Rethinking Legal Taxonomies for the Gig Economy: Tax Law, Employment Law, and Economic Incentives

Oxford Review of Economic Policy (Forthcoming)

Oxford Legal Studies Research Paper No. 12/2018

21 Pages Posted: 17 May 2018  

Abi Adams

University of Oxford - Department of Economics

Judith Freedman

University of Oxford - Faculty of Law; Oxford University Centre for Business Taxation

Jeremias Prassl

University of Oxford - Faculty of Law

Date Written: May 1, 2018

Abstract

Recent labour market changes, from an increase in the number of individuals running their own business to the fragmentation of traditional employment relationships into short-term, intermittent work for multiple engagers (“gigs”) have brought a host of challenges for regulators. The law struggles not least because long-established taxonomies used in tax and employment law are coming under increasing pressure. Legal regulation in these areas divides the labour market into a number of predetermined categories, to which benefits and obligations (rights and duties) are then attached. The tests determining into which category an individual falls are unclear and too easily manipulated. In particular, there is a real lack of clarity as to how categories in employment and tax law should map onto each other.

In one sense, there is little new about these challenges: classification has been the holy grail of legal labour market regulation since the inception of employment law. With technology increasingly facilitating easy shifts between legal forms in response to skewed incentives, however, the underlying questions have become more salient than ever.

In order to put forward a framework for a more coherent approach, this article is structured as follows. A first section explores recent market labour trends using evidence from the Labour Force Survey, providing key evidence of changes in rates of self-employment and incorporation, as well as exploring why these changes may have occurred. We then turn to the policy incentives underpinning the different regulatory regimes of tax and employment law as a starting point for reform principles. Section II considers these competing objectives with a view to distilling a set of principles to guide reform. Section III, finally, applies these norms to the UK context, suggesting how reform should be oriented towards a reshaping of legal taxonomies in line with each regulatory system’s underlying goals.

Keywords: Gig economy, employment law, innovation, technology, future of work, platforms, sharing economy, on-demand work, ridesharing, entrepreneurship, regulatory arbitrage, consumer protection, tax law

JEL Classification: J, K

Suggested Citation

Adams, Abi and Freedman, Judith and Prassl, Jeremias, Rethinking Legal Taxonomies for the Gig Economy: Tax Law, Employment Law, and Economic Incentives (May 1, 2018). Oxford Review of Economic Policy (Forthcoming); Oxford Legal Studies Research Paper No. 12/2018. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3177075

Abi Adams

University of Oxford - Department of Economics ( email )

Mansfield Road
Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 4AU
United Kingdom

Judith Freedman

Oxford University Centre for Business Taxation ( email )

Worcester College
Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 2HB
United Kingdom

University of Oxford - Faculty of Law ( email )

Worcester College
Walton Street
Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 2HB
Great Britain

Jeremias Prassl (Contact Author)

University of Oxford - Faculty of Law ( email )

Magdalen College
Oxford, OX1 4AU
United Kingdom

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