Corporate Social Responsibility and Tax Planning: Not by Rules Alone

Social & Legal Studies 2015, Vol. 24(2) 225–250

Tilburg Law School Research Paper No. 09/2015

27 Pages Posted: 26 May 2015

See all articles by Hans Gribnau

Hans Gribnau

Tilburg Law School; Leiden University

Date Written: February 12, 2015


Taxpayers have to plan their tax affairs to plan their life or develop their business strategy. Often tax planning is encouraged and intended by tax legislation but sometimes it is not. By way of tax incentives, the tax legislator often tries to steer citizens’ behaviour to achieve all kind of policy goals. This way the tax legislator stimulates taxpayers to adopt a calculating attitude towards the tax system, breeding a rule-based mindset focused on tax planning. This rule focus crowds out ethics. Taxpayers turn around the rules to their advantage. The tax legislator usually reacts with refined or new rules that add to the existing complexity of tax law. Companies endorsing corporate social responsibility (CSR) accept ethical obligations beyond compliance with the law. It is argued that these companies should agree that the interpretation and use of tax rules are based on a moral choice that rules out strictly complying with the letter of the law. CSR companies should even take one more step in endorsing the view that tax is a body of rules, which itself is grounded in principles that make up the internal morality of law. Therefore, they should take these principles seriously when engaging in tax planning.

Keywords: Tax avoidance, tax evasion, corporate social responsibility, internal morality of law, legal ethics, legal principles, tax incentives, tax legislation, tax planning, legal positivism, rule focus, intrinsic motivations

Suggested Citation

Gribnau, Hans, Corporate Social Responsibility and Tax Planning: Not by Rules Alone (February 12, 2015). Social & Legal Studies 2015, Vol. 24(2) 225–250, Tilburg Law School Research Paper No. 09/2015, Available at SSRN:

Hans Gribnau (Contact Author)

Tilburg Law School ( email )

Tilburg, 5000 LE

Leiden University ( email )

P.O. Box 9520
2300 RA Leiden, NL-2300RA

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