International and Country Perspectives
Edited by Iris Claus, Norman Gemmell, Michelle Harding and David White
Chapter 12: Australian Tax Reforms: Past and Future
Greg Smith INTRODUCTION 12.1 This chapter provides a general survey of past tax reform and future reform opportunities in Australia. Section 12.2 deals with the reforms of the past 25 years beginning in 1983.1 Section 12.3 looks forward from the establishment in 2008 of the Australian Government’s Review of Australia’s Future Tax System. Tax reform is often usefully framed by axioms like efficiency, equity, adequacy and simplicity. But the conception and interpretation of these are always in flux as well as conflict. It is probably not possible to make much sense of them outside a clear and continually updated understanding of the emerging social and economic context. Indeed, the history of tax reform is very much a history of struggle to respond to new circumstances – new skills or technologies, new roles of government, new awareness or conceptions of societal needs, and new forms of economic competition. For the most part, it is a struggle to catch up with wider social and economic changes that are well underway. I will attempt to give some flavour of this in the Australian case. The chapter is structured mainly along thematic rather than chronological lines. It does not seek to define ‘tax reform’ or to distinguish it from broader ‘tax change’. Public policies are always changed for the better in at least someone’s mind. It is not unusual to see one tax change undo another, with both called reform in their time. In at least some cases, this is a perfectly sensible policy response...