Quick - name the most prominent graduate program in taxation at any law school in the U.S. No harder than three letters - NYU. Within tax circles, I'm told, it's equally easy to name the best program for foreign lawyers coming here to study international tax. That too is at NYU. Moreover, the NYU international tax program itself has a signature event each year: The David R. Tillinghast Lecture in International Tax. Named after "the dean of the International Tax Bar within the U.S.," the Tillinghast lecture draws hundreds (take that Oprah!) to New York to learn about international tax at the beginning of each academic year. And, as befits the best tradition for a lecture series, NYU insists on a publishable version for publication each year in the Tax Review. For the first five years, commentaries on the lectures by prominent tax scholars were also published in the Tax Review.
As you would expect for such a renowned event, following the first decade, NYU decided to publish the collected lectures in a single volume. This meant gathering in one book, which I'm sure will grace the shelves of every international tax lawyer, lectures by Charles I Kingson of Wilkie, Farr & Gallagher; John F. Avery of Speechly Bircham in London; H. David Rosenbloom, of Caplin & Drysdale and Director of NYU's International Tax Program; H. Onno Ruding of Citibank; Michael J. Graetz of Yale Law School; Stephen E. Shay of Ropes & Gray; David B. Oliver of the University of Cambridge and Pricewaterhouse Coopers; Paul R. McDaniel of the University of Florida College of Law; Wolfgang Schon of the Max Planck Institute for Intellectual Property, Competition and Tax Law; and Mary Bennett of the Organization for Economic co-operation and Development. The book will grace my shelf as well for one very exciting reason.
Of all the professors of International Tax in the entire country, NYU chose our own Ruth Mason to write the Introduction (pp. v - xxix) to the collected lectures. This is a distinct honor for which Ruth deserves hearty congratulations from us all. It was also a great deal of hard work. Not only does Ruth do an elegant job in her first few pages of explaining the basic dilemma of international tax, including one or two lines on how each lecture responds to this dilemma, she then goes on to provide brief summaries of each of the lectures and commentaries that appear in the volume. The dilemma, of course, is that income might be taxed where it is earned or where its recipient resides. So tax regimes must always be concerned with double taxation, with rules that fairly determine which of two jurisdictions ought to be able to tax income-generating activity, and with the possibility that attempts to create fair allocation rules might enable slippery taxpayers to exploit loopholes and avoid taxation in either jurisdiction. Ruth then carefully describes each lecture and commentary in terms of how the author responds in one way or another to one aspect of the international taxation dilemma. I can think of few places where you can learn more about a complex field more quickly than in Ruth's pages, and I recommend them to you. One thing I learned is that when it comes to thorny problems of categorization us non-tax folks are mere amateurs.