The Re-entry Interview: After Securing Landmark International Tax Agreement, Prof. Itai Grinberg Returns to Campus

February 23, 2023

Shortly after stepping down from the Treasury Department, Prof. Itai Grinberg spoke about his time there at a recent Georgetown Law conference on international taxation.

Professor Itai Grinberg’s last two years have been busy ones, full of travel to international capitals, seven-day work weeks and 16-hour days of meetings and negotiations. But in the end, he helped achieve a top item on the United States’ international economic agenda: a first-ever global minimum corporate tax (GMT).

(First in an occasional series featuring Georgetown Law faculty and staff who’ve recently served in the federal government)

One of several Georgetown Law professors to take appointments in the Biden Administration (and one of dozens of faculty members over the years who have served in federal government roles under both political parties), Grinberg looks back on his stint as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Multilateral Negotiations (Office of Tax Policy) at the U.S. Department of the Treasury with satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment.

“Try to get 137 people to agree on something. Now imagine getting 137 countries to agree on something,” Grinberg says.

The agreed-upon rate of 15% in Pillar Two of the OECD/G20 Inclusive Framework will help ensure that U.S companies face a level playing field in corporate taxation and deter countries from engaging in a “race to the bottom” to lure corporate headquarters away from each other with lower tax rates. In a column in the Washington Post, former Treasury Secretary Lawrence H. Summers described the GMT as “arguably the most significant international economic pact of the 21st century so far.”

For Grinberg, the grueling process also yielded some unique experiences, among them negotiating directly with multiple finance ministers – including a couple who have since gone on to lead their countries: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

He appreciated working closely with U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, whom he describes as “the sharpest finance minister in the world.” He also has entertaining memories of a 2021 G20 summit in Venice and a “boatercade” through the canals, escorted by Italian security police on personal watercrafts. “That will probably not happen to me again. That felt like James Bond. It was hilarious!” he laughs.

Grinberg says he was tempted to extend his time at the Treasury to help with another priority on the international agenda: the interaction between climate policy and taxation. But having gotten the GMT over the finish line, Grinberg says he knew it was time to get back to 600 New Jersey Ave. and prepare to return to the classroom this fall. Next year, he will be teaching International Tax, Tax I (“baby tax”) and a seminar in international tax policy.

“There’s not going to be another rodeo this big in corporate international tax for a while,” says Grinberg.

Watch the recent “International Taxation in Flux” conference, including a keynote talk by Prof. Itai Grinberg. The event was co-sponsored by Georgetown Law’s Institute of International Economic Law and the International Tax Policy Forum: