On the Ignorance of Burdens and Benefits of Taxation: Fiscal Illusions and Tax Justice


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Do we know how much we as citizens/taxpayers pay to the state and how much we receive from it? Do we, or should we, really care about the knowledge of burdens and benefits of taxation? And, if so, why?
The “Theory of fiscal illusion”, first developed by the Italian Amilcare Puviani (1903), addressed these issues by pointing out our ignorance, wrong representation, or misperception of burdens and benefits of taxation. This theory has been widely deployed to explain a set of current problems as diverse as the size of public sector and public debt, the lack of fiscal democracy, or the political business cycle.
By drawing on this literature, in this talk I will try to: 1) distinguish between different kinds of ‘illusion’ and ‘ignorance’; 2) analyze the diverse attempts to face their troubling societal implications; 3) understand if and how the problem of the knowledge of burdens and benefits of taxation might hide a different normative problem, namely the issue of tax justice.


Prof. Dr: Paolo Silvestri
Legal and Political Philosophy, University of Torino

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