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Seelkopf, Laura and Lierse, Hanna (2020): Democracy and the global spread of progressive taxes. In: Global Social Policy, Vol. 20, No. 2: pp. 165-191

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The adoption of modern tax policies is crucial for social development. Taxes raise revenue, which allows governments to invest in public goods and social protection. At the same time, they can be highly redistributive and thus are complementary to social policies. Hence, the adoption of modern taxes is a critical step towards social development as it allows for the very financial foundation for investing in and increasing the well-being of individuals. But how can we explain the global spread of taxes around the world? While most countries nowadays have adopted similar tax instruments, the timing of legislation has varied widely. A common explanation is that democracies are more likely to adopt new and redistributive forms of taxes as they are more accountable to the poor. In this article, we shed light on the link between regime type and tax legislation based on a new historical and global dataset for up to 131 countries since the 19th century. Our findings show that whereas regime type has no influence on the introduction of regressive taxes, democratic countries are more likely to adopt progressive taxes.

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