Tax Symposium: Critical Junctures/Critical Perspectives – A call for new voices in tax reform

This Critical Tax Symposium sought to open the debate on reform to new voices and new perspectives that are able to challenge the status quo. It featured papers from scholars from various disciplines (law, politics, economics, sociology) to offer critical perspectives on taxation. Topics included:

  • The role of taxation in addressing wealth and income inequality
  • Taxation and gender inequality
  • The differential impact of tax policy on marginalised groups such as Indigenous people, migrant and refugee communities and LGBTIQ+ groups
  • The role of taxation in addressing environmental issues.

This event was hosted on Zoom webinar on Thursday 15 July 2021 - (9am to 7.20pm AEST) | Friday 16 July 2021 - (9.30am to 5.30pm AEST)

Agenda: Agenda (subject to change)

Bios: Biographies of participants

This event was open to: Scholars, interested academics and members of the tax law and policy as well as social justice community.

Summary of symposium

Symposium background

The COVID-19 pandemic has upended societies worldwide. It has exposed the consequences of economic stratification with the poor and marginalised disproportionately bearing the economic impact of the pandemic, the consequences of lockdown responses (such as the shut-down of Melbourne’s public housing towers) and the burden of disease.

COVID-19 has also been more likely to affect groups at the intersection of economic and social disadvantage. The effects of the pandemic have fallen unequally on women. It has further entrenched gender pay/wealth gaps, with women more likely to have lost their job and to have undertaken additional care. Affected groups also include low-paid migrant workers on the COVID front line; Indigenous people especially vulnerable to COVID due to a higher likelihood of co-morbidities and restricted access to essential services; and LGBTIQ+ individuals who are potentially more vulnerable to COVID-related lockdown measures being statistically more likely to face additional physical and mental health issues.

The pandemic has also exposed the impact of a continued neglect of public institutions and declining investment in public goods – be it with under-resourced and overwhelmed health systems or decimated local supply chains.

In Australia, the bipartisan political response has paired massive government spending with declining revenue (both as a consequence of the pandemic reducing the income and consumption tax base as well as deliberate policy decisions to cut personal income tax rates and introduce tax concessions).

It is likely that the fiscal pressure from these developments will ultimately require fundamental tax reform. That is, the impact of COVID-19 on fiscal systems worldwide is exactly the type of crisis often thought necessary to precipitate major tax reform.

At such a critical juncture, it is essential to open the discussion of tax reform to new voices and new perspectives. The technical subject matter of taxation (and the general public apathy towards this perceived technical detail) means that certain groups and epistemic communities can dominate tax policy formation, development and implementation. This is despite the stakes being so high – taxation is one of the primary means to address wealth and income inequality in a political system that is tied to a market-based economy.

This symposium seeks to open the debate on reform to new voices and new perspectives that are able to challenge the status quo. It features papers from scholars from various disciplines (for example, law, politics, economics, sociology) to offer critical perspectives on taxation. Topics include:

  • The role of taxation in addressing wealth and income inequality
  • Taxation and gender inequality
  • The differential impact of tax policy on marginalised groups such as Indigenous people, migrant and refugee communities and LGBTIQ+ groups
  • The role of taxation in addressing environmental issues.

The symposium was hosted online from Melbourne and be held from 15-16 July 2021.

Submissions:

The deadline for submission of abstracts has now closed. Enquiries can be directed to kathryn.james@monash.edu.

Eligible participants will be invited to submit their written papers for possible inclusion in a special issue of the Australian Tax Review in 2022.

The symposium is partly supported by the Australian Government through the Australian Research Council's Discovery Projects funding scheme (project DE190100346). The views expressed at the symposium are those of the participants and are not necessarily those of the Australian Government or Australian Research Council.