What this suggests is that changes in law however sweeping are unlikely alone

What this suggests is that changes in law however

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What this suggests is that changes in law, however sweeping, are unlikely, alone, to eliminate creative compliance and the problems it poses for law and enforcement. The second factor, the attitude to law, needs to change too. The ATO, and the Compliance Model of law enforcement itself, recognise the need to foster a cooperative taxpaying culture, and indeed recognise that it is not just law that has to change, but attitude: ‘Changing attitudes to our tax system is the remaining element that can give a major impetus to achieving a genuine new tax system in its fullest sense’ (Commissioner of Taxation, 1999, p. xiii). The ATO is currently working to counter non-compliance by fostering an image of tax as a positive contribution, not as a negative imposition. It seeks to relate tax payment to the provision of public services: ‘Our tax system is important to our community. It is about education, health treatment, support for those in need and roads and other community assets’ (Commissioner of Taxation, 2000, p. 8). The ATO, in effect, is
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When Compliance is not the Solution but the Problem 241 appealing for tax compliance as a mark of responsible citizenship (see also Australian Taxation Office, 2000b). The UK’s Inland Revenue has announced a similar approach. It will be promoting the payment of tax as a ‘badge of good citizenship’, ‘explicitly linked to public goods’. 15 But this chapter, and the larger bodies of work on which it draws, indicates that tackling the attitude to non-compliance, appealing for compliance, is not enough. Whether compliance is enough depends on how people are complying. Compliance can itself be a creative construct, and a mark of resistance to tax policy, not cooperation with it. In aiming to construct a culture of compliance, then, the aim must be not just a culture of compliance as opposed to non-compliance, but a culture of compliance with the spirit of the law, rather than creative compliance with its letter. Creative compliance is not just a tax problem but a law problem. The ATO is working to change the general attitude towards tax. But if a change of attitude is required, it is not just in the attitude to tax, but in the attitude taken to law, policy and compliance. This is true not just for taxpayers, but for their professional advisers – the lawyers and accountants whose creative work lies at the heart of creative compliance. What needs to be fostered is a change of attitude to the law, in which it is seen not as a game of words, a material to be worked on to one’s own or one’s client’s advantage, but as an instrument of legitimate policy to be respected, with the policy, not just the words, looked to as the measure of compliance. That, I know, is itself problematic in many ways. But without some shift in that direction, the concern must be that compliance will remain not a solution but a problem for tax policy and tax enforcement, and, indeed, for legal policy and legal control in general.
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  • Fall '16
  • tax authority, Australian Taxation Office, Tax Office, Compliance Model

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