Conception of an Encyclopedia
Edited By Jürgen G. Backhaus
John R. Commons (1862-1945) On Constitution And Tax Assessment Procedure: A Classic In Fiscal Sociology Enrico Schöbel
ABSTRACT In his political economic essay on the “Taxation in Chicago and Philadelphia”, published in 1895, John R. Commons analyses the tax assessment and tax compliance in case of the property tax. He demonstrates that the revenue is not just a question of the tax rate and the distribution of the tax burden but also a one of constitutional requirements and how the taxes are assessed by the authori- ties. Here Commons’s article is re-examined from the perspective of subsequent Fiscal Sociology and with his later institutional economic writings in mind. The fiscal sociological method and his findings are discussed with regard to social provisioning of taxation and, in particular, the current political debate in case of professional tax advice. 1. Introduction In his political economic essay on the “Taxation in Chicago and Philadelphia” John R. Commons1 provides a comparative institutional economic analyses of the tax assessment and tax compliance in the two states. Considering the various actors, tax institutions, and social processes he actually explores a fiscal sociolog- ical field and applies a fiscal sociological approach to the issue of tax compliance. As a result, he corroborates the hypothesis that the property tax revenue is not just a question of the tax rate and the distribution of the tax burden but also a question of constitutional requirements and how the taxes are assessed. In conclusion he suggests a tax reform taking social action into account. In modern democratic societies, for example USA and Germany, tax revenue stems to a...
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