A Thought on Global Tax Reform

UK Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne said he hoped the G-20 countries would commit to the [OECD plan to close international tax law loopholes].


The plan aims to plug the gaps created by a complex web of bilateral tax treaties that has expanded since the 1920s, and which now allows for “aggressive” tax planning, where companies adopt legal structures designed to shift their profits to the lowest-tax jurisdictions, regardless of where those profits are earned.

“These gaps have facilitated tax planning by globalized players.  The goal of the action plan is to close down the avenues that we have left open,” said Pascal Saint-Amans, director of the OECD’s Center for Tax Policy and Administration.


The UK Parliament’s public-affairs committee has held a number of heated public hearings over the past six months examining whether large companies are paying enough tax.

Never mind that of course business executives engage in careful “tax planning”—they have a fiduciary duty to their bosses, the business owners, to minimize costs and maximize profits.

Nor is there any consideration of whether the G-20 nations (other than, say, Ireland) are charging too much in the way of taxes, cynically without justifying governments’ claimed need for OPM.

And this from Ángel Gurria, OECD Secretary-General.

Although of course we do not expect [businesses] to very happily go there and deposit their more substantive check, I think they will understand that this is a way to keep the systems running better and the trains running on time.

Shades of Alexander Hamilton:

There are some who maintain that trade will regulate itself and is not to be benefitted by the encouragements or restraints of government.  Such persons imagine that there is no need of a common directing power.  This is one of those wild speculative paradoxes among us, contrary to the uniform practice and sense of the most enlightened nations.

As Adam Smith and the empirical evidence of the US’ experience until the early 20th century have shown, Hamilton was wrong then, and Gurria is wrong today.

Here’s a thought: standardize on low/no corporate tax rates.  It’s not government’s money, anyway; the money is the property of the companies and the people who own them.

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