Minimalism about Residence and Source

20 Pages Posted: 23 Oct 2015 Last revised: 22 Sep 2017

See all articles by Wei Cui

Wei Cui

University of British Columbia (UBC), Faculty of Law

Date Written: October 20, 2015


Many economists and legal scholars claim that the traditional conceptual and policy framework for international taxation is defunct. The examples they offer most often to support such claims are failures of residence- or source-based taxation to achieve a variety of normative objectives. This article suggests that there is a very different way of seeing why international taxation has become intellectually controversial. The key problem is not that the globalization of economic activities makes the traditional policy tools outdated; instead, it is that scholars and policymakers have more frequent occasions to disagree about the normative goals of international taxation. Thus most current controversies are actually about the articulation of ends and not the adequacy of means. To illustrate this perspective, this article offers a minimalist account of the meanings of the concepts of source and residence. The account, I argue, successfully deflects most skeptical arguments about residence and source, and shows that the purported inadequacy of the two concepts are consequences, not causes, of inadequate normative criteria for the design of international income taxation. The article also offers a novel analysis illustrating the inadequacy of the principle of avoiding double taxation: by ignoring the economic incidence of tax, devices purportedly mitigating double taxation in fact produce double non-taxation.

Keywords: international taxation, residence-based taxation, source-based taxation, source of income, tax residence, citizenship taxation, double taxation

JEL Classification: H25, K34

Suggested Citation

Cui, Wei, Minimalism about Residence and Source (October 20, 2015). 38(2) Michigan Journal of International Law 245-269 (2017), Available at SSRN: or

Wei Cui (Contact Author)

University of British Columbia (UBC), Faculty of Law ( email )

1822 East Mall
Vancouver, BC V6T1Z1

HOME PAGE: http://

Do you want regular updates from SSRN on Twitter?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics