The International Crisis in Taxation: A Critical Analysis from a Natural Law Perspective

Date: 3 July 2019

Venue: Stadscampus - Promotiezaal Klooster Grauwzusters - Lange Sint-Annastraat 7 - 2000 Antwerpen (route: UAntwerpen, Stadscampus)

Time: 10:00 AM

PhD candidate: Jo Badisco

Principal investigator: Willem Lemmens, Bruno Peeters

Short description: PhD defence Jo Badisco - Faculty of Arts, Department of Philosophy


This doctoral dissertation investigates from a philosophical point of view the contemporary crisis in international tax law. In the past decades it has become clear how multinational corporations and persons of considerable wealth are organizing and planning their taxes to pay as little as possible by using mechanisms such as for example double non-taxation (i.e. the exploitation of double tax treaties to avoid paying taxes in either country). These findings have caused the legitimacy of the international tax framework to be questioned by specialists as well as by the larger public. The wide-spread tax avoidance has not been without answer and there have been efforts from the OECD (action plan against base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS)) as well as the EU (The Anti-Tax Avoidance Directives (ATAD)) to combat the issue. 

This dissertation is sub-divided in two distinct parts. The first part is of a fundamental philosophical nature and it defends a specific position in (legal) philosophy: natural law theory. The second part applies this framework of natural law to the contemporary landscape of international tax law by formulating a set of principles that should be adhered to in the international realm of tax law as well as an evaluation of contemporary efforts to combat tax avoidance.

The first part gives an argument for the position of natural law. Natural law (contra legal positivism) is more than a theory of law, it is a theory of ethics and political philosophy that encompasses a theory of law. In this first part I develop such a theory of natural law and I explicate how it overcomes certain shortcomings of other theories. 

The second part zones in on the issue of international tax law and has as its goals: (a) the formulation of a set of principles that should underlie the international tax law framework, (b) the evaluation of the measures already taken by the OECD (and the EU) and (c) the formulation of a set of limits of what can be dictated by ethics or philosophy.