Offshore Accounts, Corporate Income Shifting, and Executive Compensation
10 Pages Posted: 29 Mar 2012 Last revised: 11 Apr 2012
Date Written: March 1, 2012
In this essay, Professor Book introduces articles that arose out of the Villanova Law Review Norman J. Shachoy Symposium hosted at Villanova Law School on September 23, 2011. The symposium brought together some of the nation’s leading academics, practitioners, and journalists to discuss issues relating to the taxation of offshore individual offshore accounts and offshore operations of multinational corporations (MNCs), and the role of the tax laws in regulating executive compensation. As I discuss in this introductory essay, the articles at some level implicate essential questions of fairness, including questions of both vertical and horizontal equity. The image of millionaires hiding money in undeclared offshore bank accounts has triggered unprecedented administrative and legislative reactions to detect those accounts and deter that type of evasion; some of the largest American MNCs paying no or little tax raises questions about our corporate and international tax policy; executives’ high pay, at companies implicated in highly publicized corporate scandals and the near meltdown of the financial sector, has contributed to federal legislation meant to influence corporate governance.
That those in positions of power, through legal or other means, can continue to perpetuate advantages not generally available contributes to dissatisfaction with institutions. When institutions that should be among our most respected can exacerbate and perpetuate inequalities, especially at times of economic uncertainty, there is bound to be both a public and legislative backlash. While there is a great deal of disagreement about how to calibrate the tradeoff between limiting incentives to create wealth on the one hand, and the ill-effects of income and wealth inequality on the other, there is general agreement that those with positions of power should not abuse that power by extracting rents from the market or hiding assets by secreting them away in undeclared bank accounts. Likewise, when some of our most profitable MNC’s or richest Americans have an effective tax rate below that of many with modest incomes, those trade-offs inherent in the discussion about the degree of vertical equity become more visible, and likely to generate political and popular attention. How our tax system will address these questions remains to be seen. There is no doubt, however, that policymakers and academics interested in issues of offshore evasion, international income-shifting and executive compensation will find this symposium’s articles essential reading.
Keywords: executive compensation, FATCA, offshore, tax policy fairness
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation