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President Joe Biden Takes Prompt from Professor Steven Dean on Racist Tax Haven Message

04/13/2021

Updated 4/29/21

In his April 28 address to a joint session of Congress, President Joe Biden, responding to prompts from Professor Steven Dean, pivoted his message regarding tax havens. “A lot of companies evade taxes through tax havens,” stated Biden during the address, in which he included Switzerland in a list of countries.

Dean had been critical of the president’s pointed omission of European countries such as Switzerland and Ireland when discussing tax havens, naming only countries with majority-Black populations such as the Cayman Islands and Bermuda. In an open letter published in The Nation, Dean urged Biden to use his power to eradicate systemic racism in international tax policy. Dean also addressed his concerns in conversations with staff members of the Biden Administration.

This pivot in message is definitely a step in the right direction, but much more needs to be done by this administration if it is to live up to its pledge to end systemic racism,” said Dean. “I and many of my colleagues in academia stand ready to assist in any way we can.”

Dean pointed to the efforts of Dorothy Brown, who brings to light the systemic racism of tax policy in her book, The Whiteness of Wealth (Crown 2021), and of former Representative Charles Rangel, whose Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act threatened penalties on banks rather than specific tax havens 20 years earlier.

In “Ten Truths About Tax Havens: Inclusion and the ‘Liberia’ Problem,” 70 Emory Law Journal __ (forthcoming 2021 with Attiya Waris), Dean and Waris go further to debunk common myths about tax havens and expose the underlying racism in the term.

Dean’s legal scholarship explores the tension between neoliberal and progressive thought in domestic and international tax policy. He has written about tax shelters, tax havens, tax expenditures, and the importance of power and identity in international tax law. Dean is also the author of Federal Taxation of Corporations and Corporate Transactions (Aspen Publishers 2018, with Professor Brad Borden) and Social Enterprise Law: Trust, Public Benefit and Capital Markets (Oxford University Press 2017, with Professor Dana Brakman Reiser). He has served as vice dean at Brooklyn Law School and as faculty director of NYU School of Law’s Graduate Tax Program, and is creator and host of The Tax Maven podcast.

Read the article in The Nation

Read the Emory Law Journal paper

Watch a video interview with Dean Michael T. Cahill