Introduction to Tax Policy Theory

24 Pages Posted: 14 Jun 2018

Date Written: May 29, 2018


Taxation involves the compulsory transfer of resources among members of society. Tax policy is concerned with how societies carry out taxation. That is a technical and legal question, but it is inescapably a political, social, and cultural one as well. To study tax policy is to engage simultaneously with the existential philosophical foundations of taxation: why and how societies tax. This introduction to tax policy theory presents an overview of tax policy discourse. The goal is to outline a working framework for reflection and analysis to examine the ways in which current assumptions and approaches require further development.

Part I asks why we tax, and posits state-building, internal management, and negotiated expansion as three broad goals. Part II asks how we should tax, and examines the conventional frameworks of equity, efficiency, and administrative capacity as the three guiding principles for most tax policy analysis. Part III concludes.

Keywords: taxation, tax policy, theory, foundations, equity, efficiency, administration, capacity, nation, state, society

JEL Classification: D63; D78; E62; f42; H11; H20; H87; K34; P16

Suggested Citation

Christians, Allison, Introduction to Tax Policy Theory (May 29, 2018). Available at SSRN: or

Allison Christians (Contact Author)

McGill University - Faculty of Law ( email )

3644 Peel Street
Montreal H3A 1W9, Quebec

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