Risk-Mining the Public Exchequer

David Quentin


Tax avoidance is commonly theorised on the hypothesis that, in any specific instance of it, its effectiveness or ineffectiveness is determinate, whereas in the vast majority of instances it succeeds by default without being subject to forensic scrutiny. This article offers a new theory of tax avoidance which treats indeterminacy of outcome, as at implementation, as being of its essence.  It proceeds from existing tax industry discourse regarding tax risk management, and shows (using the case study of Amazon’s former UK/Luxembourg tax structuring) how tax avoidance is a discrete category of tax risk management with a determinate institutional genealogy. It proceeds to consider how (on a systemic level) such behaviour yields unwarranted financial transfers out of the public exchequer, and does so notwithstanding the adequacy of tax risk mitigation in any given instance.  It concludes with comments on the utility of the theory.

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