TAX, SOCIETY & CULTURE

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Today at McGill: Dietsch on Catching Capital

Published Nov 17, 2014 - Follow author Allison Christians: - 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 Christians: - 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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Today at McGill Law: Patrick Turmel on The Reasons for Taxation

Published Oct 27, 2014 - Follow author Allison Christians: - Permalink

We continue the Spiegel Sohmer Tax Policy Colloquium at McGill Law today with a presentation by Patrick Turmel, Professor of Philosophy, Université de Laval, who will be discussing a paper he is co-authoring with David Robichaud, Professor of Philosophy, University of Ottawa.  The paper is called "The Reasons of Taxation. Efficiency, Freedom, Equality." Here is the abstract:

In Capital in the XXI century, Thomas Piketty argues for a series of controversial policy recommendations, such as a substantial increase in tax rates on higher incomes and a global tax on capital whose explicit aim is to halt the current spiral of inequality. Piketty’s main argument for these recommendations is not moral, but economic. Indeed, higher tax rates on top revenues and a progressive global tax on capital have not much to do with social justice or equality per se. According to Piketty, they are mostly needed in order to correct the market and maximize efficiency. But Piketty also put forth democratic reasons in favour of fighting inequalities, since they not only threaten the market, but also the very foundations of political freedom. These two types of reasons – reasons of efficiency and reasons of freedom - certainly go a long way to justify fighting the current dynamics of inequality and thus resisting the return of the Belle Époque’s patrimonial capitalism. But they remain somehow weak, when looked at from the perspective of most theories of social justice. They certainly don’t have much normative force when it comes to justifying important redistribution of wealth, as social justice seems to call for. At the very least, they fall short of creating a complete argument. The aim of this paper is to contribute to filling this gap by showing that alongside reasons of efficiency and freedom, a third type of reasons should play a central role in our understanding and justification of taxation, namely: reasons of equality. 
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 law tax policy

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Today at McGill Law: Joseph Heath on Taxation as Collective Consumption

Published Oct 20, 2014 - Follow author Allison Christians: - Permalink

Professor Joseph Heath, Professor of Philosophy, University of Toronto, joins us today as the second speaker in the McGill University Speigel Sohmer Tax Policy Colloquium. Professor Heath is drawing from his book, Filthy Lucre: Economics for People Who Hate Capitalism, (released in the US as "Economics without Illusions: Debunking the Myths of Modern Capitalism"), where he writes about viewing taxation as a "club good":

Individuals express a surprisingly pervasive error that I refer to as the “government as consumer” fallacy. The picture underlying this fallacy is relatively straightforward. Government services, such as health care, education, national defense, and so on, “cost” us as a society. We are able to pay for them only because of all the wealth that we generate in the private sector, which we transfer to the government in the form of taxes. A government that taxes the economy too heavily stands accused of “killing the goose that lays the golden eggs” by disrupting the mechanism that generates the wealth that it itself relies upon in order to provides its services. Thus the government gets treated as a consumer of wealth, while the private sector is regarded as a producer. This is totally confused. The state in fact produces exactly the same amount of wealth as the market, which is to say, it produces none at all. People produce wealth, and people consume wealth. Institutions, such as the state or the market, neither produce nor consume anything. They simply constitute mechanisms through which people coordinate their production and consumption of wealth.
Heath has also pointed us to Todd Sandler's work on "Buchanan clubs."

 The presentation will 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: McGill philosophy scholarship tax policy

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This Fall at McGill: Colloquium on Tax Philosophy

Published Sep 12, 2014 - Follow author Allison Christians: - Permalink

I am pleased to announce that the annual McGill tax policy colloquium is now being generously supported by the law firm Spiegel Sohmer, Inc., under a grant established for the purpose of fostering an academic community in which learning and scholarship may flourish.

This fall, in its inaugural instalment, the Spiegel Sohmer Tax Policy Colloquium will return to tax policy fundamentals by critically examining the goals of taxation from a law and philosophy perspective.

The Colloquium will therefore be convened jointly by myself and Daniel Weinstock, who is the James McGill Professor in the Faculty of Law and Director of the McGill Institute for Health and Social Policy.  His research explores the governance of certain types of liberal democracies, and the effects of religious and cultural diversity from an ethical perspective on the political and ethical philosophy of public policy.

Each talk takes place in the Seminar Room, Institute for Health and Social Policy, 1130 Pine Ave, from 14:35 to 17:35.  These events are free and open to everyone. We welcome students, faculty and the general public to attend. Here is the line-up:

Monday, October 6: Wayne Norman, Mike and Ruth Mackowski Professor of Ethics, Kenan Institute for Ethics and Department of Philosophy, Duke University. His work focuses on business ethics and his published work includes numerous books and journal articles, as well as contributions to “Ethics for Adversaries: How to Play Fair When You’re Playing to Win.”

Monday, October 20: Joseph Heath, Professor in the Department of Philosophy and the School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Toronto; Director of the University of Toronto Centre for Ethics. He has published work very widely including the recent book "Enlightenment 2.0: Restoring Sanity to Our Politics, Our Economy, and Our Lives."

Monday, October 27: Patrick Turmel, Professor in the Department of Philosophy, Laval University. His work focuses on ethics and political institutions, particularly cities. His publications include co-authorship of a book titled “La Juste Part: Repenser les Inégalités, la Richesse et la Fabrication des Grille-Pains.”

Monday, November 11: Martin O’Neill, Senior Lecturer in Moral and Political Philosophy, Department of Politics, University of York, U.K. His research examines global and intergenerational justice. Among his many publications, Professor O’Neill’s most recent book is “Property-Owning Democracy: Rawls and Beyond.”

Monday, November 17: Peter Dietsch, Professor, Department of Philosophy, Université de Montréal. He works on questions of distributive justice with particular emphasis on the application of philosophical theories through social instruments including the tax system. His work is widely published, including a recent article titled “Tax Competition and Global Background Justice” in The Journal of Political Philosophy. He is also working on a book on tax competition entitled “Catching Capital”.

I am looking forward to hearing what these pre-eminent philosophers can tell us about the state of contemporary tax policy theory. Over the course of the semester it is my hope that we can develop a framework for thinking about tax policy that responds to the world in which we find ourselves today, with all of its promises and challenges for democracy, economy, and identity.

Tagged as: McGill philosophy scholarship tax policy

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Today at McGill Law: Day Two of Tax Justice and Human Rights Research Collaboration Symposium #TJHR

Published Jun 19, 2014 - Follow author Allison Christians: - Permalink

The conversation among students, academic researchers, and tax justice advocates and activists on the topic of tax justice and human rights continues at McGill today. You can follow the proceedings and make comments on twitter at #TJHR. Program and speaker info here.

Here is the day's lineup:
Time
Topic
Location
08:30 – 09:00
Registration & Arrival Tea/Coffee
Atrium
09:00 – 09:15
Welcome remarksAllison Christians (Stikeman Chair in Tax Law, McGill Faculty of Law); Dennis Howlett (Executive Director, Canadians for Tax Fairness); John Christensen (Director, Tax Justice Network); and Jean Symes (Program and Policy Analyst, Inter Pares)
Moot Court (room 100)
09:15 – 10:00
1. Setting the Stage
William Stephenson (Editor in Chief, McGill Law Journal), Moderator
Kim Brooks (Dean and Weldon Professor of Law at the Schulich School of Law at Dalhouse University), Why Justice Matters for Tax Policy
Ignacio Saiz (Executive Director, Center for Human Rights in Economic Policy), The Evolving Norms and Standards of Human Rights
Allison Christians (Stikeman Chair in Tax, McGill Faculty of Law), Who Has Rights, What Rights, and Against Whom?
Moot Court (room 100)
10:00 – 11:15
2. Human Rights and Tax Justice Reports
Aldo Caliari (Director, Rethinking Bretton Woods Project), Moderator
Lloyd Lipsett (President and Rapporteur, International Bar Association Task Force on Illicit Financial Flows, Poverty and Human Rights): IBA Human Rights Institute Task Force on Illicit Financial Flows, Poverty and Human Rights Report
Kate Donald (Adviser to the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights), UNHRC Report
Adrienne Margolis (Founder and Editor, Lawyers 4 Better Business), L4BB Report
David Quentin (Senior Adviser, Tax Justice Network), and Shirley Pouget(Senior Program Lawyer, Int. Bar Assoc. Human Rights Institute), discussants
Moot Court (room 100)
11:15 – 11:30
Refreshment Break
Atrium
11:30 – 12:45
3. Gender and Fiscal Justice
Liz Nelson (Partnership Development and Resources Coordinator, Tax Justice Network), Moderator
Annick Provencher (Professor, Faculty of Law, Université de Montréal),From the Invisible Hand to the Invisible Woman
Rhys Kesselman (Professor, School of Public Policy, Simon Fraser University), Income Splitting and Alternatives for Family Tax Cuts in Canada
Kathleen Lahey (Professor, Queen's University Law School), Sex Equality and Tax Justice: Gender Impact of Tax, Benefit, and Other Fiscal Policies
Kate Donald (Adviser to the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights), Attiya Waris (Senior Lectrurer, Faculty of Law, Univ. of Nairobi), discussants
Moot Court (room 100)
12:45 – 14:15
Lunch, Keynote Speaker Thomas Pogge (Leitner Professor of Philosophy and International Affairs, Yale University) VIA SKYPE
Thomson House
14:15 – 15:45
4. Fiscal Justice: Regional Challenges and Initiatives
May Hen (Master's candidate, Simon Fraser University), Moderator
Savior Mwambwa (Policy and Advocacy Manager, Tax Justice Network - Africa), The Reform of the Global Tax System: Keys Issues and Lessons from Africa
André Mendes Moreira (Associate Professor of Tax Law - Federal University of Minas Gerais), Indirect Taxes and Tax Justice
Misabel Machado Derzi (Professor of Tax Law, the Federal University of Minas Gerais), Guerre fiscale, Bourse Famille et Silence
Renaud Fossard (Latindad), Latin American Countries: Local Issues and International Influences
Lyne Latulippe (Professor, University of Sherbrooke), John Christensen (Director, Tax Justice Network), discussants
Moot Court (room 100)
16:45 – 16:00
Refreshment Break
Atrium
16:00 – 17:30
5. Reducing Inequality: International Corporate Tax Reform
Jo Marie Griesgraber (Executive Director, New Rules for Global Finance Coalition), Moderator
Erika Siu (Tax Research Consultant, International Centre for Taxation and Development), BEPS Monitoring Group Activities: An Update
Michael Knoll (Theodore K. Warner Professor of Law, University of Pennsylvania Law School), Competitive Neutrality and the EU Model
Lee Sheppard (Journalist, Tax Analysts), OECD Initiative on BEPS
Robert Fox (Executive Director, Oxfam Canada), Business Among Friends: Why corporate tax dodgers are not yet losing sleep over global tax reform 
Samuel Singer (Associate, Stikeman Elliott), discussant
Moot Court (room 100)
17:30 – 17:45
Announcements
Moot Court (room 100)
17:45 – 18:30
Refreshment Break: Atrium


Breakout Session: IBAHRI Update on Tax and the Millennium Development Goals, Moot Court (room 100)

Tagged as: conference fairness human rights justice McGill scholarship tax policy

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Conversation on the Sources of International Law

Published Dec 12, 2012 - Follow author Allison Christians: - Permalink

An interesting dialogue is taking place over at EJIL over Jean d'Aspremont's book, Formalism and the Sources of International Law: A Theory of the Ascertainment of Legal RulesPhilip Allott posted today, and he says the book
evokes subliminally two recurring nightmares – one social, one intellectual. Socially, it reminds us of the failure of law to secure its proper place in international society. Intellectually, it reminds us of the part played by the modern university in the disempowering of the human mind.
Wow. His subsequent comments are lengthy but well worth the read. He begins by talking about the academic research & writing exercise, which produces an "industrial-scale intellectual effort" in sorting and analyzing competing views, all "while, the wicked world goes on its merry way to ruin." Allott asks that toughest of all question for the academic writer: 
Why would anyone choose to write creatively and intelligently about the philosophy of International Law? They are unlikely to be heard by those who exercise international public power – politicians, diplomats, civil servants, intergovernmental officials, international judges and arbitrators, legal practitioners – the international ruling class, a self-satisfied and self-regarding conspiracy, many of whose members have the crudest ideas about the nature of law, and many of whose members relentlessly abuse public power, national and international.
He answers the question in power terms and concludes that "more or less sophisticated ideas only escape haphazardly and fortuitously [from universities] into the outside world where, if they are not appropriated by public power or mass culture, they wither and die."

That is a depressing but true reflection of reality, I am afraid. In any event, read the whole thing to get his reaction to more of the substance of the book.




Tagged as: international law scholarship

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Call for Papers: Philosophy of International Law

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

Interesting call for papers, maybe tough for a typical international tax scholar/armchair philosopher to pass peer review, on the other hand I think international tax scholars are increasingly confronting the kinds of questions outlined here.  Details:


The Journal of Philosophy of International Law (JPIL) is a peer-reviewed (and currently an open source Journal) published by ElectronicPublications.Org Ltd—a publisher with no institutional affiliation. The JPIL’s sister publications are the Manchester Journal of International Economic Law and  the Journal of Islamic State Practices in International Law. The JPIL is being re-launched and will be published twice a year (May and November). The Journal has a distinguished Advisory Board and its aim is to provide an established scholarly platform for the philosophy of international law.
The aims of the JPIL are to promote:
  • Critical examination of and legal reflection on the foundations of International Law.
  • Philosophical analysis and critique of the nature of the international legal order or any aspect thereof.
The areas that might be covered by these aims include, but are not confined to the following:
  • Historical enquiry into International Law for philosophical purposes, or intellectual history as related to the foundations and development of International Law.
  • Ethical issues in International Law or the uses of International Law for ethical debate.
  • Ontological questions of the existence of International Law and the nature of the reality it attempts to regulate, such as states, humanity and world society.
  • Epistemological questions of an interdisciplinary nature and enquiry into the limits of disciplinary approaches such as positivism in International Law.
Guidelines for Authors:
The Journal welcomes submissions of articles and reviews for consideration with a view to publication. The normal word length for article contributions is between 4000-8000 words. The normal word length for reviews/commentaries should be 1000 to 1500 words. Submissions (except reviews/commentaries) should include a short abstract of not more than 60 words. The style guide for references is Oxford University Standard for Citation of Legal Authorities (OSCOLA).
Editorial correspondence, including submissions to the Journal, should be made electronically to the Editor-in-Chief: at JPIL-submissions@mail.comJPIL@electronicpublications.org

HT Jacob Katz Cogan.

Tagged as: scholarship

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Two Tax Conferences of Note

Published Apr 16, 2012 - Follow author Allison Christians: - Permalink

My good friend John Prebble alerts me to two upcoming conferences of interest, one in the States and the other in Australia.  First, he recently issued a call for papers for the Victoria-Cornell Colloquium on Jurisprudential Perspectives of Taxation Law, which will be held at Cornell on Sept. 24-25 (You might like to work this in if you already planning on going to IFA Boston, to be held Sept. 30-Oct 4).   Prof. Prebble and Brad Wendel are co-convening the colloquium, and they are particularly keen to hear from authors interested in applying either or both coherence theory (such as the writing of Ken Kress) and the work of Ludwig Wittgenstein to the analysis of judicial reasoning in leading tax cases.   Heady stuff!  The conference abstract looks fascinating:

"The colloquium will focus on analytical and normative legal philosophy as applied to income tax law, examining judicial reasoning in income tax cases. Seminars will examine such questions as: do legal philosophers’ expositions of the nature of law adequately explain the nature of income tax law? What light do theories of jurisprudence that have not traditionally examined income tax law shed on this question? What is the relationship between law and morality in the context of income tax? Contributions are welcome on all topics of taxation law. (Discussion will generally not be concerned with broad topics of fiscal policy, or, for instance, on whether governments should use taxes to redistribute wealth.)"
That's an unusual set of questions and I look forward to seeing the papers.  The other conference is to be held in Melbourne on Thursday and Friday July 19-20, 2012, and is entitled Defining, Taxing and Regulating Not-for-Profits in the 21st Century.  This is a very timely topic in the U.S. and, it seems, in a lot of other places too.  Here is the conference abstract:
The aim of the conference is to enable academics and other experts to reflect, from theoretical and comparative perspectives, on the theme of defining, taxing and regulating the not-for-profit sector. The conference coincides with a very active period of not-for-profit law reform in Australia, with the establishment of a new national regulator, the statutory definition of charity and other changes to the taxation and regulation of charities and other not-for-profit entities.
The conference features an international cast of characters and should provide a very welcome addition to the comparative tax literature.  Thank John P for bringing these to my attention!

Tagged as: conference international law philosophy Tax law tax policy

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The Right to Justification

Published Apr 10, 2012 - Follow author Allison Christians: - Permalink

Larry Solum recommends Rainer Forst, The Right to Justification: Elements of a Constructivist Theory of Justice (New Directions in Critical Theory):
    Contemporary philosophical pluralism recognizes the inevitability and legitimacy of multiple ethical perspectives and values, making it difficult to isolate the higher-order principles on which to base a theory of justice. Rising up to meet this challenge, Rainer Forst, a leading member of the Frankfurt School's newest generation of philosophers, conceives of an "autonomous" construction of justice founded on what he calls the basic moral right to justification.

    Forst begins by identifying this right from the perspective of moral philosophy. Then, through an innovative, detailed critical analysis, he ties together the central components of social and political justice—freedom, democracy, equality, and toleration—and joins them to the right to justification. The resulting theory treats "justificatory power" as the central question of justice, and by adopting this approach, Forst argues, we can discursively work out, or "construct," principles of justice, especially with respect to transnational justice and human rights issues.

    As he builds his theory, Forst engages with the work of Anglo-American philosophers such as John Rawls, Ronald Dworkin, and Amartya Sen, and critical theorists such as Jürgen Habermas, Nancy Fraser, and Axel Honneth. Straddling multiple subjects, from politics and law to social protest and philosophical conceptions of practical reason, Forst brilliantly gathers contesting claims around a single, elastic theory of justice.
    ... Forst's master idea is that people have a right and duty of reciprocal justification in the domain of shared institutions and that testing for the justice of such arrangements means testing for how far they are indeed justifiable. 
This is useful in thinking about the rise of global tax activism, where it is not necessarily clear that what people seek is rule or regime change, but rather an accounting of what the rules and regimes have wrought, and a justification for the status quo and its systemic continuation through the construction of international institutions and epistemic communities.









Tagged as: fairness institutions philosophy rule of law

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