The Interpretation of Plurilingual Tax Treaties: Routine Interpretation — A Refutation

Chapter 3 of Richard Xenophon Resch, The Interpretation of Plurilingual Tax Treaties: Theory, Practice, Policy. Hamburg: tredition, 2018, ISBN: 978-3-7439-0208-4

64 Pages Posted: 23 Dec 2018 Last revised: 18 May 2020

Date Written: December 14, 2018

Abstract

Based on an analysis of 3,844 tax treaties, the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties and its Commentaries (VCLT), and case law of various domestic and international courts.

The current orthodoxy maintains that courts are not required to compare all language texts of a plurilingual treaty but may rely on a single one for cases of routine interpretation. This view is erroneous, in violation of the VCLT, and the source of treaty misapplication; taxpayers are ill-advised to pay attention only to the text in their own language.

In daily practice, the issue is of great relevance: almost three-quarters of the well over 3,000 concluded tax treaties are plurilingual. The BEPS MLI escalates complexity because it modifies a large number of treaties having texts in various languages. This study aims to (1) increase awareness about the pitfalls of the current orthodoxy and, in consequence, help diminish misapplication of plurilingual tax treaties through its abandonment, (2) show that sole reliance on prevailing texts is available as a pragmatic alternative in line with the VCLT, and (3) provide policy recommendations how residual cases may be eliminated.

To support these goals, this study seeks to provide conclusive arguments and useful data to policy makers, treaty negotiators, judges, practitioners, and other scholars. Its analysis of all tax treaty final clauses is intended to help both taxpayers and courts interpreting tax treaties in practice. The general arguments presented in this book are however not limited to tax treaties, since similar issues play a role in the interpretation of other treaties, for example, in the field of foreign investment regulation.

Note: Excerpt of my Thesis, consisting in TOC, Introduction, and Chapter 3 (Routine Interpretation: A Refutation), the latter being an updated and more extensive version of my previous paper 'Not in Good Faith — A Critique of the Vienna Convention Rule of Interpretation Concerning its Application to Plurilingual (Tax) Treaties'.

Keywords: Treaties, Taxation, International Tax Law, Tax Treaties, Interpretation, Tax Treaty Interpretation, Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, OECD, UN

JEL Classification: K34, K39, K40, K49, H20, H25, H26, H29, H39, H70, H71, H73, H77, H87, F02, F53, F55, Y10, Y40

Suggested Citation

Resch, Richard Xenophon, The Interpretation of Plurilingual Tax Treaties: Routine Interpretation — A Refutation (December 14, 2018). Chapter 3 of Richard Xenophon Resch, The Interpretation of Plurilingual Tax Treaties: Theory, Practice, Policy. Hamburg: tredition, 2018, ISBN: 978-3-7439-0208-4 , Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3301474 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3301474

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