A quiet, but powerful, movement seems to be emerging in the field of international tax – the explicit recognition that development policy is integral to any analysis of international tax policy.1 Put differently, if the initial distribution of resources affects the return on resources, which itself affects the taxation of resources and thus the provision of public goods (which themselves feed back into the return on resources), distribution must be incorporated into the efficiency analysis of international taxation rather than thought of as a second, unrelated “fairness” step.2
Mitchell Kane contributes to this evolution in his thoughtful new article, Bootstraps and Poverty Traps: Tax Treaties as Novel Tools for Development Finance, 29 Yale J. Reg. 255 (2012). In this article, Kane attempts to integrate development economics into the tax treaty calculation itself – the exact opposite of traditional tax treaty policy. Originally, the policy behind tax treaties was to lower tax barriers to cross-border trade – as barriers dropped, trade increased, making everyone better off. What this theory did not take into account, however, was that this only worked for countries between which trade would flow. That is, countries with roughly similar economies. But what about small, capital poor countries? What would they get in return for signing a tax treaty with a wealthy country? The emerging consensus is: nothing. So why would they ever sign a treaty with a wealthy country such as the United States? Continue reading "Integrating Tax and Development Policy"