Tax dispute systems design : international comparisons and the development of guidance from a New Zealand perspective.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
Dispute systems design (DSD) refers to a deliberate effort to identify and improve the way an organisation addresses conflict by decisively and strategically arranging its dispute resolution processes. A number of principles have been put forward by various DSD practitioners for best practice in effective DSD. These principles emanate from the six fundamental DSD principles proposed by the seminal theorists Ury, Brett and Goldberg in Getting Disputes Resolved: Designing Systems to Cut the Costs of Conflict in 1988. To date, tax dispute resolution is an area that has not been extensively examined utilising DSD principles. However, with the recent trend of some tax authorities towards employing interests-based dispute resolution procedures, namely, various forms of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) processes, the application of DSD principles in the context of tax dispute resolution arguably warrants greater research. The purpose of this study is to develop the application of DSD principles in the particular context of tax dispute resolution. Utilising a comparative case study methodology, 14 DSD principles drawn from the literature have been used to evaluate the effectiveness of the design of the current tax dispute resolution processes of the jurisdictions of New Zealand (NZ), Australia, the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States (US). Through comparing the DSD evaluations conducted, this study has sought to develop a set of tax DSD principles to be adapted by tax administrations and used in either developing new or improving existing tax dispute resolution systems. Semi-structured interviews with 30 selected stakeholders in NZ have then been conducted in order to externally evaluate the tax DSD principles developed and also consider whether adaption of the principles is required in the context of the NZ tax dispute resolution procedures.
The findings from the case studies indicate that the 14 DSD principles from the literature can generally be applied in the tax dispute resolution context without significant substantive modification. The interview findings suggest that the overarching design principle which must be borne in mind in the design of any tax dispute resolution system is that the system must be fair and perceived as fair. However, there is insufficient support from the interviews to justify any concrete changes being made to the tax DSD principles developed from the case studies. Thus, the interview findings are limited to the making of suggestions for certain modifications to the tax DSD principles potentially being made. Therefore, further research is necessary in order to confirm or refute the suggested changes. The interview findings further indicate that the tax DSD principles developed do not require adaptation specifically for NZ. Although, this may in part be due to the sample of participants interviewed being drawn only from NZ.
Against the background of the overarching design principle of fairness, this study has a wide ranging applicability to tax administrations and their stakeholders in developing or improving their tax dispute resolution systems.