With the growth of multinational corporations and its effect on corporate tax revenues, it is not surprising that international tax reform is a major part of President Obama’s Framework for Business Tax Reform as he begins his second term. Noticeably missing from this and other discussions of the major structural reform proposals, however, is any mention of the influence and importance of international corporate tax reform efforts. Although the concern over corporate tax evasion is especially pronounced in the U.S., the “decentering” of multinational corporations and corporate tax revenues is by no means an exclusively American problem. Around the world, nations are under direct and indirect pressure to reform their corporate tax laws. Both the OECD and the European Commission have recently released descriptions of projects designed to address corporate tax evasion and profits shifting. Not only will this have an effect on U.S. tax laws and on the tax burdens of U.S. multinational corporations regardless of whether the U.S. actually reform its own laws, but it will have an effect on the success of any corporate tax reform initiated in the U.S. This essay, written for a symposium entitled “Tax Advice for the Second Obama Administration,” argues that unilateralism is problematic. Any attempt to reform corporate taxation inevitably has to be undertaken in light of the already-existing global effort in this area, rather than proceeding purely as a domestic legislative matter.

 

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