New Players, New Game: The Role of the Public and Political Debate in the Development of Action on International Tax Issues

Research output: Working paperResearch


The last few years have seen an enormous rise in public concern and dissatisfaction with the taxation of multinational companies (MNCs). In the wake of the financial crisis, public and political interest in corporate taxation rose significantly, with debt-challenged states looking to shore up national fiscal systems, and attention focused on corporate tax practices deemed overly aggressive or immoral. International tax rules as a matter of ‘front page’ public debate is an unusual situation; while taxation itself is always and everywhere a political topic, the fine workings of international taxation has largely been the domain of technical debates between
This is no longer the case: issues such as tax havens, transfer pricing, and structures like the “Double Irish Dutch Sandwich” have become topics of popular debates and campaigns. These issues have gone from being solely the subject of technical expert debates to being topics of public interest and popular media reporting. In consequence, new political initiatives have also progressed at an unexpectedly high pace.
How has this rapid and unexpected change come about? Existing accounts of international tax change have emphasised the role played by international state relations, International Organisations’ standard-setting, the influence of transnational elites or the role of leaks in driving lawmaking. These analyses have often emphasised formal policymaking processes. Some accounts have zoomed in on the role of activists, in particular the Tax Justice Network, analysing the tactics and strategy of individual ‘outsider’ organisations in changing public and policy debates. This paper offers a complementary narrative of the dynamics of international tax
change, looking at the role of various actors in shaping popular debates on international tax issues.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherEuropean Tax Policy Forum
Number of pages65
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2017
SeriesEuropean Tax Policy Research Paper

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