Valedictory address Peter Essers: Analysis of previous tax reforms doesn’t bode well for box 3 reform

What makes some fundamental tax reforms a success and others a failure? This question will be answered by Peter Essers, Professor of Tax Law at Tilburg University and former senator for Christian-democratic party CDA, in his valedictory address on March 15, 2024, at 16:15 hrs. in the Auditorium of Tilburg University. The chances of a successful reform of box 3 are slim, he argues based on his research.

Peter Essers chose the ’mother of all modern reforms’, the French Revolution, as a point of departure for his study and used the lessons learnt to assess the tax reform during the German occupation of the Netherlands, the 1978 Investment Account Act (IAA, Wet investeringsrekening) culminating in the notorious ’IAA weekend’ shortly before it was abolished, and finally the Income Tax Act 2001 (Wet inkomstenbelasting 2001), especially box 3, which is in urgent need of reform following the Netherlands Supreme Court’s 2021 ’Christmas judgment’.

Success factors

Essers has identified a number of factors that contribute to the success of tax reforms. They include the need for thoroughly analysing the frustrations that are at the basis of the wish for reform and for respecting the age-old principle of ’No Taxation without Representation’, no taxation without an Act of Parliament, approved by the legal representatives of the citizens paying the taxes. Other preconditions include an adequately functioning tax administration and good interaction among the three powers: the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary. It is also important that there is social agreement through a ’social contract’ about what inequalities the tax reform wants to combat, but also what inequalities are acceptable or should even be promoted. This is necessary because otherwise resentment and jealousy will threaten the tax reforms that are aimed to eliminate inequalities.


Besides a well-functioning system of legal protection, a certain level of fascination and enthusiasm among politicians and civil servants about the proposed reforms is required, without compromising their ability to remain critical of the proposed measures, and of the presence of sufficient public support for the reform. Finally, it is very important not to accept ’temporary’ (in the sense of ’we’ll fix that later’) obstacles and injustices resulting from the reforms, such as excessive bureaucracy or ignoring inflation. The problems will just boomerang in your face.

Box 3

Given these factors, Essers is skeptical about the ultimate success of the measures announced, and already partially implemented, by the outgoing State Secretary for Tax Affairs and the Tax Administration, namely the reform of box 3 for the period until 2027 and the plans for a capital accrual tax after that. He is particularly critical of the role of the legislator and the Netherlands Supreme Court in creating the current stalemate, which he refers to as a ’Catch 22 situation’ among the Supreme Court, the legislature, and the Tax Administration.

Valedictory address

On the occasion of his farewell as Professor of Tax Law at Tilburg University, Professor Peter Essers will hold his valedictory address entitled ’Belastinghervormingen tussen frustratie en fascinatie (Van de Franse Revolutie tot Box 3)’ [Tax reforms between frustration and fascination (From the French Revolution to Box 3)] on March 15, 2024, at 16:00 hrs. The ceremony will take place in the Auditorium of Tilburg University and can also be watched via livestream .