Max Planck Law Fellowship for Ruth Mason

A Special Opportunity for Deep Collaboration with an Outstanding Scientist

University of Virginia Law Professor awarded Prestigious Max Planck Law Fellowship to Study Taxation and Social Policy in Federated States.

Ruth Mason, the Edwin S. Cohen Distinguished Professor of Law and Taxation and the Class of 1941 Research Professor of Law at the University of Virginia School of Law, has been awarded a multiyear legal fellowship by the Max Planck Society to research problems at the intersection of taxation and social policy. She will be hosted by the Max Planck Institute for Tax Law and Public Finance and the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy, which are both located in Munich and cooperate in the framework of the Max Planck Fiscal and Social State Hub.

An internationally recognised scholar, Mason lectures around the world and has been a visiting professor at several institutions, including Yale Law School, the University of Paris (Panthéon-Sorbonne), Vienna University of Economics and Business, and the International Bureau of Fiscal Documentation. She has also served as national reporter for the United States to the International Fiscal Association and is a member of the American Law Institute.

The Max Planck Law fellowship is of particular significance to Mason: “The Max Planck Society is one of the most important research institutions in the world, so this is a great honor,” she says. “The Institute for Tax Law and Public Finance has been on my radar for as long as I’ve been a tax professor, and I’ve visited the institute many times to give talks and to attend conferences. But this fellowship represents a special opportunity for deep collaboration with other scholars and to mentor the brightest up-and-coming doctoral and postdoctoral students.” In her capacity as Max Planck Law Fellow Mason will also supervise and support Ph.D. candidates as they research and write their dissertations, and she expects to mentor postdoctoral fellows who are preparing to enter academia.

Mason’s research focuses on federalism, tax discrimination and cross-border taxation. During her fellowship, Mason will spend half of each year in residence at the Max Planck Institute for Tax Law and Public Finance and the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy in Munich, investigating the role of “interstate solidarity” in federated states, including taxation, social security systems, and the effect of subsidies and transfers from wealthier states to poorer states. Her research will be embedded in the Max Planck Fiscal and Social State Hub, an initiative of the two MPIs, which focuses on questions at the nexus of fiscal taxes and social benefits. Both transfer systems affect our social order as a whole. With the challenges posed by globalisation, pandemics, climate change and energy crises, federations –including the United States and Germany, and quasi-federal unions, such as the European Union – face increasing pressure to maintain social cohesion and economic solidarity.

Wolfgang Schön, director at the Max Planck Institute for Tax Law and Public Finances, and Ulrich Becker, director at the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy, who both nominated Mason for the fellowship, regard her research stay as an opportunity to learn from one another’s expertise while exploring the legal puzzles inherent in these social problems. Together with them, Mason will head a Max Planck Law Fellow Group that pursues a fully funded joint research project.

“Our project will seek to uncover, catalog and understand fiscal mechanisms that forge federal solidarity, including dedicated instruments under social security laws,” Schön states. And Becker adds: “Understanding federal fiscal solidarity is important not only to German and U.S. scholars, who live in overtly federal systems. It is also important for EU scholars, especially as the EU takes on more fiscal responsibilities — as it did during COVID-19 and has proposed to do more generally.”

At the University of Virginia School of Law (UVA), Mason teaches taxation and serves as faculty adviser to UVA’s tax moot court team, which has won three international championships. In 2023, she was named faculty director of the Virginia Center for Tax Law. Founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819, UVA is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.

July 2023