Who Pays the Price of Civilization?

San Juan, Eric A.

At the current juncture of fiscal uncertainty and pending tax reform, this Article addresses tax compliance, combining principles of tax law with methodologies of social science. A narrative on the evolution of the rule of law introduces social science methodologies for studying the operation of law in historical and cultural context. Then the Article sets forth an overview of Federal individual income taxation. As the core data, the Article presents a survey on U.S. taxpayer compliance attitudes gathered by a research team of which the author was a member. To complement the U.S. data, the Article discusses field studies from other countries reported in the social science literature. In turn, the Article discusses the implications of the social science research to the effect that compliance with the rule of law, represented here by a modern fiscal apparatus, may wax and wane through history as national bureaucracy siphons resources off their local origins. Contrary to the theoretical story of legal evolution, actual cases haven’t culminated in an ideal civilized state. Finally, the Article makes suggestions for future research on tax law compliance. The Article concludes that rational-legal authority may have less effect on taxpayer compliance than primordial personal motivations.


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Columbia Journal of Tax Law

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November 21, 2017