The Culture of Tax Avoidance
55 Saint Louis U. L. J. 47 (2010)
68 Pages Posted: 28 Apr 2010 Last revised: 23 Nov 2013
Date Written: April 27, 2010
This article briefly traces the history of tax sheltering in the latter half of the twentieth century in the United States, including the transformation of the role of tax professionals from support functions in tax planning for transactional efficiency to profit center functions through aggressive tax structuring. The article addresses general anti-avoidance rules as evidence of the prevalence of intensive outside the United States and works in greater detail with Swedish and German aggressive tax planning.
The article argues that over the past half century or longer, multiple factors have contributed to and fused into a culture of tax avoidance. Congress and other legislatures have fueled and continue to fuel the growth of that tax avoidance culture by relying on the taxation system to deliver a variety of tax unrelated subsidies and economic stimuli and, in some cases, to drive social policy.
That reliance confuses taxpayers concerning the function of taxation, the nature and importance of governmental services, and taxpayers’ own tax compliance obligations. In the presence of that culture, legislatures and national executives lack the political will to adopt those proposals that actually might minimize or even eliminate the tax avoidance problem. Rather the legislatures and executives settle on political compromises that have their own flaws and produce only limited corrective results, like general anti-avoidance rules as an example. The article concludes that the cultural change essential to provide the political resolve to quell tax avoidance includes suppressing collateral, non-revenue collection uses of the taxation system like delivering subsidies and economic stimuli or driving social policy. To bring about cultural change a substantial increase in enforcement is critical as is a massive education effort to overcome ever growing anti-tax rhetoric.
Keywords: Taxation, Tax Planning, Tax Shelters, General Anti-avoidance rules, Economic Substance, Taxation and Culture, Law and Culture, Tax Policy, Tax Reform
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