“Visible, Though Not Visible in Itself”. Transparency at the Crossroads of International Financial Regulation and International Taxation

This article addresses the origins and potential evolutionary perspectives of one of the most frequently recurring words in the international tax policy debate: transparency. In doing so, this study introduces a two-level analysis. At a background level, it acknowledges that transparency is – by now – a term of art in the social sciences which lends itself to some specific legal characterizations. Adopting this very conceptual framework, the article advances the hypothesis of many symmetries between the international tax and financial regulatory spheres, which, in some instances, would seem to be suggestive of a derivative nature of the currently promoted transparency agenda in international taxation from various initiatives in the field of international financial regulation: this observation applies in particular to some underlying conceptual categories, institutional frameworks and concrete implementation mechanisms. The article argues that there are, thus, ample margins, on the one hand, to promote a reconciliation between these two regulatory spheres and, on the other hand, that international financial regulation – due to its historical precedence – may serve as a good predictor of some fundamental developments in the area of international tax transparency, once again especially with regard to the development of an institutional framework and the adoption of implementation mechanisms. At the same time, the shortcomings or asymmetries of the transparency agendas promoted in the two main fields of enquiry covered by the article are addressed in the light of the contribution of interdisciplinary “transparency studies” surveyed in the background section of this contribution.