• Stephen Jeffels

Student thesis: Doctor of Business Administration


This thesis examines aspects of the contemporary taxation debate through the lens of the emerging wicked problem literature and concludes that a clear definition of a fair tax system would be beneficial to this. Whilst such a definition remains elusive, through a combination of a review of nearly a hundred years of scholarship and more recent survey work, it is possible to conclude that a regressive tax system is less fair. It is the aggregate system that matters, and through the construction of a model encompassing all material taxes, a picture has emerged of the UK tax system on average showing significant long tail regressivity as well as localised extreme tax rates that are family circumstance dependent. The latter highlight the significance of tax credits for the working poor which are also integrated into the model. As such it has been possible to conclude that the UK tax system meets the regressive and therefore less fair definition. This model has also enabled a validation for the United Kingdom of comments in Capital in the Twenty-First Century (Piketty, 2017) that western tax systems exhibit a bell-shaped tax burden graph (and therefore are long-tail regressive) and for detailed curves to be produced in a similar style to that for Pikettys earlier work for France. Using this model proposals are advanced to reduce aggregate regressivity, including an analysis of whether Universal Basic Income (UBI) at a full level to replace most means tested benefits is both financially feasible and could assist in reducing obvious unfairness. Consideration of whether UBI is the most appropriate solution is essentially a social and political one, but the modelling work in this thesis has shown that grand fiscal gestures are possible, and that these could also be used to support funding for alternative proposals such as Universal Basic Services (UBS). Building on the learnings from the wicked problem literature, it is argued that simply making a start in approximately the right direction is of paramount importance, with a guiding star of reducing regressivity. The tools provided by this thesis in terms of the definition of an unfair tax system and a model to determine its regressivity should form part of the criteria against which any proposed fiscal changes are assessed.
Date of Award31 Dec 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorJulie Froud (Supervisor) & Karel Williams (Supervisor)

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