Ética, filosofía e Impuestos, Richard Baron.

Baron estudió fisolosía en Cambridge y luego se dedicó a la tributación. Esta rara mezcla lo ha llevado a ser uno de los pocos académicos que puede conversar sobre temas éticos con los enfoques clásicos de esa rama de la filosofía.

En medio de su día de trabajo, el filósofo-tributarista sacó unos minutos para compartir con los lectores de Momento Fiscal.

Momento Fiscal (MF): What do we, as tax advisors, have to learn from philosophy?
Richard Baron (RB):   Philosophy will not tell you whether you are doing exactly the right thing, when a client asks you for advice on how to pay less tax. But it can make you think about whether you are doing the right thing. And it can put you in a good position to decide whether you are.

MF: We noticed you quote John Rawls, Cohen, Kant, Murphy and Nagel in your article.  Knowing our audience is composed of tax advisers which authors do you recommend for further reading?
RM: I think that Neil Murphy and Thomas Nagel's book, The Myth of Ownership, is a very good book to read. It makes you think about whether we can say that each person's money is their own. Another

Another important theme is how we think about the relationships between the state, individuals, and society generally, since taxation is an important part of those relationships. One line of thought we should look at is the civil republican tradition. A good place to start is section 4 of this encyclopedia article:


MF: The wealthier Panama gets the more subsidies it gives out to its citizens.  Do you see a deontological duty for the State to tax its citizens to sustain these subsidies?
RM: I do not think it is a duty of the state. But I do think there are things that we should all do. If we have enough wealth, we should make sure that everybody gets a good education, that everybody gets good healthcare when they are ill - both for short-term and long-term illnesses - and that nobody has to starve or be homeless. That is part of being members of a society.

MF: Panama has been labeled, in the past, as a tax haven.  This label has been partly attached to our country since no exchange of information treaty existed until 2010.  Which justification can you find in philosophy for a country to be compelled to exchange information in tax matters to its peers in the international community?
RM: I do not think there is a justification for being compelled to exchange information. It would be quite wrong to use military force or threats. But if a country decides not to exchange information, it cannot complain when other countries decide not to do business with it. If country X wants to say that it will have no dealings with country Y, will prevent country Y using the banking system in country X, and so on, that is allowed. Country X cannot be compelled to help country Y, just as country Y cannot be compelled to help country X enforce its tax rules. Country Y has chosen to place itself outside the community of countries that help one another, and it must risk consequences like these.

MF: As a tax resident myself I found my country to be no haven while writing a monthly check to our Revenue Office.  Do you see a philosophical justification for a tax-payer to optimize its tax burden and, perhaps, voting with his feet and moving either his residency or his business elsewhere?
RM: Reducing tax burdens, within the law, can sometimes be unethical. The fact that something is legal, does not make it moral. I think this goes back to what I said in question 3 about being members of a society. It would also be against virtue to say "Enough other people are paying, so I do not need to pay my share of the taxes". If you say that, I think you place yourself outside the community. If we look at corporations that manage to avoid paying much tax in the countries where they operate, by setting up companies in tax havens and using debt interest or royalties to transfer profits there, you can say that they are effectively stealing from the countries where they operate, even if it is not theft according to the law. They use a workforce that has been educated by the taxpayer, taxpayer-funded hospitals that make their workers healthy again if they fall ill, roads and a police force that the taxpayer provides, and then try to get away without paying  their share of the cost.

I do not see anything wrong with a change of residence, so long as it is a real change of residence. If your business stays in one country, but pretends for tax purpose that it is in another, I think that is wrong. And it might be right for countries to impose exit charges, for example taxing gains that had arisen within the country but that had not been taxed at the time of leaving the country because the assets had not been sold.

MF: How do you defined yourself: Utilitarian, Deontolgist or a virtue ethicist?
RM: I am mainly a virtue ethicist, but I do not think a single approach is ever enough in practice. A virtue ethicist must also have some regard for consequences, and a sense that there are some rules which are so strong that we regard them as absolute.