The Making of International Tax Law: Empirical Evidence from Natural Language Processing

47 Pages Posted: 14 Feb 2020

See all articles by Elliott Ash

Elliott Ash

ETH Zürich

Omri Y. Marian

University of California, Irvine School of Law

Date Written: January 11, 2019


We offer the first attempt at empirically testing the level of transnational consensus on the legal language controlling international tax matters. We also investigate the institutional framework of such consensus-building. We build a dataset of 4,052 bilateral income tax treaties, as well as 16 model tax treaties published by the United Nations (UN), Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the United States. We use natural language processing to perform pair-wise comparison of all treaties in effect at any given year. We identify clear trends of convergence of legal language in bilateral tax treaties since the 1960s, particularly on the taxation of cross-border business income. To explore the institutional source of such consensus, we compare all treaties in effect at any given year to the model treaties in effect during that year. We also explore whether newly concluded treaties converge towards legal language in newly introduced models. We find the OECD Model Tax Convention (OECD Model) to have a significant influence. In the years following the adoption of a new OECD Model there is a clear trend of convergence in newly adopted bilateral tax treaties towards the language of the new OECD Model. We also find that model treaties published by the UN (UN Model) have little immediate observable effect, though UN treaty policies seem to have a delayed, yet lasting effect. We conclude that such findings support the argument that a trend towards international legal consensus on certain tax matters exists, and that the OECD is the institutional source of the consensus building process.

Keywords: Intergovernmental Organizations, OECD, International Tax, International Law Tax Treaties, Harmonization, Natural Language Processing

JEL Classification: F53, F55, H29, K33, K34, K40

Suggested Citation

Ash, Elliott and Marian, Omri Y., The Making of International Tax Law: Empirical Evidence from Natural Language Processing (January 11, 2019). UC Irvine School of Law Research Paper No. 2019-02, Available at SSRN:

Elliott Ash

ETH Zürich ( email )

Rämistrasse 101
Zürich, 8092

Omri Y. Marian (Contact Author)

University of California, Irvine School of Law ( email )

401 E. Peltason Dr.
Ste. 1000
Irvine, CA 92697-1000
United States

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