Società Italiana di Diritto ed Economia, SIDE - ISLE 2015 - 11TH ANNUAL CONFERENCE

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Destination-Based Cash-Flow Taxation: A Critical Appraisal
Wei Cui

Last modified: 2015-12-15


This Article offers the first comprehensive appraisal in both the legal and economic literatures of proposals for adopting destination-based cash flow taxation (DCFT) of multinational corporations. The DCFT was a key recommendation for reforming corporate taxation in the U.K., and has subsequently attracted wide attention as a way to fundamentally reform international taxation in the U.S., Europe and elsewhere. The core intuition of the DCFT is to tax profits earned by mobile capital by reference to immobile factors. I distinguish three versions of the DCFT for implementing this intuition: 1. formulary apportionment of business profits by reference to locations of sales to final consumers; 2. a destination-based VAT with deduction of labor costs and full refund of losses; and 3. a destination-based VAT with deduction of labor costs and implemented by origin countries.
In addition to identifying numerous controversial normative, behavioral and empirical assumptions that have been used to motivate and defend DCFT proposals, I present two conceptual dilemmas that challenge the proposals in their own terms. I argue that because the residence of individual shareholders and the location of final consumers are both immobile, the difference between residence- and destination-based taxation should be seen as lying in how likely it is to harness information about shareholder residence or consumer location. The fundamental challenge for DCFT proposals is that market mechanisms do not readily collect information about the latter, while information about shareholder residence is latent in the market. Therefore, most arguments made by DCFT proponents support residence-based taxation instead.

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