Stephen E. Shay

Senior Lecturer on Law

2016-2017

Biography

Stephen E. Shay is a Senior Lecturer at Harvard Law School.

Before joining the Harvard Law School faculty as a Professor of Practice in 2011, Mr. Shay was Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Tax Affairs in the United States Department of the Treasury. Prior to re-joining the Treasury Department in 2009, Mr. Shay was a tax partner for 22 years with Ropes & Gray, LLP. Mr. Shay served in the Office of International Tax Counsel at the Department of the Treasury, including as International Tax Counsel, from 1982 to 1987, during which Mr. Shay actively participated in the development and enactment of international provisions in the Tax Reform Act of 1986.

Mr. Shay has published scholarly and practice articles relating to international taxation, and testified for law reform before Congressional tax-writing committees. He has had extensive practice experience in the international tax area and while in active practice was recognized as a leading practitioner in Chambers Global: The World's Leading Lawyers, Chambers USA: America's Leading Lawyers, The Best Lawyers in America, Euromoney's Guide to The World's Leading Tax Advisers and Euromoney's, Guide to The Best of the Best. Mr. Shay discloses certain related interests and activities not connected with his position at Harvard Law School on the Harvard Law School website.

Mr. Shay is President of the American Tax Policy Institute Board of Trustees and is the IBFD Professor in Residence for 2015. Mr. Shay serves on the Executive Committee of the New York State Bar Association Tax Section and has been active in the American Bar Association Tax Section as a Council Director and Chair of the Committee on Foreign Activities of U.S. Taxpayers, in the American Law Institute as an Associate Reporter and in the Taxes Committee of the International Bar Association. Mr. Shay is a 1972 graduate of Wesleyan University, and he earned his J.D. and his M.B.A. from Columbia University in 1976.

Areas of Interest

Stephen E. Shay, The Truthiness of “Lockout:” A Review of What We Know, Tax Notes, Mar. 16, 2015, at 1393.
Categories:
Taxation
Sub-Categories:
Tax Policy
,
Taxation - Corporate
,
Taxation - International
Type: Article
Abstract
Shay reviews what is known about "lockout" and unrepatriated offshore earnings. He concludes that the limited evidence available does not support claims that economic harm from lockout justifies shifting to a territorial tax system.
Rosanne Altshuler, Stephen E. Shay & Eric Toder, Lessons the United States Can Learn From Other Countries’ Territorial Systems for Taxing Income of Multinational Corporations (Urb. Inst. Tax Pol'y Ctr., Jan. 21, 2015).
Categories:
Taxation
Sub-Categories:
Taxation - Corporate
,
Taxation - International
,
Tax Policy
Type: Other
Abstract
The United States has a worldwide system that taxes the dividends its resident multinational corporations receive from their foreign affiliates, while most other countries have territorial systems that exempt these dividends. This report examines the experience of four countries – two with long-standing territorial systems and two that have recently eliminated taxation of repatriated dividends. We find that the reasons for maintaining or introducing dividend exemption systems varied greatly among them and do not necessarily apply to the United States. Moreover, classification of tax systems as worldwide or territorial does not adequately capture differences in how countries tax foreign-source income.
Stephen E. Shay, Clifton J. Fleming, Jr. & Robert J. Peroni, Designing a 21st Century Corporate Tax — An Advance U.S. Minimum Tax on Foreign Income and Other Measures to Protect the Base, 17 Fla. Tax Rev. (2015).
Categories:
Taxation
Sub-Categories:
Tax Policy
,
Taxation - Corporate
Type: Article
Abstract
The 21st Century has seen unprecedented levels of corporate tax aggressiveness and avoidance. This article continues our exploration of second best international tax reforms that would protect the U.S. corporate tax base and have some likelihood of adoption. In this case, we consider how a U.S. minimum tax on foreign income earned by a controlled foreign corporation should be designed to protect the United States against erosion of its corporate income tax base and to combat tax competition by low-tax intermediary countries. In the authors’ view, a minimum tax should be an interim levy that preserves the residual U.S. tax on foreign income, as distinguished from a final minimum tax that partially eliminates the U.S. residual tax. An interim minimum tax would be a significant improvement over current law and would more effectively limit incentives to seek low-taxed foreign income while ameliorating pressure to retain excess earnings abroad. To achieve the objectives of such a minimum tax, corresponding changes should be made to the U.S. corporate resident definition, the source taxation of foreign MNCs, and the residence taxation of U.S. portfolio investors in foreign corporations to reduce tax advantages under current law for investments in foreign corporations. These changes would reduce tax advantages for foreign parent corporate groups and thereby further protect the U.S. tax base as well as reduce incentives for U.S. corporations to expatriate as a consequence of increased U.S. taxation of foreign income under an interim minimum tax.
J. Clifton Fleming, Jr., Robert J. Peroni & Stephen E. Shay, Getting Serious About Cross-Border Earnings Stripping: Establishing an Analytical Framework, 93 N.C. L. Rev. 673 (2015).
Categories:
Taxation
Sub-Categories:
Taxation - Corporate
,
Tax Policy
,
Taxation - International
Type: Article
Abstract
The term “corporate inversion” is used to identify several transactional forms by which U.S. resident corporations are converted into foreign corporations or into U.S. subsidiaries of foreign corporations. These transactions are currently a large concern to U.S. tax policy makers and a lively debate is in progress regarding the best way forward. From a tax standpoint, corporate inversions are driven by the triple objectives of (1) enabling inverting U.S. corporations to escape U.S. taxation of their foreign-source income, (2) enabling U.S. corporations to effectively repatriate foreign-source income without paying a U.S. tax on such income, and (3) enabling those U.S. corporations to move U.S.-source income out of the U.S. tax base by means of deductible expense payments — a tactic known as cross-border earnings stripping. In previous work, we have explained how the first two of these objectives could be forestalled if the definition of a U.S. domestic corporation were broadened to include a shareholder ownership test and if the U.S. international income tax system were changed into a real worldwide system. In this Article, we address ways to forestall the third objective by imposing limits on earnings stripping. Focusing on inversions, however, results in a view of earnings stripping that is far too narrow. A principal emphasis of this Article is that earnings stripping presents challenges to the U.S. tax base that are much broader than corporate inversions and so we have developed an analytical framework for identifying responses to the full menu of earnings stripping tactics employed by multinational enterprises (MNEs), of which inversions are only a part. That framework shows that deductions for interest payments on intra-MNE debt, which are the largest contributor to earnings stripping, are also the most vulnerable to criticism from a policy standpoint. Consequently, we examine various approaches to limiting earnings stripping interest deductions and conclude that the best promise lies in employing a proportionate allocation approach to distinguish between interest expenses that are deductible as real costs and interest expenses that should be nondeductible because they are costless foreign related party payments that do not effect a proper inter-nation income allocation. We conclude that distinguishing between properly deductible and properly nondeductible cross-border payments for services is much more difficult and requires reliance on transfer pricing law. Finally, this Article advances understanding of the proper taxation of royalties paid by a U.S. subsidiary to a foreign member of an MNE but concludes that the ultimate resolution of that issue requires further work. Most importantly, this article shows that cross-border earnings stripping is devastating to the tax bases of both worldwide and territorial international tax systems. Thus, action needs to be taken to curtail the use of earnings stripping to erode the U.S. tax base without waiting to resolve the controversy over whether the United States should adopt a territorial system or instead significantly strengthen its badly flawed worldwide system.
Stephen E. Shay, Mr. Secretary, Take the Tax Juice Out of Corporate Expatriations, Tax Notes, July 28, 2014, at 473.
Categories:
Taxation
Sub-Categories:
Tax Policy
,
Taxation - Corporate
,
Taxation - International
Type: Article
Abstract
Shay describes the principal tax benefits companies seek from expatriating, and he outlines regulatory actions that can be taken without legislative action to materially reduce the tax incentive to expatriate.
Hugh J. Ault, Wolfgang Schon & Stephen E. Shay, Base Erosion and Profit Shifting: A Roadmap for Reform, 68 Bull. Int’l Tax’n 275 (2014).
Categories:
Taxation
Sub-Categories:
Tax Policy
,
Taxation - Corporate
,
Taxation - International
Type: Article
Abstract
In this Editorial, the authors explain the context of this special issue of the Bulletin for International Taxation. The fundamental premise of the BEPS project is that a coordination of national responses to BEPS can both eliminate double non-taxation and protect against material unrelieved double taxation. The articles in this issue further a dialogue among tax policymakers, taxpayers, advisors and academics that is critical to achieve this objective.
J. Clifton Fleming, Jr., Robert J. Peroni & Stephen E. Shay, Formulary Apportionment in the U.S. International Income Tax System: Putting Lipstick on a Pig?, 36 Mich. J. Int'l L. 1 (2014).
Categories:
Taxation
Sub-Categories:
Tax Policy
,
Taxation - Corporate
,
Taxation - International
Type: Article
Abstract
Perhaps surprisingly, this Article has shown that the debate over formulary apportionment is little more than an alternative path to the larger debate over worldwide taxation versus territorial taxation. The present U.S. international income tax regime for U.S. MNEs is an implicit, overly-generous, and incoherent quasi-territorial system that relies on residence rules, source rules, and the arm’s-length approach to apportion international business profits between domestic income that is currently taxable by the United States and foreign income that is effectively exempt, or nearly so, from U.S. taxation because of deferral and cross-crediting. This version of territoriality is quite ugly because it is highly complex and it imposes only modest restraints on the ability of U.S. MNEs to shift income out of the U.S. tax base to low-tax foreign countries. Four forms of explicit territoriality have been proposed as alternatives to the current U.S. system. The first is traditional territoriality, which relies on source rules and the arm’s-length approach to apportion international business profits between taxable domestic income and exempt foreign income. This is a simpler regime than the current U.S. system because it confers exemption directly rather than implicitly through deferral and cross-crediting. It does, however, preserve the capacity of taxpayers to shift income to low-tax foreign countries subject only to the modest restraint imposed by the arm’s-length approach. Most importantly, it is inconsistent with the principle of ability-to-pay and it provides a powerful incentive to locate business activity in low-tax foreign countries. The other three forms of territoriality that are currently part of the debate are three-factor, two-factor, and single-factor global formulary apportionment. Each of them is simpler than either the current U.S. system or traditional territoriality, but each of them leaves U.S. MNEs with considerable capacity to accomplish erosion of the U.S. tax base through income shifting and each of them shares the defects of traditional territoriality regarding inconsistency with the ability-to-pay principle and distortion of business activity. Thus, U.S. policy makers are left with a choice between a normatively flawed and distortive territoriality that imposes modest restraints on income shifting through the arm’s-length approach (i.e., both the current U.S. system of de facto territoriality and traditional territoriality) and a simpler but normatively flawed and distortive territoriality that still allows a substantial amount of income shifting (i.e., three-factor, two-factor, and single-factor global formulary apportionment). This unhappy dilemma can be avoided by adopting real worldwide taxation or, alternatively, by keeping the current regime while creating a Subpart F income category for low-taxed foreign income and insulating that category from cross-crediting with a separate foreign tax credit limitation basket. A more limited form of formulary apportionment then should be used for, and tailored to, particular forms of income, such as intangible income and global trading income, that present discrete taxation problems. Nevertheless, when such income is earned by a U.S. MNE, allocation of income to a foreign jurisdiction under this more limited form of formulary apportionment should not ipso facto result in the income being exempted from U.S. taxation.
Stephen E. Shay, Theory, Complications, and Policy: Daniel Shaviro’s Fixing U.S. International Taxation, 9 Jerusalem Rev. Legal Stud. 104 (2014).
Categories:
Taxation
Sub-Categories:
Tax Policy
,
Taxation - Corporate
,
Taxation - International
Type: Article
Stephen E. Shay, J. Clifton Fleming, Jr. & Robert J. Peroni, Territoriality in Search of Principles: The Camp and Enzi Proposals, 141 Tax Notes 155 (2013).
Categories:
Taxation
Sub-Categories:
Tax Policy
,
Taxation - International
Type: Article
Abstract
This article reviews proposals by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Camp and Senator Mike Enzi to shift the United States from its current system of deferring taxation of active foreign income to a system that would exempt foreign business income from U.S. tax. (Neither proposal would materially affect the present U.S. system for taxing U.S.-source income.) The major contributions of the Camp Proposal lie in its recognition of the need to (i) make the treatment of foreign branches and foreign subsidiaries more neutral, and (ii) protect the U.S. tax base from excess interest deductions and the base-eroding incentives of very low foreign tax environments that stimulate U.S. income shifting. However, these improvements to current law would not justify changing to an exemption regime under the Camp Proposal in light of its many weaknesses, which include (but are not limited to) (i) material under-allocation of expenses to exempt foreign income, (ii) material loopholes in its anti-abuse rules for protecting the U.S. tax base, (iii) an apparent failure to tax gain upon transfers of appreciated assets into the exemption regime, (iv) foreign tax credit changes that would result in additional erosion of the U.S. tax base and (v) a misguided proposal for a reduced tax rate on royalties earned from foreign persons. The Enzi Proposal has similar weaknesses while lacking the strengths of the Camp Proposal. Our analysis of the Camp and Enzi Proposals highlights that U.S. international tax reform is integrally related to U.S. corporate, shareholder and business pass-through taxation. A full consideration of any international business taxation proposal must be in the context of the overall income tax regime within which the international rules must operate. Chairman Camp has promised a comprehensive tax reform proposal; and business and financial products elements have been put forward. However, a final evaluation of his international proposal must await release of a completed, integrated tax reform package, including final corporate and individual tax rates. Senator Enzi’s proposal is a stand-alone reform and apparently is intended for adoption irrespective whether the corporate tax rate is reduced or other tax reforms are enacted. In a recent article we articulated how a principled exemption system should be designed so as to protect the U.S tax base. It is possible to modify the Camp and Enzi Proposals to address their weaknesses in ways consistent with a principled exemption system. We recognize that such changes would make them unattractive to many in the multinational corporate community; however, that likely is true of any exemption system that would be a material improvement over current law. In our view, unless a shift to an exemption system would constitute a material improvement over current law, the likely revenue losses and transition costs of such a change would outweigh the benefits.
J. Clifton Fleming, Jr., Robert J. Peroni & Stephen E. Shay, Designing a U.S. Exemption System for Foreign Income When the Treasury is Empty, 13 Fla. Tax Rev. 397 (2012).
Categories:
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
,
Taxation
Sub-Categories:
International Law
,
Tax Policy
,
Taxation - International
Type: Article
Abstract
This article springs from two concurrent phenomena. First, U.S. federal deficit spending projections indicate that any feasible deficit reduction plan will require substantial additional revenue. Second, the U.S. system for taxing foreign-source income is so badly flawed that if the United States were to adopt a principled exemption or territorial system under which eligible foreign source income is taxed at a zero rate, the fisc would actually gain revenue with which to ease the deficit problem. To realize its revenue raising potential, however, an exemption system will require the following characteristics (or comparable analogues): 1) A robust subject-to-tax requirement (to foreclose use of low-tax foreign regimes) and continued current taxation of passive and mobile income under an updated Subpart F regime; 2) Disqualification from exemption for royalties (including deemed royalties from a foreign branch), interest, services payments and other foreign-source items that do not bear a significant foreign tax; 3) Elimination of the current tax exemption for 50 percent of the income from U.S. export sales; 4) Allocation of domestic expenses to foreign-source income to protect the U.S. tax base from “deduction dumping” in a more realistic way than an inadequate 5 percent “haircut” and 5) A prohibition against deducting foreign losses from U.S.-source income. To the extent that an exemption system deviates from these five characteristics, it creates revenue transfers to a relatively small group of mostly prosperous U.S. multinational corporate taxpayers at a time when the Treasury is in distress. This ought not to be allowed unless the transfers can pass a rigorous cost/benefit test.
Stephen E. Shay, Jobs, Deficit Reduction, Revenues, and Fundamental Tax Reform, 64 Tax Notes 213 (2011).
Categories:
Taxation
Sub-Categories:
Tax Policy
,
Taxation - Corporate
Type: Article
Abstract
This article argues that flat opposition to revenue increases has contributed to U.S. economic vulnerability and has had unintended effects, including contributing to increased deficits instead of smaller government. The article distinguishes fundamental income tax reform from raising revenues from tax expenditures and recommends that the Treasury Department spearhead fundamental income tax reform, within the context of an overall budget framework that includes revenue increases, and develop detailed proposals to make the individual and corporate income taxes fairer, simpler and more efficient.

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