I've been slowly working through a couple of manuscript reviews and in one of them I started thinking about the problem of fly-in expert consultation, i.e., the traditional model of tax experts from rich countries flying in to developing countries to assess the situation and provide advice for tax reforms. This was connected to a conversation I had on twitter last week about how to get needed research on technical tax policy alternatives accomplished, when donors and tax policy institutions like the OECD tend to focus on tax assistance that furthers rather than challenges the status quo. The dangers inherent in these paradigms include policy ossification helped along by ideological entrenchment, as well as the privileging of historical ideas about who ought to be considered an expert. Also relatedly, in a paper I am working on about tax governance and the problem of special interest group influence, I am thinking about how to create more policy space for alternative tax policy views from academics and non-governmental, non-industry groups--i.e., those without direct (pecuniary or otherwise) stakes in tax policy outcomes.
This brought me to thinking again that lending expertise upon demand (rather than pushing expertise onto others) is an appealing idea and I would like to see some sort of a matching program, through which interested academics, NGOs, and other non-industry, non-government experts could make themselves available to revenue officials, especially in poorer countries, to collaborate on reforms desired by the officials, for instance by reading reforms proposed by industry or legislators or commenting on drafts of proposed tax guidance and the like. It would be an interesting project in and of itself, mapping out and connecting areas of interest and expertise that are currently excluded from the established network of government-run tax policy institutions and otherwise fragmented by geography, resources, and institutions.
Coincidentally, after I recently posted a comment on twitter about how the US could take unilateral measures to curb global tax avoidance if it chose to do so, fellow twitterer @hselftax wrote, "the #AdoptanMP campaign aims to give tech tax info to UK MPs. Perhaps you need #AdoptASenator in US?" Fascinating idea! Here is a website that talks about it.
How might such a program be built transnationally and tailored to tax collaboration on request? It would need to be voluntary on both sides--i.e., folks who self identify areas they would be willing to consult on, together with disclosure of credentials and affiliations, and revenue officials who identify areas in which they are seeking outside expertise. Does such a platform already exist, i..e, on LinkedIn or elsewhere? Is there an app for this? I know that the OECD has created tax inspectors without borders, but what I have in mind is a slightly different model than official-to-official consultation.