Is Tax Dodging Bad or Good?
By David Henderson
Your answer will depend on your values and your model of government.
Whether dodging taxes is “good” or “bad” is a value judgment that takes us outside the field of economics. But surely one’s value judgment will depend, at least partly, on the consequences of tax dodging. From the vantage point of orthodox public finance, dodging taxes is naturally considered bad because the burden of financing essential public expenditures is transferred to compliant taxpayers. Bad taxpayers free ride on good ones, who become the suckers. In our public choice model, however, dodging taxes provides a built-in check on Leviathan. Tax dodgers are not free-riding on other taxpayers; on the contrary, taxpayers benefit from tax dodgers’ resistance. They benefit because potential tax resistance prevents Leviathan from increasing everybody’s tax burden even more.
The two approaches suggest very different solutions. In one case, increased tax dodging must be met with more repression. In the other case, the best response consists in implementing effective tax cuts and other limits on Leviathan’s resources.
This is from “The Economics of Tax Dodging,” by Pierre Lemieux. It’s one of the two Feature Articles for January.
Note the Figure on corporate income tax rates in OECD countries.