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economic equality, poverty, social justice, revenue distribution, tax policy, taxation


Tax justice and principles underpinning the international tax regime are in vogue. The idea that companies and individuals need to pay their "fair share", not just in the domestic sense but also the international sense, is now a mainstream position. This paper explores the problems relating to what might constitute a "fair share" by setting out what is meant when this expression is used. A reasonable assumption is to consider taxation as the means by which the state funds public services and in some jurisdictions, contributes to greater equality within society. Those goals, however, give rise to competing claims. This is especially the case when considering international tax challenges, for example those faced by the OECD's 2019 work plan.

This paper, in examining competing claims for tax revenues, considers the specific categories of relative as opposed to absolute poverty. If one accepts that taxation is to fund public services, the question arises, at least in international tax, which jurisdiction's public services? If the motivation for raising tax is to tackle inequality, what has the greater claim, international inequality or national inequality? It is in answering these questions that we need to address the issue of which is more pressing, relative as opposed to absolute poverty?

The contention in this paper is that there is a far stronger moral claim for tax to be redistributed on an international basis rather than on a nation basis. Further, this paper contends that purported moral claims which seek to address inequality within national borders are merely political demands made to further the economic interests of particular groups who themselves are among the most economically privileged, when viewed on an international spectrum.