Minimalism About Residence and Source

In this Article, I relate the discomfort with fundamental principles in taxing individuals’ worldwide income to a problem that has attracted greater attention in recent years: the assignment of geographical sources to income. I suggest that there is substantial similarity between critiques of residence rules (of which critiques of citizenship-based taxation are examples) and critiques of source rules. However, I argue that problematic residence and source rules are only symptoms, not causes, of unsatisfactory conceptual paradigms in international taxation. Many scholars portray source and residence rules as inadequate means for achieving purportedly given normative objectives in the age of intense globalization and claim that we need better tools than these “meaningless” or “incoherent” concepts. Instead, I argue that the meaningfulness and coherence of the residence and source concepts are easily defended, and they are unsatisfactory mostly because the purported normative objectives of international taxation either do not stand scrutiny or attract little consensus. The intellectual perplexity of international income taxation pertains to ends, not means.