Paul L. Caron

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Buchanan: Tax Law Is The Lynchpin Of Civilization

Jotwell (Tax) (2016)Neil H. Buchanan (George Washington), The Law of Taxation Is the Lynchpin of Civilization (JOTWELL) (reviewing John Snape (Warwick) & Dominic de Cogan (Cambridge), Introduction: On the Significance of Revenue Cases, in Landmark Cases in Revenue Law 1 (John Snape & Dominic de Cogan eds. 2019):

John Snape and Dominic de Cogan, two legal scholars from universities in England, have provided a significant contribution to the emerging scholarly discussion in many different countries about the nature and limits of the law—not just tax law, which is their nominal domain in this chapter and book, but of all law. Without being at all polemical, and although they give a fair hearing to those with whom they disagree, they make an undeniable case for the claim that the study of tax law is ultimately the study of, to be honest, everything. ...

Snape and de Cogan’s edited volume is part of the Landmark Cases series, an analogue (which the editors readily acknowledge) to the Law Stories series in the United States that began with Tax Stories. Like its American counterpart, a Landmark Cases volume can serve as an avenue for understanding an area of the law through the study of a small canon of foundational legal decisions that continue to shape our understanding of that particular area of the law. ...

Snape and de Cogan frame a book containing classic cases in tax law as a means of understanding the deeply social and political nature of tax law, revenue law, the government, and the people’s interactions in what they hope will be a civilized society. Seeing issues from this more inclusive framing will allow legal scholars to contribute to that desired outcome without unnecessarily narrowing (and thus inevitably distorting) their focus.

Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink


Gerald: I was referring to the overall tax gap, as estimated by the IRS, which when last crunched was only 15%, meaning Americans remit 85% of what is owed under the federal tax code.

Would you mind showing me a European country that does a better job? I'm willing to admit I'm wrong, but I need to see the evidence first.

Posted by: MM | Jul 17, 2019 9:39:59 PM

The Hon. Justice Oliver Wendell Homes, "Taxes are what we pay for civilized society."

Such rests on the assumption that the tax code(s), administration thereof and civil budgeting are, likewise, "civilized."

Posted by: Tony Zinnanti | Jul 15, 2019 10:30:39 AM

MM: Here's a link to an IRS piece documenting what I posted above:

Posted by: Gerald Scorse | Jul 14, 2019 2:40:37 PM

" our tax compliance rates exceed pretty much every other industrialized country."

MM: Those tax compliance rates are for wage and salary income reported to the Internal Revenue Service. Compliance rates are dreadful for those who self-report their income; they "forget" roughly two-thirds of what they should be reporting.

Posted by: Gerald Scorse | Jul 13, 2019 5:24:52 PM

This appears to be part of the effort to argue that more taxes are good because they bring more "civilization.” By extension, a society that confiscated all private wealth would be close to perfect. Basically it takes one quotation from Holmes out of any reasonable context. It is entertaining but not convincing.

Posted by: Mike Livingston | Jul 12, 2019 6:34:53 PM

Let's be generous and just say that it's one of the linchpins.

Posted by: ruralcounsel | Jul 12, 2019 4:18:38 AM

Clearly, Americans are the most law-abiding people on the planet, as our tax compliance rates exceed pretty much every other industrialized country.

Not sure if I agree with the premise, but if true, that's a valid statement.

Posted by: MM | Jul 11, 2019 7:10:33 PM