A Tax Credit Approach to Addressing Brain Drain

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This paper proposes a novel use of tax policy to address one of the most pressing issues arising from economic globalization and international migration, that of “brain drain” – in particular, the migration of certain skilled and highly trained or educated professionals from less and least developed countries to wealthy “western” countries. This problem is perhaps most pressing in relation to doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals, but exists also for teachers, lawyers, economists, engineers, and other highly skilled or trained professionals. While there have been other proposals in the past to use tax policy to address brain drain (most famously versions of the so-called “Bhagwati Tax”, a form of exit tax), in this paper I provide an account of and justification for using tax credits, modeled loosely on the foreign tax credits U.S. citizens receive in certain situations for taxes paid in other countries. My proposal avoids several of the pitfalls of other methods of using tax policy to ameliorate the harms of brain drain, as it does not subject people from the developing world to potentially onerous double taxation, and does not depend on sophisticated tax collection capabilities within developing countries, capabilities which are often lacking. Additionally, my proposal also leads to fewer morally problematic restrictions on the liberty of citizens of less and least developed countries than do non-taxed based alternative proposals, such as temporary bans on migration. While the proposal cannot hope to completely solve the problems that arise in relation to brain drain – no approach can do this – it does provide a straightforward way to ameliorate the problems that arise from it without placing significant financial or liberty burdens on already less advantaged people from the developing world.
Original languageEnglish
Article number7
Pages (from-to)73-84
Number of pages12
JournalSaint Louis University Law Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes


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