The Limits of the International Tax Regime as a Commitment Projector

55 Pages Posted: 23 Nov 2013  

Arthur J. Cockfield

Queen's University - Faculty of Law

Date Written: 2013


As explained by Ronald Coase, transaction costs are the costs associated with discerning a price on a given exchange. This article conceptualizes the international tax regime as a political and legal system striving to address transaction cost challenges, and claims it has an uneven record. On the one hand, the international tax regime lowers transaction costs and hence promotes global economic growth. It does this by facilitating credible government commitments to ensure that the same cross-border profits are not taxed twice by two countries. Multinational firms are thus protected against the risk that their cross-border activities will be unduly deterred by taxation, which encourages more global economic activities.On the other hand, governments are unable to offer credible commitments that they can effectively address other important international tax policy concerns. First, despite ongoing reform efforts governments are not able to offer reasonably reliable promises that they will inhibit aggressive international tax planning that dilutes revenues in countries like the United States. Second, the international tax regime affords governments opportunities to develop their own policy solutions (such as the 2010 U.S. anti-tax evasion initiative to create a global tax information reporting system through the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act) and thus governments can renege on earlier promises to abide by traditional international tax norms.

Suggested Citation

Cockfield, Arthur, The Limits of the International Tax Regime as a Commitment Projector (2013). Virginia Tax Review, Vol. 33, No. 59, 2013. Available at SSRN:

Arthur Cockfield (Contact Author)

Queen's University - Faculty of Law ( email )

Macdonald Hall
Kingston, Ontario K7L 3N6 K7L3N6

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