Paul L. Caron

Thursday, October 28, 2021

NY Times: Tax Profs Rebecca Kysar And Itai Grinberg — 'Invaluable Partners' In Negotiating The Global Tax Deal

New York Times, Pastries and Persuasion: How a Global Tax Deal Got Done:

Kysar GrinbergTreasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen has relied on two tax experts, Rebecca Kysar and Itai Grinberg, calling them “invaluable” partners in navigating international negotiations and crafting the agreement’s fine print.

Nearly 140 countries agreed to adopt a global minimum tax of 15 percent and settled on terms to tax large, profitable multinational corporations based on where their goods and services are sold, rather than where they operate. The agreement aims to end corporate tax havens that have for decades siphoned tax revenue away from governments, leaving infrastructure and public health needs languishing.

“I think the world had come to understand that at the end of the day, all the countries trying to raise tax revenue are the losers, the companies are the winners, and the workers are the losers,” Ms. Yellen said in an interview on Tuesday. “No country really feels it can act independently to raise taxes because its firms will be uncompetitive, so the only way to do this is to hold hands and say enough is enough.”

The deal is a signature achievement for Ms. Yellen, who has spent the past eight months trying to persuade nations to agree on a global tax pact that sputtered during the Trump administration.

The push to reach a deal stemmed from the administration’s concerns about a global race to the bottom on corporate taxation, a phenomenon that was viewed as a big obstacle to Mr. Biden’s plan to increase corporate taxes domestically. ...

To get the deal over the finish line, Ms. Yellen relied on two tax experts, Itai Grinberg and Rebecca Kysar, whom she tapped in early February and describes as “invaluable” partners in navigating international negotiations.

Mr. Grinberg, a tax law professor at Georgetown University who worked in the Treasury Department during the Bush and Obama administrations, was initially viewed with skepticism by some progressives, who noted that in 2016 and 2017, he lamented America’s “singularly high corporate tax rate” during congressional hearings and called for the rate to be slashed in favor of a consumption tax.

But in early 2020, Mr. Grinberg wrote in a Foreign Affairs essay that European digital services taxes could open a dangerous front in the Trump administration’s tariff wars and warned that the “decay of the century-long international tax order is likely to accelerate” without a deal. Later that year, Mr. Grinberg alerted Mr. Biden’s campaign advisers on how their international tax proposals meshed with the stalled discussions of a global minimum tax. After the election, he joined Mr. Biden’s transition team.

Ms. Kysar, a professor at the Fordham School of Law and a tax treaty expert, has been a vocal critic of the 2017 Republican tax overhaul. In 2018, she told the Senate Finance Committee that the law’s international tax provisions “fundamentally botched general business taxation.” Ms. Kysar had collaborated on research with David Kamin, deputy director of the White House’s National Economic Council, who helped recruit her to join the transition team and administration.

With the Treasury Department working remotely, Mr. Grinberg and Ms. Kysar spent months juggling Zoom meetings with officials from finance ministries around the world and fielding calls with tax directors from America’s largest companies, which have been anxious about what the agreement will mean for their tax bills.

Working from their basements in Washington and Connecticut, they regularly exchanged emails in real time during negotiations, but they had never met until they traveled to a gathering of finance ministers in Venice in July. At such summits, they would often employ a divide and conquer approach, with Ms. Kysar joining Ms. Yellen in meetings with her counterparts and Mr. Grinberg negotiating separately with Irish tax officials.

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