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Tax Simplification is not a simple issue: the reasons for difficulty and a possible strategy

James, Simon (2007): Tax Simplification is not a simple issue: the reasons for difficulty and a possible strategy. Published in: University of Exeter Discussion Papers in Management , Vol. 18, No. 07 : pp. 1-18.

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Simplicity is an important attribute for a tax system and there have been many attempts at simplification in different countries including, of course, Australia. However these attempts have not been very successful. The main reason is that there are, of course, important factors that cause tax systems to be complex and not all of them are bad. Another important matter is that it is not always clear what is meant by tax simplification. A further difficulty has been that attempts at simplification have often been made on an ad hoc basis and, once the enthusiasm has exhausted itself, the trend towards greater complexity continues. It is therefore suggested that what is needed is a strategy for simplification. This should involve establishing the relative importance of simplification compared to other aspects of the tax system. Progress towards simplification should then be monitored and evaluated on a permanent basis. To ensure a balance between tax simplification and other goals it is proposed that a body be established to monitor on a permanent basis the tax system, the environment in which it operates and proposed tax reforms.

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