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Informal entities and the tax unit: The impact of social institutions on tax design


Douglass C. North presented the seminal work on institutions and their relationship to economic performance. Essentially, institutions are “humanly devised constraints that shape human interaction”. An institution may be created by the state on the one hand (for example, statute law) or on the other hand by norms of social interaction, custom, traditions and codes of conduct. The former are formal institutions while the latter are informal or social institutions. To elucidate a social institution can be defined as “a complex of positions, roles, norms and values lodged in particular types of social structures and organising relatively stable patterns of human activity with respect to fundamental problems in producing life-sustaining resources, in reproducing individuals, and in sustaining viable societal structures within a given environment.”.

Author profile

Nolan Sharkey
Dr. Nolan Sharkey is a Barrister at Francis Burt Chambers and Winthrop Professor of Law at the University Of Western Australia. He is also Professorial Fellow at Atax, UNSW in Sydney where he was based from 2000 to 2013. At Atax he delivered Masters units in international tax, DTAs, trust taxation and developed the first unit on Chinese tax outside of China. At UWA he teaches tax while at the bar he consults and advises on taxation. Nolan is widely published in leading journals. He is an FCA and holds degrees in law, accounting, Asian studies, psychology and tax. - Current at 15 April 2015
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