The Moral Basis for Taxation

  • Jane Frecknall-HughesEmail author


This chapter attempts to consider some of the major moral issues involved in the imposition of taxation. It assumes prima facie that the rationale nowadays for a government imposing taxation derives from its responsibility to raise revenue for providing public goods, redistributing income/wealth to those who are in need or less well-off, promoting social and economic welfare, promoting economic stability, and creating a sound infrastructure for the development of business; and possibly, promoting fiscal harmonisation with other countries. These ideas suggest that the provision of public goods and services paid for by tax revenue inherently constitutes the moral basis for imposing taxation. The chapter goes on to examine definitions of ‘tax’ and ‘morality’, noting the development of morality as concept that changes over time, often subject to increased scientific knowledge, and continues by considering in depth the link between property and taxation, examining property rights, the concept of the ‘social contract’ and natural rights, the meaning of private property, and the idea of ‘tax as theft’—looking at in this latter context the ideas of St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, together with libertarian and counter-libertarian arguments. The chapter then considers further the moral underpinning for the process of raising taxes and their use, examining in detail the ideas of Green (J Religious Ethics 12(2):146–161, 1984). The final sections offer some other possible viewpoints and concluding remarks.


Morality/ethics Property rights Theft Social contract Distributive justice 


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© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Nottingham University Business SchoolNottinghamUK

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