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The defective jigsaw


A number of highly visible projects have been undertaken in Australia since the early 1990s in an endeavour to simplify the income tax. Most of the focus has been on linguistic measures — changing the words used in drafting tax statutes, the way that text is presented to readers and the degree of precision with which rules are expressed. This article focuses on a different and neglected source of confusion — the way individual regimes within the tax legislation interact. Drafting experiments do not, and cannot, address this source of confusion, but it remains as great a source of difficulty as the form in which text is prepared and presented. This article analyses and classifies common instances of the problem, explores how they arise and examines the kinds of complexity that results. The article argues that new projects focusing on structural design can accomplish much, perhaps even more, than past projects focusing on language.

Author profile

Prof Gordon Cooper
Gordon was a Chartered Accountant in sole practice at Cooper & Co. He was an Adjunct Professor in the School of Taxation and Business Law (incorporating the Australian School of Taxation) at the University of New South Wales. In June 2003, he was awarded an AM in the Queen’s birthday honours for “Services to the tax profession and to the community as an adviser on national taxation and legislative reform, and through education and professional organisations”. Together with Chris Evans and Kirk Wilson, he was an author of the Australian CGT Handbook. - Current at 27 June 2017
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