Chapter 12: Tax activists and the global movement for development through transparency
Activists around the world are calling on governments to require public disclosure of information about how much and where in the world multinational companies pay taxes. Their goal is to awaken public attention to the systemic undertaxation of multinationals, to show that this undertaxation is connected to development failure in poor countries, and to convince law-makers that the public has an interest in changing this paradigm. In their quest for tax transparency, the activists are inserting themselves in an elite policy-making arena that has traditionally been closed both to them and to the countries on whose behalf they seek change. Tax transparency challenges the tax policy norms developed within this arena, while the activists’ demand for non-governmental participation in tax governance challenges the institutional foundations of contemporary international tax policy-making. This chapter identifies and explores the rise of a global tax transparency movement, what it reveals about global governance in tax law, and how it seeks to alter the substance of tax policy norms and the process of tax policy-making. The discussion begins with a profile of the identity and goals of global tax transparency activists. It then examines three ways these activists have gone about the task of pursuing tax reform: appeal to multinational companies, appeal to national legislatures, and appeal to the international tax community through the institutional architecture of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a 34-member ‘rich nations’ club’. It analyses what these pathways to reform reveal about who defines tax policy in an economically, socially and politically integrated world.
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