday, November 30: Albert Baker

Albert Baker is the Global Leader in Tax Policy at Deloitte & Touche LLP, where he specializes in international tax, including mergers and acquisitions, corporate financing and corporate reorganizations. His recent research focuses on base erosion & profit shifting, a project to address concerns that current international tax frameworks result in double non-taxation, or stateless income, or reducing the tax base in high tax countries.

The Spiegel Sohmer Tax Policy Colloquium has been made possible by a generous grant from the law firm Spiegel Sohmer, Inc., Montreal, for the purpose of fostering an academic community in which learning and scholarship may flourish. I am delighted to welcome these distinguished guests and look forward to today's discussion.

Tagged as: colloquium corporate tax McGill scholarship tax policy

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Today at McGill: Dietsch on Catching Capital

Published Nov 17, 2014 - Follow author Allison: - Permalink

Peter Dietsch, Professor of Philosophy at the Université de Montreal, joins us today as the final speaker in the Spiegel Sohmer Tax Policy Colloquium at McGill. His presentation will focus on the opening chapters of his forthcoming book, entitled "Catching Capital." Here is the abstract:

 When individuals stash away their wealth in offshore bank accounts and multinational corporations shift their profits or their actual production to low-tax jurisdictions, this undermines the fiscal autonomy of political communities and contributes to rising inequalities in income and wealth. These practices are fuelled by tax competition, with countries strategically designing fiscal policy to attract capital from abroad. 
Building on a careful analysis of the ethical challenges raised by a world of tax competition, the book puts forward a normative and institutional framework to regulate the practice. In short, individuals and corporations should pay tax in the jurisdictions of which they are members, where this membership can come in degrees. Moreover, the strategic tax setting of states should be limited in important ways. An International Tax Organisation (ITO) should be created to enforce the principles of tax justice. 
The author defends this call for reform against two important objections. First, Dietsch refutes the suggestion that regulating tax competition will harm economic efficiency. Second, he argues that regulation of this sort, rather than representing a constraint on national sovereignty, in fact turns out to be a requirement of sovereignty in a global economy. The book closes with a series of reflections on the obligations that the beneficiaries of tax competition have towards the losers both prior to any institutional reform and in its aftermath.
The presentation will again take place in the Seminar Room of the Institute for Health and Social Policy, Charles Meredith House, 1130 Pine Ave., Montreal, beginning at 2:35 pm. As always, the colloquium is open to all: students, faculty and the general public are welcome.

Tagged as: colloquium McGill philosophy scholarship tax policy

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Today at McGill Law: Martin O'Neill on Corporations, Tax, and Social Justice

Published Nov 10, 2014 - Follow author Allison: - Permalink

Martin O'Neill, Senior Lecturer in Politics at the University of York, joins us as today's speaker in the Spiegel Sohmer Tax Policy Colloquium at McGill. He'll present a work in progress that he has entitled "Corporations, Conventionalism, Taxation and Social Justice." Here is an abstract:

A failure to take seriously the conventionality of corporations has led to an unimaginative view of corporate taxation as being structurally analogous to the taxation of individuals. There are, in fact, many disanalogies between the two: corporate profit should not be treated as analogous to individual income; low-profit corporations should not be treated advantageously by a tax system in the same way as it should treat low-income individuals; and, most significantly, corporations are not owed the same level of care and determinacy as individuals with regard to the tax rules that they face. Breaking the perceived link between individual taxation and corporate taxation makes room for a reassessment of the structure and purpose of corporate taxation. 
Taking a step back from issues focussed narrowly on taxation, as such, there is a general need to integrate normative issues regarding corporations into our understanding of the proper configuration of the basic structure of a democratic society. In our current non-ideal circumstances, the corporations we actually have are corrosive of the possibility of social justice. In part, this is because we’ve been blinded by a certain picture of corporations as ‘natural’ economic entities, and have been too timid and unimaginative in the ways in which we subject corporations to political regulation and constraint. A robust conventionalism would allow us to reverse the usual order of justification: from seeing corporations as placing constraints on government policy, to seeing corporations as conventional economic units that should be embedded in an institutional and regulatory structure that delivers social justice. 
This gestalt switch opens up wide vistas for public policy innovation. Thus, this is an area in which applied political philosophy has an important home. First, conceptually, it opens up policy spaces which are easy to ignore when one is in the grip of an earlier picture. Secondly, in order to make sense of theories of liberal egalitarian justice, we need a better idea of their institutional setting, and this means moving beyond (or at least supplementing) overly schematic debates about the relative significance of government agencies and individual behaviour. We also need to think about how the basic structure of society should be organized so as to marshal its most significant economic institutions in directions which are conducive to the pursuit of social justice within a democratic society.
The presentation will again take place in the Seminar Room of the Institute for Health and Social Policy, Charles Meredith House, 1130 Pine Ave., Montreal, beginning at 2:35 pm. As always, the colloquium is open to all: students, faculty and the general public are welcome.

Tagged as: colloquium corporate tax McGill philosophy scholarship tax policy

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