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Tax reform and ‘rough justice’: Is it time for simplicity to shine?


The need for simplification is often identified as a key consideration in any discussion of Australia’s tax system. But just how important is simplification in the Australian context? And to what extent will it feature in any future tax reform post-Henry and Tax Forum? While there has been much discussion of tax simplification over the years, progress in achieving genuine simplification has been modest at best.

This article reviews the tax simplification literature and analyses recent proposals aimed at reducing complexity. It canvasses the notion that simplification may be gaining some well-deserved attention compared to the other criteria of a good tax system. This may lead to reformers preferring measures that potentially reduce equity for certain taxpayers (and even possibly some efficiency/neutrality), in favour of a more streamlined and simplified system overall. Unfortunately, however, many of the simplification initiatives that have emerged from recent reform may not achieve the desired outcomes of a simpler tax system.

The article concludes that in order to achieve genuine simplification, a mixture of policy initiatives and administrative measures are still required – together with bold political initiatives.

Author profiles:

Jason Kerr
Jason is a PhD candidate, School of Taxation and Business Law (Atax), Australian School of Business, UNSW.
Current at 1 April 2012

Author Photo - Christopher Evans
Prof Christopher Evans
Chris is Professor of Taxation and former Head of the Australian School of Taxation (Atax) at UNSW Australia. He specialises in comparative taxation, capital and wealth taxation, tax law and administration, tax policy and reform. His PhD from UNSW was a comparative study of the operating costs of taxing capital gains. He also holds a master’s degree in European Political Integration from Leicester University and a Bachelor’s honours degree in Economics from London University, as well as postgraduate educational qualifications from Leeds University. He has researched and published extensively in taxation, and is a co-author of Australian Taxation Law and Cooper & Evans on CGT. He is General Editor of Australian Tax Review and Editorial Board member of other journals. He has served on a number of governmental and professional body committees and working parties in Australia and overseas, including the UK’s Mirrlees Committee and the HMRC International Panel on tax administration. Current at 04 July 2014 Click here to expand/collapse more articles by Chris EVANS.
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