What is Tax Reform?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 01 September 2019
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Tax reform is a process in which the tax policies of a government are changed. The usual goal of advocates for tax reform is more fairness in taxation, but there are a number of ways to assess fairness, and what seems fair to one person might seem like a gross imposition to another. Many nations have groups of citizens which push for changes to tax policy, and some also have highly organized reform movements which may engage in lobbying and other activities to change the way taxes are handled.

The goals of tax reform can cover things like how taxes are administered, collected, and handled, as well as how the tax code is structured. Some tax reformers actually want to abolish taxes altogether, while others would like to see changes in how taxes are handled. For example, a reformer might advocate to get rid of income taxes and focus on sales taxes for the purpose of taxing consumption, rather than income, arguing that this method would be more fair.


Some tax reformers advocate for a flat tax, in which everyone pays the same amount or the same percentage of income in taxes. Others would prefer to see scaled tax systems like those in use in many nations which charge income tax in brackets, allowing low income individuals to pay a lower percentage in tax while high income individuals pay more. Value added taxes, property taxes, and other types of taxes may also be targeted by tax reformers who would prefer to see the system changed.

All nations need money to support themselves, and taxation is a time honored way of collecting this money, ensuring that all people living in a country contribute to the expense of running it. Taxes pay for public education, national defense, public works, and a wide variety of other government activities ranging from scientific research to providing health care to citizens. Some opponents of taxation argue that government spending patterns should be adjusted to reduce the demand for taxes; very few advocates for tax reform push for increases in taxes.

There is a great deal of argument within the tax reform community about which aspects of the tax code need to changed and how these changes should be accomplished. Some of these arguments follow political ideologies, while in other cases people from diverse political perspectives may uniformly support or oppose proposed changes to the way in which taxes are handled.

Legislatures routinely engage in tax reform, making small adjustments to tax policy to meet a nation's changing needs and to address the concerns of citizens. Heads of state may also push through reforms such as tax cuts in order to make themselves more popular among citizens.


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