The Biggest Tax Reform Ever—or a Recipe for Disaster?

by Lauren Naus on January 16, 2017

Written by guest blogger, Wei Cui.


Wei Cui,
Peter A. Allard School of Law,
University of British Columbia

In June 2016, Paul Ryan and Kevin Brady, Republican Party leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives, advanced a proposal for sweeping business and individual tax reform in the United States. In recent months, as Donald Trump’s presidency loomed, the Republican tax plan has drawn intense public attention. Many claim that U.S. business tax reform in 2017 is a certainty, and that if the Republican plan is adopted, it would be the country’s biggest tax reform in a hundred years. One need not be American or even interested in tax policy to want to take notice of the U.S. debate: enactment of the Republican tax plan could cause the U.S. dollar to appreciate up to 25% (leading to huge shifts in the global distribution of wealth and disrupting world financial markets), or result in substantial tariffs on imports into the U.S. and subsidies for American exports—or it could even do both.

The core of Republican tax plan is a new business tax called the destination-based cash flow tax (“DCFT”). It is fair to say that before summer 2016, discussions of the DCFT had been confined to obscure corners of academia and think tanks. The tax was envisioned by some highly respected economists, who are driven by three strong convictions. First, they are deeply skeptical—indeed often outright dismissive—of traditional ways of allocating taxing rights over multinational’s profits based on where production occurs. In their view, such “source-based” taxation is entirely arbitrary, and therefore not surprisingly gives rise to much tax avoidance on the part of multinational companies. Second, they believe that the best international tax design is marked by neutrality with respect to multinationals’ investment decisions. Third, they intuit that such neutrality cannot be achieved through traditional principles of international taxation, including taxation on the basis of where individual shareholders of multinationals reside. Instead, they want to abandon the traditional dichotomy of “residence v. source” taxation, and design a way of taxing profits based on where businesses make sales to final consumers.

My forthcoming article, “Destination-Based Cash Flow Taxation: A Critical Appraisal”, analyzes the conceptual roots of, and deep tensions within, this vision. In particular, the article shows how the economists who came up with the DCFT have been led astray by the second and third convictions described above. In relation to the second conviction, I show that neutrality with respect to multinationals’ investment decisions turns out to be a poor guide for evaluating international tax design. In particular, the value added tax (VAT) also achieves such neutrality, and therefore DCFT proponents have not shown the superiority of the DCFT to the VAT. DCFT proponents claim that the DCFT is more progressive than the VAT. But, it must be remembered, source- and residence-based corporate income taxation is more progressive than the DCFT. The original argument for the DCFT precisely depended on setting the issue of progressivity aside.

In relation to the third conviction of DCFT proponents—namely multinationals should be taxed on their profits depending on where they make sales to final consumers—I argue that DCFT proponents have sowed much confusion. Most readers naturally and reasonably take the idea of allocating taxing rights to the countries of consumer sales to mean the following. If a U.S. company (like Starbucks or Apple) makes sales to consumers living in Canada, Canada would get to tax the profit earned from such sales. Conversely, if a Canadian company exports consumer goods and services to the U.S., the U.S., and not Canada, should be given the right to tax the profits generated by such sales.

There is currently no intellectual, social or political consensus that such a reallocation of taxing rights among nations is desirable or morally compelling. But my article argues that leaving aside how normatively persuasive this allocation is, no tax has been—and arguably none can be—designed to implement this allocation. By contrast, the version of the DCFT contained in the U.S. Republican tax plan is implementable—indeed, its implementability, especially under the Trump presidency, is rather scary. My article shows that this is because this particular version of the DCFT does not re-assign rights of taxing profits to countries where profitable consumer sales are made. Instead, it simply taxes U.S. residents when they make consumption purchases in the U.S., financed by corporate profits (wherever earned).

What about the first conviction of the DCFT’s intellectual advocates —that source-based taxation is entirely arbitrary? In other papers and ongoing research, I argue that this conviction is probably also erroneous and has led DCFT proponents astray. That all of the basic convictions driving some genuinely serious thinkers about international taxation could be wrong is unsettling. Checking these convictions may prevent unintended consequences in the real world.

Wei Cui’s article, “Destination-Based Cash Flow Taxation: A Critical Appraisal” will appear in Volume 67 Issue 2 (Spring 2017) of the University of Toronto Law Journal. Be sure to check out the full article when it becomes available this spring!

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Written by guest blogger, Cheryl Madliger. Her review of Body of Truth: How Science, History, and Culture Drive Our Obsession with Weight—and What We Can Do About It by Harriet Brown is featured in the See How She Runs: Feminists Rethink Fitness issue of IJFAB.

Read the full review here or on Project MUSE!

In a season of resolutions aimed at improving—or fixing—everything in our lives, in particular our bodies, books like Harriet Brown’s Body of Truth: How Science, History, and Culture Drive Our Obsession with Weight—and What We Can Do About It (published by Da Capo — Lifelong Books) offer respite from the pressure.  In my review of the book, I applauded Brown’s contribution to what is an important discussion about the importance of critically assessing the notions of “health” we are bombarded with on a daily basis. Brown tackles what she calls an epidemic of weight-obsession which disproportionately affects women, who strive towards thinness at all costs, relentlessly anxious about our bodies.

While work like Brown’s draws attention to contemporary constructions of health and fitness, she joins a chorus of writers (scholars, bloggers, magazine columnists) urging individuals—women in particular—to reject the messages they hear about their bodies in favour of self-acceptance and a new definition of health. It has become difficult to know whose contributions to this discourse are simply capitalizing on a new form of insecurity amongst women in the form of a need to accept oneself and one’s body. The urgency once attributed to dealing with one’s muffin top or love handles has now shifted, for many women, to embrace the new ideal of living in perfect harmony with our bodies. Life coaches, personal trainers, wellness coaches, health coaches—there are so many people talking about and selling this new ideal.  A google search for “body acceptance coaching” returns upwards of 85 million results, and as someone who has dabbled in the body acceptance arena, I can think of figures in the field who charge in the realm of $1500 for group coaching calls and pump-up emails dedicated to helping you with—or reminding you about—the issue. So often these offerings combine the need to love your body with the contradictory promise that by doing so, you’ll lose weight.

As a certified personal trainer and trained life coach whose Masters thesis examined the representations of healthy femininity in CrossFit media, I’ve spent hours on end wondering what the answer to our bodily discontent is.

Where does that discontent come from?

Perhaps the normalization of women hating their bodies is a piece of the puzzle and not the problem in and of itself. Add to it that I’ve been through an eating disorder, and you’ll understand why bringing a truly critical eye to anything or anyone that promises to truly solve our body and life woes is important to me. Just as in recovery when I had to look beyond the superficial components of my eating disorder, our bodies and our relationship to them represent complicated, multi-layered issues.  Culturally, shifting the responsibility laid on women to achieve and maintain the perfect body towards achieving and maintaining the new ideal of health and loving our bodies does naught to relieve the pressure. Waking up and feeling like a failure for carrying around the last 10 pounds is frustrating, as is the frustration of hearing over and over again that you ought to love your body and look good while doing it.

Our bodies are ever-changing. They get injured, sick, grow, swell, shrink, and wither. When we stop the obsession with our bodies and our relationship to them as things to be managed, we free up time, energy, and awareness for so much more.

This year, watch for those offerings promising an easy fix whether it comes to your body or your relationship to it. Relief from resolutions often comes disguised as another task of self-management, compelling you to spend your time, energy, and money on fixing another perceived flaw.  Body of Truth contributes to an increasingly necessary discussion about what it means to challenge contemporary constructions of health. Brown could have gone further to really question the ideological implications of healthism and the way we assign health a moral aspect, extending her discussion of the ways in which the normalization of women’s bodily discontent might perpetuate some of the very issues she serves to free women from via her writing.  Rather than taking a surface level approach, arguing over what represents health, we ought to question our obsession with it. When it comes to resolutions, may this year be a year of thinking a little deeper.

To read more by Madliger, be sure to visit her blog,, and follow her on Twitter @cherylmadliger!
The special See How She Runs: Feminists Rethink Fitness issue is available to read here and on Project MUSE

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Written by guest bloggers, Andy Xuesong Gao & Yongyan Zheng, authors of “Chinese Humanities and Social Sciences Scholars’ Language Choices in International Scholarly Publishing: A Ten-Year Survey,” from the latest issue of the Journal of Scholarly Publishing!

Andy Xuesong Gao, University of Hong Kong Yongyan Zheng, Fudan University

What drove us to write this article was initially a casual talk with a colleague who studies the Japanese language and culture in a Chinese university a year ago. As a good friend, he complained to me how he struggled to get published in international journals and how difficult it was for him to get his research achievements duly recognized because he does not publish his research in English. It never occurred to us before, as we work within the English language studies and have always taken English for granted, that language choice could figure prominently in research assessment and publication.

Then we began to think, what about scholars in other humanities and social sciences disciplines? Are they also troubled with the issue of which language to choose to publish their research? This is how an initial idea evolved into an investigation, and after some time, our article on Chinese humanities and social sciences scholars’ language choices.

The whole reviewing process was very smooth, and we were able to address almost all the concerns brought forth by the reviewer, except one last question that almost threw us off the track: the reviewer asked us to explain our own language choice, why we chose to write our article in English and to publish in an English-language journal. To be honest, it had never occurred to us that there was any alternative choice. In discussing Chinese scholars’ language choice, we lamented on how their language preferences for international publishing are exclusively confined to English and Chinese, but despite everything, we chose English to express this lamentation, which underscores an ultimate irony. This question brought us to serious critical self-reflection. By writing this paper, we realized that we actually benefited from the dominance of English in academic publishing, through which we pursued professional goals and secured our academic career advances. But this makes it all the more significant, almost obligatory, for us to use our command of the English language, and to write this article in English so that our argument for multilingualism in international scholarly publishing could be heard and heeded.

To learn more about Gao’s and Zheng’s investigation and findings, be sure to check out their full article, available here and on Project MUSE!

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Co-ops and Big Banks in the Weimar Republic

by Lauren Naus on December 21, 2016

Written by guest blogger, Thomas J. Saunders.

Thomas J. Saunders’ article, “Self-Help and State Rescue: The Raiffeisen Bank and Rationalization of the Cooperative Movement in Weimar Germany” is FREE-TO-READ for a limited time. Read it inside the Canadian Journal of History/Annales canadiennes d’histoire at CJH/ACH Online or on Project MUSE.

Thomas J. Saunders, University of Victoria.

Public bailouts of the private sector are familiar in recent memory from the massive rescue packages for the financial sector and the automobile industry in the aftermath of the economic meltdown of 2008. Viewed over the longer term, these bailouts represent one facet of the state’s role in the modern era as a broker between public and private interests. Since the interdependence of the state and the industrial sector was cemented a century ago in the Great War, state management of economic fundamentals has been largely uncontested. However, determination of whether public funds should be used to salvage otherwise unviable private companies remains controversial on a case by case basis. My interest in public intervention to rescue a major cooperative bank in Weimar Germany lies primarily in the strategies by which such imperilled institutions position themselves to “deserve” handouts. Central to these strategies are appeals to public interests rather than profit, interests such as preserving employment, protecting home owners or sustaining an industry or sector seen as indispensable to the national economy and thus “too big to fail.”

In the case of the Raiffeisen Bank, the existence since the 1890s of a Prussian state bank dedicated to the provision of cooperative agricultural credit indicates the importance of cooperatives within the agrarian economy — itself crucial to national welfare and in receipt of a broader program of state aid. This loaded the dice in favour of public rescue. However, the pitch still needed to be made. A bailout prescribing merger of a divided cooperative sector disguised what otherwise could have appeared preferential treatment — Raiffeisen was simply the neediest cooperative organization. Appeal to then incantatory power of “rationalization” leant merger a broader economic rationale that was equally difficult to gainsay. These were the overarching strategies by which to appeal to public authorities. Within them lay the task of framing and finessing that had its own intrigue. Significantly, that task sidelined questions of origins or responsibility for private mismanagement to focus on rescue and the ostensible public good.

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Written by guest blogger, Michelle Parrinello-Cason, author of “Choose Your Battles: Agonism and Identity in Narratives of Feminist Fitnesses” featured in the See How She Runs: Feminists Rethink Fitness issue of IJFAB.

Read the full article here or on Project MUSE!

I wrote “Choose Your Battles: Agonism and Identity in Narratives of Feminist Fitnesses” for the IJFAB while teaching five composition classes a semester at a community college. The organizing idea of the essay (a framework surrounding agonistic rhetoric) grew out of my newly-completed dissertation, but the application of that idea to feminist fitness narratives and the analysis of related fitness campaigns was entirely new material, emerging in fits and sputters between mountains of grading and classroom preparation. It was difficult to find the sustained, uninterrupted periods of time that I really needed to let the ideas run ahead of themselves and spool out the threads that I would eventually follow to create a complete manuscript, and — if I am being completely honest — there were several times that I thought about abandoning the project.

See, I didn’t “need” to do research. As a full-time faculty member at a community college, my career trajectory is not welded to scholarship the way it would have been had I pursued a career teaching in a four-year institution. There is no “publish or perish” mandate hanging over my head. While scholarship is celebrated among my colleagues, it is not necessarily expected. What is expected instead are acts much more directly related to the day-to-day function of a community college professor: committee memberships, innovative course design, service to the community, and a substantial teaching load.

Without the direct incentives and expectations to do independent scholarly research, community college professors face additional external hurdles of time constraints and internal hurdles of motivation. It is the latter that I would like to address here.

What motivated me to keep working on this project (and has since motivated me to take up another) is a commitment to scholarship that I believe enhances my abilities to teach my students and serve my community college’s mission statement.

I went into community college teaching because I believe whole-heartedly in open admissions education. My primary focus is on developmental writing, which means that I do not have many opportunities to explore advanced rhetorical analysis as part of my classroom curriculum. It is through independent research that I fulfill that exploration, and even though it may not come back into my classroom curriculum directly, the knowledge, inspiration, and deeper understanding of my field informs the way that I teach and make classroom decisions.

One of the most important parts of teaching “at-risk” student populations is remaining attuned to their perspective on the course material. When developmental instructors begin to see the material as basic and can no longer recognize the challenge it presents to students, they lose the empathy and basis for reflection necessary to make sustained connections where learning and growth take place. By continuously immersing myself in my own writing processes and facing the challenges of a rigorous cycle of invention and revision, I am never far removed from my students’ world. While the scope and topics of our work may not overlap, the challenges that we face as rhetorical agents do, and by remaining close to the frustration and gratification that writing can bring, I am able to convey a genuine sense of empathy and connection to the teaching of writing.

Finally, I write because I have something to say. The fact that I don’t have the opportunity to teach advanced classes or graduate students does not negate the years of training I have had as a rhetorical scholar, and I still see the world through the lenses my studies have granted me.  The issues of feminism and fitness are close to my heart and mind, and writing for the IJFAB allowed me to contribute to a larger conversation in a way that fulfills collective responsibility to my own disciplines and to interdisciplinary perspectives.

At a time when information is more easily available to the general public but increasingly difficult to sift through as information overload and intellectual echo chambers take hold, I believe that each of us has the responsibility to contribute to the conversations around us and make the world a more robust, interesting, and curious place. I look forward to seeking out more opportunities to do so in the future — just as soon as I finish grading these papers.

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The Continuing Wealth Divide in Canada

December 6, 2016

Written by guest blogger, Michelle Maroto (@MarotoMichelle), author of “Fifteen Years of Wealth Disparities in Canada: New Trends or Simply the Status Quo?” featured in the Summer 2016 issue of Canadian Public Policy. The issue is available to read here!   In assessing inequality in Canada, researchers tend to focus on income disparities and the […]

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Big Ideas for a Stronger, Cleaner Economy

November 30, 2016

Written by the Smart Prosperity Institute on the release of the special November issue of Canadian Public Policy, which you can access here for free!   We are excited to be guest editors for the new special issue of Canadian Public Policy Journal (CPP) – “Big Ideas for Sustainable Prosperity: Policy Innovation for Greening Growth.” […]

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The Physical Performance of Politics

November 28, 2016

Written by guest blogger, Greg Koabel In the personal world of early modern politics, political identities were performed by men (for the most part), and mediated through audiences within a shared space and physical immediacy. “The Treasonous Hat” explores just such a contested performance, as the Earl of Strafford fought for his life before an […]

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Out with the Old, In with the New: Throwing it Back to the Future of Online Scholarly Journals

November 17, 2016

To celebrate our participation in the 5th annual University Press Week blog tour, we’re looking back at the future of online publishing in the journals industry! Yes, you read that right…we’re “looking back at the future.” In this #UPWeek post, we look back at our very first online platform as well as flash forward to […]

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University Press Week 2016: UP Staff Spotlight

November 16, 2016

We’re thrilled to once again be one of over 40 presses participating in this years UP Week Blog Tour. Each day this week, presses will be blogging on a different theme that highlights the value of collaboration among the scholarly community. Each day, we will round up of all the university presses that posted on […]

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