To tax, or not to tax? That is the question that preoccupied a thought-provoking panel at a recent World Bank Group conference
on “Winning the Tax Wars
” – along with such pragmatic policy questions as: What products and behaviors should be taxed, aiming to discourage their use? How heavily should taxes be imposed to penalize socially destructive behaviors? If far-sighted, behavior-nudging taxes are indeed adopted, where should the resulting public revenue be spent?
Before memories start to fade about a stellar springtime conference
– at which several of the Bank Group’s Global Practices (including those focusing on Governance and on Health, Nutrition and Population) assembled some of the world's foremost authorities on tax policy – it’s well worthwhile to recall the rigorous reasoning that emerged from one of the year’s most synapse-snapping scholarly symposia
at the Bank.
Subtitled “Protecting Developing Countries from Global Tax Base Erosion,” the conference focused mainly on the international tax-avoidance scourge
of Base Erosion and Profit-Shifting
). Coming just one week after a major conference in London
of global leaders – an anti-corruption effort convened by Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom – the two-day forum in the Preston Auditorium built on the fair-taxation momentum
generated by the recent Panama Papers
disclosures. Those leaks about international tax-evasion strategies dominated the global policy debate this spring, when they exposed
the rampant financial
conniving and misconduct
by high-net-worth individuals and multinational corporations
seeking to avoid or evade paying their fair share of taxes
The Bank Group conference, however, explored tax-policy issues that ranged far beyond the headline-grabbing disclosures about the scheming of rogue law firms and accounting firms, like the now-infamous Panama-based Mossack Fonseca
and other outposts of the tax-dodging financial-industrial complex
. Conference-goers also heard intriguing analyses about how society can levy taxes on “public ‘bads’ ” to promote investment in “public ‘goods’ ” – as part of the broader quest for broad-scale tax fairness.
"Winning The Tax Wars" via revenue-raising strategies