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Trust: a critical dialogue

Trust: a critical dialogue

Grant Wardell-Johnson discusses the importance of trust in almost all human interactions and increasingly in the world of tax.

Grant Wardell

Lead Tax Partner, KPMG Economics & Tax Centre

KPMG Australia


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Male and female shaking hands.

When one contemplates the word “trust” one begins to delve into a hugely complex area. Trust is basic to virtually every human interaction. We could not operate without it and our lives are clearly greatly enhanced by a strong measure of it.

Yet it is not an unmitigated good. Where it is misguided, particularly on a personal level, it can quite dangerous. It can be pro-reason and pro-enlightenment and it can be the opposite of that. Trust can reflect gullibility. Yet the other end of the spectrum – ultra-cynicism – is oddly very similar in its effect, as both are a failure to look at what is plausible through thoughtful evaluation.

In our tax world “Justified Trust” has become the foundation for the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) finding “the right touch” in its risk review process. It has become a program. And one which is critical to many tax functions, advisors and stakeholders. But the term “Justified Trust” is part of a much wider discourse about trust in our community.

Considerable attention is being given to widening distrust in all our major institutions – business, government, not-for-profits and media. Recently KPMG and the Australian Financial Review (AFR) hosted a roundtable on Rebuilding Corporate Trust. This followed a survey conducted by KPMG and the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) titled Maintaining the social licence to operate

KPMG has sought to unpack the complexity, drivers and solutions to rising institutional distrust and our series of articles provides an excellent foundation for thinking about trust.

This broader discussion is highly relevant to the practice of tax as it is pertinent to our broad global future and all our institutions in between. I hope you enjoy engaging in this discussion. It will be a critical one this year and for many years to come.

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