The Authorization and Glorification of Plunder
Cardiff Metropolitan University
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Research in taxation often treats it as a branch of law or economics, but in this thesis I argue that this obscures the fact that tax systems are not based on scientific, techno-rational principles, but are socially constructed phenomena, embodying fundamental, value-based decisions imbricated in power relationships. I demonstrate that throughout history tax systems have reflected the prevailing state form and the dominant power relationships underpinning them and that we are currently living in a neoliberal state, in which societal relations are determined by economic principles. I therefore argue that the UK tax system tends to be utilized to encourage individuals to engage in economic, entrepreneurial activity and are presented as being governed by techno-rational, economic principles, but are, in fact, a rationalizing discourse for the transfer of power from labour to capital and from poorer to wealthier taxpayers. This transformation is underpinned by the exercise of power, but in a neoliberal state power operates in a covert, capillary fashion through assemblages and the construction of knowledge, rather than in an overt, hierarchical fashion. I demonstrate how the contemporary debates relating to tax simplification and the use of general principles rather than detailed rules in tax legislation have been, or might be, used to further entrench neoliberal values in the tax system, but that the failure to achieve significant simplification due to its open and transparent nature demonstrates the limits of power and the more opaque nature of general principles might have more potential for achieving this. However, no power can be absolute and I argue that the increased public interest in and awareness of taxation since 2010, which led to the emergence of UK Uncut, demonstrates that there is always the potential for resistance to a hegemonic discourse, which may lead to the emergence of alternative discourses.
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