Tuesday, July 27, 2010
What should international tax scholars be doing? Over the past two decades, international tax has grown both as a practice area and as a field of study. Scholars have begun devoting significant attention to the development, design, and implementation of international tax law. This activity is accompanied by a reflection on the scholarship and its goals, method and content. A review of modern international tax scholarship reveals that as the field has matured, international tax scholars have increasingly turned to other disciplines, especially social sciences, to draw upon their insights, ideas, and research to improve understanding of international tax policy. But this intersection with the social sciences (and the humanities) forces us to confront some distinct differences between the approach of the legal academy to research and scholarship and the approaches reflected in other fields. As the tax academy increasingly reaches into other disciplines, we question what constitutes the core of our own discipline and what we can uniquely contribute. Ultimately, international tax scholars have a strong claim to a vital role. The importance of non-legal disciplines to the development of international tax policy, combined with the perceived inaccessibility of international tax to those working outside the field, renders international tax distinctive if not unique. The burden rests upon the tax community to establish a robust, broad and comprehensive research structure capable of integrating guidance from other disciplines. International tax scholars need to look beyond the traditional bounds of their field – but they cannot abdicate the territory to other disciplines. The real challenge is how to manage both strands effectively.