Law of Taxation: Technicalities, Philosophies and Perspectives

Law of Taxation: Technicalities, Philosophies and Perspectives
2020-12-04

Dr. Qiang Cai presents the fourth contribution to the Centre for Commercial Law (CCL)’s blog series on “Seeing Commercial Law from Different Perspectives.” This series was launched to celebrate the University of Aberdeen’s 525 anniversary and to showcase CCL members thought-provoking standpoints on researching, teaching, or practising commercial law. Qiang joined the University of Aberdeen in 2020 immediately after completing his doctoral research at the University of Edinburgh. His research and teaching interests include tax law and business law, with a particular focus on tax dispute resolution and the tax challenges of digitalisation. Qiang also maintains interests in law and economics, international politics and white-collar crime.

“An impression about tax law is that it is usually subject to whims of politicians, and fraught with technicalities and complexities. Even Albert Einstein once complained that the hardest thing to understand in the world is income tax. In this School, we do not eliminate technicalities and complexities from our tax courses. Rather, we encourage our students to explore the patterns or even philosophies underlying its subtleties. In analysing specific rules, we repeatedly resort to, and debate about, those basic principles of taxation, such as the equity principle, benefit theory and economic efficiency. The discussion about tax evasion and tax avoidance usually boils down to the question of social justice. The debate about whether a particular country is entitled to tax a cross-border income may largely relate to benefit theory. The analysis of tax impact on corporate structure or business strategies almost certainly involves the efficiency principle. Many of these issues and questions are rather open-ended. A recently debated example concerns the tax challenges of digitalisation: should the taxation on international digital business be based on the principle of value creation, or on the concept of “significant economic presence?” There is no clear-cut answer and there are grey areas. However, we see these grey areas as green fields where we, students of tax law, can contribute our intelligence, our critical thinking, and our perspectives of justice.”        

The next contribution to this series by Dr Peter Cserne is titled “Private Law: Transactional or Social?”

Published by School of Law, University of Aberdeen

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