2014 Events

Tax Justice and Human Rights Research Collaboration Symposium

Faculty of Law, McGill University, Montreal – 18-20 June 2014

This conference on tax justice and human rights brought together students, academic researchers, and tax justice advocates and activists to collaborate on the topic of tax justice: what is it, how is tax connected to human rights or how could it be, and what research needs to be done to further this emerging field?

The speakers' videos are on our Youtube channel: www.youtube.com/channel/UCKqUPf889JgRI_5gXQMslrQ


Until recently, tax policy was a technical speciality left to experts. Today, researchers, community groups and social justice activists are examining whether government tax policies lead to healthy communities and environments, support people in meeting their needs, and promote the achievement of basic human rights.

The conference kicked off with an “emerging scholars” researchers symposium, in which a number of graduate level students will present works in progress on topics of tax justice and receive feedback from academic researchers interested in these topics, with the goal of building capacity in tax justice and human rights research.

The second and third days featured academic researchers who will present their own works in progress on the topic, and engage with other academics as well as members of the local, national, and international NGO and tax activist community. It will also feature presentations by tax justice advocates and activists from around the world who are engaged on various issues of tax justice and are looking to the academic community for input and collaboration. 

Goals and objectives of the Symposium

  • To facilitate global research, networking, and understanding of tax justice issues;
  • To encourage innovation in research on taxation and human rights by facilitating the flow of knowledge and inquiry among groups that have traditionally not collaborated at this intersection;

  • To build academic and Civil Society Organization (CSO) capacity in research, 
dialogue, and public policy engagement with respect to key tax justice issues, including the impact of tax avoidance and evasion on society, and the potential for response offered by various tax revenue allocation, information exchange, and disclosure proposals;
  • To deepen analysis and understanding of the relationship between human rights and tax justice;
  • To build links and collaborative relationships among Canadian and international economic justice 
researchers and justice advocates;
  • To encourage public participation in a growing global tax dialogue; and,
  • To become a strong central node for dialogue on international tax justice research and knowledge 

La justice fiscale et les droits de la personne

Faculté de droit, Université McGill, Montréal  – 18-20 juin 2014

Un symposium conjoint pour les chercheurs, les étudiants et les militants

Jusqu’à tout récemment, la politique fiscale était une spécialité technique réservée aux experts. De nos jours, les chercheurs, les groupes communautaires et ceux et celles qui militent pour la justice sociale cherchent à savoir si les politiques fiscales du gouvernement favorisent des communautés et un environnement sains, répondent aux besoins des populations et font la promotion du respect des droits fondamentaux.

En juin, des chercheurs, des militants pour la justice fiscale, des groupes communautaires et des organisations de la société civile de partout dans le monde se sont rassemblés en vue de discuter des recherches les plus récentes, de partager leurs expériences et de promouvoir la participation du grand public au dialogue sur la fiscalité qui prend de plus en plus d’ampleur à l’échelle internationale. Ils ont abordés divers enjeux tels que les paradis fiscaux, l’imposition des entreprises, la justice fiscale, l’égalité des sexes en matière de justice, sans oublier le travail accompli, au Nord comme au Sud, dans la promotion de l’imposition progressive. Puisque les impôts représentent un facteur décisif en matière d’attribution des droits et d’allocation des ressources au sein des sociétés de même qu’entre elles, l'un des thèmes clés du symposium était les liens entre la justice fiscale et les droits de la personne.

Le symposium s’adressait aux groupes communautaires, aux organisations œuvrant en développement international et pour la défense des droits de la personne, les syndicats, les étudiants, les militants de la justice sociale, les universitaires et les chercheurs.

2014 Spiegel Sohmer Tax Policy Colloquium

The Spiegel Sohmer Tax Policy Colloquium has been made possible by a generous grant from the law firm Spiegel Sohmer, Inc., for the purpose of fostering an academic community in which learning and scholarship may flourish.

In the fall of 2014, in its inaugural installment, the Colloquium returned to fundamentals by critically examining the goals of taxation from a law and philosophy perspective. The Colloquium was therefore be convened jointly by Allison Christians, H. Heward Stikeman Chair in Taxation Law, and Daniel Weinstock, James McGill Professor in the Faculty of Law and Director of the McGill Institute for Health and Social Policy.

Each talk took place in the Seminar Room of the Institute for Health and Social Policy, Charles Meredith House, 1130 Pine Ave., Montreal. Students, faculty and general public welcome.

Monday, October 6, 2014: Wayne Norman: Corporate Tax and Beyond-Compliance Norms

Using the media's recent coverage of Apple's tax avoidance strategies as a case study, Professor Norman will discuss how we ought to understand and rationalize corporate social responsibility and self-regulation norms emerging around the taxation of multinationals, and whether these rationalizations are, or should be, different than the rationalization of corporate tax regulation.

Wayne Norman is Mike and Ruth Mackowski Professor of Ethics in the Kenan Institute for Ethics and the Department of Philosophy at Duke University. His work focuses on business ethics and his published work includes numerous books and journal articles, as well as contributions to “Ethics for Adversaries: How to Play Fair When You’re Playing to Win.”

Monday, October 20, 2014: Joseph Heath: Taxation as collective consumption

Joseph Heath is Professor in the Department of Philosophy and the School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Toronto, as well as Director of the University of Toronto Centre for Ethics. He has published work very widely including the recent book "Enlightenment 2.0: Restoring Sanity to Our Politics, Our Economy, and Our Lives."

Monday, October 27, 2014: Patrick Turmel

Patrick Turmel is a Professor in the Department of Philosophy at Laval University, where his work focuses on ethics and political institutions, particularly cities.

His numerous publications include co-authorship of a book titled “La Juste Part. Repenser les Inégalités, la Richesse et la Fabrication des Grille-Pains.”

Monday, November 10, 2014: Martin O’Neill

Martin O’Neill is Senior Lecturer in Moral and Political Philosophy in the Department of Politics at the University of York, United Kingdom. His research examines global and intergenerational justice. Among his many publications, Professor O’Neill’s most recent book is “Property-Owning Democracy: Rawls and Beyond.”

Monday, November 17, 2014: Peter Dietsch: Catching Capital

When individuals stash away their wealth in offshore bank accounts and multinational corporations shift their profits or their actual production to low-tax jurisdictions, this undermines the fiscal autonomy of political communities and contributes to rising inequalities in income and wealth. These practices are fuelled by tax competition, with countries strategically designing fiscal policy to attract capital from abroad

Building on a careful analysis of the ethical challenges raised by a world of tax competition, the book puts forward a normative and institutional framework to regulate the practice. In short, individuals and corporations should pay tax in the jurisdictions of which they are members, where this membership can come in degrees. Moreover, the strategic tax setting of states should be limited in important ways. An International Tax Organisation (ITO) should be created to enforce the principles of tax justice.

The author defends this call for reform against two important objections. First, Dietsch refutes the suggestion that regulating tax competition will harm economic efficiency. Second, he argues that regulation of this sort, rather than representing a constraint on national sovereignty, in fact turns out to be a requirement of sovereignty in a global economy. The book closes with a series of reflections on the obligations that the beneficiaries of tax competition have towards the losers both prior to any institutional reform and in its aftermath.

Peter Dietsch is Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the Université de Montréal, where  he works on questions of distributive justice with particular emphasis on the application of philosophical theories through social instruments including the tax system. His work is widely published, including a recent article titled “Tax Competition and Global Background Justice” in The Journal of Political Philosophy. He is also working on a book on tax competition entitled “Catching Capital”.