Ann Hansford

Ann Hansford

Dr Ann Hansford joined the University of Exeter Business School in 2012 following 15 years in academic posts. Prior to that Ann was a tax manager dealing with practical tax issues for a range of clients from high net worth individuals to multinational companies. 

This varied background is reflected in her current research interests that build on the extensive collaborative research work she has done with international academic colleagues.  The study she is engaged with currently is a multi-country investigation into tax compliance costs with data being collected with colleagues on four continents. Environmental tax is also a current research interest with papers based on her research being given at conferences in USA, Europe and Australia. Ann was a visiting Research Fellow at ATAX, University of NSW, Sydney and she spent a sabbatical there in 2007.

Research interests

  • International tax compliance costs
  • Environmental tax
  • Self assessment and IT adoption strategies
  • The philosophy of taxation and the is/ought question.

Compliance costs are the costs incurred by individuals and businesses in order to comply with the, seemingly, ever more complex tax system. Our work is systematically assessing the actual costs of complying with the tax regulations across various countries. We focus on not only the burdens on business but also the potential benefits of tax concessions and incentives together with investigating the managerial benefits that may result. 

Environmental taxes are a growing area of tax research as governments endeavour to extend the tax base ever wider to compensate for the reduction in the headline rates of income and business taxes.

Self assessment is the process by which most developed countries collect information and assess the tax liability of individuals and business. Moving to an IT based system has extended the issues tax policy makers have to consider together with those for businesses and how they can integrate these government based requirements into the normal business accounting activities.

The greater the complexity within the tax systems, the greater the need to review the axiomatic base upon which assumptions are based and this raises interesting fundamental questions. Most would agree that there is a need to generate tax revenues but who, exactly, ought to be responsible and to what extent?

Current research activity

Tax compliance costs are often referred to as the ‘hidden costs’ of a tax system.  Governments may claim to be reducing the burden on business and cutting ‘red tape’ but the reality experienced by companies, large and small, and individuals is often contrary to that.  Our work has been on going for over ten years so that enables a longitudinal assessment as well as a cross country assessment of these costs.  

Environmental taxes can have a dual purpose; not only the standard requirement of collecting revenue to fund health, education and other public services but also the means to influence behaviour. For example, landfill tax was introduced in 1996, but until it was raised to a significant rate (currently £64 per tonne and due to rise to £72 per tonne on 1 April 2013) little notice was taken of it.  Now with local councils having to manage their costs with ever greater precision, the amount of waste allowed to be included in landfill continues to diminish. This is ‘good’ for the environment (and so successful in influencing behaviour) but ‘bad’ for tax revenue generation. Our work considers various international approaches to environmental tax, together with incentives to change behaviour, and has included recent work on research and development tax credits.

Current research into self assessment IT adoption strategies is due to be published shortly and it builds on work over the last 12 years on the impact of changing to a self assessment system. The work has been enhanced by collaboration and co supervision of a successful PhD study with international academic colleagues in Australia and Malaysia.   

Reviewing the basic philosophy of taxation enables questions such as: is a progressive tax system fairer than a regressive one? Should the less well of expect tax allowances and credits at current levels? Should company profits be taxed at all, as the employees, owners and customers already pay a significant amount of tax on earnings, dividends and purchases? These are all sub questions to the fundamental is / ought question as it applies to taxation.