In addition to valuing whether a tax policy is equitable, efficient, and administrable, I argue we should ask if a tax policy is politically just. Others have made a similar case for valuing political justice as democracy in implementing just tax policy. I join that call and highlight why it matters in one arena—tax exemption. I also further that discussion by arguing that politically just tax policy does the least harm to the democratic functioning of our government and may ideally enhance it. I argue that our right to an equal voice in collective decision-making is the most fundamental value of political justice. To test this case, I evaluate our choice to exempt “social welfare organizations” from the U.S. income tax. In addition to efficiency and equity, I also ask whether the policy is politically just in a democratic sense. I examine three models of democratic justice: liberal, republican, and deliberative. In making the democratic case, I try to find commonalities among the three in order to further what an agreed upon notion of democratic justice might look like in the tax context. I contend that the notion of democratic justice must exist at the substantive level of the Internal Revenue Code (“Code”). This Code-level application demonstrates that the typical criteria of efficiency and fairness do not provide sufficient criteria to evaluate the justice of tax-exempt policy. Political justice provides additional important evaluative criteria. There are likely significant other parts of income tax policy that need to be considered from the value of political justice as democracy as well.
Philip T. Hackney,
Political Justice and Tax Policy: The Social Welfare Organization Case,
Tex. A&M L. Rev.
Available at: https://doi.org/10.37419/LR.V8.I2.2