Project

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The emergence of global tax payers: the (re-)making of international business tax law

English title The emergence of global tax payers: the (re-)making of international business tax law
Applicant Eckert Julia
Number 166087
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Institut für Sozialanthropologie Philosophisch-historische Fakultät Universität Bern
Institution of higher education University of Berne - BE
Main discipline Ethnology
Start/End 01.08.2016 - 31.01.2021
Approved amount 474'052.00
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All Disciplines (3)

Discipline
Ethnology
Legal sciences
Economics

Keywords (5)

fiscal anthropology; international tax law ; regulation; knowledge networks; emergence of global legal norms

Lay Summary (German)

Lead
Die Internationalität, Legitimität und Effektivität des internationalen Steuerrechts ist im letzten Jahrzehnt weltweit in vielen Ländern öffentlich kritisiert worden. In diesem Projekt werden die Akteure, Prozesse und Orte untersucht durch welche und an denen internationales Steuerrecht in der Praxis verhandelt und produziert wird.
Lay summary

Die Abwesenheit einer internationalen Steuerrechtsbehörde, welche globales Steuerrecht entwirft und implementiert, führt zu einer Situation, welche sich auffallend von der nationalen Ebene unterscheidet: denn internationales Steuerrecht wird von Staatsvertretern, Steuerexperten und Interessensgruppen innerhalb von intergovernmentalen Organisationen ausgehandelt, die letztlich nur zum Teil demokratisch legitimiert sind. Die Legitimität, Internationalität und Effektivität der derzeitigen Normen und Regeln werden deshalb von verschiedenen Akteuren, die bis jetzt nicht am Verhandlungsprozess teilgenommen haben—vorrangig Länder des globalen Südens und zivilgesellschaftliche Organisationen—in Frage gestellt. Das Projekt, das mit qualitativen Forschungsmethoden arbeitet, hat zum Ziel, ein empirisch fundiertes Verständnis zu generieren, wie internationales Steuerrecht in der Praxis gemacht wird. Es will dazu beitragen, die Auswirkungen einer veränderten Wahrnehmung von Steuergerechtigkeit („Wer soll wo Steuern zahlen, und wie viel?“) und dem derzeitigen Streit über die Machtordnung internationales Steuerrechtsnormen zu bestimmen („Wer soll einen Sitz am Steuerrechtsverhandlungstisch in intergovernmentalen Organisationen haben?“) auf die Produktion von internationalem Steuerrecht zu untersuchen. Damit gibt das Projekt auch allgemeine Aufschlüsse darüber, wie internationale Normen und Regeln für die globale Ressourcenverteilung zwischen Staaten entstehen. Dies ist besonders von Bedeutung für derzeitige Versuche in den Sozialwissenschaften, die Konsequenzen und Effekte der wachsenden Diskrepanz von vornehmlich territorial organisierten Staaten und einer zunehmend transnational organisierten Wirtschaft zu verstehen.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 04.08.2016

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Publications

Publication
The Oxford Handbook of Law and Anthropology
Eckert Julia, DannPhilipp (2020), The Oxford Handbook of Law and Anthropology, in Sapignoli Maria, Foblets Marie-Claire, Zenker Olaf, Sapignoli Maria, Zenker Olaf, Goodale Mark, Foblets Marie-Claire, Goodale Mark (ed.), Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1-21.
Unsere Gegenwart soll gerechter werden
EckertJulia (2020), Unsere Gegenwart soll gerechter werden, Conde Nast Verlag , München.
Durkheim in World Society: Roger Cotterrell’s Concept of Transnational Law
Eckert Julia (2019), Durkheim in World Society: Roger Cotterrell’s Concept of Transnational Law, in Ratio Juris, 32(4), 498-508.
The solidarity of concern
Eckert Julia (2019), The solidarity of concern, in Anthropological Theory, 1-10.
Regulatory capture? Fiscal anthropological insights into the heart of contemporary statehood
Mugler Johanna (2019), Regulatory capture? Fiscal anthropological insights into the heart of contemporary statehood, in The Journal of Legal Pluralism and Unofficial Law, 50(3), 379-395.
Anthropology and Tax: Ethnographies of Fiscal Relations
Smith Robin, Sheild Johansson Miranda, Mugler Johanna (ed.), Anthropology and Tax: Ethnographies of Fiscal Relations, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
Prof. Sol Picciotto, Law School, University of Lancaster Great Britain and Northern Ireland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Prof. Richard Rottenburg, Institute for Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Halle Witten Germany (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Prof. Thomas Cottier, World Trade Institute, University of Bern Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Research Infrastructure

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
Workshop: An Anthropology of Tax Individual talk Tax me if you can: the dematerialisation of property and corporate income tax 27.10.2019 Stockholm, Sweden Mugler Johanna;
Biennal Conference of the German Anthropology Association Talk given at a conference Internationale Steuertechnokratien nicht mehr unter sich. Anthropologische Perspektiven auf die Macht und Ohnmacht des nicht-politischen Verhandlungsvakuums. 01.10.2019 Konstanz, Germany Mugler Johanna;
Workshop: Springtime in Amsterdam; Peter Sloterdijk and others on voluntary taxation in a globalized world Talk given at a conference What’s wrong with paying taxes voluntarily? 21.03.2019 Amsterdam; Universität, Center for Tax Law, Netherlands Mugler Johanna;
Workshop: Localizing the Study of the State and Bureaucracy Talk given at a conference How to share beyond the nation state? Situating anthropologists of the state and tax policy negotiatiors between national and global interests 17.01.2019 Amsterdam, University, Department for Anthropology, Netherlands Mugler Johanna;
Annual Conference of the American Anthropological Association Talk given at a conference Changing perceptions of global tax fairness? Studying tax policy negotiations at the OECD in Paris 29.11.2018 Washington , United States of America Mugler Johanna;
Kolloquium Individual talk Sharing Global Corporate Profits, Negotiating Tax Rules for the Digital Economy at the OECD in Paris 27.11.2018 Bern, Universität, Switzerland Mugler Johanna;
Vortragsreihe Individual talk Internationales Steuerrecht und seine Verhandlung. Ethnographische Spurenaufzeichungen der OECD G20 “Task Force on the Digital Economy” 25.10.2018 Konstanz, Universität, Germany Mugler Johanna;
Interdisciplinary seminar: Miscommunication and Distrust in the International Tax Debate Talk given at a conference The international tax debate: a social anthropology perspective 14.06.2018 Amsterdam, Center for Tax Law , Netherlands Mugler Johanna;
Annual Conference of the Swiss Anthropology Society Talk given at a conference The Premises and Promises of Alternative Norms in the Global Economy 09.11.2017 Neuchatel , Switzerland Mugler Johanna;
Biennial conference of the German Anthropological Association Talk given at a conference Who is afraid of tax law? 04.10.2017 Berlin, Germany Mugler Johanna;
Interdisciplinary Summer School: The political anthropology of world society: practices of knowledge and regulation Talk given at a conference Negotiating International Tax Law at the OECD in Paris: An Ethnography of the Emergence of Global Tax Norms 23.08.2016 Indemini , Switzerland Eckert Julia; Mugler Johanna;


Self-organised

Title Date Place
Against structural postponement On the legitimacy and possibilities of new institutions of sharing 05.09.2021 Murten, Switzerland

Knowledge transfer events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Date Place Persons involved
National Taxpayer Advocate Conversation Series, Washington D.C., Internal Revenue Service Talk 01.12.2017 Washington, United States of America Mugler Johanna;


Communication with the public

Communication Title Media Place Year
Media relations: print media, online media Visionen bedeuten Hoffnung in einer Zukunft ohne Arbeit’ Uniaktuell German-speaking Switzerland 2019
New media (web, blogs, podcasts, news feeds etc.) The empty chairs. On the Tedious Constraints of trans-local research’ Anthroblog German-speaking Switzerland Western Switzerland Rhaeto-Romanic Switzerland Italian-speaking Switzerland International 2018

Awards

Title Year
Caroline von Humboldt Preis 2021

Abstract

This ethnographic research project explores the emergence of global tax norms and the negotiation and making of international tax law. By studying the actors and the processes through which international tax law develops, this project contributes to the understanding of the making and change of these international laws and global norms. The production of international tax law is a matter of multiple sovereigns. The absence of a single sovereign designing and implementing global tax laws inherently creates a situation notably distinct from the national sphere. Domestic tax legislation develops within democratic institutions, which gives these norms, principles and procedures authority and legitimacy while on the global level there is no counterpart to such institutions. The making of international tax law involves state representatives, international tax experts and interest groups engaging in continuous negotiations within intergovernmental organizations to devise its norms and rules. Due to the opaque nature of intergovernmental organizations and international tax expert networks, little it known and understood about the nature and implications for equality and distributive justice of developing international tax law. Over the last decade however, there has been a sharp rise in demand for more transparency and scrutiny of international tax law making processes. The legitimacy and internationality of the current norms and principles are called into question by actors who have not previously participated in these processes - specifically, countries of the global South. Civil society organizations have further criticized the laws as unfair because they provide transnationally operating businesses with legal opportunities to greatly minimise their tax burden and are therefore described as inefficient in regulating today’s globally integrated economy. The hypothesis of this project is that the changing perception of tax fairness (“who should pay, where, and how much?”) and the current battle over the power to make norms of international taxation (“who should have a seat at the tax making table in intergovernmental organizations?”) have significant implications in the realm of international taxation. It will effect how global revenue is distributed, will shift consensus on what form of tax planning is perceived as fair und acceptable, and what fiscal accountabilities should entail. This project tests this hypothesis within the setting of the G20 OECD global initiative to regulate “Base Erosion and Profit Shifting” (BEPS) of transnational businesses and corporations. We ask: how does the involvement of economically powerful non-OECD countries in the tax law making process and the intense debate about tax fairness in many civil societies affect the negotiation and making of international tax laws in this specific setting? In order to understand the process by which international tax norms emerge from the interactions that take place within the BEPS initiative, this project postulates that that the following insights are required: (1) identification of actors within the various levels of BEPS negotiations, and norm and law making (2) understanding their work culture, (3) their values, norms and beliefs, (4) tracing their internal information gathering, decision-making and consensus making processes, and (5) identifying interpersonal and institutional factors which lead to the inclusion or exclusion of alternative viewpoints, and impact which norms become powerful and legitimate. This project puts forward that an ethnography, a methodically plural and context-related research strategy, is best suited to gathering these insights. Through extensive field contacts, an ethnographic approach aims at the participation of the inner logic and self-conception of social situations. Such a research approach is therefore most suitable for exploring difficult to access organizational settings and the informal rules that shape how actors think and work and the norms that underpin practices in such settings. Only with the help of such a perspective is it possible to gain an empirically grounded understanding of how and which international tax norms gain dominance and legitimacy within the BEPS initiative, and for which reasons. This in turn will contribute to a better understanding of the transparency and making of global and international tax law.
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