When Allard School of Law Associate Professor Wei Cui saw a posting for an appointment at UBC in 2012, he suspected that the job was perfectly suited to him. Describing a tax law specialist along with expertise in comparative law in Asian countries, the posting couldn’t have been a better fit, and Cui’s colleagues at the time agreed.
The school’s search for such a scholar coincided with Cui’s desire to relocate from China to North America, where he wanted to pursue academic work more exclusively after several years as a government advisor and senior tax practitioner.
Exhibiting the unusual combination of expertise in international income taxation, the value added tax and tax administration in developing countries, Cui has had rare opportunities to advise on tax policy at very high levels of government in China.
Now the Director of the Centre for Asian Legal Studies, which boasts the largest number of full-time faculty studying Asian law in North America, Cui reflects on the unique opportunities that brought him to realize his most passionate interests.
Cui’s government advisory work began in 2007 in China after he practiced U.S. tax law for several years in New York. He had returned to China to teach but, when offered the opportunity to advise the government on a new corporate income tax law, jumped at the chance.
“It was a special opportunity,” he said in an interview. “Tax policy, especially international tax policy, is rather esoteric, particularly for lawyers. There aren’t many people doing it. In Beijing, the Chinese State Administration of Taxation and Ministry of Finance found out that there was this new tax lawyer in town, and approached me for tax policy work. And since there were so few people doing it in China, the international tax community gradually found out about me.”
He later worked as the Senior Tax Counsel for the China Investment Corporation, China’s sovereign wealth fund, whose investments included Vancouver’s own Teck Resources. In this position, he supervised the tax structuring and tax compliance for tens of billions of dollars in investments while also teaching. After CIC, he launched the China tax practice of the UK law firm Clifford Chance.
Now in Vancouver, Cui teaches tax law and law and economics, and maintains professional policy-advising roles as a consultant to the United Nations, the Singapore tax authority, and the Chinese State Administration of Taxation, and has been invited to be a member on a new international tax arbitration tribunal.
“These professional roles help me maintain a broad range of intellectual interests. If I submit a paper to a law review on empirical work on international taxation, we don’t know how people will react to that, because the demand for that in legal academia may be low. But the demand for that in policy-making circles is actually quite high. I think this work can be intellectually very valuable and it’s good to have a policy channel for it.”
Cui is also hosting the Tax Law and Policy Workshop, a part of the Tax LL.M. Program launched in 2014, where prominent public economists and tax legal scholars from both Canada and the rest of the world present current research. “This kind of tax policy forum is usually held in places like Paris, New York City, Washington D.C., and maybe to some extent Ottawa,” he says; “It is remarkable that we can have it in Vancouver.”
In his current research, he is focusing on developing new analytical angles on tax policy and tax administration in developing countries. Two forthcoming articles in the University of Toronto Law Journal and the United Nations Handbook on Selected Issues in Protecting the Tax Base of Developing Countries exemplify this research.
Despite his heavy teaching, research, and professional commitments to tax law, Cui maintains a strong interest in research on China. He recently contributed to two scholarly collections, on Chinese state capitalism and on the “Beijing consensus,” and is carrying out a project supported by UBC’s Hampton Grant on Chinese-style federalism.
“Tax is absolutely my core area of interest,” he said. “And I don’t cover every aspect of Chinese law, but there are areas of Chinese law that I’m doing research on that I’m really excited about, so I don’t want to give that up.”
Associate Professor Wei Cui is the Director of the Centre for Asian Legal Studies. Read his full bio here: http://www.law.ubc.ca/faculty-staff/wei-cui.