In just a decade of astounding growth, the Internet has reached a critical mass that attracts millions of consumers and a huge amount of money into an ever-expanding virtual shopping mall. Businesses attach great importance to e-commerce because of the ease and price at which goods and services are bought and sold across jurisdictions. One of the biggest concerns in these transactions is that of the payment of consumption tax.
My research is broadly divided into three aspects: The digital economy, VAT, and developing countries- A critique on OECDs’ VAT/GST Guidelines for the digital economy and it’s practicability for developing countries, the issue of legitimacy due to lack of inclusion of developing countries, the development of laws/policies in the area and a study into whether transplanting these soft laws designed for rich-developed countries work for developing economies? My research aims to bring attention to VAT as opposed to the global discussion around CIT.
The research examines the definition of the digital economy and capture its contribution to economic growth and thus implications on taxation, specifically VAT.
I will also study and verify the issues of taxation for both tech giants and SMEs – their changing business models and influence on consumption taxes. The difficulties it gives rise to under the following situations: - where there is no concept of fixed establishment and thus quantifying consumption of intangibles and then moving onto the overlapping definition of goods and services itself.
As a result of the “digital blur”, where goods are becoming services and vice versa, with growing digitalization, it is also difficult to distinguish between general companies that have digital presence too and purely digital companies. Thus it is imperative to have a dicussion around the need of a systemic change in international tax bodies, if in future there is one. Having a new forum other than the OECD, which is also riddled with similar flaws will not address the issue of inclusion of developing countries and will continue to create laws that do not work for developing countries. The research examines successful/unsuccessful legal transplants to this end. Additonally also looks into political economy influence in determining international tax policies and demonstrates the change in global power dynamics and how it affects rule making capacity.
Finally, I aim to provide a way foreward that will makes the formulation of tax policies more inclusive, and developing countries are present and heard not just as second class members of international forums. Going forward, such soft law/guidelines should be fair, efficient and, most importantly, simplify the process of implementation too for countries that do not always have a sophisticated tax administration process.
Every such policy is generic and should be, so that it can be adapted to suit the revenue needs of a government, or the socio-economic conditions and mindset of the people of a particular country following the NOSFA approach. The research uses India as case study or example to demonstrate the taxation changes it has gone through and is still seeing for the digital economy as a developing country.
I completed my BA LLB (5 years Integrated programme) from the School of Law, Christ University, Bangalore, India in 2012. I already had an offer in place from Durham University, UK. I went ahead and did my LLM from Durham Law School, and graduated in 2014. My thesis was on tax laws, specifically the advent of GST in India (which was not in legislation then).
I was then enrolled in the Bar in India as an Advocate at the High Court of Calcutta and I worked for a few months there. Subsequently, I worked as a Legal Researcher at the Indian Institute of Management on various government projects and initiatives. During this time, I received an offer from School of Law, University of Leeds and I was back in the UK to start my PhD and continue my research in the area of Indirect Tax Laws and Policy.
What motivated me to undertake PhD study?
Towards the end of my LLM degree, I had developed a keen interest in research and I wanted to continue in the field of research for laws and policy. I went back to India to gain some practical work experience outside of the various internships I already had completed in top tier law firms. It was while working as a Legal Researcher, I felt that I would like to have my own project that will contribute to the field of tax and policy and I can gain expertise in a niche area that I am interested in. The PhD gives me the platform and foundation to carry on that journey.
What makes me passionate about my subject?
I have always been interested in tax laws since my undergraduate law school days but most of the things I learnt was from internship experiences and not taught courses. It was during my Masters that I actually embarked upon the intricacies of Tax Laws and the influence and importance it has on a country at any stage of economy. An optimal Tax Code can completely change a country’s socioeconomic conditions. It is one of the key aspects of revenue and affects every single individual. I am currently dealing with the digital economy and with growing digitalization and globalization through technology, it is a high impact research area.
What are my plans once I have completed my PhD?
I plan to continue in the field of Research, both academic and non-academic. Ideally, I would like to work in think tanks and engage with governments in law and policy making.