Summary of symposium

The Critical Tax Symposium took place virtually from Thursday 15 July 2021 - Friday 16 July 2021 and was hosted by the Centre for Commercial Law and Regulatory Studies (CLARS) at the Monash Law School.

The symposium was conceived of in response to the crisis occasioned by COVID-19 which calls for new thinking on approaches to taxation and spending rather than a return to the business-as-usual approach to taxation which has dominated tax policy discussions over the last few decades.

Scholars from Australia, the UK, US and Europe from various disciplines (law, politics, economics, sociology) offered and exchanged their insights on common challenges and unique responses on a range of tax issues. Topics included: the political importance of tax administration; the role of taxation in environmental regulation; how tax law and administration can discriminate against marginalized groups; how the tax and transfer system contribute to gender inequalities as well as wealth and income inequalities.

The symposium featured two keynotes. The first ‘Critical tax theory: Insights and Opportunities’ was presented by Professor Bridget Crawford, Pace University, New York and Professor Anthony Infanti, University of Pittsburgh. The pair provided an overview of critical tax theory in the US, its origins and methodologies and the value of examining tax laws from an ‘outsider’ perspective. A Q&A session then explored the opportunities for, and limitations of, critical tax theory’s current and future role to play in influencing tax policy.

The second keynote, ‘Optimal tax design: choice of tax base and rate structure’ was delivered by Professor Patricia Apps, Professor of Public Economics, University of Sydney Law School with comments by Professor Richard Vann, Challis Professor of Law, Sydney Law School. The paper presented sobering data on aspects of the income tax and transfer system which show a significant shift in the tax burden towards certain women and low-income households and highlighted the need for a reversal of this trend through properly progressive reform.

The symposium demonstrated both the need for reform in the wake of COVID-19 as well as proposals for how reform might be implemented to work towards tax justice. A selection of the papers presented will feature in a special issue of the Australian Tax Review in 2022. Any queries on the symposium can be directed to Kathryn James, Monash Law School (