June 20, 2012

Interdisciplinary Research and Tax Law

Guilherme Vasconcelos Vilaça, European University Institute, Department of Political and Social Sciences; University of Queensland, School of Political Science and International Studies, has published  Interdisciplinarity and Tax Law: The Case of Legal Autopoiesis  in Critical Perspectives on Accounting (2012). Here is the abstract.

This paper critically evaluates interdisciplinary research in tax law. The strategy I follow runs at two levels of abstraction.

First, I examine a concrete example of interdisciplinary research in taxation. More precisely, I examine Hikaka and Prebble's (2010) recent paper where, applying Luhmannian autopoietic theory to tax law, they make a series of claims about the productivity of their research strategy as well as the consistency and coherence of Luhmann's interdisciplinary framework. Whereas my analytical and conceptual critique of Hikaka and Prebble's paper stands on its own, it should also be read as revealing the obstacles that lurk behind interdisciplinary research in using such a complex and idiosyncratic theory as Luhmann's autopoietic account of law and society. Accordingly, my analysis shows how autopoietic theory can indeed prove useful for tax and accounting reform as well as to connect tax theory and notions of public interest.

Second, I extrapolate from the analysis of Hikaka and Prebble's paper some general problems that current interdisciplinary tax research needs to give further consideration: (i) how to identify productive research questions and uses of interdisciplinary resources; (ii) the dubious added value of interdisciplinary research, given its tendency to adopt complex theoretical apparatuses in a cursory way with little comparison being made to existing research achievements; and (iii) the risk of using interdisciplinary research as an exercise of confirmatory investigation and/or an exercise of mere translation of one discipline's problems into another discipline's language.
The full text is not available from SSRN. 

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