Principles and Frameworks for Evaluating Tax Systems: A New Zealand Perspective
Traditionally taxes (and tax systems) are evaluated using principles that, in many instances, trace back to the work of Adam Smith (namely, equity, certainty, convenience and economy). Added to these principles are those of: simplicity, efficiency, and revenue raising. These principles predominantly focus on economic measures (with the exception of equity), and leave out broader social, environmental and cultural factors that impact the well-being of citizens and their country. Within the wider sphere of public expenditures, work has been underway for more than a decade in New Zealand (NZ) to create what the NZ Treasury refers to as its Living Standards Framework (LSF) to incorporate this wider concept of well-being. Fiscal policy is included within the LSF evaluations. The LSF, while still undergoing refinement, formed part of the NZ Government’s Tax Working Group (TWG) framework, and appears in aspects of the TWG’s 2019 Final Report. The NZ Government’s Budget 2019 is one of the first globally to be a well-being budget, although it contains minimal tax content. This paper reviews both the traditional and new LSF principles, evaluates their application by the 2009- 10 Victoria University of Wellington (VUW) TWG, the NZ Government 2017-2019 TWG and NZ’s Budget 2019. It concludes that other jurisdictions should be keeping a close eye on the impact and ‘success’ of these developments.