The two events coincided by chance, but both mark a kind of turning point.
Last week the European Union decided to oblige internationally operating corporations in every member state to publish key balance sheet figures and thus also their tax payments.
This tax pillory, known as "country-by-country reporting", is intended to reveal whether and in which EU country companies are relocating profits to avoid taxes - and which countries still offer corresponding loopholes.
At the weekend, the G-7 finance ministers followed suit, pledging to bring the long-sought international reform of corporate taxation to a conclusion soon. On the one hand, the G-7 countries want to enforce a minimum tax rate of 15 percent that is practically worldwide. On the other hand, the largest and most profitable companies should pay taxes on parts of their sales where they earn them - and not (only) at the company headquarters, which they may have chosen for tax reasons.
Both projects are not yet completely dry, and a number of questions remain unanswered, especially with regard to the global minimum tax.
Politically, there is still a long way to go between the declaration of principles by seven ministers and a binding regulation of around 140 participating states.
And in terms of content, it is not just a few technical details that need to be clarified.
One example among many concerns the assessment base for the minimum rate.
States were also pilloried
But it is undisputed: the wind has turned. For many years the diversity of national tax systems and the automatically resulting tax competition has been an empirical fact, no matter how it is assessed. Recently, tax competition is no longer considered to be immutable. The French economist Gabriel Zucman names him just one of several options from which politicians can choose and which they should consciously decide against. The responsible ministers, whether in the G7 or in the EU, believe in this flexibility. You are striving for the tax cartel and hope for its stability.
Their common motive is to collect more taxes from companies all over the world, especially from the global digital corporations, which have been decried as tax evaders. The hope that this could work better in the future is based on the willingness of the new American administration to participate in the fight against tax evasion and avoidance. The second reason is that the models of global corporations for tax avoidance have become much more transparent in recent years - partly due to new international rules, partly due to various leaks. As a result, not only the corporations have been pilloried, but also states such as Luxembourg, Ireland and the Netherlands, which have lured these corporations into the country with discounts tailored to their needs.
The new EU transparency rules will reinforce this basically positive effect. Of course, they only came about through a legally questionable fraudulent label, because the EU Commission classified them as an internal market law and thus circumvented the unanimity of member states otherwise required on tax issues. A legal opinion by the EU Council of Ministers considers this to be unlawful, but a lawsuit against it is not unlikely. Nevertheless, the Commission and large parts of the European Parliament, which is not responsible for classic EU tax issues, see the creation of the new reporting obligations as a model. You want to undermine or abolish the unanimity requirement.
The process throws a spotlight on the normative and factual limits of a tax cartel. For one thing, its legitimacy remains manageable: The fact that the EU states have to decide unanimously on tax policy is no coincidence, but an expression of the budgetary and tax policy sovereignty of each country. Even the advocates of legal tricks for individual cases will hardly believe that they are suitable as a solid basis for a new tax policy.
Globally, the question arises whether a consensus among the participating countries can even come about. In any case, it is unlikely that once an agreement has been reached, no country in the world will be able to position itself as a tax haven. The many tax advisors who are currently helping corporations shift their profits will not have less to do in the future. In other words: tax competition will shift, it won't go away.Keywords: