The project is a three-way co-operation between AOTCA, CFE and STEP. Each organization contributed equally in terms of funding and resources, and each owns an equal interest in the project and any derivative rights or works including all data.
Originally the project was conceptualized as a study into Taxpayer Rights. However several such studies have been done in the past which, while interesting, have not led to tangible and concrete outcomes. It was determined that Taxpayer Responsibilities should be reviewed as well as Taxpayer Rights, as collectively these should form a balanced package. However the project has been taken well beyond this.
The project goes where most others have not dared to tread, producing a comprehensive Model Taxpayer Charter for consideration. (The excellent work of Professor Duncan Bentley of Australia in the title, Taxpayer's Rights: Theory, Origin and Implementation, is one example of a comprehensive work and we commend it.)
At an early stage in the project, it was determined that one conclusion might be to suggest that a Model Taxpayer Charter be developed. But rather than leave things there, we then went ahead and developed one. A first version of this Taxpayer Charter was not released. It was used internally as a guide for construction of the survey which derived information about taxation in the 37 countries which participated. The results of the survey gave further guidance into matters to be addressed in the Model Taxpayer Charter and led to certain revisions.
A website was created for the organization of the project, which was available only to participants. The survey questionnaire, included in Appendix II was loaded onto the website and participants completed the survey online (one for each country). The website also compiled the results of the survey in tabular form, and listed comments which were given. These comments are available on the website www.taxpayercharter.com.
With 37 countries participating, and some 164 questions to be answered, together with comments in many cases, there were over 6,000 items of data to analyse and consider in our first survey.
The survey questionnaires were completed by members of the member organisations of AOTCA and CFE and local branches of STEP in the countries represented. Each participant took it upon itself to answer the questionnaire as it saw fit, and the survey results have not been independently verified. It is noted that many of the questions and also the selection of answers offer a degree of latitude in interpretation. For this reason, the aggregate results were included, as opposed to all of the raw data. It should also be noted that the answers given to particular questions do not necessarily represent the view in all cases of AOTCA, CFE, or STEP, or their local affiliate organizations.
The survey results reinforced the strong desire to have a uniform model of a Taxpayer Charter, which could be adopted around the world. There was overwhelming (but not universal) support for the concept. This encouraged those working closely on the project to continue with this work, and to prepare a preliminary report for comment by interested stakeholders.
Following this, we added 4 further countries to the survey, refined the Taxpayer Charter and have now issued this Final Report.
The results of our survey of tax advisors has indicated strong support for a Model Taxpayer Charter. Having reviewed those Taxpayer Charters currently in place in the countries surveyed, most contain useful elements which should be included in a model to be adopted. However such Taxpayer Charters typically have one or more of the following shortcomings:
- not legally binding;
- not comprehensive in scope;
- while listing certain Taxpayer Rights, these do not go far enough;
- the document is no more than a policy notice of the tax administration which is mainly focussed on enforcement;
- tax matters dealing with tax legislation are not addressed;
- there is no attempt to hold the tax administration accountable to taxpayers.
These comments are echoed over and over in the results of the 164 questions posed to tax professionals in 41 countries.
For these reasons and others, the authors, with input from many sources, took it upon themselves to draft and then redraft a Model Taxpayer Charter which could be adapted for use universally, and which is presented in Model Taxpayer Charter.