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Crawford School of Public Policy

Introduction to the Economics of Tax Policy

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Governments provide essential services and play an important role in a modern, advanced economy. Paying for government activities requires revenue and this mostly comes from taxation. So what should we tax and how should we tax it? These are the two questions which this course will help you to answer. The course will provide a framework for understanding the costs of taxation and look at the kinds of things that can be taxed (e.g. personal income, land, corporate income) and the types of taxes that might be considered. Attendees will consider the idea of “optimal tax design”. The course will give a comprehensive overview and evaluate the current state of Australia's tax system and explore promising directions for tax reform. Additionally, we will evaluate and discuss current debates around tax and tax reform in Australia.

Course overview

Participants will learn:

  • Why do we have a tax and transfer system?
  • What is the tax landscape in Australia? Where does our government revenue come from? Are we a high tax country or a low tax country?
  • What are the costs of taxation?
  • Which types of taxes are more or less costly than others?
  • What are the main tax bases? (What are the things that we can tax?)
  • What are the options for taxing those tax bases?

We will draw all this together to answer the following questions:

  • What would an optimal tax system look like?
  • How does Australia’s tax system rate?
  • What are the main priorities for tax reform in Australia?


Robert Breunig is the director of the Tax and Transfer Policy Institute at the Crawford School of Public Policy. From 2015 to 2016 he was the Director of the Crawford School of Public Policy. Professor Breunig is one of Australia’s leading Public Policy Economists. He has published in over 50 in...
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