4.4 Nature of Taxpayer Charters

A Taxpayer Charter is an attempt to summarise and explain in plain language a Taxpayer's Rights and Responsibilities in relation to his or her tax affairs, making such information widely accessible and understandable.

In many countries, Taxpayer Charters are a guide to the law and are not legal documents in themselves, although in some tax systems they may constitute a 'ruling'. Generally they would not provide additional rights or obligations other than those contained in relevant legislation.

The Model Taxpayer Charter which has been developed as a result of this study contains examples of elements that might be found based on the discussion contained in this work. It should be stressed that the Model Taxpayer Charter, and the statements within it, may not be applicable for every tax administration. In drawing up a Taxpayer Charter a jurisdiction must properly reflect its own policy and legislative environment and its own administrative practices, culture and legal traditions. It should also be noted that even countries without a Taxpayer Charter may attach equal importance to Taxpayer Rights and that in practice taxpayers in such countries may have rights similar to those found in formal Taxpayer Charter statements.

That having been said, there are substantial arguments for a comprehensive statement of Taxpayer Rights to be available in all countries, not only to facilitate international trade and commerce, but also to enable benchmarking of a particular country's tax system with that of other countries.

Consideration is given later to the question of whether a Taxpayer Charter should be a legally binding document or merely a practice statement, and other related topics such as how detailed and comprehensive should be its text.