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Book Chapter

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The existing network of more than 2,500 bilateral double tax treaties (DTTs) represents an important part of international law. The current DTTs are all based on two models, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and United Nations (UN) model DTTs, which in turn are based on models developed by the League of Nations between 1927 and 1946. Despite some differences that will be discussed below, all DTTs are remarkably similar in the topics covered (even the order of articles are always the same) and in their language. About 75% of the actual words of any given DTT are identical with the words of any other DTT. Thus, the DTT network is the most important element of the international tax regime, that is, the generally applicable rules governing income taxation of cross-border transactions. Indeed, I have argued that given the similarities among all DTTs, certain rules embodied in them (such as the requirement to prevent double taxation by granting an exemption or a foreign tax credit) have become part of customary international law, and therefore may be binding even in the absence of a DTT.


Reproduced by permission of Oxford University Press.