Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Schaffa: The Economic Efficiency Case Against Business Tax Privacy

Daniel Schaffa (Richmond), The Economic Efficiency Case Against Business Tax Privacy, 50 Seton Hall L. Rev. 27 (2019):

By statute, business tax returns are not publicly available. But with public access, investors would acquire useful information that would help them make better investing decisions; business tax compliance and planning would become more uniform, preventing tax-savvy firms from gaining an advantage over other relatively more productive firms; and businesses could learn from one another, which would spare firms the cost of redundantly developing the same tax strategies. In the long run, these efficiency gains could result in lower prices, higher wages, more innovation, more leisure, and better investment returns. In the debate over business tax privacy, these sorts of economic efficiency arguments have received surprisingly little attention. This Article argues that economic efficiency is central to the debate and may well change where we come out on business tax privacy.

Economic efficiency is paramount to tax policy, but on one important issue—whether businesses should be entitled to tax privacy—the efficiency criterion has received short shrift. This Article evaluates business tax privacy using the same efficiency criteria applied to other tax issues and argues that eliminating business tax privacy would be beneficial. Public access to business tax returns was a feature of the country’s first corporate tax legislation. Economic efficiency considerations commend a return to our original approach.

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