Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Tax In Their Sights: Stranger Than Facts
Australia is a very fortunate country as it is peppered with solid scholars who put pen to paper without fear or favour. During my days of Deakin University I came across a number of lectures and professors who were walking political encyclopaedias and were not afraid to disagree with any party spin doctor or even a politician no matter how much their words might decrease their university funding.
First time I was exposed to tax issues when I read an article by Dr Neil Warren five years ago. In a way, his research wetted my appetite for issues other than strictly legislative. Although I am a failure, I somehow managed to complete four courses at the University of NSW as part of the Australian Taxation Studies Program. Dr Neil Warren is part of the academic tapestry at the University. Like Dr Cope, who writes so well about the myths and realities of Parliament, Dr Warren chooses his ideas and words with great care so any reader can follow his thoughts.
I recommend Dr Warren's latest observations about the myths and realities of tax regimes. Australian CPA June 2004 edition p 37 (all libraries can magically provide it via an interlibrary loan) features a story entitled The Tax Files: debunking the furphies. It starts ever so imaginatively:
You can almost smell the coming election - tax is in the air and facts are going out of the window. With an assult on our intelligence around the corner, tax big cheese Neil Warren straightens out fact from fiction
We need more movie scripts like this on subjects that are not so appealing to the public. How cool is this?
In the heat of a full-on tax debate, fiction often holds sway over fact. Just why this is the case is not dificcult to understand. After all, tax impacts directly on the hip pocket nerve and with so much at stake, it is in the interest of each taxpayer to argue their case strongly and persuasively, even if it appears to have its foundation in fiction. For government, the issue is how to respond. Should it counter fiction with the fact?
Tax fiction can arise from many sources. A constructive tax reform debate can only be had if the proptagonists avail themselves to the facts with the fiction stripped away. It was just this goal that the Australian Tax Reform Foundation (ATRF) sought to achieve through the publication of Tax Facts: Fiction and Reform at ATRF