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Taxation Reform: Some Economic Issues

John Freebairn

Australian Economic Review, 1997, vol. 30, issue 1, 57-70

Abstract: The Australian system of Commonwealth and State taxes is in need of comprehensive reform. It fails the criteria of neutrality, horizontal equity and simplicity, it is not as progressive as often thought, and the future revenue base is declining. Many of the problems stem from the absence of comprehensive tax bases as applied to income, expenditure and assets, and related choice options are subjected to very different effective tax burdens. Important choice options facing different effective tax rates include: work and leisure; consumption and saving; different saving and investment options; form of labour remuneration; different ways of production; the mix of goods and services produced and consumed; and, domestic or overseas location. A comprehensive income tax base is required, especially as applied to the taxation of capital income. The options of a nominal income, real income or expenditure base are explored. It is argued that reform of indirect taxes proceed along two lines. The general revenue raising purpose leads to a comprehensive base of final consumption expenditure at a single rate. Then, additional specific taxes for user pays purposes, for example for roads, and for externalities, for example tobacco, set at the supply cost or net externality would be applied. There are conflicting arguments for and against changing the tax mix away from income to expenditure.

Date: 1997
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