Taxation Without Information: The Institutional Foundations of Modern Tax Collection

20(1) University of Pennsylvania Journal of Business Law 93-146 (2017)

40 Pages Posted: 6 Mar 2017 Last revised: 17 May 2018

Wei Cui

Peter A. Allard School of Law, University of British Columbia

Date Written: March 4, 2017

Abstract

A prominent strand of recent economic and legal scholarship hypothesizes that third-party information reporting (TPIR) is essential to modern tax collection. The slogan, “no taxation without information,” has captured researchers’ imagination and is even often presented as self-evident truth. This Article offers a fundamentally different perspective, arguing that the emphasis on TPIR is misplaced. TPIR is used largely in the collection of the personal income tax but not of many other types of modern taxes. Even for the personal income tax, TPIR also has close substitutes which do not involve information transmission to the government. Theoretically, appeals to TPIR are vitiated by the puzzle of payor compliance. And most purported empirical evidence for the effectiveness of TPIR fails to provide causal identification.

I suggest that to better understand the institutional foundations of modern tax collection, we should stop thinking of business firms as “fiscal intermediaries” in a game of deterrence against tax evaders. Instead, it would be more fruitful to conceive of firms as sites of social cooperation under the rule of law. The co-evolution of the business firm and modern regulatory law may have enabled modern governments to practice precisely “taxation without information”.

Keywords: Information Reporting, Tax Compliance, Theory of Compliance, Theory of the Firm, Law and Development, State Capacity

JEL Classification: H20, H26, K20, K34, P48

Suggested Citation

Cui, Wei, Taxation Without Information: The Institutional Foundations of Modern Tax Collection (March 4, 2017). 20(1) University of Pennsylvania Journal of Business Law 93-146 (2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2927482 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2927482

Wei Cui (Contact Author)

Peter A. Allard School of Law, University of British Columbia ( email )

1822 East Mall
Vancouver, British Columbia V6T1Z1
Canada
6048274765 (Phone)

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