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Liberalism and Ability Taxation

David Hasen

University of Colorado School of Law

Texas Law Review, Vol. 85, pp. 1057-1113, 2007
U of Michigan Public Law Working Paper No. 64

Recent tax scholarship has embraced the idea of individual endowment taxation, or taxation of human abilities, as an approach to ideal tax theory. Under endowment taxation, individuals are taxed according to their native ability to command resources, rather than according to any actual index of goods or expenditures, such as income, consumption or wealth, that otherwise might be thought relevant to the assignment of tax burdens. This Article argues that endowment taxation is generally incompatible with political theories that might broadly be described as "liberal," whether or not these theories authorize what is called "redistribution." The Article also suggests that under a wide array of assumptions, lump-sum taxes such as an endowment tax are not optimally efficient. Lastly, it argues that even where they represent the most efficient available alternative, lump-sum taxes generate social costs if they compel individuals to work in order to meet tax obligations.

Note: Previously titled "The Illiberality of Human Endowment Taxation".

Number of Pages in PDF File: 58

Keywords: liberalism, human capital, taxation

JEL Classification: K34

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Date posted: August 29, 2006  

Suggested Citation

Hasen, David, Liberalism and Ability Taxation. Texas Law Review, Vol. 85, pp. 1057-1113, 2007; U of Michigan Public Law Working Paper No. 64. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=927274

Contact Information

David Hasen (Contact Author)
University of Colorado School of Law ( email )
401 UCB
Boulder, CO 80309
United States
303-492-9684 (Phone)

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