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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

Prof Christopher Evans
Chris is a Professor, School of Taxation & Business Law, UNSW Sydney, Extraordinary Professor, Department of Taxation, University of Pretoria, and International Research Fellow, Centre for Business Taxation, University of Oxford. - Current at 27 October 2020
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Jason Kerr
Jason is a PhD candidate, School of Taxation and Business Law (Atax), Australian School of Business, UNSW.
Current at 1 April 2012


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