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Law Reporting and Law Making: a new study on the Missing Link in Nineteenth-century Tax Law

In her latest chapter, Professor Chantal Stebbings shows how the defining characteristic of Common Law systems is the development of law through the resolution of disputes by the judges. This precept is anchored in the doctrine of judicial precedent, effected through a system of courts reflecting a hierarchical network of authority. Judicial precedent depends on an authoritative and accessible report of the courts’ decisions. In the long nineteenth century this connection was weak or non-existent in the law of tax.  In the rare instances where appeals were permitted, few were reported in a form acceptable to the emerging doctrine of judicial precedent.  This had a profound effect on the nascent substantive tax law. It inhibited the robust development of its principles and the interpretation of tax legislation, thereby undermining the quality of tax law and process. It also promoted the isolation of tax law from the norms and values of the legal system well into the twentieth century.

‘Law Reporting and Law Making: the Missing Link in Nineteenth-century Tax Law’ is published in in Michael Lobban and Ian Williams, eds., Networks and Connections in Legal History (Cambridge University Press, 2020) pp. 285-306