Recent times have seen growing calls for considerations of justice to be given a greater role in international tax law. The main driver of these calls are distributive concerns, although agreement is still missing as to what this means in terms of both principle and practice. This article asks whether it is the task of international tax law at all to implement principles of distributive justice beyond the national context and gives an overview of how the ‘global justice debate’ in contemporary moral and political philosophy bears on this question. With regard to the more specific question of whether some states are, as a matter of distributive justice in particular, under a duty to agree to a redistribution of taxing rights to other states, the paper argues that it is crucial to differentiate between the collective level inhabited by states and international institutions on one hand, and individuals on the other. Absent a robust assumption of a benevolent and capable government on the recipient side, the reallocation of taxing rights from state to state does not necessarily help when it comes to fulfilling duties of justice towards individuals.
Published: Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, 42/2022, No. 1, 133–160.