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Posted April 22, 2013

International Tax Expert Ruth Mason to Join UVA Law Faculty

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Ruth Mason, an expert in international and comparative taxation, will join the University of Virginia School of Law faculty as a professor of law in the fall.

Ruth Mason, an expert in international and comparative taxation, will join the University of Virginia School of Law faculty in the fall.

Contact: Brian McNeill

Mason, who is currently a professor at the University of Connecticut School of Law, will begin teaching at Virginia as a professor of law in August. She expects to teach a variety of courses on tax law, including courses on federal income tax and international tax policy.

"UVA has first-rate students, an excellent faculty, and it's in a great town," she said. "I'm looking forward to joining the faculty."

Mason has taught and written extensively about the interactions between different taxing jurisdictions, such as between U.S. states and European Union countries.

"The kinds of questions I'm interested in include: How do jurisdictions use their tax systems to encourage or discourage cross-border movements of factors of production, including capital and labor?" she said. "And what international or domestic laws constrain those choices?"

Mason has spent a significant amount of time studying and teaching tax law in Europe, having been a visiting professor at Johannes Kepler University in Linz, Austria; the International Tax Centre at Leiden University in the Netherlands; and Universitié Paris 1 (Panthéon Sorbonne). She also served as a Fulbright Senior Scholar at the Vienna Institute for Austrian and International Tax Law in the winter of 2009.

"Europeans are really interested in Americans’ views on tax in the EU because the nondiscrimination principle that applies to EU member state taxation and the nondiscrimination principle that applies to U.S. state taxation are so similar."

For example, she said, under the Commerce Clause and the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the U.S. Constitution, states cannot use their tax laws to discriminate against interstate commerce or against residents of other states. A similar legal requirement can be found in Europe.

"There are the same kinds of issues," she said. "What do you do if you're trying to have a common market? To have an economic union? How do you make your economy more cohesive if you're 50 states or 27 independent countries? Some kinds of tax laws are incompatible with that goal. Others promote it."

"Europeans look to the experience of the United States on some of those questions," she said.  “On other topics—such as the movement in the EU to establish of a common consolidated corporate tax base that would include an apportionment formula common to all the states—Americans can look to the European Union for guidance.”

Mason said the most interesting thing to her about EU tax law is that there is almost a one-to-one correspondence of relevant cases that have been decided by the U.S. Supreme Court and the EU's Court of Justice.

"You could take almost any topic — [such as] cross-border payment of alimony or treatment of personal exemptions when a person commutes to work from one state to another — and you'll find both cases, a U.S. case and an EU case. It's interesting to see, with the courts applying pretty similar legal standards, how the cases come out."

Mason is the author of a 2005 book, "Primer on Direct Taxation in the European Union," as well as a number of scholarly articles.

UVA law professor George Yin, who served as chief of staff of the U.S. Congress's Joint Committee on Taxation, said the depth and breadth of Mason's scholarship is "quite impressive."

"Much of her work involves international tax policy, an area of keen importance to Congress and the Treasury right now, and she should be able to contribute to those debates," Yin said. "She is also very knowledgeable about EU tax policies and the implications of their experiences for the U.S."

Yin added that Mason is an "excellent teacher" who will "help to spark interest among our students in the business and tax curriculum, and she will be a great colleague for the faculty."

UVA law professor Ethan Yale, an expert in tax law and policy, said Mason is "terrific" and an acknowledged authority in EU tax law, and international tax law and policy.

"By all accounts she is a fantastic teacher, and her scholarly and teaching interest complement those of our already outstanding tax faculty," he said.

Mason said she is excited to join such a strong tax law faculty at UVA.

"UVA is going to be a very exciting place to be a tax professor," she said.

Mason earned her law degree from Harvard Law School in 2001 and her undergraduate degree in history from Columbia University in 1997.

Prior to joining the University of Connecticut faculty in 2006, she served as deputy director of the International Tax Program and executive director of the Tax Program at the New York University School of Law.

Mason has also served as a visiting professor at Yale Law School in spring 2011 and at UVA Law in spring 2012.