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Comparative Tax Policy and Administration

Program Session(s):
August 15, 2016 - August 26, 2016

Application Deadline(s):
June 15, 2016

Program Fee:$10,900

Program fee includes: tuition, housing, curricular materials, and most meals.

Click here to see this program’s Executive Core Qualification (ECQ) alignment.

Faculty Chair: Jay Rosengard
Program Director: Laura Simolaris


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"Comparative Tax Policy and Administration was an extremely useful and educational two weeks. I will be working with my colleagues to try to implement lessons and ideas from the program. "
-Weston Stacey, Executive Director, American Chamber of Commerce

ComTax is not a course on the fundamentals of taxation – all ComTax participants are expected to be familiar with the basics. Nor does ComTax provide training in the implementation of a particular tax system. Instead, the course deals with the most difficult topics in the design and implementation of tax systems from a strategic and tactical perspective. 

Specific topics include:

The context of taxation – Links taxation and national development strategies, expenditure policies, and sub-national fiscal challenges.

  • Taxation and development
  • Taxation and public financial management
  • Taxation, fiscal decentralization, and intergovernmental fiscal relations

Comparative tax policy and administration – Develops and applies an innovative methodology for the design and assessment of tax systems.

  • Fiscal architecture for design of an appropriate tax system
  • The economics and political economy of taxation
  • Evaluation of specific tax alternatives
  • Institutional models for organizing tax administration
  • International taxation, tax treaties, and tax harmonization
  • International trends in tax policy and tax administration

Tax reform – Examines alternative strategies for improving tax systems.

  • Tax analysis and revenue forecasting
  • Tax incentives, compliance, and enforcement
  • Taxpayer awareness and taxpayer service
  • Reconciliation of conflicting policy objectives
  • Tax amnesties
  • Independent revenue authorities

The Case Study Method- To take advantage of participants’ considerable expertise and experience, the course relies heavily on participant interaction. ComTax complements its core lectures and group exercises with extensive use of the case study method pioneered at Harvard. Case teaching starts with an account of a specific real-world situation and works through a rigorous examination of that experience, the choices made, and their consequences. Through analysis of the experience and interactive discussion, participants learn approaches they can use to understand and act effectively in the concrete situations they face in their work.

A sample of the cases that will be used during the program:

Liquor Tax Reform in Thailand: Competing Interests and Objectives

Income tax cuts for individuals and businesses, ambitious government spending plans, financial assistance for citizens affected by the December 2004 tsunami, rising costs of the national healthcare system, and public pressure to curb alcohol consumption all contributed to the Government of Thailand’s decision to consider raising its excise taxes on alcoholic beverages. By September 2005 the Thai cabinet had to make a decision on reform of the system of liquor taxation. The current scheme was a mixed system that charged excise taxes based on both liquor values and the quantity of alcohol content, whichever yielded higher revenues. The cabinet caught between the competing interests of its own revenue needs, the profit objective of local producers, and consumer preferences and welfare was considering three options for reform proposed by the ministry of Finance's Excise Tax Department. The case reviews key factors that affected the conditions and desires of each stakeholder, as well as provides an international comparative perspective on the taxation of alcoholic beverages.


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