A merchant in Pastor's guise: examaning the political debate surrounding the Dutch corporate tax regime

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The Dutch government continues to deny and downplay the harmful elements of its corporate tax regime, despite increasing contestation of the regime by civil society agents. Government officials routinely stress the envisioned leading role of the Netherlands in standard-setting initiatives, while at the same time the Dutch government engages in tax competition with other jurisdictions. The political behavior of the Dutch government on tax avoidance is Janus-faced. By employing a critical social constructivist framework embedded in critical realism, this thesis examines how and why this contradictory behavior has materialized. Two competing discourses are identified: a dominant competition discourse and a tax justice discourse. A highly interwoven constellation of agents comprised of government officials – primarily the Ministry of Finance – and various financial sector actors present their fractional interests as the volonté générale and discursively reinforce the dominance of the competition discourse. The state form in the Netherlands reflects a strategic selectivity which privileges the position and interests of financial sector agents. Following the global financial crisis, the social practice in which the two discourses are embedded changed, and discursive contestation by civil society agents – united in a tax justice constellation – intensified. This has led to a gradual shift in the discursive practice of government officials – a shift that ensured the continuation of the dominance of the competition discourse amidst heightening contestation. The Janus-faced political behavior thus resulted from an ongoing discursive struggle.
Faculteit der Managementwetenschappen