Academic journal article The George Washington International Law Review

A Different Perspective on Tax Competition

Academic journal article The George Washington International Law Review

A Different Perspective on Tax Competition

Article excerpt


International Tax Competition: Globalisation and Fiscal Sovereignty, Edited by Rajiv Biswas, London: Commonwealth Secretariat, 2002. PP. 317, L14.99 (Softcover).


International Tax Competition: Globalisation and Fiscal Sovereignty1 is a collection of papers written by various professors, tax administrators, and tax advisers British Commonwealth membership countries. Frequently, the authors represent the official positions of their respective governments, although this is not always the case. The essays are primarily from the perspective of small tax haven countries. The authors of these essays offer the reader a different perspective from that which regularly seems to dominate the discussion in United States and elsewhere.

As a collection of separate essays this book is fairly broad in its scope, ranging from the technical analysis of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) treaties for possible conflicts with the potential the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) punitive actions,2 to a defense of the Cayman Islands' tax system,3 to a meditation on the meaning of globalization for the continued existence of the nation state.4 While the breadth of the subject matter is a strength because clearly all of these issues must be considered in adopting any response to "harmful tax competition," it is also a weakness in that none of the issues are addressed in the depth necessary to reach a meaningful conclusion, perhaps a result of the book format being a collection of essays. Each author thus has to start essentially from scratch to describe his or her particular take on the issues addressed.

Additionally, often related points are placed far away from each other, which makes it difficult for the reader to consider them together. There are hints and beginnings of all the important arguments that have to be considered; however, none are developed as well as they should to be entirely convincing, likely a result of the format of short essays. The reach of most of the essays is significantly beyond the grasp of each individual essay, primarily due to its brevity. One can hope that the authors or others will develop the ideas discussed in this book at a higher level, so that the debate can be engaged in further.

Almost all of the essays are fairly well written and address the most important points succinctly, as long as one understands the book is written from the perspective of Commonwealth countries rather than from a global perspective. The book is a reasonably good introduction to the international tax competition debate. The essays are uneven, however, both in level of detail and in aspiration. The economic level of sophistication is also varied. Some of articles are quite sophisticated and have direct applications; other articles tend to address issues at such a high level of abstraction that they do not lend themselves to generating concrete policy suggestions.

The topics addressed in the book are drastically in need of discussion and exchange, as many of the authors point out. Unfortunately, this volume does not present such an interchange. The collection has a somewhat inconsistent start-and-stop quality. Some credit must be given to the editor, as it is clearly difficult to organize this kind of book. One of the great pities is that no dialogue exists among the independent authors, which would have decreased the repetitive nature of the chapters and increased the amount and level of analysis.

There are five sections to the book. The first discusses the impact of globalization on the taxation of international transactions and discusses issues of tax competition from the perspectives of smaller and less developed nations, which are the countries that have the most to gain from tax competition by encouraging businesses to relocate. …

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