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Perspectives on Fiscal Justice (tenth to twenty first century)

Regards croisés sur la justice fiscale (Xe-XXIe siècle)

Equality or special statuses?

Égalité ou statuts particuliers ?

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Published on Monday, July 16, 2018


Cet appel à contribution invite à réfléchir à la notion de justice fiscale en la confrontant à celles d'égalité et de statuts particuliers. Il s'agit de comparer sur ces questions parfois techniques le point de vue des historiens du droit, des fiscalistes, des sociologues, des philosophes et des théoriens du droit, dans une approche résolument pluridisplinaire.


2019, April 04-05


Because taxes are a constrained levy - or, at least, can be levied without the taxpayer's agreement - the question of whether it is just is a constant issue. It is certainly possible, if not tempting, to respond summarily by considering it is intrinsically unjust - Taxation is theft - or to  consider the question is pointless since whether or not it is just, taxes will have to be paid - Nothing is certain but death and taxes ! Yet, at a time when the French government is preparing to undertake several tax reforms, fiscal justice would seem to be questionable on several counts. In its most concrete aspects, it is of course immediately apparent in the organisation, operation and successive reforms of the tax system. However, the indisputable technical nature of the subject - often fantasized as inevitably detrimental to particular interests - must not hide the importance of the questions which are involved. Indeed, the whole issue of fiscal justice raises a whole conception of the world - and today, particularly, a conception of the state and its role – which appears behind legal technicalities. To grasp the ambiguity of this double dimension, historical analysis is essential. Enabling one to have an overwiew of the evolution of the tax system within particular contexts, contemporary political influences and ambitions, only a historical analysis enables the development of a fine analysis closest to the issues of the times by placing them in the perspective they deserve. It is therefore through these three deeply intertwined dimensions - fiscal, theoretical and historical - that we propose to question fiscal justice here.

To study fiscal justice, the question of equality in the distribution of taxes is of course classical. The idea that everyone must pay tax according to their capacity to do so is even so familiar to us that we have difficulty recognising what is indeterminate - what capacities are we talking about? - and, more importantly,what is revolutionary about this idea in this radical lack of differenciation of subjects by the state. Different variations, however, should remind us that the history of fiscal justice is scarcely linear. Thus, taxation has long been thought of as inseparable from privilege. Appearing in France - and more widely in Europe - from the Middle Ages, first to the benefit of the nobility and the Church, fiscal privileges would later be developed throughout modern times, the monarchy having been able to manipulate it in order to accommodate itself with a society made up of different orders which were at the same time a break on and an expression of royal power. From a tax point of view, society under the Ancien Regime can then be seen as an agglomeration of privileged bodies and particular statuses that do not recognise any egalitarian principles. Only in the final decades of absolutism was it that royalty adopted an Enlightenment aspiration to civil equality, because it believed that the restoration of public finances would involve reducing the number of privileged people. It would however fail to impose its tax reforms, the contradiction between justification by status and justification by equality constituting perhaps one of the main pitfalls on which royal legitimacy foundered. Subsequently, although most of the regimes proclaimed, more or less, the fiscal equality inherited from 1789 and the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, they nevertheless did not hesitate to develop many special tax regimes, thus resurrecting former inequality. Our task here is to question these privileges and these statuses from a historical and comparative viewpoint.

Beyond the political and social context, which fiscal justice closely bases itself on, we must therefore take account of the difficulties related to the instruments which the state has at its disposal to assess its needs, judge the taxpayers' means, calculate how taxes should be imposed, how to collect them and give judgment to litigation about them, these technical, legal and political peculiarities of taxation lending a concrete dimension to the demands for justice. Who should pay taxes? According to what criteria? How to think through the relationship between equity and equality in the field of taxation? Is it possible to imagine taxation which is strictly egalitarian? How has the notion of fiscal justice evolved? What influence has the context and the political regime had? How has it been perceived by taxpayers and analyzed by doctrine? What consequences has it had economically and socially? What measures did it serve to justify? How has it helped to shape the way we think about the link between tax revenues and public spending ? There are many questions and they can be dealt with from several perspectives which demand the study of the evolution of fiscal justice both from its principle (equality or special status?) and its implementation (which fiscal justice ?)

In going beyond the conception of taxation as state violence, to study fiscal justice means to question, from its fiscal practise, what legitimacy the state is based on. In the analysis of the reasoning that favours egalitarian justice, as well as with the reasoning which on the contrary justifies inequality because of efficiency, there is then first of all the sovereignty of the state which taxation implies, and which can be seen both as the consequence and the condition of the state.

The issue of legitimacy can, however, also be understood through the different expressions of acceptance by the taxpayer of a tax system. Indeed, the taxpayer participates in its functioning, and has increasingly done so for a century, since the rejection of taxation perceived as unfair can lead to tax avoidance, inertia or even a generalisation of fiscal fraud. Young states are aware moreover of the costs of failing to implement the most contemporary forms of taxation which are often considered to be the most efficient.

Finally, studying fiscal justice involves examining the effectiveness of the principle of tax equality in the face of a proliferation of tax regimes which have more to do with an exception to this principle of equality than an adaptation to its implementation. The question arises particularly acutely when fiscal powers proliferate which affect the same taxpayer. Thus, do not the authorities to which the investor or the resident can appeal (euphemistically expressed as the "structuring of tax debt") give access to a tailor-made fiscal regime, even more so when fiscal sovereigns bend their own rules to satisfy the wishes of globalized taxpayers, which is nothing more than the demand for equality of treatment becoming a high road to special regimes for the privileged ?

It is within these different issues and by intersecting disciplinary perspectives that this conference aims to consider fiscal justice, both in its very principles as in its evolution.

Submission guidelines


  • Emmanuel de Crouy-Chanel : emmanuel.de.crouy.chanel@u-picardie.fr
  • Cédric Glineur : cedric.glineur@u-picardie.fr
  • Céline Husson-Rochcongar : celine.husson@u-picardie.fr 

Proposals for communication should be sent to the organizers in the form of a short presentation (2500 characters maximum) accompanied by a short curriculum vitae 

before 1st October 2018

Steering committee

  • Emmanuel de Crouy-Chanel, Pr. of Public Law, upjv
  • Cédric Glineur, Pr . of History of Law, Director of ceprisca, upjv
  • Céline Husson-Rochcongar, Lecturer in Public Law, Director of ipag, upjv

Scientific Committee

  • Michel Borgetto, Professor of Public Law, Director of Cersa, University Panthéon Assas
  • Michel Bouvier, Professor of Public Law, University Pantheon Sorbonne, President of fondafip
  • Jacques Chevallier, Emeritus Professor of Public Law, University Panthéon Assas
  • Florent Garnier, Professor of History of Law, Director of the cthdip , Toulouse Capitole University
  • Daniel Gutmann, Professor of Public Law, University Panthéon Sorbonne
  • Albert Rigaudière, Member of the Institute


  • Logis du Roy - Passage du Logis du Roy
    Amiens, France (80)


  • Monday, October 01, 2018


  • justice fiscale, égalité fiscale, privilège, statut particulier


  • Cédric Glineur
    courriel : cedric [dot] glineur [at] u-picardie [dot] fr

Information source

  • Cédric Glineur
    courriel : cedric [dot] glineur [at] u-picardie [dot] fr


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Perspectives on Fiscal Justice (tenth to twenty first century) », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Monday, July 16, 2018, https://calenda.org/457491

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