Chapter 16: 'The Politics and History of Global Tax Governance' - Handbook on the Politics of Taxation

We discuss the history, political determinants and current challenges of global tax governance. We divide the last century into three eras: foundation, during which states built a regime to prevent double taxation using bilateral treaties and soft multilateral coordination; stability, during which this regime failed to adapt to the growth in volume and complexity of cross-border trade and investment capital; finally, the current era of crisis, characterised by politicisation, an appetite to reform longstanding institutions, and a willingness to trample over fiscal sovereignty.

Existing scholarship explaining this trajectory of change can be organised through well-established interest-based, power-based and ideational accounts.

We argue that future research could build on this existing scholarship by reorienting in three different ways: from tax competition towards double taxation and tax sovereignty, from the OECD to emerging markets and developing countries, and from mid-level theorisation towards the bigger picture of global political economy, of which tax is an intrinsic part.


Martin Hearson

Martin Hearson is a Research Fellow at IDS, co-Research Director of the ICTD and the International Tax programme lead. His research focuses on the politics of international business taxation, and in particular the relationship between developed and developing countries. Before joining ICTD, Martin was a fellow in international political economy at the London School of Economics and Political Science, teaching courses on political economy and global financial governance.

Thomas Rixen