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Tax law improvement in Australia and the UK: the need for a strategy for simplification


  • Simon James
  • Ian Wallschutsky


In both Australia and the UK, programmes are under way to simplify tax legislation by rewriting it. This paper demonstrates that tax simplification is a complicated concept and concludes that sustainable improvement is unlikely to be achieved if reform is limited only to linguistic changes. Tax law is complicated because there are powerful pressures that tend to increase the complexity of modern tax systems and these should also be considered in any simplification programme. In addition, tax simplification may be promoted by the greater use of purposive legislation — that is, legislation drafted in terms of general principles rather than much more comprehensive legislation designed to deal with every likely possibility. The paper examines the progress of the Australian Tax Law Improvement Project and argues that what is needed is a strategy for tax simplification that is incorporated into the process of generating tax policy itself.

Suggested Citation

  • Simon James & Ian Wallschutsky, 1997. "Tax law improvement in Australia and the UK: the need for a strategy for simplification," Fiscal Studies, Institute for Fiscal Studies, vol. 18(4), pages 445-460, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:ifs:fistud:v:18:y:1997:i:4:p:445-460

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Jill C Pagan, 1993. "Increasing length and complexity of tax legislation - avoidable or inevitable?," Fiscal Studies, Institute for Fiscal Studies, vol. 14(4), pages 90-105, November.
    2. Chris Davidson, 1996. "An update on the work of the Tax Law Review Committee," Fiscal Studies, Institute for Fiscal Studies, vol. 17(2), pages 103-110, May.
    3. John Avery Jones CBE, 1996. "Tax law: rules or principles?," Fiscal Studies, Institute for Fiscal Studies, vol. 17(3), pages 63-89, August.
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    Cited by:

    1. Bătrâncea Larissa & Nichita Ramona-Anca & Bătrâncea Ioan, 2012. "Tax Non-Compliance Behavior in the Light of Tax Law Complexity and the Relationship Between Authorities and Taxpayers," Scientific Annals of Economics and Business, De Gruyter Open, vol. 59(1), pages 97-106, July.
    2. Simon James, 1999. "The future international tax environment and European tax harmonization: a personal view," European Accounting Review, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 8(4), pages 731-747.
    3. Lynne Oats, 2005. "Distinguishing closely held companies for taxation purposes: The Australian experience 1930-1972," Accounting History Review, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 15(1), pages 35-61.

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    JEL classification:

    • H20 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - General


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