|WU Global Tax
Policy Center is a new entry this year
A new entry in this year's Global Tax 50, the WU Global Tax
Policy Center has been recognised for its excellent work in
becoming a leading think tank and providing a platform to
analyse tax policy, the role of tax administrations and tax
laws in today's global economy.
Professor Jeffrey Owens, director of WU Global Tax Policy
Center, tells International Tax Review that the body
is able to offer policy-relevant research that governments can
use to develop their thinking on tax policy. However, the past
year has been focused on setting up the Digital Economy Tax
Foundation, which was launched in October.
Together with the Singapore University of Social Sciences
(SUSS) and non-partisan organisation New Economy Taxation, the
centre set up the foundation as a multi-stakeholder initiative
to offer academic, government, business, international and
regional organisations a neutral forum for discussion and
policy-driven research surrounding tax issues for the digital
economy. Exeter University, the University of New South Wales,
the University of Sao Paolo, the National University of
Singapore and Xiamen University of China are also participating
in the initiative.
"It has evolved now into a truly international initiative.
What I am particularly happy about, is that it really is an
inclusive stakeholder initiative," says Owens. "It's not just
the academics. It's the businesses, the government, and it's
the international and the regional organisations."
Michael Lennard, chief of international tax cooperation and
trade in the financing for development office of the United
Nations, praised the new foundation and said the initiative
would "help the UN Tax Committee to take forward its new agenda
on the impact of digitalisation on tax systems in developing
The foundation's first focus is on blockchain and other
disruptive technologies' potential to transform the way that
tax systems worldwide operate.
"It was interesting that initially we decided we would focus
on blockchain," says Owens. "The first meeting that we had in
March 2017 showed there was a lot of misunderstanding about it.
It showed the importance of explaining what the technology can
do now and what it will be able to do in two or three years'
time. So, very quickly, we decided we would expand the scope to
artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things,
virtual reality, and blockchain – the whole range, and
how all this technology is going to transform tax
administrations, the way companies go about dealing with tax,
and the new opportunities that it could open up for tax
The research this foundation will undertake will have big
benefits to several governments looking at digitalisation.
"Mexico is moving into the age of digitalised tax
administration and we will benefit from the ongoing discussions
in this forum," said Alejandro Barran, director in the Mexican
Many businesses have also backed the cause with Michael Gao,
president of the tax management department at Huawei China,
saying he is excited to see the foundation take forward the
debate on how tax systems across the globe will need to be
adapted to encourage a more digitalised environment.
So far, the foundation has held talks at an event in Vienna
and Singapore. Looking ahead, the foundation has a busy 2018
with symposiums planned for New York, Singapore and China to
intensify dialogue between research institutions, industry,
governments and standard-setting bodies to discuss the
implications of technology on international taxation
principles, tax policy and for tax administrations.