The Vagueness of Tax Fairness: A Discursive Analysis of the Commission’s ‘Fair Tax Agenda'


Unless treaties are read in very liberal terms, the European Union (EU) is not competent for defining the construct of a fair tax system and determining who should pay taxes and in which proportion within the European Union. Yet, the European Commission has increasingly been using references to tax fairness in its tax policy discourse. This raises questions on the future of EU tax law, the commission’s role in responding to European citizens’ concerns, and achieving tax fairness.

By exploring six case studies, this contribution argues that the commission’s narrative on tax fairness remains vague and ambiguous which might indicate that it is not taking tax fairness – as a procedural and/or distributive issue – seriously. The commission uses fairness somewhat loosely to cover three main types of objectives including trade objectives that differ from what has traditionally been linked to tax fairness in the political philosophy literature. Building upon the work of legal scholars and economists, this article then concludes that the commission’s ‘fair tax’ agenda will, at best, achieve objectives in terms of procedural fairness.