The Dynamics of Global Economic Governance

The Dynamics of Global Economic Governance

The Financial Crisis, the OECD, and the Politics of International Tax Cooperation

Richard Eccleston

This book focuses on international taxation and examines how the financial crisis prompted renewed attempts to enhance international tax transparency and confront tax havens. It highlights the complexity of international regime change and the significance of national and financial interests, international organizations, domestic politics and the emerging G20 leaders forum in this process.

Chapter 3: Politics without conviction: the OECD’s failed Harmful Tax Competition initiative

Richard Eccleston

Subjects: economics and finance, political economy, politics and public policy, political economy, regulation and governance


The international tax regime has been almost a century in the making. Whereas the various international agreements and conventions brokered by the OECD up to the 1980s focused largely on alleviating the risk of double taxation, the last two decades have seen more emphasis on reducing the incidence of international tax evasion and avoidance. Despite these efforts to improve anti-evasion measures, until very recently initiatives aimed at enhancing international tax transparency have enjoyed a mixed record at best. This chapter provides an overview of attempts to improve international tax transparency and information exchange since the late 1980s as well as offering an explanation as to why the OECD’s concerted effort to end what it defined as ‘Harmful Tax Competition’ in the late 1990s and early 2000s was almost universally regarded as a failure. This historical analysis of the debates concerning the origins of the tax transparency and information exchange agenda as well as the barriers to reform represents an important foundation for the study of the changing nature of the tax transparency regime presented in subsequent chapters. As the extant literature on institutional and policy dynamics explains, a grounded, longitudinal research strategy is necessary for two significant reasons.

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