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Reinventing administrative leadership in Australian taxation: Beware the fine balance of social psychological and rule of law principles


The Australian Taxation Office’s goal of “reinventing” the way it goes about administering the Australian federal tax system raises fundamental questions about the role and implications of administrative “leadership”. This article considers administrative leadership from the general perspectives of rule of law principles and leadership theory, with a focus on the social psychology and public administration literature. The article questions whether a greater focus on administrative leadership might conceal potential problems when viewed through the lens of the interaction between the rule of law and leadership theory in building trust in tax administration. It is the second of two articles to do so. The first focused on China.

This article uses Australia as an exemplar, so that the two articles allow for an examination of administrative leadership in a jurisdiction with weak rule of law and with strong rule of law. Ultimately, it is suggested that before pursuing administrative leadership to achieve change or influence regulatees, the Commissioner of Taxation must be careful to define precisely what that leadership will entail, to what context it is proposed to be employed and how it might interact with upholding the rule of law. 

Author profiles

Nolan Sharkey
Dr. Nolan Sharkey is a Barrister at Francis Burt Chambers and Winthrop Professor of Law at the University Of Western Australia. He is also Professorial Fellow at Atax, UNSW in Sydney where he was based from 2000 to 2013. At Atax he delivered Masters units in international tax, DTAs, trust taxation and developed the first unit on Chinese tax outside of China. At UWA he teaches tax while at the bar he consults and advises on taxation. Nolan is widely published in leading journals. He is an FCA and holds degrees in law, accounting, Asian studies, psychology and tax. - Current at 15 April 2015
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Ian Murray
Ian is an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Law at the University of Western Australia where he teaches in Taxation and Corporations Law and researches in the areas of Corporate Taxation and the intersection between Not-for-profit Law, Tax and Corporate Governance. He has a number of years' experience as a practitioner in relation to corporate and not-for-profit tax matters across resource taxes, income tax and stamp duty. In particular, he has been extensively involved in the taxation issues arising under native title agreements, including in relation to the benefits management structures established to hold native title payments. Ian's key current research project relates to the accumulation of income by not-for-profits. - Current at 26 February 2015
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