Historical tensions between international business and national taxation: A challenge for Europe today

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A team of business historians from Erasmus University Rotterdam, the University of Bayreuth (Germany), Charles University (Prague), and Coventry University (UK), are being funded by the VolkswagenStiftung for a project that aims to analyse the historical dynamic of the conflict of interest in relation to taxation between nation states and multi-national enterprise (MNE). PhD candidate Lexy Remij has joined Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication (ESHCC) and will be supervised by Prof. Ben Wubs.

One of the most important challenges for European nations – especially in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic – is to secure sufficient tax revenues in the context of free capital movements. The taxation of MNE in particular poses a great challenge for nation states as well as for Europe as a whole. Since sharing of MNE tax reports began only in 2016 (and banks since 2014) we know little about the evolution of MNE’s tax strategies and tax management. In the absence of reliable data, only historical research can fill the gap. 

The Erasmus University PhD project, supervised by Prof. Ben Wubs, comprises a case study of the Anglo-Dutch Unilever since the merger in 1930. Against a background of major international ruptures (1930s Great Depression, Second World War, De-colonisation, the coming of the Iron Curtain and fall of the Berlin Wall) this project will focus on Unilever’s connections to other multinational companies in the UK and the Netherlands and particularly its relations with the Dutch and British governments.

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