What Is Really Wrong with Global Tax Governance and How to Properly Fix It

During the course of the last 100 years, the wealthiest and most powerful nations on the planet have systematically gathered around in small groups of experts, scientific committees and working parties, under the auspices of the League of Nations and the OECD, to decide on the appropriate tax policy norms for global implementation. The immediate consequence was, and still is, the creation of an exclusionary architecture that deprives the majority of the world’s countries from meaningfully influencing legal-institutional choices vis-à-vis what countries should tax cross-border transactions, a process that has clear global distributional implications. This article sets off to investigate this process of exclusion. It identifies two central elements that constrain broad participation in global tax governance, engendering the under-representation of the interests of developing countries: expertise and power. As further argued, the international tax arena is better understood as an entrenched political space, where influential actors maintain their privileged positions by dominating the debate and decision-making procedures. The author then proceeds to analyse possible remedies to this cartelistic and bureaucratic club model of international taxation governance, such as the creation of new intergovernmental organizations or forums, concluding that all proposals so far end up reproducing the same top-down technocratic mentality embedded in the work of the League of Nations and the OECD. Rejecting old and new solutions for a just world tax order, what the author believes is actually needed is a completely different approach, grounded on contested multilateral practices and diversity of world views. Using critical legal theory, the goal is to provide an alternative way to think (politically) about fiscal relations among developed and developing states.