Critical Junctures/Critical perspectives – a call for new voices in tax reform

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 invites papers from scholars from all disciplines (for example, law, politics, economics, sociology) to offer critical perspectives on taxation. Topics might include (but are not limited to):

  • 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 will be hosted online from Melbourne and be held from 15-16 July 2021. 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 offers the opportunity for scholars from diverse disciplines to be paired to respond to a common issue. Scholars might choose to do so themselves through submitting a joint abstract or express an interest in being paired with a scholar from another discipline when they submit their abstract. In the latter case, an effort will be made (subject to constraints) to link scholars whose abstracts are accepted with others who may wish to, and be suitable to, collaborate on the topic. Papers from early career scholars and people from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds are especially welcome to apply. Due to logistical and other considerations, the call for papers is primarily (but not exclusively) directed at participants in Australia and New Zealand.

Enquiries and abstracts of no more than a page should be submitted to kathryn.james@monash.edu. The deadline for submission of abstracts is 7 March 2021.