Liberalism and Ability Taxation

58 Pages Posted: 29 Aug 2006

See all articles by David Hasen

David Hasen

University of Florida Levin College of Law


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".

Keywords: liberalism, human capital, taxation

JEL Classification: K34

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:

David Hasen (Contact Author)

University of Florida Levin College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 117625
Gainesville, FL 32611-7625
United States

HOME PAGE: http://

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics