Policy Forum: From Independent Tax Commission to Independent Tax Authority
14 Pages Posted: 7 Aug 2018
Date Written: May 31, 2018
Taxation is one area in which the imperatives of "good policy" and those of "good politics" consistently diverge. This has given rise to the occasional call to depoliticize tax policy, through the creation of an independent tax authority (ITA) that would be responsible for setting general tax policy and would operate with substantial independence from the government of the day. Such a change would obviously represent a move in the direction of a more "technocratic" form of government and will be resisted on those grounds. In order to advance the discussion, I begin this article by arguing that an ITA represents a response to a genuine problem, which is the exploitation by politicians of public ignorance and irrationality with respect to taxes. This leads to inefficiencies and inequalities that are introduced into the tax code, and also wasted time and energy through the constant diversion of public debate into arguments over pseudo-issues. Having motivated the proposal, I then outline the basic institutional structure that an ITA could have in Canada, the kind of mandate that it would be given, and the types of taxes that it would control. I conclude by presenting some of the more obvious objections and attempting a response.
Keywords: Tax administration, tax policy, reviews, politics, policy makers
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