5th International Conference on Taxpayer Rights 09.30.20 to 10.01.20 | University of Pretoria, SA

This week’s digest is a quick update on a hodge-podge of topics, starting with our publication of the agenda for the 5th International Conference on Taxpayer Rights, which you can access here.  The theme of the conference is Taxpayer Rights, Human Rights: Issues for Developing Countries.  The conference’s planning committee (Annet Oguttu and Riel Franzsen of African Tax Institute, University of Pretoria; Chris Evans of University of New South Wales, Sydney; Pasquale Pistone of the International Bureau of Fiscal Documentation, The Netherlands; Carika Fritz of University of Witwatersrand School of Law, and myself) has really enlisted an extraordinary group of speakers.  My goal for the conference is to get folks to take a bit of a step back and think about what is the role of taxation in terms of providing for public goods.  Developing countries are having to wrestle with this question every day, while it often gets obscured in taxation debates in developed countries.

Early registration for the conference opens on February 15th And, looking ahead to 2021, we’ve set the dates and location for the 6th International Conference on Taxpayer Rights.  It will be held in Athens on May 27 and 28, 2021 ; the theme will include audit practices and access to tax agency information and positions (transparency).

Low Income Taxpayer Clinic News

On the Low Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC) front, we’ve heard from Annette Morgan of Curtin University Law School in Perth, Australia, who reports that Australian Tax Office has committed $4 million AUD over the next four fiscal years to support the budding National Tax Clinic movement there.  (See page 283 of the Commonwealth of Australia’s Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook 2019-20.)  I met with ATO and Annette a few years ago, before Annette started up her clinic, and it is amazing what has been accomplished in such a short time.  We will publish Annette’s report of the National Tax Clinic program’s pilot in a future issue of the Taxpayer Rights Digest, but you can find out more about the Curtin Tax Clinic here.

Taxpayer Advocate/Ombuds News

Meanwhile, there’s been increasing activity in the United States with regard to adoption of Taxpayer Bills of Rights (TBORs) and establishment of Taxpayer Advocate offices.  Early in January, I met with Elena Fowlkes, the recently appointed Taxpayer Advocate for the District of Columbia.  Elena formerly was the Assistant Director of the LITC at the University of Baltimore Law School, so her advocacy skills are really well-honed.  At the same time, the Washington DC adopted a taxpayer bill of rights, modeled after the U.S. TBOR.  Elena noted that the District doesn’t really have a robust administrative appeals system for various types of taxes, and she intends that area to be a focus for her first year on the job.  You can learn more about the DC Taxpayer Advocate Office here.  The Taxpayer Advocate Act of 2019 is a bill still “under consideration” by the District of Columbia Council; we will be watching its progress.

As more states and localities establish taxpayer advocate and ombuds offices, we are seeing them take many different forms.  The Center for Taxpayer Rights and the Federation of Tax Administrators have agreed to re-instate regular conference calls for taxpayer advocates around the U.S., so they can share their successes and challenges, identify common or unique issues, and just generally learn from (and maybe commiserate with) one another.

And … to bring it back around to where we started … we plan to have a Roundtable Breakfast for Taxpayer Advocates and Ombuds on Friday, October 2, immediately after the 5th International Conference on Taxpayer Rights.  This will be a great opportunity for people holding these positions to meet their peers, and also a chance for people who are interested in establishing such a position in their own countries or states.  As noted above, early registration begins on February 15th!


In closing, the Taxpayer Rights Digest is really a vehicle to share developments around the world.  If there is something you think needs to be covered, just drop me an email at neo@taxpayer-rights.org