Wittgenstein on Why Tax Law is Comprehensible

[2015] British Tax Review 252, Issue 2

20 Pages Posted: 8 Jun 2015


The field of taxation now includes a growing body of technical language. Such tax words are not merely “labels” for various economic events (as implied by the theory of semantic formalism) as tax terminology must be contextualised consistently with Wittgenstein’s later theory of linguistics. The current debate over GAARs may constitute an example of Wittgenstein’s “signposts” which mitigate in favour of the Rule of Law and not against it. Furthermore, the proffered choice as between principles versus detail in tax legislation reflects a false dichotomy. The common averment to scepticism (or nihilism) within tax jurisprudence indicates a failure to understand the logical basis or modalities and scientific nature of tax law. The technical language of taxation is indicative of an emerging scientific discipline.

Keywords: Wittgenstein, tax jurisprudence, linguistics, GAARs

JEL Classification: K34

Suggested Citation

Bogenschneider, Bret, Wittgenstein on Why Tax Law is Comprehensible. [2015] British Tax Review 252, Issue 2. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2614952

Bret Bogenschneider (Contact Author)

University of Surrey - School of Law ( email )

United Kingdom

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