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How Global Corporate Tax Avoidance Fuels the Wealth Inequalities that Undermine Democracy.

Project description

Shedding light on democracy's tax conundrum

In contemporary democracies, burgeoning wealth inequalities pose a profound challenge, corroding the very essence of equitable governance. At the heart of this predicament lies corporate tax avoidance, a mechanism fuelling the concentration of capital in the hands of a privileged few. This insidious practice not only undermines fiscal integrity but also exacerbates social disparities, eroding the foundations of democracy. In this context, the ERC-funded Democracy Challenged project will focus on corporate tax avoidance as a catalyst for inequality. It employs innovative methods like forensic accounting and survey experiments. Through empirical analysis, the project shows how global capital circumvents democratic fiscal checks. Divided into four work packages, it unravels the intricate web of big tech and pharma's tax avoidance strategies. By dissecting legal-technical mechanisms and media narratives, the project aims to disrupt wealth protection strategies.


This project develops a new theoretical framework and causal mechanism to explain how corporate tax avoidance fuels the wealth inequalities that undermine democracy. It implements new methodological innovations that explain how global capital evades the fiscal constraints of democracy, using a combination of forensic accounting, in-person interviews, computational text analysis and original survey experiments.

The objectives of the project are guided by two overarching research questions: Why is concentrated capital and wealth inequality a problem for democracy? What is the role of corporate tax avoidance and law in enabling this process? The empirical and comparative case study analysis are designed to answer these questions. First, we explain the global wealth chains and tax avoidance structures of big tech and big pharma multinational groups. Second, we explain how legal-technical actors create these structures and strategies. Third, we explain how their wealth protection strategies destabilise the functioning of democracy. Fourth, we explain the role of the media in politicising corporate tax avoidance as a problem for democracy.

The project has four work packages. First, we construct a new theoretical framework, typology and causal mechanism to explain how corporate tax avoidance leads to the wealth inequalities that undermines democracy. Second, we explain the tax avoiding wealth chains of big tech and big pharma using a combination of forensic accounting and statistical mapping techniques. Third, we explain how legal-technical actors create these structures using a combination of in-person interviews, list survey experiments and computational text analysis. Fourth, we implement a cross-national survey experiment to explain the role of the media in disrupting the political consensus of legal-technical experts. Finally, we develop a set of new normative principles to guide how governments can respond in a democracy-enhancing way.

Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 2 000 000,00
4 Dublin

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Ireland Eastern and Midland Dublin
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 2 000 000,00

Beneficiaries (1)