International taxation is one of the most significant global governance challenges of our time. Taxation is at the heart of the nation-state and the social contract, yet governments have found it increasingly challenging to assert their fiscal sovereignty in the age of global markets and transnational capital. Since the global financial crisis of 2007-08, the international community has sought for new solutions, embarking on a number of radical reforms of the international tax system, historically a minimalist web of bilateral treaties, in order to ensure a modern governance regime fit for purpose. However, our knowledge of these processes of international tax reform, of the actors involved, and of the effects is highly limited.
At the same time, there is a need to understand the interaction with and impact of professionals on contemporary global governance and international taxation more specifically. Today, professionals are not merely knowledgeable, high-status workers serving society; they are closely involved in the changing of global norms, regulation and markets. While international relations, in particular in taxation, are often understood and studied as inter-state power games, the impact of lawyers, accountants, and economists, and of the the contested and controversial micropolitics of knowledge, is vastly understudied.
My research seeks to address these two phenomena, their interrelation, and the current gaps in our understanding. How and why is global tax governance evolving? What is the role of professionals? And how should we readjust our ways of studying and understanding these phenomena in response to new empirical developments? In doing so, I employ a range of data and methods, including ethnography, social network analysis, sequence analysis and content analysis.
Below, I elaborate on some of the key empirical topics of my research and my writings on each. See full list of publications here.
International tax reform
International tax reform has become one of the key global policy asks in the wake of the financial crisis. In an attempt to shore up national fiscal systems and address rising debt burdens, governments have looked to reform of the international corporate tax system, tax treaties and global tax transparency as means of ensuring sustainable tax codes. By shaping the legality and feasibility – both material and normative – of corporate financial strategies, regulatory interventions in this vein have sought to pressure corporations to adjust and reconfigure tax behaviour.
With so much at stake, then, it is imperative to understand how new rules for global taxation come about, what they mean, and who’s involved.
See: Professional Competition in Global Tax Reform: Transparency in Global Wealth Chains (SocArXiv), The new political economy and geography of global tax information exchange, Five years of EU tax policy recommendations: Key trends in European taxation ,Revolving doors in international tax: Do the foxes run the henhouse?, Technicised BEPS: How complexity shapes politics.
Professionals and expertise
Professionals have historically enjoyed central roles in society, but today they are particularly central in global political affairs. In particular, they are now critically involved in global governance, leveraging technical expertise and other professional resources to influence global regulatory change.
How do we make sense of this new role of professionals, expertise, and what are its effects? This is the second key topic I have tried to address in my research.
See: Transnational Professional Competition in Fields and Ecologies (SocArXiv), Revolving doors in international tax: Do the foxes run the henhouse?, Technicised BEPS: How complexity shapes politics, Technical politics, sovereignty and the prospects of tax multilateralism, Power in Numbers: How Data Shapes the Tax Policy Arena.
Tax havens and offshore
What do Bermuda, Switzerland, Delaware and the City of London have in common? On the surface, nothing much, but they are all part “the offshore world”, a world marked by more or less withdrawal of regulation and taxation. Tax havens play a key role in the global economy, facilitating not just massive volumes of financial flows but also contributing to secrecy and tax gaming, undermining the legislation of other countries.
How can seemingly marginal jurisdictions have such profound effects on the world economy and the international system? How are they able to persist in the face of widespread criticism? What are their negative effects and how can we combat them? This is the another element I have tried to study in my research.
See: Sådan bekæmper vi skattely (in Danish), Beyond the numbers: Tax haven issues outside the tax gap, The bark IS the bite, but ..: Why tax haven blacklists are not the answer, What change, if any, might the #PanamaPapers bring?, The new political economy and geography of global tax information exchange.
Networks – social structures of nodes and ties – can reveal how individuals and organisations organise and connect to create order. Networks provide resources that actors can deploy in everyday tax debates, in professional work, and in tax policy processes. By looking at tax networks, we can locate who or what is important within communities of tax actors and see if/how network positions matter for flows of information and power in tax.
Thus, I have looked at various tax networks in my research, from networks of professionals involved in global tax reform, of Twitter users engaged in tax discussions, and of countries involved in international exchange of tax information. Below are a sample of these networks.
See: Professional Competition in Global Tax Reform – The Case of BEPS Action 13 (MSc thesis), #economia50 network, #TaxTwitter network, #DBCFT network, The new political economy and geography of global tax information exchange.
Tax debates and evidence
International taxation has become a hot issue in the media, with politicians and with the wider public. This has led to broadened participation in debates about tax policy and taxation, and thus new dynamics of discussion. Furthermore, scientific evidence and research is being drawn in to these debates in new ways, with actors often manipulating or cherrypicking the findings from academic literatures.
Another element of my research has been to investigate these new dynamics of tax debates and assess the research brought to bear in these discussions.
See: New Players, New Game: The role of the public and political debate in the development of action on international tax issues (with Maya Forstater), European Tax Policy Forum Research Paper, Discussing discussions around the corporate income tax ,Why do people evade taxes?, Are large firms really successfully lobbying for low tax rates?, Are American firms really more tax aggressive?, The fiscal coin and reasonable expectations: Taxes as business costs or intra-economy transfers?, We’re changing the equation of tax competition and corporate profit shifting.