‘In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes’. It is not surprising that Benjamin franklin’s dictum1
Letter to Jean Baptiste Le Roy, 13 November 1789.has been so widely quoted. Taxation of one sort or another can be traced back to the beginning of civilisation. Indeed it might be argued that taxes are the price of civilisation.
In modern economies taxation can absorb up to a half of national income. There is no signiﬁcant part of a monetary economy which is unaffected by taxation, even if it is ofﬁcially classiﬁed as ‘tax-free’. One of the most obvious cases is ‘duty-free’ products at airports which are rarely priced so as to pass on the full beneﬁt of their tax-free status to the ﬁnal consumer. As basic economic analysis indicates, the effects of taxation work their way through the system by changes in prices, outputs, incomes and government expenditure.
That a great reluctance to pay taxes existed in all the colonies, there can be no doubt. It was one of the marked characteristics of the American People longafter their separation from England.2
G.S. Callender (1909), Selections from the Economic History of the United States 1765–1860, p. 23.
p. viiThe importance of taxation therefore seemed to make it a highly suitable subject for a dictionary of terms. It did not seem appropriate to set out to provide a complete collection of technical terms. That would have taken volumes even for a few tax systems and would not have been of major interest to many beyond those directly involved. Instead, the intention is to provide an explanation or description of terms which are commonly used or which provide interesting insights or curiosities of this most important of economic subjects.
In compiling a book of this sort I have incurred many debts. Edward Elgar has been a tremendously supportive and encouraging publisher and I hope he is pleased with the result. Many valuable contributions and comments have come from Roy Bartlett, Chris Evans, Abe Greenbaum, Robert Mitchell, Professor Christopher Nobes, Professor R.H. Parker, Ian Wallschutzky and many ofﬁcials from the Australian Tax Ofﬁce, the Inland Revenue, the Internal Revenue Service and Revenue Canada Taxation.
University of Exeter