Sixty Years of Advocacy in Taxation [PDF 51KB]
I am delighted to have been invited to pen a few words to mark the 60th anniversary of the Taxation Institute of Australia.
The Institute can be rightly pleased with the fruits of its advocacy for better tax laws over much of its 60-year history. Alice McCleary's article in the July issue of Taxation in Australia bears testimony to the patience and persistence of successive generations of officers and members of the Institute in advocating tax policies.
By contrast, the Board of Taxation is a relatively recent addition to the nation's taxation institutions, having been established as an advisory body to the Treasurer in August 2000. In those three years, the Board has benefited greatly from being able to call upon the Institute's abundant experience and advice for most of its projects.
Making tax laws as simple as possible is a long and noble quest for policy advisers, policy makers and tax practitioners. This quest is necessarily without a particular or obvious ending. And part of this is due to the fact that tax laws are complex for many legitimate reasons. For example, they must reflect increasingly sophisticated and evolving business and community practices as well as give effect to the community's sense of equity. Tax laws are also used to advance desirable economic and social outcomes, such as, to promote research and development or to assist with promoting sustainable environmental management.
But there is also a measure of avoidable complexity in tax laws. The Board has sought to address issues of complexity through its consultation processes. Consultation with taxpayers and their advisers often throws up tax law provisions that can be simplified, at least in principle. Paradoxically, consultation can also point to areas where the tax legislation needs to be more expansive to ensure the underlying policy intention is delivered.
The taxpaying community considers that the Board of Taxation's role in advising on good tax laws is vital. The Board also believes that organisations such as the Taxation Institute of Australia play an equally vital role in advancing the cause of good tax policy and administration. There is every reason to expect the Taxation Institute of Australia will continue to make significant contributions in the period ahead.
Richard F.E. Warburton
The Board of Taxation