Devereux: missing the point

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The Economist had an article on companies leaving the UK last week. They concluded by giving space to Mike Devereux Oxford University:

The government's proposals go far beyond what is reasonable to protect Britain's tax base, says Michael Devereux, a professor at the Oxford University Centre for Business Taxation. The government is now looking for a way out. Alistair Darling, the chancellor, has met with business representatives and set up a committee to review Britain's corporate-tax system.

However the impasse is resolved, two deeper problems remain that are likely to be revisited. The first is that of trying to figure out where large multinational firms make their profits. The second is how to tax companies that are increasingly footloose. Although corporate tax revenues have stood up remarkably well over the past 40 years, it is not clear whether they will be able to do so in future, says Professor Devereux. "The more successful tax collectors are in preventing firms from shifting profit out of Britain," he says, "the more they are likely to encourage firms to leave the country."

I remain amazed that a man of such little insight gets a professorship at a place like Oxford. Just note what is said and you'll note it's internally inconsistent: either the UK has a duty to protect its tax base, or not. What he's saying is that if they do they lose and if they don't they lose. What sort of logic is that? That of the person who seeks to undermine the tax base, I think.

But it's also the fact that Mike ignores the fact that there is a body of evidence that shows we can work out where companies make their profits that amazes me. Country by country reporting could enormously assist this process. Unitary taxation could tackle the footloose nature of companies. Mike has heard of these. He ignores them.

And this is the man heading a review of the Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base. Why? That's what baffles me. It's clear he is dedicated to just one thing: the non-taxation of corporations. Isn't that automatic grounds for disqualification?

PS I note I haven't been invited to this summer's bash at Oxford, and my request for details has been ignored although I've been for the last few years. I can't imagine why. But I'm not alone. I note most of the speakers are from Oxford this year. I wonder why?