The Politics of Taxing Multinational Firms in a Digital Age

Authors: Martin Hearson & Margarita Gelepithis
Publisher: Taylor & Francis Online
Date: December 2021

Abstract:

Journal of European Public Policy Volume 28, Issue 11

Taxing multinationals is politically difficult because of the structural power of mobile firms within the global economy, and this structural power is expected to increase in the digital age. Recently however there has been a breakdown in the international corporate tax consensus that structured tax competition over the past century.

A new norm of international taxation has emerged whereby states claim the right to tax corporate income based on presence in consumer markets. Our paper explains this unexpected reassertion of state power.

Building on previous accounts of large-scale change in policy norms, we show how the emergence of digital business models led to a new tax consensus by setting in train a process of policy contestation that allowed countries to levy taxes on multinationals unilaterally, without fear of capital flight.