Observatory on the Protection of Taxpayers’ Rights
There is now a clear and undeniable relationship between human rights and taxation with human rights directly influencing different facets of the tax relationship, both materially and formally. Human rights materially influence the concept of “fair” taxation to balance the effective enjoyment of the fundamental rights of the people, in conditions of freedom and dignity (such as education, health, work, etc.) against the adequate financing of State activity aimed at the procurement of essential public services. Human rights facilitate the formal recognition of a taxpayer’s position vis-à-vis tax claims and, therefore, their right to participation and defense in administrative and judicial proceedings related to the assessment of the tax liability. Human rights further assist to define the relationships between the tax administration and individuals.
Globalization and the growing internationalization of tax law have added further complexity to the analysis. The balance between the prevention of international multiple taxation (the result of cross-border transactions in an environment of growing globalization) and the fight (of States) against international tax avoidance, tax evasion and tax fraud (particularly evident during the BEPS Project) has resulted in the development of a tangled network of “hard” and “soft” law regulations. Human rights considerations unquestionably play a critical role in ensuring freedom and dignity with respect to the interpretation and application of such regulations.
The current political climate and response to calls for “tax fairness” has led to the growth of the investigative powers of tax administrations, aimed at tackling both tax avoidance and evasion, as well as the so-called “aggressive tax planning”. Such increased powers must be balanced with the provision of timely and effective protection to taxpayer’s rights. From the current research (see below) it is possible to establish the current principles, minimum standards and best practices that ensure the enjoyment of those taxpayer rights (within the scope of human rights). It is equally important, in light of the growing powers of tax administrations, to continuously update and aid in the further development and application of such principles, standards and practices.
The Observatory on the Protection of Taxpayers’ Rights (OPTR) will identify principles, minimum standards and best practices for the effective protection of taxpayers’ rights in the ambit of tax relationships. It will also allow the permanent monitoring of global compliance with such minimum standards, as well as their amendment and development in the different regions of the world (defining whether such may qualify as either a universal or regional standard).
This monitoring function will assist the OPTR to identify areas of sensitivity and potential challenges to the human rights deriving from amendments to law or administrative and judicial practices. It may further raise public awareness about human rights in the field of taxation.
The OPTR work is relevant for governments, taxpayers and different international organizations on human rights. It demonstrates the link between human rights and taxation and raises awareness as to the potential impact of an excessive tax burden or the execution of administrative or judicial processes where these rights are limited or ignored.
Other observatories and international organizations, such as the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Council of Europe, the Ombudsman of the European Union, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the Asian Human Rights Commission, and the Organization of American States, among others, may be interested in the work of the Observatory, as a forum that provides information in a neutral and impartial way and satisfies high technical standards. Similarly, the International Courts on Human Rights, such as the International Criminal Court, the European Court of Human Rights, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, and the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights, may consider the information developed by the OPTR useful.
The OPTR will facilitate:
- The creation of a database on the minimum standards for the protection of taxpayers’ rights, the status of the legal framework and the case law on the matter.
- The organization of seminars and conferences to discuss human rights in the context of tax-related issues and contributing proposals.
- The development of documents to contribute to the knowledge, expansion and awareness of the connection between human rights and taxation.
- Assistance to government authorities on human rights/taxation matters, training and providing tools to their personnel for the implementation of best practices and the domestic monitoring of the minimum standards for the protection of taxpayers’ rights, as an instrument for the achievement of an efficient public administration.
- Providing information to the public regarding how taxation may adversely affect the guarantee of human rights and how a balance can be achieved.
- Raising awareness on the clear linkage between human rights and taxation.