The development of the modern welfare state, which began in the last century, has placed increasing demands on the government. In addition to fulfilling traditional governmental tasks (law enforcement, defence and justice), the government now also intervenes actively in the redistribution of wealth for reasons linked to basic social justice. This is evidenced by the numerous transfer mechanisms that exist in the form of taxes and social security contributions. However, the government is also responsible for providing all kinds of public services, such as in the health, education and transport sectors (public transport, road infrastructure, etc.) and in culture, sports and so on. Executing all these tasks requires significant budgetary resources, in which taxes play a central role (financial function).
The one-dimensional view of the role of taxation has also evolved alongside the extended scope of government. Besides their purely financial function, taxes are also being used as a policy instrument (regulatory function). In this case, fiscal instruments are used to encourage certain taxpayer behaviour (e.g. investment, saving, employment, etc.) and to discourage other behaviours (e.g. environmental pollution, offshoring, etc.).
The study of taxation is therefore a very diverse field. Questions such as whether or not to impose taxes, and if so, which taxes to impose, belong to the study of public finance.
Questions such as how to establish and collect taxes, and which guarantees should be made to the taxing authorities and the taxpayers, are considered part of the study of law.
But other disciplines, such as psychology, ethics, history, economics and sociology, are also interested in taxes. It is the non-financial functions of taxes, in particular, that tend to arouse interest in these other fields.
A multifocal approach to taxes is generally referred to as tax science, and may be useful in understanding the questions about fiscal knowledge and policy that we face in today's society.
There are many challenges and evolutions to deal with in tax science. Among them, for example, are the globalisation of economic activity, the increased mobility of companies and individuals and the associated problems of population migration and integration, the multiple layers of societal structures caused by the expansion and deepening of (existing) national and supranational structures (e.g. the European Union, the federalisation of national states), and solidarity among states, population groups and individuals within these modified structures.
The Antwerp Tax Academy aims to provide an interfaculty research platform for consolidating and expanding fiscal research efforts using a multidisciplinary approach.
Our primary objective is to provide a meeting place for academics at the University of Antwerp in which they can align their tax research more closely and sharpen the multifocal perspective. We also want to provide a helping hand in furthering cooperation with other tax research institutions, both in Belgium and abroad. Finally, we wish to provide a forum for consultation and cooperation with policy-makers and for valorisation and dissemination (through lectures and training programmes) of research results.