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The Political Philosophy of Taxation

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Meetings of the Cambridge Tax Discussion Group are open to all. No previous experience of or expertise in taxation is required,

At this month’s online meeting of the Cambridge Tax Discussion Group, Professor Hans Gribnau and Professor Jane Frecknall-Hughes will discuss various political philosophers and their views on taxation. They show that the principle underpinning the distribution of the tax burden evolves with the views held by the different theorists on the type of government advocated. The emphasis seems to shift from the grounding of political authority and obedience on the need for security and the protection of property, to the preconditions for legitimate government and governance: legitimate government and governance should be capable of protecting and enhancing individual liberty and equality. This development clears the way for more egalitarian notions of taxation, going beyond the distribution of the tax burden based on the benefits secured by government. As principles of equity or justice come to the fore as preconditions for any sustainable political society, tax becomes instrumental to social justice. The benefit principle is past its peak and the ability to pay principle, embodying the concept of distributive justice (along with a different conceptualisation of rights), enters the scene. Nevertheless, it will be a long, long way to go towards legitimate governance, a just, inclusive political society and a corresponding tax system. Jane Frecknall-Hughes is Professor of Accounting & Taxation at the University of Nottingham’s Business School. In addition to her academic qualifications, Jane is a Chartered Accountant and a Chartered Tax Adviser. She is the author of the textbook “The Theory, Principles and Management of Taxation: An Introduction”. Hans Gribnau is a Professor of Tax Law at Tilburg University’s Fiscal Institute and at Leiden University. Hans is also a visiting lecturer at the University of Oxford and at Vienna University of Economics & Business. He has published extensively on tax regulation, tax governance and tax ethics.

This talk is part of the Cambridge Tax Discussion Group series.

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