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Symposium analyzes international tax policy debates


Tax experts and professors from left to right: Yariv Brauner, Charlene Luke, J. Clifton Fleming, Michael Lang, Robert Peroni, Michael Friel and Martin J. McMahon Jr. (Photo by Marcela Suter)

By Roberta O. Roberts
Student writer

The United States' domestic budget problems have been at the forefront of recent national policy debates. However, the challenge of determining who — or what — to tax is not limited to the U.S. government. International tax law also plays a role in shaping what the country will do as the world becomes increasingly globalized, and businesses worldwide look for returns on their investments.

On Oct. 7, attendees of the Seventh Annual International Tax Law Symposium held by the University of Florida Levin College of Law's Graduate Tax Program learned about tax policy debates in the European Union and in the United States.

An archived video of the event can be viewed here.

Organizers provided additional seats for the law students, faculty, staff and other members of the academic community who filled the Chesterfield Smith Ceremonial Classroom, HOL 180.

This year's symposium featured two presentations from internationally distinguished scholars:

  • "The Third Country Aspects of the Proposals for a Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base (CCCTB) in the EU — The CCCTB Draft Directive in the Light of the Recent European Tax Policy Debate," which was presented by Michael Lang, a professor and director of the LL.M. Program in International Law at the Vienna University of Economics and Business and head of the Institute for Austrian and International Tax Law.
  • "Designing a Tax Exemption for Foreign Income When the Treasury is Empty," which was jointly presented by J. Clifton Fleming, who is the Ernest L. Wilkinson Chair and professor of law at Brigham Young University Law School, and Robert Peroni, the Fondren Foundation Centennial Chair for Faculty Excellence and professor of law at University of Texas School of Law.

Faculty moderators included Yariv Brauner, a professor of international tax law, an Alumni Research Scholar and organizer of the symposium; Lawrence Lokken, Hugh Culverhouse Eminent Scholar in Taxation and professor emeritus; and Martin J. McMahon Jr., Stephen C. O'Connell Professor of Law.

Topics discussed in the EU presentation included deductible charitable donations, withholding taxation and taxation of resident companies. Both presentations touched on the argument advocates and opponents use for and against the worldwide and territorial taxation methods.

Peroni said that American multinational businesses use the competitive argument when advocating for a territorial system. These businesses claim that they need this sort of taxation method in order to be competitive in the global economy because other countries allow more favorable tax laws.

"But is it (that other countries are more economically competitive) because of tax laws, or is it because the (American) educational system is failing compared to other countries or (because) we need more infrastructure investment?" Peroni asked.

According to Peroni, multinational businesses using the competitive argument "bear the burden" of showing that taxes are the problem and that these specific tax changes will fix the competitiveness problem because taxation may not be the reason why American companies are not as competitive as other international entities.

Attendees were able to ask questions of the speakers and give their own comments, which fostered a lively debate between the guest speakers and the audience.

"That's really the (objective) of the symposium," said Michael K. Friel, associate dean and director of the Graduate Tax Program, "to bring leading international tax scholars from the United States and from around the world to discuss the pressing and controversial tax issues of the day."

Friel noted that the symposium featured "very timely, important topics" and it gave students and scholars alike the opportunity to "exchange ideas and highlight debates taking place."