Indiana Law Journal

Article Title

How Nations Share

Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2012

Publication Citation

87 Indiana Law Journal 1407 (2012)


Every nation has an interest in sharing the gains they help create by participating in globalization. Citizens should be very interested in discovering how well their governments fare in claiming an adequate share of this international income stream, since a government that cannot or will not exert its taxing jurisdiction internationally is potentially missing out on a very large and very productive source of revenue. Yet it is all but impossible for citizens to observe exactly how, or how well, their governments navigate this aspect of economic globalization. The vast majority of international tax law plays out in practice through a series of intergovernmental dispute resolutions that are handled in complete secrecy through diplomatic channels, subject to no oversight by any judicial or legislative body and subject to no scrutiny by the taxpaying public.

This Article shows that in thus obscuring public observation of international tax law as it develops, the structure of the international tax regime prevents citizens from comprehensively assessing the quality of their own nation’s tax systems. Without more information to determine what, if anything, one’s government ultimately claims from the massive stream of income created by international trade and investment, it is impossible to use any policy assessment tools, such as standards of economic efficiency and fairness, to talk coherently about the tax system. The Article concludes that at a time when national economic and political fortunes are experiencing high stress, uncertainty, and volatility, we need much better information about how international tax law develops and works out in practice.