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  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: December 2010

5 - Tax policy in context


Dealing with complex systems

The previous chapter sought a place for considerations of tax policy, women and the law within the corporate social responsibility literature. It referred to ‘tax law’ alternatively as an instrument, or as a topic, but did not engage with the style or substance of this sort of legislation. This chapter seeks to begin such engagement, and starts with the important question of style. Just as this book has acknowledged that bureaucracy is never a side issue in tax law, so the same may be observed of the length, style and sheer complexity of fiscal legislation.

The complexity of tax legislation is a global problem, with specific impact upon women, for several reasons. First, complexity makes it more difficult for tax legislation to achieve its goals. Second, although tax legislation largely aims to be collected both fairly and efficiently, it also anticipates the variations in response to the legislation by taxpayers. This not only potentially attracts further complexity; it also produces unpredictable, and not necessarily positive, repercussions among taxpayers. Tax complexity can reinforce existing inequities in tax systems, and create new ones. In the United Kingdom, the tax law rewrite programme presents perhaps a striking example of some success in addressing this problem, although there have been accomplishments in reducing tax complexity in Australia as well. The US perhaps has been less successful in this area, but not for lack of effort.