Social Contract and Beyond: Sociability, Reciprocity and Tax Ethics

42 Pages Posted: 21 Mar 2019 Last revised: 20 Apr 2019

See all articles by Hans Gribnau

Hans Gribnau

Tilburg Law School

Carl Dijkstra

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: March 9, 2019

Abstract

Paying taxes, as determined by the legislature, is a moral obligation owed by members of a community to their community. Question is whether paying taxes has become an exclusively legal affair: a legal obligation towards the state, replacing a moral obligation towards society. This paper tries to find an answer to that question by analysing social contract theorists and their critics. Social contract theorists and their critics searched for principles underlying a viable civil polity. Hobbes, Spinoza and Hume focused on political and legal authority and obedience; grounding their theories on various ideas regarding human motivations and human sociability.

These different starting points resulted in diverging conceptions of the reciprocal relationships between ruler and subjects and between subjects and fellow subjects. We will show the consequences thereof for the relationship between tax law and morality.

Different conceptions of the reciprocal relationships involved may invite behaviour varying from minimalist compliance to a more liberal compliance with tax law. Taxpayers facing absolute sovereignty may adopt a legalistic attitude relying on the letter of the law or exploiting loopholes rather than stay within the spirit of applicable tax legislation.

Keywords: Social contract theory, contractualism, Hobbes, Spinoza, Hume, tax compliance, letter of the law, spirit of the law, legalism, formalism, reciprocity

Suggested Citation

Gribnau, Hans and Dijkstra, Carl, Social Contract and Beyond: Sociability, Reciprocity and Tax Ethics (March 9, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3349793 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3349793

Hans Gribnau (Contact Author)

Tilburg Law School ( email )

Tilburg, 5000 LE
Netherlands

Carl Dijkstra

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Do you have negative results from your research you’d like to share?

Paper statistics

Downloads
191
Abstract Views
1,271
Rank
289,224
PlumX Metrics