1887

Transnational Corporations

This journal takes a fresh look at major legal, sectorial, regional and environmental issues facing corporations operating internationally. Released three times a year, it provides in-depth policy-oriented research findings on significant issues relating to the activities of transnational corporations.

English

Back from oblivion? The rise and fall of the early initiatives against corporate tax avoidance from the 1960s to the 1980s

Tax havens and tax avoidance have gathered much interest, e.g., in the United Nations (UN) negotiations on the post-2015 development goals. The analyses of initiatives against corporate tax avoidance typically focus on developments from the mid-1990s onward. This article shows that contrary to the common perception, the country-by-country reporting initiative and many of the other contemporary policy responses had already been developed and discussed in the 1970s by the United Nations Commission and Centre for Transnational Corporations. I demonstrate how the weakening of the policy community of the UN and the failure of the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to refer to the earlier discussions, not only in the UN but also in the OECD, contributed to the passing into oblivion of these ideas. Other factors were the reframing of the UN work on multinational enterprises to human rights issues and the transformation of academic theories of the firm. The examples demonstrate how ideas shape world politics and how the oblivion of certain ideas can have concrete impacts on the power relations between its actors. The oblivion of the earlier debates paved the way for the triumph of more business-friendly discourses centred on the anti-corruption and corporate social responsibility arguments.

English

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