Wednesday, March 15, 2006

international and comparative taxation: guide to the summer conference season

Most people who try to keep up with international or comparative taxation probably do so either on line, by reading selected publications, or by judiciously chosen trips to selected foreign venues. (Those who can get others to pay for the trips, either their Deans or (better yet) clients, so much the better.) An efficient, but sometimes frustrating, way to take the pulse of foreign developments is to attend one of a variety of conferences that deal annually with the subject. These conferences are nearly always fun to attend--not least for their exotic locales--and some may actually provide useful insights for your scholarship, although like their domestic counterparts they vary significantly in quality and appeal to rather different audiences. Herewith a guide to some of the more interesting alternatives:

A good introduction to the European tax scene is the annual conference of the European Association of Tax Law Professors (EATLP) which is held this year in Budapest, June 2-3. The EATLP is something like the equivalent of the AALS Tax Section, except that they meet every year and the locations (Paris, Naples, next year Helsinki) are, well, more interesting than Minneapolis in December. The attendance at EATLP varies somewhat with location--more Italians when it's held in Italy, more of everyone when it's in Paris, that sort of thing--but there's a pretty steady core of Northern Europeans who attend pretty much no matter what, and it's an unparalleled way to meet European colleagues and trade notes on comparative projects. (All of the conference sessions are conducted in English.) About 10 or 12 Americans and a number of other non-Europeans have been attending the conference in recent years, and they are invariably welcome although in theory you have to request permission to attend. One caution: European law professors tend to focus on legal (i.e., technical) issues somewhat more than their American colleagues, and the EATLP sessions are often devoted to esoteric issues such as the EU rules for tax coordination, the differences between fees and taxes, and so forth; one has to attend primarily for the networking opportunities and get what one can out of the formal sessions, which is what most of the Europeans do anyway, so you will pretty much feel at home. The website is, and the e-mail contact is [the International Bureau of Fiscal Documentation, located in Amsterdam, with which EATLP is associated.]

A global alternative to EATLP, although somewhat more practice-oriented, is the International Fiscal Association (IFA), the closest thing to a United Nations of tax professionals. The IFA holds an annual global conference which is now large enough to sport its own website (held at Amsterdam, Sept. 17-22, 2006); there are also IFA-USA conferences and special meetings on a variety of bilateral and multilateral issues. In theory, you need to be sponsored by an IFA member to join the organization and attend a conference, but this will presumably not be difficult as the organization claims to have about 10,000 members.

Although they are not strictly speaking tax conferences, I have found a number of venues interesting for discussing taxation and fiscal policy issues. One is the International Atlantic Economic Society (IAES), which is a meeting of European and American economics professors and usually has one or two tax panels as well as many others that bear indirectly on tax issues. Like many such organizations IAES tends to alternate between European and American sites which gives you a chance to try it out before investing in a transatlantic ticket. The IAES tends to draw a fairly elite crowd, and the panels are usually of pretty high quality. The next IAES conference is in Philadelphia, October 5-8 2006; the website is

One interesting if quirky choice is the Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics (SASE) which similarly alternates European and American locations on someting like a 2:1 ratio. SASE is a vaguely left-leaning organization which emphasizes the human/bevioral side of economics (no one has ever been able to explain to me what "socio-economics" is); in practice it amounts to an economics/sociology conference with an emphasis on issues of concern to the survival of the welfare state. While the tax people are likely to be few and far between, it can thus be a useful opportunity to "situate" your work in the broader issues regarding globalization and anti-globalization backlash. If you start early enough, SASE lets you put together a panel on just about anything, so if you wanted to meet your friends from Copenhagen and discuss the effects of tax cuts on health care, here's your chance. The upcoming SASE conference is in Trier, Germany, June 30-July 2, 2006, and has an emphasis on globalization-related issues; details at

To these frequently Europe-centered events are gradually being added more events in other regions, including the Asian Law and Economics Society,, which is holding a December conference in India this year, and a number of interesting events, many of them relating to comparative tax, at Australian universities, of which I will speak further in a later post.

I noted above that foreign (and especially European) tax law professors are frequently more focused on technical issues than their American counterparts, with more policy-oriented work often done either on economics faculties or at business or public policy schools. The good news is that many more prominent tax professors may have cross-appointments in economics departments, and there are frequently collaborative projects between them. The SSRN tax, comparative law, and European law lists also frequently list tax projects: if one is willing to be a bit aggressive, one can often contact the authors directly, and (in small countries particularly) it usually does not take more than a few well-placed e-mails to figure out who is a player in the country in question. Not that different from here, when you get down to it, is it?


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