Australian Government CrestInternational Comparison of Taxes

Terms of Reference

Terms of Reference for an Overview of How Australia's Tax System Compares Internationally

The study will compare Australia’s taxation system with other countries. The aim of the study is to provide an authoritative statement on the public record about how Australian taxes compare to those in other countries. This will help inform discussion about Australia’s tax system.

The focus of the study will be on the provision of objective, descriptive information on Australia’s tax and revenue system compared with that of other OECD countries. The study will provide information on the overall level of taxes, the tax mix, and the base and rates within each type of tax. As appropriate, the study also will provide information on the publicly stated rationales for different countries’ balances between efficiency, effectiveness and simplicity in the revenue raising effort of these countries.

The study will cover all forms of taxation collected in Australia at national, state and local government levels. This is OECD standard practice for international tax comparisons.

The study will cover personal, business, indirect, property and transaction taxes. On personal taxes, in line with the recommended OECD approach, information will be provided on taxes levied on both individuals and businesses for social insurance purposes, as well as particular forms of social benefits that can be provided through either the tax system or through social security expenditures.

The study will also cover taxes on superannuation, taking account of the very different ways that retirement income objectives are provided in other countries.

The study will make comparisons with all OECD countries, largely reflecting the availability of comprehensive and comparable information on their tax systems. These countries cover most of our largest trading partners, as well as the sources and destinations of most of our capital investment. As determined by the authors, the analysis may extend beyond the thirty OECD countries where comparable information is readily available and issues relevant to the study would benefit from a broader analysis.

For context, the study will provide an overview of the fiscal situation in each of the comparator countries. Some countries have a much larger/smaller government sector than Australia, and therefore require a higher/lower level of taxes. Additionally, information will be provided on the fiscal situation of comparator countries (especially in terms of budget surpluses or deficits).

Where relevant and possible, the study will also cover non-tax revenues and provide information on the extent and composition of tax expenditures in comparator countries.

Given the broad scope of the study, and the considerable amount of information and analysis that will need to be covered, the study necessarily will provide an overview of relevant issues for international comparisons of tax systems. Greater detail will be provided in some areas, especially on personal and business taxes.

The study is to be completed and passed to the Treasurer by 3 April 2006. Due to the short period of the study, there will be there no formal submission process. However, you can still contact the study or provide comments. Further information is available on the following website:

The study will be undertaken by Mr Richard (Dick) Warburton AO and Mr Peter Hendy. It will be supported by a small secretariat from within the Treasury. The study secretariat can be contacted through the following address: or by ringing (02) 6263 3033.