Article Title

Taxing Greed


Appeals to greed in support of various tax proposals are often seen in response to populist moods in politics. Such appeals may be used to garner political support for a policy or proposal. However, there has been little academic consideration of the role of greed (or attitudes towards greed) in the law, and in tax law in particular. This Article seeks to fill that gap by taking a close look at the concept of greed. In doing so, the Article first surveys the history of greed and its meaning, and draws on political philosophy and economic literature to provide a working definition of greed. The Article then investigates the role of greed in tax law, focusing on the issue of executive compensation, in order to consider whether “greed” is merely political rhetoric, or if it can provide a framework or analytical tool that is useful for crafting tax rules aimed at correcting or remedying excess. The Article ultimately concludes that, while “greed” is indeed a powerful rhetorical tool, its application in tax law and policy should be limited to situations where greed manifests as the appropriation of money, wealth or goods for personal gain, accompanied by illegality, a breach of fiduciary duty or contract, or indicators of market failure or manipulation. In such scenarios, carefully considering the meaning of greed and thinking about our reactions to it in crafting tax law and policy may help tailor rules to target the negative aspects of the behavior in question. The goal of this “taxing greed” paradigm is thus to reduce unfairness and correct distortions created by greedy behavior. In the realm of executive compensation, the analytical framework around greed developed in this Article indicates that executive compensation may be a proper target for higher rates of tax.