What is International Tax Law?

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  • Written By: C. Mitchell
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 01 February 2020
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International tax law is the body of law that deals with taxation regulations across borders. International tax law can concern companies who do business in multiple countries, people who are citizens of one country but work in another, or transactions and sales from one country that cross into another. Most every country in the world taxes its residents in various ways. The field of international tax law strives to find the ways in which these sometimes disparate laws intersect when people or entities are subject to multiple taxation schemes. Tax law generally is usually considered one of the most difficult specialties in law, and within tax law, international tax law is typically respected as among the most complex branches.

The term “international tax” is applicable to almost any transaction that occurs between entities or individuals of different nationalities. The term does not refer to any fixed tax, but rather to the practice of taxing international exchanges. The field of international tax law is a field of law devoted to understanding how different countries’ tax laws mesh with one another, and strategizing ways for global clients to minimize the money they owe in taxes while still respecting the parameters of all national laws that may apply to their transactions.


Moving abroad or relocating business activities to a less expensive country may sometimes seem like a way to lower costs or avoid taxes. Depending on the taxation schemes of the countries involved, it may work out to be more costly if the applicable tax schemes are not understood. An international lawyer who specializes in tax, or a tax attorney who specializes in cross-border scenarios, will guide a client who lives or does business abroad in the taxes that apply to him, as well as ways to minimize the tax consequences of his actions. This is the practice of international tax law.

The practice of international tax law typically requires a broad understanding of a number of different tax structures. An international tax lawyer must be an expert in his own country’s tax laws, which is usually no small feat to begin with. On top of that, he must be able to apply those tax laws to the tax laws of any and all other countries where his client is or might do business.

The role of the international tax attorney is to advise a client as to the tax consequences of any number of international activities. The attorney typically also structures the client’s assets or business format in order to minimize the tax consequences. As such, a lawyer who specializes in international tax law must be skilled in a number of disciplines, from individual income tax law to the laws governing corporate restructuring, residency requirements, immigration, and business tax policy, among other things. A tax attorney who wishes to specialize in international tax law must typically have specialized experience, and often also an advanced legal degree, in international tax.


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