Challengers posed by electronic commerce to certain traditional concept in international tax law

Master Thesis


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There has been much focus and discussion in the past few years regarding the potential impact which electronic commerce could have on the existing fiscal regimes, both from a domestic and an international perspective. It is against this background that I elected to research and present a dissertation on the implications of electronic commerce on certain aspects of international fiscal law. To give a more balanced perspective, I decided to add a section on other direct fiscal implications of electronic commerce, particularly from the perspective of fiscal administrations. The paper is therefore divided into two sections. Had I know the scope of the assignment which lay ahead, I may have perhaps re-evaluated to merits of embarking thereon. The principle difficulty in researching this topic, · is the relative infancy of electronic commerce, and the corresponding shortage of established literature on the topic, particularly in the field of fiscal law. I found myself having to turn to the very medium of the Internet to locate contemporary literature on the subject and to find out what the international fiscal world was doing to deal with this new business form. For this reason, you will find references in the footnoted to certain web sites, which was a first for me. What complicates matters, is the speed at which technology is developing, and as the Internet and electronic commerce expand on the back of this technology, so the implications thereof develop at an alarming pace. I found that various tax administrations, most notably those of the Unite States of American and Australia have brought out policy documents on electronic commerce. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has held a convention on electronic commerce at Turku, Finland, and a vast amount of literature was submitted by various governments and other interest groups for discussion at the convention. There has been a proliferation of articles written by various international tax bodies, such as the International Tax Organization as well as well known academics in the field of international fiscal law. In the preparation of this paper I have drawn from these various sources, in an attempt to put down in a crystallized form, the various view points. This has been no easy task. There are, in addition, many questions, but not many answers to these questions. This reflects the international stance on electronic commerce. There is a growing awareness of the issues, but the solutions appear to be harder to find.