Faculty Author Type

Current Faculty [Wei Cui]

Published In

Michigan Journal of International Law

Document Type

Working Paper

Publication Date



international taxation; residence-based taxation; source-based taxation; source of income; tax residence; citizenship taxation; double taxation


Many economists and legal scholars claim that the traditional conceptual and policy framework for international taxation is defunct. The examples they offer most often to support such claims are failures of residence- or source-based taxation to achieve a variety of normative objectives. This article suggests that there is a very different way of seeing why international taxation has become intellectually controversial. The key problem is not that the globalization of economic activities makes the traditional policy tools outdated; instead, it is that scholars and policymakers have more frequent occasions to disagree about the normative goals of international taxation. Thus most current controversies are actually about the articulation of ends and not the adequacy of means. To illustrate this perspective, this article offers a minimalist account of the meanings of the concepts of source and residence. The account, I argue, successfully deflects most skeptical arguments about residence and source, and shows that the purported inadequacy of the two concepts are consequences, not causes, of inadequate normative criteria for the design of international income taxation. The article also offers a novel analysis illustrating the inadequacy of the principle of avoiding double taxation: by ignoring the economic incidence of tax, devices purportedly mitigating double taxation in fact produce double non-taxation.

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