The Case Against Strategic Tax Law Uncertainty
50 Pages Posted: 11 Aug 2011 Last revised: 13 Aug 2011
Date Written: August 10, 2011
Against a backdrop of ongoing angst regarding release of tax guidance, an important idea has surfaced in the tax compliance literature. Prominent tax compliance scholars have argued that the strategic use of tax law uncertainty may cause taxpayers to report higher tax liability. While these arguments have strong economic appeal, this Article counsels against their acceptance. In contrast to the support for strategic uncertainty in the literature, I argue that this move may have perverse effects on taxpayer reporting and may lower, rather than raise, revenue. This argument relies on fundamental features of the tax compliance framework, which could create significant problems with translating the theory behind strategic uncertainty into less underreporting. As a result, this Article cautions against reliance on strategic uncertainty as a tax compliance tool.
Keywords: tax compliance, uncertainty, risk, ambiguity, penalties
JEL Classification: H20, H24, H25, H26, H29, K34
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation