Friday, August 4, 2017
Wei Cui (British Columbia), Destination-based Cash-Flow Taxation: A Critical Appraisal, 67 U. Tor. L.J. 301 (2017):
This article offers the first comprehensive scholarly response to proposals for destination-based, cash-flow taxation (DCFT). DCFT proposals have attracted heightened public attention in 2016 because of the incorporation of one version into the US House Republican blueprint for tax reform and Donald Trump’s subsequent election to the White House. They also continue to fascinate tax specialists by suggesting that corporate profit can be taxed not only in countries of ‘source’ or ‘residence’ but also (or even exclusively) in the countries where sales to final consumers occur. This article clarifies the logical structure of DCFT proposals and exposes substantial gaps between their rhetoric and technical details.
I argue first that it is crucial to distinguish between two versions of the DCFT. The first version resembles proposals for taxing corporate income by sales-factor-only formulary apportionment. The second version, which is what the US House Republican blueprint proposes, resembles a destination-based value-added tax with deductions for labour costs and refundable losses. I argue that the latter version of the DCFT introduces no fundamental new option into international tax design. Instead, it may create substantial trade distortions (and its loss refund feature is also unlikely to be administrable). The first version of the DCFT does present a new option for taxing corporate profit but is un-implementable. I also highlight ways in which DCFT proposals make ad hoc normative and behavioral assumptions.
Finally, the article offers a novel explanation of why it is difficult to incorporate information about consumer location into international tax design and argues that ‘residence’ is more promising than ‘destination’ (when both are understood as capturing information about natural persons) for dealing with problems arising from capital mobility.