Reflections on the Mirrlees Review: An Australasian Perspective
Fiscal Studies (2011), vol. 32 (3), pp. 375-393
19 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2012
Date Written: August 4, 2012
This paper compares and contrasts the UK’s Mirrlees Review with major tax reviews that have taken place at about the same time in Australia (the Henry Review) and New Zealand (the Tax Working Group Review). It suggests that the three countries share many cultural, social, economic and political traditions and institutions, but that this shared heritage does not necessarily extend to the realms of tax reviews and the possible roads to tax reform that the countries may tread. There are some similarities in aspects of the processes of tax review that have taken place in the three countries (though rather more differences), and all three countries also share a commitment to broadly similar principles underlying the recommendations made by each of the three reviews. But the specific proposals made by each of the reviews do not share much common ground. The differences are more apparent than any similarities that may occur, an outcome (in part at least) predicated upon the very different political, economic and fiscal imperatives prevailing in each of the three countries.
The paper also suggests that it is unlikely that the three reviews will have the same long-term impact or effects upon their respective national tax systems. It may be the case, the paper contends, that there is a form of trade-off between political independence (as in the Mirrlees Review) and the direct policy impact that is more apparent in countries whose reviews had strong government backing (as was the case in New Zealand) – at least in the short term. Moreover, independent reviews (such as the Mirrlees Review) may also lead to more radical proposals, which will require a longer time maturing ‘on the shelf’ before they may be ripe for implementation.
Keywords: Tax reviews, Mirrlees Review, tax reform
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