Research

Developments in international taxation shed light on some of the biggest questions in international political economy: the future of the (neo)liberal world order, business power, the digitalisation of the economy, relationships between ‘old’ and ‘new’ powers. I focus on empirical questions that are both highly relevant to policymakers in lower-income countries, and speak to this bigger picture. I seek out collaborations with researchers from outside Western academia wherever possible. At the heart of my analysis is a contradiction: the inherently state-centric area of taxation has historically, in international affairs, been governed by a transnational policy community with little political oversight.

2019. The new politics of global tax governance: taking stock a decade after the financial crisis. Review of International Political Economy 26(5): 1068-1088. With Rasmus Christensen. Published version (open access).

Digitalisation of the economy

Big tech’s tax affairs became front page news in the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2007-9, triggering a protracted negotiation among states through the OECD, and an unprecedented wave of unilateral actions. While the OECD process is unlikely to be the last word on this topic, it is notable for the slaying of conceptual sacred cows that had endured for a century. Why is digitalisation – more so than capital account liberalisation, financialisation, or any other development since the 1920s – so destabilising? What are the political implications of this economic transformation? How should lower-income countries respond?

2021. The politics of taxing multinational firms in a digital age. Journal of European Public Policy. With Margarita Gelepithis. Journal of European Public Policy. Published version (open access, advance)

‘Rising powers’

The liberal institutions of global economic governance appear increasingly fragile, and global tax institutions have been among the first to come under pressure. Still dominated by the OECD, an increasingly complex landscape of institutional innovations has emerged to co-opt emerging markets, but it struggles to reach consensus. On the touchstone issue of digitalisation, most commentary has focused on tensions between the US and EU, yet China, India and other emerging markets are pivotal to negotiations. How are they shaping the conduct and outcome of negotiations? What determines their preferences and capabilities of countries? How can we make sense of the diverse axes of conflict and cooperation among states outside the OECD?

2018. China’s challenge to international tax rules and implications for global economic governance. International Affairs 94(6):1287-1307. With Wilson Prichard. Published version (free link) | Accepted version (open access)

2022. The rise of China and contestation in global tax governance. Asia Pacific Business Review. With Rasmus Corlin Christensen. Major contribution from a Chinese scholar who wished to remain anonymous. Published version (open access, advance)

Bilateral tax treaties

Tax treaties (often called Double Taxation Agreements) set limits on when, and in some cases at what rate, countries can tax the foreign investment that they receive. There are over 3000 in force worldwide. Lower-income countries have signed them in the hope that they will attract inward investment, but the evidence for this is far from clear. How did we get to this point, and what should lower-income countries do? My book, Imposing Standardsdocuments how capital-exporting states exploited lower-income countries’ capacity constraints and imperfect negotiation strategies to bind them into networks of tax treaties far more restrictive than necessary. A unique dataset I developed with support from the World Bank and Intergovernmental Group of 24 shows how almost every treaty signed by a lower-income country has been negotiated. The next stage of this research is to analyse the causes and consequences of these negotiated outcomes.

2021. Imposing Standards: The North-South Dimension to Global Tax Politics. Cornell University Press. Homepage.

2021. Tax Treaties Explorer ICTD, Institute of Development Studies, Brighton.

2021. Using New Data to Support Tax Treaty Negotiation. MTI Insight 8. World Bank, Washington DC.

International tax negotiations

Global tax governance has long been dominated by the OECD, yet until recently we understood little about how decisions were made behind its closed doors, where state power and technical expertise coincide. As international tax has become more politicised, the OECD’s position has become more precarious, and it has transferred much of its tax standard-setting competence to bodies such as its “Global Forum” and “Inclusive Framework”, while also seeking a political mandate from the G20. This has provided a new impetus to study its internal workings, both at the OECD and the United Nations tax committee. In 2020, I led a ground-breaking study of lower-income countries’ experiences inside the OECD’s Inclusive Framework, using interviews and attendance data. My work monitors international tax negotiations to understand the exercise of power and the consequences for lower-income countries in particular.

2020. At the Table, Off the Menu? Assessing the Participation of Lower-Income Countries in Global Tax Negotiations. ICTD Working Paper 115. Institute of Development Studies, Brighton. With Rasmus Corlin Christensen and Tovony Randriamanalina

2021. “An unacceptable surrender of fiscal sovereignty”: the neoliberal turn to international tax arbitration. Perspectives on Politics. With Todd N. Tucker. Published version (open access, advance)