Pandemics and Tax Innovations: What can we Learn from History?

Alexander I. Pogorletskiy, Fritz Söllner


In this article, we shall see how pandemics of deadly diseases have changed tax systems over the past two millennia, each time leading to the emergence of new forms of taxation and tax administration. The purpose of the article is to prove that pandemics and the most notable innovations in tax policy are closely interrelated and that the consequences of the largest pandemics in the history of mankind are new approaches to the organization of national tax systems as well as the formation of interstate tax regulation. The lessons from history can be applied to the current corona crisis and may help us devise the appropriate anti-crisis tax policy. The study is based on the historical empirical-inductive method applied to reliable facts of the past related to pandemics and taxation. We trace the evolution of tax policy under the impact of the most significant pandemics and identify patterns of taxation and tax administration that are specific to their eras and are still relevant in the course of the pandemic COVID-19. Our analysis allows us to draw the following conclusions: (1) There is a historical link between pandemics and tax regulation. Many tax innovations originated in response to the consequences of large-scale epidemics of deadly diseases. (2) Many of the tax incentive tools used today in the fight against the corona crisis have already been used during previous pandemics so that we may learn from the experience of earlier times. (3) The COVID-19 pandemic can be expected to have several important consequences for taxation and public finance: innovations in tax administration with an emphasis on remote fiscal audits and digital control; innovations in the taxation of digital companies and their operations at the national and international level; possibly fundamental changes in the tax system of the European Union; and possibly a return of the inflation tax.

For citation

Pogorletskiy A.I., Söllner F. Pandemics and Tax Innovations: What can we Learn from History? Journal of Tax Reform. 2020;6(3):270–297. DOI: 10.15826/jtr.2020.6.3.086.

Article info

Received August 25, 2020; Revised September 20, 2020; Accepted October 16, 2020


history of taxation, pandemics, tax administration, tax innovations, tax policy, tax system


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