Dienstag, 09. Juni 2015, 09:45 - 10:45 iCal

Gastvortrag von Jane Frecknall-Hughes (Hull Univ.)

Tax and the citizen: the philosophical underpinnings”

Hörsaal A (NIG, 6. Stock)
Universitätsstraße 7, 1010 Wien


The extent to which a state has the right to tax its citizens and the benefits a citizen has the right to expect from the state if he/she pays tax are topics that have been hotly debated for a long time. Questions about why governments should raise tax, how much and from whom and the use to which taxes should be put attract increasing attention in a globalised economy and gain especial relevance in straitened economic times. However, less emphasis nowadays is placed on the philosophical underpinnings on which the answers to these questions might (or, perhaps, should) be based: practical or political considerations often outweigh any philosophical ones.

Such attention as has been paid to tax philosophy or ideology commonly takes as its starting point the concepts (or canons) of equity/proportionality, certainty, convenience and efficiency propounded by Adam Smith in Book 5 of his work, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, published in 1776. Considerable amounts of ink have been expended in the past by Smith and other theorists in considering the principles which should ideally underpin a tax system – and taxes generally, not least in the period leading up to the war between Great Britain and the American colonies in the late 1700s. This paper will look at the debate which raged in Great Britain in that period between writers and philosophers, particularly Samuel Johnson, Edmund Burke and Thomas Paine, about a state’s right to tax its citizens who live permanently overseas. The ideas that emerged from these very public debates in Great Britain are of continuing relevance today, for example, to the USA in terms of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) requiring the taxation of non-resident US persons; and to the erosion of national tax sovereignty by the alleged ‘tax arbitrage’ practices of multinational companies in utilising the differences between tax jurisdictions to their advantage. The paper also aims to show in this context the continuing relevance of taxation history: it is something that governments ignore at their peril.

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Prof. Dr. Erich Kirchler


Elisabeth Dorfinger
Fakultät für Psychologie