Tuesday, April 30, 2019

The Virtuous and Vicious Cycles of Tax Law and Development

Last week, the World Bank released a Conference Report detailing the inaugural meeting of the platform for collaboration on tax, which took place in February 2018 under the theme of Taxation and the Sustainable Development Goals. The conference report outlines four "pathways" of connection between tax and sustainable development:
  1. taxes generate the funds that finance government activities in support of the SDGs;
  2. taxation affects equity and economic growth;
  3. taxes influence people’s behavior and choices, with implications for health outcomes, gender equity, and the environment; and,
  4. fair and equitable taxation promotes taxpayer trust in government and strengthens social contracts that underpin development.
I don't disagree with these but in my view the international tax system is pretty much in perfect conflict with the sustainable development goals because of the way it allocates profit across jurisdictions. My paper on value creation with Laurens van Apeldoorn explored this and I continue to explore it, will have a new paper soon detailing what I consider a major part of the mischief and my proposed response. As part of that paper I diagram the virtuous and vicious cycles of tax and development, as follows:

And then I diagram what turns a virtuous into a vicious cycle as follows:

Every system experiences fissures, but where there is extreme lack of development, fissures seem to dominate and perpetuate a vicious cycle instead of contributing to a virtuous one. I think these visuals generally track with the messages from the conference report but in my view the connection between tax and development goes well beyond revenue collection, so we need to think well beyond tax evasion and tax avoidance when we are thinking about how to align these broad international systems and goals.

That said, the report labels me as presenting "the most radical suggestion" at that conference. I found the video online and excerpted my part; what I said doesn't sound all that radical to me, one year later:

More on this to come soon.

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