Desai testifies on tax inversion

Professor Mihir A. Desai '98

Professor Mihir A. Desai ’98

On July 22, Harvard Law School Professor Mihir A. Desai, a scholar of tax policy, international finance and corporate finance, participated in a Senate Finance Committee hearing titled “The U.S. Tax Code: Love It, Leave It, or Reform It.”

The hearing focused on inversions, the term for when American companies reincorporate overseas in order to shift their tax home base. Some legislators have proposed punitive measures to discourage inversions.

Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, the finance committee’s top Republican, said the only way to completely address the issue of inversions is through comprehensive tax reform. Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, Senate Finance Committee chairman, called for legislation to halt inversions, which, he said, “are a significant drag on the economy and are harming U.S. competitiveness.”

In his testimony, Desai outlined the origins of recent merger transactions and provided guidelines for alternative solutions and reforms. Desai said, legislation that is narrowly focused on preventing inversions or specific transactions runs the risk of being counterproductive .

Read Professor Desai’s testimony (PDF)

The hearing was webcast live on the Senate Finance Committee’s website and is archived there.

Others who testified included representatives from the U.S. Department of the Treasury, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Fortune, and Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business.

In an interview with the New York Times prior to the hearing, Desai discussed how he believes corporate taxes should be reformed in order to make the United States more competitive.

Desai, who has taught at Harvard Business School since 1998, accepted a joint appointment at Harvard Law School in 2011. He is nowthe Mizuho Financial Group Professor of Finance, senior associate dean for planning and university affairs and the chair of doctoral programs at Harvard Business School and a professor of law at Harvard Law School.

Desai has written extensively on corporate finance, international finance, and tax policy. He is the author of “International Finance: A Casebook” (Wiley, 2006). His research has been included in leading economics, finance, and law journals. He received a Ph.D. in political economy from Harvard University in 1998 and a MBA from Harvard Business School in 1993. Desai, who has a bachelor’s degree in history and economics from Brown University, was a Fulbright Scholar to India in 1994.  He served as the co-director of the National Bureau of Economic Research’s India program and is a research associate in the NBER’s Public Economics and Corporate Finance Programs.

In addition to having advised a number of firms and governmental organizations, Desai has worked at CS First Boston and McKinsey & Co and is also on the advisory board of the International Tax Policy Forum and the NCAER-Brookings India Policy Reform.