TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Barry: Taxation And Innovation — The Sharing Economy As A Case Study

Jordan M. Barry (San Diego), Taxation and Innovation: The Sharing Economy as a Case Study, in Cambridge Handbook on Law and Regulation of the Sharing Economy (Nestor Davidson, Michèle Finck & John Infranca, eds., Cambridge University Press 2018):

This chapter considers the relationship between the U.S. federal income tax system and innovation, using the sharing economy as a focal point for analysis. It makes two main points.

First, the tax system is currently a questionable tool for encouraging innovation. Regulators are understandably concerned that taxpayers will use tax incentive provisions in unanticipated ways, and thus are inclined to tightly limit such provisions’ scope. This reduces incentive provisions’ net benefit to taxpayers, and can even cause such provisions to miss their marks entirely. Moreover, small and new companies are key drivers of innovation, and evidence suggests that they are relatively unresponsive to tax incentives.

Second, innovation can help improve the tax system. To fix a problem, one must first identify it; innovation provides opportunities to see where tax law is achieving its goals and where it is falling short. The sharing economy experience suggests some strengths, such as the tax system’s definition of income, as well as weaknesses, such as the dividing line between independent contractors and employees.

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