How the European Union constrains the state: Multilevel governance of taxation


Philipp Genschel, Jacobs University Bremen, PO Box 750 561, D-28725 Bremen, Germany. Tel.: +49 421 200-3456; Fax: +49 421 200-3303; E-mail:


This article challenges the common assumption that the European Union (EU) has little power over taxation. Based on a comprehensive analysis of EU tax legislation and European Court of Justice (ECJ) tax jurisprudence from 1958 to 2007, the article shows that the EU exerts considerable regulatory control over the Member States' taxing power and imposes tighter constraints on Member State taxes than the American federal government imposes on American state taxation. These findings contradict the standard account of the EU as a regulatory polity that specialises in apolitical issues of market creation and leaves control of highly politicised core functions of government (defence, taxation, social security, education, etc.) to the Member States; despite strong treaty safeguards, national tax autonomy is undermined by EU regulation.