Taxation Untapped: the potential of the UN Sustainable Development Goals to promote progressive international tax reform

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Taxation is a unique and valuable method to create a significant and sustainable source of domestic and international public finance for the public goods essential to the realisation of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). However, current proposals for reform of the international tax regime to address tax avoidance by high-profit multinational corporations (MNCs) are deeply flawed. This contribution explores the potential of Goal 17 of the SDGs to mandate and articulate a progressive international tax reform agenda based on two pillars. The first makes recognition of the real harms done by massive tax evasion by MNCs central to any reform agenda, and proposes that taxation be reconceptualised as an institution representing a public compact between a government, its people and MNCs in a public-oriented state. The second pillar proposes the concept of Global Wealth Chains (GWCs) as the basis for exploring a more effective, transnational tax governance regime. In the following paragraphs I highlight the estimated funding gap to meet the SDGs, and describe the size and harmful effects of the ‘tax gap’ from tax evasion and avoidance, in particular for poorer countries. I then show how the flagship international tax reform agenda led by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and G20 - the Base-Erosion and Profit-Shifting (BEPS) project - is based on a flawed understanding of the governance of MNCs’ profit-generation activities. I conclude with a proposal for the need to think systematically, historically and strategically about international tax governance, in order to articulate and promote an equitable and effective international tax reform agenda.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - May 2020
Externally publishedYes


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