Taxation, Reciprocity and Communicative Regulation

In: Tilburg Law Review

Willem Witteveen promoted a communicative style of regulation with a focus on communication and dialogue between parties of more equal standing. The Dutch tax administration uses this approach to achieve voluntary compliance – supplementing the traditional command-and-control method of regulation. The underlying value of reciprocity entails a demand for good communication and even a dialogue between tax administration and taxpayers. Reciprocity here is at issue within the context of legal asymmetry, as the tax administration has considerable unilateral powers, and mutual dependence.

Political and legal philosophers elucidate the notion of reciprocity. Spinoza shows the foundational nature of reciprocal collaboration between the sovereign lawmaker and legal subjects. Unlike Hobbes, he does not conceive reciprocity in a static way. More recently, Lon Fuller contrasted the idea of law based upon the principle of reciprocity with the command theory of law – a form of legal positivism.

‘Horizontal Monitoring’ is a specific Dutch form of a communicative style of regulation. This contribution analyses several features of this kind of reciprocal interaction.