Can Anyone Be Trusted to Enforce National Treatment Disciplines With Respect to Tax Measures?

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Patricia A. Brown


Because the traditional non-discrimination article of tax treaties seem­ingly provides protection against only the most blatant discrimination against non-residents and non-nationals of a taxing State, governments may be emboldened to adopt “anti-abuse” rules that are in reality dis­guised trade barriers. On the other hand, trade disciplines in non-tax agreements may include protections against discriminatory taxes that non-specialist courts interpret in expansive ways, contrary to the wishes of tax authorities. An OECD project in the mid-2000s was an opportu­nity for governments to re-think the piecemeal nature of the traditional non-discrimination article in tax treaties and develop a coherent national treatment system that takes into account legitimate tax policy concerns. Instead, the project resulted in a mishmash of changes that largely blessed the various discriminatory practices that governments had adopted to that date. If tax authorities want to continue to play a leading role in developing international tax policy, they should consider whether a tax treaty approach that borrows concepts from non-tax agreements would better balance the interests of governments and tax­payers than the current version of Article 24 (and the Commentaries thereon).

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