A Comparison of Alternative Tax Bases

Melbourne Institute Working Paper No. 11/05

Date: August 2005


John Freebairn


The revenue, efficiency, equity and operating costs properties of alternative tax bases or taxable sums are compared and contrasted. Initially the assessment is made for generic, comprehensive tax bases on income and consumption flows, wealth stocks, and on transactions. On the criteria of efficiency and equity, there are unresolved conceptual and empirical arguments in choosing between income, consumption and wealth tax bases, but general revenue raising transaction taxes are inferior. In practice, including in current Australia, the different tax bases are far from comprehensive because of the many exemptions and deductions. On all good tax design criteria, the case is made to broaden the tax bases for income, the GST, payroll and land taxes; special purpose transaction taxes to counter market failures should be redesigned; and conveyance duties and other stamp duties should be removed.

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