A Legal Analysis of the Mutual Interactions between the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) & Taxation

18 Pages Posted: 21 Oct 2019 Last revised: 25 Oct 2019

See all articles by Alice Pirlot

Alice Pirlot

University of Oxford - Said Business School; Catholic University of Louvain (UCL)

Date Written: October 10, 2019


This Chapter contributes to the debate on the “sustainability” of the tax system, where tax policy is discussed as a tool to achieve sustainable development.

Building upon the work of the United Nations (UN) and other international organisations, I show that three types of interactions can arise between taxation and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (section 1). These interactions are both positive and negative.

Based on the observation that the SDGs are supposed to be integrated in all policy areas, including taxation, I then explore whether policy-makers could be legally obliged to align the tax systems to the SDGs, eliminating potential negative interactions while reinforcing positive ones (section 2). Although the UN 2030 Agenda is not binding, it informs decision-making in the field of taxation, encourages policy-makers to reform their tax system and can also have some legal effects on the judicial process.

I do not analyse the 17 SDGs individually but rather provide a broad picture as to their overall impact on tax policy. I primarily rely on a legal approach. However, in some instances, I refer to economic and political theories that provide arguments in support of the use of regulatory tax measures.

Keywords: sustainable taxation, sustainability of the tax system, UN 2030 Agenda, UN SDGs, regulatory taxes, tax incentives

JEL Classification: K

Suggested Citation

Pirlot, Alice, A Legal Analysis of the Mutual Interactions between the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) & Taxation (October 10, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3467544 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3467544

Alice Pirlot (Contact Author)

University of Oxford - Said Business School ( email )

Park End Street
Oxford, OX1 1HP
Great Britain

Catholic University of Louvain (UCL) ( email )

Place Montesquieu, 3
Louvain-la-Neuve, 1348

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