An analysis of tax expenditure versus direct expenditure

Sadiq, Kerrie (2008) An analysis of tax expenditure versus direct expenditure. In Proceedings of Australian Tax Teachers Association Conference, Australian Tax Teachers Association Conference, University of Tasmania.

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Each financial year concessions, benefits and incentives are delivered to taxpayers via the tax system. These concessions, benefits and incentives, referred to as tax expenditure, differ from direct expenditure because of the recurring fiscal impact without regular scrutiny through the federal budget process. There are approximately 270 different tax expenditures existing within the current tax regime with total measured tax expenditures in the 2005-06 financial year estimated to be around $42.1 billion, increasing to $52.7 billion by 2009-10. Each year, new tax expenditures are introduced, while existing tax expenditures are modified and deleted. In recognition of some of the problems associated with tax expenditure, a Tax Expenditure Statement, as required by the Charter of Budget Honesty Act 1988, is produced annually by the Australian Federal Treasury. The Statement details the various expenditures and measures in the form of concessions, benefits and incentives provided to taxpayers by the Australian Government and calculates the tax expenditure in terms of revenue forgone. A similar approach to reporting tax expenditure, with such a report being a legal requirement, is followed by most OECD countries. The current Tax Expenditure Statement lists 270 tax expenditures and where it is able to, reports on the estimated pecuniary value of those expenditures. Apart from the annual Tax Expenditure Statement, there is very little other scrutiny of Australia’s Federal tax expenditure program. While there has been various academic analysis of tax expenditure in Australia, when compared to the North American literature, it is suggested that the Australian literature is still in its infancy. In fact, one academic author who has contributed to tax expenditure analysis recently noted that there is ‘remarkably little secondary literature which deals at any length with tax expenditures in the Australian context.’ Given this perceived gap in the secondary literature, this paper examines fundamental concept of tax expenditure and considers the role it plays in to the current tax regime as a whole, along with the effects of the introduction of new tax expenditures. In doing so, tax expenditure is contrasted with direct expenditure. An analysis of tax expenditure versus direct expenditure is already a sophisticated and comprehensive body of work stemming from the US over the last three decades. As such, the title of this paper is rather misleading. However, given the lack of analysis in Australia, it is appropriate that this paper undertakes a consideration of tax expenditure versus direct expenditure in an Australian context. Given this proposition, rather than purport to undertake a comprehensive analysis of tax expenditure which has already been done, this paper discusses the substantive considerations of any such analysis to enable further investigation into the tax expenditure regime both as a whole and into individual tax expenditure initiatives. While none of the propositions in this paper are new in a ‘tax expenditure analysis’ sense, this debate is a relatively new contribution to the Australian literature on the tax policy. Before the issues relating to tax expenditure can be determined, it is necessary to consider what is meant by ‘tax expenditure’. As such, part two if this paper defines ‘tax expenditure’. Part three determines the framework in which tax expenditure can be analysed. It is suggested that an analysis of tax expenditure must be evaluated within the framework of the design criteria of an income tax system with the key features of equity, efficiency, and simplicity. Tax expenditure analysis can then be applied to deviations from the ideal tax base. Once it is established what is meant by tax expenditure and the framework for evaluation is determined, it is possible to establish the substantive issues to be evaluated. This paper suggests that there are four broad areas worthy of investigation; economic efficiency, administrative efficiency, whether tax expenditure initiatives achieve their policy intent, and the impact on stakeholders. Given these areas of investigation, part four of this paper considers the issues relating to the economic efficiency of the tax expenditure regime, in particular, the effect on resource allocation, incentives for taxpayer behaviour and distortions created by tax expenditures. Part five examines the notion of administrative efficiency in light of the fact that most tax expenditures could simply be delivered as direct expenditures. Part six explores the notion of policy intent and considers the two questions that need to be asked; whether any tax expenditure initiative reaches its target group and whether the financial incentives are appropriate. Part seven examines the impact on stakeholders. Finally, part eight considers the future of tax expenditure analysis in Australia.

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ID Code: 49838
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: No
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > QUT Business School
Current > Schools > School of Accountancy
Copyright Owner: Copyright please consult the author
Deposited On: 30 Apr 2012 01:24
Last Modified: 01 Jul 2012 14:26

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