4.36 Vulnerable Persons

Primary Reference to Article 25 – Appropriate Assistance Vulnerable Persons

As mentioned earlier, taxpayers require assistance in complying with their tax obligations. This is owing to the fact that tax law has become very complex, such that a person without specialized knowledge in tax legislation is generally unable to fully comprehend its application. Since ignorance of the law will not excuse the taxpayer, it is the responsibility of the tax administration to provide taxpayers with reasonable assistance. This assistance can be provided through the use of forms, guides, or information.

For certain individuals, however, the general assistance provided by the tax administration is not sufficient in assisting the taxpayer. Vulnerable persons, commonly defined as persons in need of special care, support, or protection because of age, disability, or risk of abuse or neglect (per the Oxford Dictionary) may require greater assistance. This Charter defines the vulnerable person widely as a taxpayer who for justifiable reasons may have difficulty in complying with the requirements of the tax system, which shall be determined based on the circumstances of each taxpayer and may include, but is not limited to the very elderly, the infirm, persons of limited ability to function in an official language of the state, small business, small estates, and those living below the commonly agreed upon poverty line.

It is apparent that the aforementioned persons may legitimately experience greater difficulty in complying with the requirements of the tax system compared to other taxpayers, and thus an enhanced level of consideration, such as greater leniency and simplified legislation, forms, or procedures may be warranted. The goal of the enhanced level of assistance is not to provide vulnerable persons with an advantage over other taxpayers, but rather, to afford vulnerable persons with equal access in complying with the law. For example, for the hearing or sight impaired, an enhanced level of assistance might include systems or procedures providing the taxpayer with supplementary means of communication.

It is ultimately the goal of the tax system to be administered fairly and with integrity for all. To achieve this, all taxpayers should be treated equally before the law. This usually involves treating all taxpayers alike, however in certain circumstances, as seen with vulnerable persons, it is evident that differential treatment is necessary to allow for that equality.