The price we pay for a specialised society: Do tax disputes require greater judicial specialisation in New Zealand?
In recent years, a review of the Judicature Act and the introduction of the Judicature Modernisation Bill have enlivened the debate over the structure and character of the New Zealand court system. A key issue that the recent review and reforms have brought to the fore is whether greater judicial specialisation is advantageous at the High Court level. This paper considers whether tax cases, in particular, warrant greater judicial specialisation. The paper draws from experiences of specialised tax adjudication in foreign jurisdictions and evaluates the efficacy of existing specialisation in the New Zealand system, as well as considering whether the nature of tax law lends itself to specialisation. The conclusion is that greater judicial specialisation in respect of tax cases is undesirable. Admittedly, specialisation has been effective in many foreign jurisdictions and many characteristics of tax law favour specialisation. Yet, specialisation would come at a price in terms of the independence of tax judges and the development of idiosyncratic law. Moreover, New Zealand’s size would decimate the benefits that it could gain from further specialisation, particularly when the disputes process and the Taxation Review Authority already incorporate an effective level of specialisation to the resolution of tax disputes in New Zealand.