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PhD Defence

The Interpretation of Plurilingual Tax Treaties

Wednesday 10 October 2018
Academy Building
Rapenburg 73
2311 GJ Leiden


  • Prof. C. van Raad


PhD defences are free; you do not have to register.


The current orthodoxy maintains courts are not required to compare all language texts of a plurilingual tax treaty but may rely on a single one for cases of 'routine interpretation'. As is shown by this study, this widely held view is fundamentally flawed, in violation of the rules codified in the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, and the source of treaty misapplication; taxpayers are ill-advised to pay attention only to the text in their own language.

The issue is of great relevance in practice: almost three-quarters of the well over 3,000 concluded tax treaties are plurilingual. This study aims to: (1) increase awareness about the pitfalls of the current orthodoxy and help diminish treaty misapplication through its abandonment; (2) show that, in most cases, sole reliance on prevailing texts may be applied as a pragmatic alternative that is in line with the Vienna Convention, reduces global resource costs of tax treaty interpretation, and increases its overall consistency by eliminating unintended deviations caused by language idiosyncrasies; (3) provide concrete policy recommendations how the number of remaining cases can be eliminated through appropriate policies.

To support this goals, this study seeks to provide conclusive arguments and useful data to policy makers, treaty negotiators, judges, practitioners, and other scholars. Its extensive analysis of clauses in 3,844 tax treaties governing which texts are authentic and prevail in case of divergence is intended to help both taxpayers and courts interpreting and applying tax treaties in concrete situations.

Press contact

Maarten Muns, Scientific Communications Adviser, Leiden University
+31 71 527 3282

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