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Numerical Methodology in Comparative Tax Law: the Mathematical Model of Elasticity as a Thinking Model for Legal Comparisons

Ruben Martini

Although the field of comparative tax law has achieved greater prominence in legal studies, its methodology is not yet adequately developed. In general, work in comparative tax has not focused adequately on specific features of tax law. This paper proposes a comparative methodology specifically designed to make use of this unique relationship between tax law and private law. Based on a historical overview of comparative tax law and its methodology, it proposes the adoption of the numerical concept of elasticity, regularly used in mathematics and economics, for tax comparisons. This numerical tool, which measures how changing one variable affects others, seems to be particularly suitable to analyse the interaction of tax provisions with underlying private law concepts in a systematised manner. Used as a thought pattern and a foundation for future work, such a numerical analysis is able to identify interrelations between tax law and its private law environment that are likely to be overlooked by classical text-based comparisons. This can aid legislative reform, as it reduces its ‘trial- and-error’ aspect. At the same time, the numerical approach disassociates comparative analyses from the impreciseness of text-based data.

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