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

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National Income

See gross domestic product (GDP)

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National insurance contribution

See social security contributions. Often called NIC.

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Neoliberalism is a term used by some, mainly on the left of the political spectrum, to describe a political and economic ideology that emphasises the importance of free markets, individual liberty, and limited government intervention in the economy.

The described by others as neoliberals by others rarely describe themselves as neoliberal, preferring the terms ‘conservative' or ‘neoclassical'.

Neoliberalism developed after World War II century as a response to the perceived threats from Keynesian economics and the welfare state model.

Neoliberalism's principle architect were Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman. James Buchanan contributed considerably to the ideology.

The ideas were promoted through an organisation created in 1947 by Hayek and Friedman called the Mont Pelerin Society, and subsequently by a wide range of right wing think tanks in the USA, UK and elsewhere. Many of these think tanks have dominated the recent political thinking and policy creation of parties such as the Republicans in the USA and Conservatives in the UK, but their reach has extended to both Democrats in the US and Labour, Liberal Democrats and even some in the Scottish National Party in the UK.

Key principles of neoliberalism include the promotion of

1) Free markets: Neoliberalism advocates for the liberalisation of markets, allowing for the free flow of goods, services, and capital. It promotes competition as a means to increase efficiency and economic growth.

2) Privatisation: Neoliberalism supports the transfer of state-owned enterprises and services to the private sector.

3) Deregulation: Neoliberalism calls for reducing government regulations and removing barriers to entry in order to foster competition and innovation.

4) Fiscal austerity: Neoliberals emphasise the importance of fiscal discipline, advocating for balanced budgets, lower government spending, and reduced public debt.

5) Individualism: Neoliberalism places a strong emphasis on individual liberty, personal responsibility, and the belief that individuals should be free to pursue their own economic interests. As a result it promotes low or no taxes on wealth and views tax havens favourably.

6) Globalisation: Neoliberalism promotes free trade and globalisation, seeking to remove barriers to international trade and investment.

Those who challenge neoliberalism argue that it exacerbates social inequality, undermines workers' rights, and prioritises corporate interests over those of the state and public at large. It has also failed to recognise the externalities created by market competition, such as climate change.

Based on evidence, critics of neoliberalism suggest that since policy based upon its prescriptions became commonplace after Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan introduced it into mainstream thinking on both sides of the Atlantic, it has lead to economic instability, financial crises, and environmental degradation whilst inequality has risen and social security has reduced.

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An abbreviation for national insurance contributions.

See social security contributions.

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Nominal interest rate

A nominal interest rate is that quoted by a bank or other organisation for the loan that they are supplying. It is the cash price of interest due on that loan.

For example, if the nominal rate of interest on a one-year loan is 5% and £100 is borrowed then the nominal rate of interest is £5.

The nominal rate of interest ignores the cost of inflation over the period of a loan.

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Nominee directors

Nominee directors act as the legal managers of limited companies  and other legal persons e.g. some limited liability partnerships or incorporated foundations. When doing so they act on behalf of the real managers of these entities who will in many cases be the beneficial owners  of them.

It is commonplace for nominee directors to pre-sign letters of resignation from the private legal entities or companies for which they supposedly act which the beneficial owner may use to effect that change at any time of their choosing.

The nominee is usually paid a fee for their services but otherwise has no in­terest in the transactions that relate to the company which they publicly or legally profess to manage, apart from appending their signature to legal documentation in­cluding board minutes when requested to do so.

Nominee directors are still commonly used in secrecy jurisdictions when directorships have to be recorded on public registers and the beneficial owners wish to disguise their identity. Nominee directors are not trustees as they have no discretion available to them with regard to the exercise of their duties: they are mere agents of the beneficial owners.

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Nominee owner

A nominee owner of an asset is a person who allows their name to be used for the purposes of recording legal ownership of the asset in question but who at the same time enters into an agreement with the beneficial owner of the asset to confirm that they will always act following the instructions of that beneficial owner with regard to the exercise of the rights derived from their legal ownership of that asset. They also agree that they will at any time surrender that ownership to another person upon direction of the beneficial owner.

It is commonplace for nominee owners to pre-sign documentation authorising the transfer of legal ownership of the asset which the beneficial owner may use to effect that change at any time of their choosing.

The nominee is usually paid a fee for their services but otherwise has no interest in the transactions that relate to assets which they publicly or legally profess to own.

Nominee owners are commonly used in secrecy jurisdictions when ownership of an asset has to be recorded on public registers and the beneficial ownerships wish to disguise their identity. This may now be illegal in some locations but it is still thought to be commonplace.

Nominee owners are not trustees as they have no discretion available to them with regard to the exercise of their duties: they are mere agents of the beneficial owners.

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Notes and coin

Notes and coins are a record of a perpetual government debt owing to whoever has possession of the note or coin at a point in time. Those notes and coins are a form of bearer security (see bearer shares) because they are capable of being transferred between people at will without the government's consent being sought or required. It is thought that this is one reason why governments are now keen to replace notes and coin with digital currency.

Notes and coins represent debt because they are issued by a government accompanied by the specific assurance that they are a promise to pay, which promise is actually printed on UK bank notes. The government's promise to pay is fulfilled by its willingness to accept notes and coins in settlement of tax liabilities owing. As with all government created money, taxation is implicit in the process of government money creation, and its destruction.

Notes and coins are as a consequence as much representations of debt as are any other forms of money and they have no tangible worth in themselves.

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The part of the secrecy space  where by design or chance the combination of unregu­lated entities used results in transactions being unregulated or only lightly regulated.

See also secrecy space, secrecy jurisdiction, here, somewhere and elsewhere.

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