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From Milan to Mumbai, Changing in Tel Aviv: Reflections on Progressive Taxation and "Progressive" Politics in a Globalized but Still Local World

Michael A. Livingston
The American Journal of Comparative Law
Vol. 54, No. 3 (Summer, 2006), pp. 555-586
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20454507
Page Count: 32
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
From Milan to Mumbai, Changing in Tel Aviv: Reflections on Progressive Taxation and "Progressive" Politics in a Globalized but Still Local World
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Abstract

Progressive income taxation is often said to be on the defensive as a result of globalization and related changes that encourage reduced taxes especially on higher income individuals. This article tests that hypothesis against the experience of three nations--Italy, Israel, and India--each of which has a sophisticated tax policy apparatus but which differ significantly in culture, income levels, and historical situation. Following a brief discussion of each nation's tax system, the article proceeds to a descriptive account of the tax debate in each country, emphasizing the issue of progressivity and its relationship (if any) to the more general debate on equality and social justice in the country at issue. The article further evaluates the "tax culture" in each country, including public attitudes, the role of various professional groups, and unwritten rules or traditions that may affect the perception of the progressivity issue and its political outcome. The article concludes that, while there is a tendency toward lower tax rates and somewhat broadened tax bases in all three countries, the process is highly unstable and dependent upon unsystematic, local factors as much as or more than underlying international trends. In particular, perceptions and outcomes are affected by quirks of national tax culture--the exemption of agricultural income in India, the individualized nature of Israeli tax administration, the Italian propensity for tax evasion--that are difficult or impossible to fit into a larger theoretical scheme. While not denying the reality of globalization or its tendency to encourage a harmonization of tax policies, the article suggests that this tendency must be filtered through a variety of legal cultures that make predictions in the short- or intermediate-range future extremely hazardous.

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