This paper analyzes efficient government reactions to unanticipated tax avoidance. Quickly reforming tax laws to reduce the effectiveness of new tax avoidance techniques prevents widespread adoption, but indirectly encourages the rapid development of new avoidance methods if prior users are permitted to retain their tax benefits. Tax reforms that immediately prevent new avoidance mean that innovators need not fear imitation by competitors, and cannot rely on copying the innovations of others. Such an activist reform agenda diverts greater resources into tax avoidance activity, and might thereby lead to a faster rate of tax base erosion, than would a less reactive government strategy. Efficient government policy therefore entails either the retroactive elimination of tax savings, with possible associated costs, or else a deliberate pace of tax reform in response to taxpayer innovation.
"On the Timeliness of Tax Reform"
Areas of Interest
Journal of Public Economics