Campus Tilburg University hoogleraren

PhD Defense M.J. van Hulten LLM

Date: Time: 13:30 Location: Aula

Aiming for Well-Being through Taxation: A Framework of Caution and Restraint for States

Importance of the problem

In recent years, concepts of well-being have gained increasing attention in societal, political and scientific debates. For instance, countries such as the United Kingdom and organisations such as the OECD have been measuring well-being for policy purposes for years. Recently, in May 2019, New Zealand published its first Wellbeing Budget, which also includes tax measures. Moreover, in the 2020 Budget Memorandum, the Dutch government specifically points to the importance of well-being in working towards broader welfare in the Netherlands. Particularly with respect to taxation, which as part of the funding and functioning of states is one of the major policies affecting people’s everyday lives, there has also been a call for assessment not only in terms of economic measures such as GDP but also in terms of well-being. The combination of well-being and taxation however raises fundamental considerations of, for instance, law, economics, politics, and society. Part of the societal and scientific significance of this PhD research is that it calls attention to, and addresses, these questions and issues.

Research questions

This PhD thesis specifically concerns the questions whether states should aim for well-being through taxation, and what should be the framework of assessment in that regard.

Research methodology

Expanding on the body of existing research through an approach from multiple perspectives, this PhD research takes into account not only perspectives of philosophy of law and of tax law but also, to some extent, perspectives of economics, politics, and psychological and social science. It serves as a demonstration of the possibility to work with a plurality of diverse and sometimes competing viewpoints and to nevertheless establish useful and robust conclusions.

Main conclusions and recommendations

This PhD research concludes that in concretisation, the concepts of well-being and taxation, and their purposeful combination by states, raise many intricate and important issues that may often not be fully resolvable if one is looking for broad support. While these issues and challenges do not nullify the case for states to aim for well-being through taxation, they do call for serious consideration. Therefore, a framework of caution and restraint is proposed and explained, which provides an essential supporting structure for assessing and improving tax measures undertaken by states in their aim for well-being through taxation. This proposed assessment framework, consisting of ten questions to be answered for tax policy purposes, is subsequently applied to three case studies concerning interactions between well-being and taxation, namely tax incentives for innovation, environmental taxes, and tax incentives for employment, identifying issues to be addressed and recommendations to be made. Discussed are various examples such as IP box tax regimes and R&D tax credits, fiscal stimulation of fuel-efficient and electric driving, carbon dioxide levies, air ticket taxes, the proposed increase in fossil fuel tax that prompted yellow vest protests in France, in-work tax credits and tax concessions for high-skilled mobile workers. The research thus addresses among other things the meaning of well-being and the reasons for government intervention, the well-being consequences of tax measures in comparison to alternatives, impacts on legality and legitimacy as well as the desirability of the behavioural effects connected to aiming for well-being through taxation.

  • Location: Cobbenhagen building, Aula (access via Koopmans building)
  • Supervisors: Prof. E.C.C.M. Kemmeren, Prof. P.H.J. Essers