In Memorium – A Tribute to the Father of EU Corporate Tax – Professor Albert J. Rädler (1933- 2012)

Rick Minor is a lawyer and e.commerce policy expert based in Luxembourg. He had the privilege to work with Professor Rädler in the firm´s Munich office from 1991 to 1994.

The international tax world has been saddened by the news that Professor Rädler, one of the fathers of EU corporate tax law, has passed away after a long and successful career. He was one of the last of a generation of tax experts who could trace their practice back to the creation of the European Community. Indeed, Professor Rädler remained true to his belief in the important role tax policy could play in European integration throughout his career which spanned over half a century. His doctorate, in 1960, on EU corporate tax harmonization was visionary and established his reputation as one of the first, if not the leading, European tax experts of his generation. By the time a greater economic integration of the European Union became possible, in the early 1990s, Professor Rädler was a ready-made Ambassador at large for promoting the various EU Directives and related initiatives which were came into force at the time.

Professor Rädler moved between academic and business circles with the greatest of ease. While managing a successful tax firm based in Munich, he also taught international tax law at the University level for more than 20 years, first in Regensburg and then in Hamburg. His reputation as a European visionary earned him the confidence of governments. He demonstrated that it was possible to advise effectively both public and private sector clients while avoiding conflicts of interest. His counsel to blue chip clients made him a more effective advocate on the tax policy level as he was always mindful of the practical impact different policy proposals would have on businesses and tax planning.

Professor Rädler is probably most widely known for his work as a member of the Ruding Committee, whose report on EU tax policy was published twenty years ago this month and which legacy would be worthy of a separate blog in the near future. The Ruding Committee was called into existence by the EU Commission as an independent committee of distinguished European tax experts. The Committee was specifically tasked to analyze the tax systems of the then group of Member States and make recommendations to mitigate and eliminate improper distortions to competition resulting from differences in those tax systems.

Professor Rädler and the rest of the Ruding committee had a certain level of confidence in the ability of market forces to encourage member states to adapt unilaterally common features of their corporate tax systems (otherwise known as convergence) which would lead to less distortions in competition between the Member States. The committee also concluded that a certain amount of tax competition between states was acceptable. 20 years later, the Ruding Report still inspires and influences an approach like the initiative for corporate tax convergence as agreed in principle by France and Germany in the joint Green Paper released on February 6 of this year.

Professor Rädler is also remembered by his colleagues for his enthusiasm for travel. He was so often the guest of foreign governments, universities and international organizations, to share his wisdom and insights on tax policy. This suited his European tax evangelism well. At his memorial service last week, it was said of Professor Rädler that there was no corner of the international tax world where he had not been in his career, literally and intellectually. Well put. His friends will remember him for his sense of humour, his generosity in word and in deed, and his dedication to family. Our best tribute to his memory will be to follow his examples in work and in life.