Taxpayer Rights Digest

Watch the video of Tax Chat! No. 2 —
Taxpayer Rights, Human Rights, & Achieving Sustainable Development Goals

Dear friends,

Today we have uploaded the video of last month’s Tax Chat! to our YouTube channel; it is also accessible on the Tax Chat! page of our website here.  (Did you know the Center for Taxpayer Rights has a YouTube channel?  You should check it out; you can subscribe and get notifications of when we upload our Tax Chat! videos ….)

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As you may recall, our topic for the October 2020 Tax Chat! was Taxpayer Rights, Human Rights, and Achieving Sustainable Development Goals.  Our guests were Professor Riel Franzsen, director of the African Tax Institute at the University of Pretoria, South Africa; Professor Annet Oguttu of the Department of Taxation at the University of Pretoria; and Asha Ramgobin, Executive Director and co-founder of the Human Rights Development Initiative in Pretoria, South Africa.

We began our conversation by discussing what is meant by Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted as part of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  As Professor Oguttu explains, they arise from basic human rights principles; by meeting SDGs, governments fulfill their obligations to respect and protect the human rights of their people. 

This implies that instead of framing budget choices as either/or (as in defense spending vs. healthcare spending), the focus should be on maximum available resources necessary to achieve SDGs.  Thus, by asking whether “the pot is as large as it should be”, we create a new normative framework.  Tax incentives and programs should be viewed in light of the damage or aid to maximum available resources.  Moreover, within the context of international human rights legal principles of solidarity and cooperation, the obligations of one state to another must be reconciled with each state’s duty to raise maximum available resources for its people.

Given that the global urban population constitutes over 50 percent of the world’s population, SDG 11 establishes a goal to “[m]ake cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.”  Professor Franzsen noted that by 2050, two-thirds of the world’s population will be living in urban areas, with 70 million people annually added to the global urban population; 25 percent of the urban population are slum dwellers.  Outside of large urban centers, small cities don’t have the administrative support from national governments, nor do they have the infrastructure to effectively administer a property tax, which may be the sole source of revenue for them to provide services to their population.  And today, as a result of the pandemic and its economic disruption, tax relief measures dry up that revenue source just when it is most needed.

We had a fascinating discussion with Ms. Ramgobin about the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Banjul Charter).  Article 29, Paragraph 6 of the Charter declares that it is the duty of every individual “[t]o work to the best of his abilities and competence, and to pay taxes imposed by law in the interests of the society.”  This balancing of rights and duties means they are integrated with each other.  The precise dimensions of that integration have not yet been developed.

This is just a sampling of the topics we chatted about – we also discussed illicit revenue flows and their impact on nations’ ability to achieve SDGs.  And we talked about the OECD inclusive framework, how it must be anchored on a principled  approach and not just a reaction to the rise of the digital economy.

So!  I hope you will follow the link below to the Tax Chat! video, watch it, and let us know what you think.  We welcome suggestions for future episodes.

And don’t forget – Tax Chat! No. 3, The Anthropology of Tax, will take place live on Zoom on Tuesday, 9 November 2020, at noon EST (17:00 GMT/18:00 CET).  You can register for the free live talk here.

Please take care and stay safe,

All the best,

Nina Olson
Executive Director

P.S.  Help support the work of the Center for Taxpayer Rights by clicking the button below and donating today.  Thank you!