Looking back at the New York Module 2014 - A candidate's review

Jun 30 2014
by Petra Majdik

Module New York – International Taxation and Corporate Governance

After four European modules this year, in June the flying classroom left the old continent to spend a week in the probably greatest city in the world: New York.

The New York University (NYU) hosted us for the week, a great experience by itself. Located at the Washington Square Park, it is a perfect place to enjoy the pleasant June weather over lunch breaks and the ideal starting point for exploring the city after our daily courses.

The topic of the week was international taxation and corporate governance. When I first read about this module I was not sure what to expect, especially for those of us not directly involved with taxation in our daily jobs. It was not immediately obvious what role taxation plays in an executive business law program.

Our chairman, Prof. Dr. Rust explained it in this way: “Taxation is at the heart of all business: every business transaction involves taxation. It is vital in today’s business world to have a basic understanding of the main concepts of taxation.” The importance of the topics is also reflected by the fact that as of next year, this module will have an additional day on taxation. Prof. Dr. Rust has been chairing this module for the last 11 years, I was curious to understand the evolution. “There is a constant change on the topics of taxation, yet the basic concepts remain the same, that is why this module is constantly relevant– in the context of the EMBL program or as an independent module. What mostly changed is the general awareness that companies should contribute to the public welfare and pay their taxes.”

We started the week with a focus on the US tax law within a global context. After a general introduction to tax legislation and a more general view on the lawmaking in the US, we covered the US inbound and outbound taxation rules. We also discussed some of the hottest topics such as tax optimization structures for multinational companies or also the unique US tax legislation, which empowers the US to tax not only based on the place of income or residency but also based on citizenship or incorporation.

In the light of so many complex tax regulations worldwide we learned about the importance of tax treaties and bilateral tax agreements in order to avoid double taxation and actually reduce the tax burden for companies and individuals.

A highlight of the week was our dinner on Tuesday evening upon the invitation by Dr. Peter Altenburger at the Redeye Grill where we enjoyed American beef at its best along with great conversation with the speakers over a glass of wine.

The second part of the week we continued with the tax regulations within the European Union. It was very interesting to compare the US and EU regulations between its states along some concrete cases within a joint lecture by Prof. Mason (covering the US side) and Prof. Rust (covering the EU view).

We enjoyed the lectures of Prof. Rust who covered mostly the EU directives and fundamental freedoms, which have great influence on the European taxation regulation. We also discussed many concrete examples, and important cases, which set the precedence for many European court decisions.

We completed the week with corporate governance matters, covering topics such as shareholder activism and its effects in corporate governance as well as recent developments and outlook on these issues. During the panel discussions with our speakers we touched on differences between EU and US corporates and discussed hot topics such as the Minder initiative and its impact on corporate governance in Switzerland.

During the week it became clear why this module is an integral part of this executive program and why it is important to understand the different legislations around taxation especially in today’s world of multinational corporations. Of course this week was not enough for all of us to become tax experts but it certainly was an excellent general introduction to this fairly complex subject, according to a Prof. Altenburger ‘s analogy “Once you know all the answers they change the questions”.

In our group, we were lucky to count on someone who is dealing on a regular basis with these topics, I asked about her experience of the week: "The NYU Module of Taxation and Corporate Governance provides a well structured overview of taxation. The comparison between the US view on international taxation and the respective perceptions from both OECD and EU emphasizes the challenge of applying regulations from different jurisdictions to the same transaction. Combined with transfer pricing this module highlights the typical challenges that multinational enterprises encounter in a cross-border context - not only for tax professionals but as well for a non-technical audience."  (Sabine Studer, International Tax Expert)