Speaker: Allison Christians, Faculty of Law, McGill University
Allison Christians is the H. Heward Stikeman Chair in the Law of Taxation at the McGill University Faculty of Law where she teaches and writes on national, comparative, and international tax law and policy. She focuses especially on the relationship between taxation and economic development; the role of government and non-government institutions and actors in the creation of tax policy norms; and the intersection of taxation and human rights. She has written numerous scholarly articles, essays, and book chapters, as well as editorials, columns, and articles in professional journals, addressing a broad array of topics. Recent research focuses on the role of activists in reforming disclosure rules for multinational companies; evolving international norms of tax cooperation and competition; the relationship between tax and trade; and the evolution of taxpayer rights. Professor Christians also engages on topics of tax law and policy via social media with her Tax, Society, and Culture blog and on twitter @taxpolblog.
Topic: Uncle Sam Wants ... Who?
Across the globe, banks are flagging accounts with indicia indicating their owners may be “US Persons,” clearing the way for the United States to enforce worldwide taxation on nonresident citizens and green card holders extraterritorially for the first time in history. None of the indicia are themselves incontrovertible evidence of one’s status as a US Person for tax purposes, so the indicia-holder finds herself in the position of proving a negative. As a sorting method, inferring status by proxy guarantees that certain individuals will be presumed to be US Persons and subjected to repercussions regardless of their actual legal status as such, while others will be overlooked even if they are in fact US Persons. Establishing a tax jurisdiction in this manner presents significant practical, normative, and legal consequences. Moreover, it violates one of the most fundamental and universally- acknowledged tenets of taxpayer rights, namely, the right to be informed about what the law requires. Because of the extraordinary demands that the United States attaches to nationality and immigration status, indicia-searching and self-verification based on this status should be universally rejected as an invalid exercise of state power. Instead, the United States itself is responsible for cataloguing, informing, and educating its global population of taxpayers, and those who don’t belong in the system should be allowed to opt out.