The Rise of Cooperative Surplus Taxation
45 Pages Posted: 9 Sep 2020
Date Written: September 4, 2020
The world’s tax policy leaders are currently engaged in debate over who should tax the income streams produced with the help of cross-border regulatory coordination—the cooperative surplus over the gains that, in a counterfactual world, would be available if investments were confined to the domestic economy. To the extent there ever was a coherent relationship between consensus tax policy norms and the distribution of cooperative surplus, that relationship is now hopelessly skewed by real life factors, chief among them the rapid advancement of innovative technology that transcends physical boundaries of all kinds. The growing dissatisfaction of those on the wrong side of the skew had already initiated a rise in innovative ways to tax cooperative surplus when COVID-19 struck, significantly increasing the stakes for taxation and prompting yet more reform proposals. There are now at least fourteen strategies in play, each drawing varying levels of scrutiny, buy-in, and pushback. This Article examines the fourteen and argues that among them, those seeking to tax revenue flows at source have the best chance to alter the distribution of cooperative surplus in the immediate term, provided some formalistic tropes can be overcome.
Keywords: Taxation; digital economy; platform rent; physical presence; digital services taxes; withholding taxes; evolutionary/evolutive treaty interpretation; ambulatory/dynamic approach; cooperative surplus; tax sovereignty
JEL Classification: H20, F23, F42, K33, K34, O3, O38
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation