The Tax Research glossary seeks to explain the terms used on this blog that refer to more technical aspects of economics, accounting and tax. It recognises that understanding these terms is critical to understanding the economic issues that affect us all the time.

Like the rest of the Tax Research blog, this glossary is written by Richard Murphy unless there is a note to the contrary. It is normative approach and reflects post-Keynesian, heterodox economic opinion with a bias towards modern monetary theory. The fact that many items in that sentence are hyperlinked shows that they are explained in the glossary.

The copyright notices pertaining to the Tax Research blog apply to this glossary.

The glossary is designed to achieve three goals:

  • It seeks to provide a short, hopefully straightforward, definition of what a term might mean.
  • It then seeks, when appropriate, to explain what the term means within the context in which it is used. This is meant to elaborate the definition to add to understanding.
  • It then critiques the term, explaining, if appropriate, what the weaknesses inherent in the term or the situation it describes are. The aim here is to empower the reader to understand the issues behind the nonsense that most professions create around their activity to provide them with a mystique that they rarely deserve and which often hides what they are really up to.

The glossary is not complete. It will grow over time. If you think there are entries that need adding please let me know by emailing Please also feel free to suggest edits. The best way to do this is to copy an entry into Word and then send me a track-changed document indicating the changes that you suggest.

Because of the way in which it is coded this glossary automatically cross refers entries within itself and to the blog that it supports and within the glossary itself but if you think a link is missing please let me know.

Finally, if you like this glossary then you might like to buy me a coffee. It has required the support of a fair few to write it. You can do so here.

Glossary Entries

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z |


Inequality refers to the unequal distribution of income, resources (sometimes referred to as capital), opportunities, and privileges among individuals or groups in a society. It can manifest in various forms, such as economic inequality, social inequality, or political inequality.

Economic inequality is often measured by examining the disparities in income and wealth distributions. These can result from factors like differences in education, skills, and employment opportunities, as well as systemic factors such as discrimination, unequal access to resources, and policies that favour certain groups over others. The Gini coefficient and Palma ratio measure this form of inequality.

Social inequality refers to the unequal distribution of social benefits or opportunities based on factors such as race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, or social class. It can manifest in areas like education, healthcare, housing, employment, and representation in decision-making processes.

Political inequality refers to the unequal distribution of political power and influence. It can occur when certain groups have more access to political decision-making processes or when their voices and interests are prioritised over others. This can lead to policies and legislation that perpetuate and reinforce existing inequalities.

Inequality has significant implications for individuals and societies. It can hinder social mobility, exacerbate poverty and deprivation, create social tensions, and undermine the overall well-being and cohesion of a society. Addressing inequality often involves a combination of policies and efforts aimed at promoting equal opportunities, reducing discrimination, ensuring fair distribution of resources, and promoting inclusive and equitable societies.

Tax can play a central role in achieving these aims, but can only play a partial role in tackling the prejudice that underpins much inequality.

Back to top


Inflation represents a general increase in prices and a consequent fall in the purchasing value of money.

Inflation is measured as a percentage rate and not as an absolute measure. This is important: just because after a period of above-average inflation the inflation rate then falls this does not mean that prices then return to their original level or that a currency regains its original value. For that to happen a period of deflation is required. Deflation represents a general fall in prices and a consequent increase in the purchasing value of money.

Inflation is considered problematic if excessive as it destabilises a currency and economic relationships within an economy e.g. those on fixed incomes might see a fall in the real value of their earnings whilst those owed money might see that value of their assets fall.

Conversely, an absence of inflation is also seen as problematic. Psychologically people like to think their income is increasing, even if only in monetary terms. They are also inclined to put off spending if they think prices are stable are falling. Stagnant or falling prices are considered poor incentives for growth.

As a consequence, it is commonplace for the agency tasked with delivering monetary policy for a jurisdiction to be tasked with delivering a low rate of inflation rather than no inflation. 2% is commonplace, but there is no particular reason why this was chosen: a higher rate might be just as effective. The target is totemic rather than of merit in itself.

Back to top

Inheritance tax

Inheritance tax is charged on the gifts people make out of their wealth, most commonly (but not always) at the time of their death.

Back to top

International Accounting Standards Board

A privately owned company owned and controlled by the International Financial Reporting Standard Foundation that is registered in Delaware in the USA but based in London in the United Kingdom, which issues International Financial Reporting Standards.

The IASB is largely financed by government grants, the largest firms of accountants in the world and other major actors in the financial services industry. It is self-regulating and resists government interference. Its status as an issuer of accounting standards was transformed when its standards were adopted by the European Union for use by all companies quoted on stock exchanges in the member states of the Union from 2005 onwards.

The IASB is subject to criticism for its refusal to consider the needs of any stakeholder within the accounting process but the suppliers of capital to a company.  For elaboration see separate entry on accounting standards.

Now partnered by the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) within the International Financial Reporting Standard set up because of the refusal of the IFRS to consider climate change as a mainstream accounting issue.

Back to top

International finance centre

See offshore financial centre.

The term is used by tax havens, secrecy jurisdictions and those who work in them to justify their actions by providing them with a gloss as if they were ethical contributions to the world economy when that is rarely the case.

Back to top

International financial reporting standards

An International Financial Reporting Standard (IFRS) is an accounting standard issued by the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) for use by quoted companies in the whole of the European Union and more than 70 other jurisdictions.

The accounting standards of the USA, Japan and other nations are converging with International Financial Reporting Standards but there are some significant differences.

See also accounting standards and the entry for the International Accounting Standards Board and the International Sustainability Standards Board where the criticisms generally applicable to IFRS standards are noted.

Back to top

International Provider

A financial services supplier making supplies within the regulated market from an international financial centre  to clients in more than one country, including that in which it is itself located. See also the secrecy space.

Back to top

International Sustainability Standards Board

Created by the International Financial Reporting Standard in 2021 to issue International Sustainability Standards for use for climate change accounting purposes.

Subject to criticism because the creation of a separate body with separate standards implies that sustainability is an issue that need not be addressed by accounting standards issued by the associated International Accounting Standards Board, implying that climate change is still considered an externality for accounting purposes when that is not the case.

The ISSB has ignored sustainable cost accounting  when creating its first standards despite there being significant public support for it in public consultation processes.

Back to top

Internationally regulated

A transaction regulated in more than one jurisdiction, with all jurisdictions being aware of the others' involvement.

See also the secrecy space.

Back to top


The act of a parent company whose headquarters are located within one jurisdiction switching its registration with an offshore subsidiary that they own to secure location within that offshore jurisdiction in order to secure a tax advantage.

At one time mainly occur­ring in the USA, it became a UK phenomenon as well from 2009 onwards and has also been used by corporations such as Glencore, which is technically registered in Jersey as a result.

Back to top

Investment fund

An investment fund is a marketed opportunity to buy units in a collective investment entity which in turn invests in a broad range of other assets with the objective of creating diversified risk and consistent investment returns for those who save with these funds.

Back to top

Irrevocable trust

A trust where the settlor cannot reclaim the trust property or derive benefit from it once it has been transferred to the legal ownership of the trustees. Most trusts in the UK, excluding bare trusts, are of this sort.

It is, however, now commonplace for trusts in tax havens and secrecy jurisdictions to permit the settlor to either cancel a trust arrangement, or to retain significant settlor benefits , meaning that they are not irrevocable trusts.

Back to top