'Waiting for Consensus of the Experts?' Expert Discourse and the Politics of Tax Reform
60 Pages Posted: 22 Mar 2018
Date Written: August 11, 2005
Tax reform is deeply political. There is now a significant body of political and economic research by political scientists and sociologists, concerning fiscal politics or sociology, in particular addressing taxation in democracies. At the same time, we take for granted, nowadays, that the deployment of a body of expertise is required in the formulation, legislation and application of tax policy and law. In this context, it is often said that politics is an obstacle to tax reform, so that tax reform will be most successful where a space is created in the political process for experts to do their work. Yet, it is clear that tax reform processes dominated by experts may also fail. This paper attempts to develop a theory of the role of tax experts that can help explain the more complex and situated outcomes of tax reform processes. The paper uses discourse theory to reveal the politics of a tax expert consensus and to explain the political outcomes of expert engagement in tax reform in particular discursive contexts. It looks at the generation of tax expert consensus or norms in the “decade” of tax reform, being primarily the 1980s (but extending into the 1990s), illustrating the discussion wtih examples from the US and Ghana.
Keywords: Tax policy, tax law, tax reform, discourse theory, fiscal sociology, value added tax, consumption tax
JEL Classification: A14, E62, H20, K34
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation