4.6 Why a Taxpayer Charter Must be More than a Statement of Principles

The results of our survey of tax advisors in 41 countries has indicated strong support for a Model Taxpayer Charter. Having reviewed certain of 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;
  • 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 our survey results of the 164 questions posed to tax professionals in the 41 countries surveyed.

For these reasons and others, the authors, with input from many sources, took it upon themselves to draft a Model Taxpayer Charter which could be adapted for use universally.

A country looking to adopt a Taxpayer Charter will have a number of important decisions to make.  Certain of these are outlined below, together with our views on what we consider to be the appropriate answers to these questions. Our views are reinforced by the results of our survey, and the comments received.

Below we consider the following important questions:

  1. Should the Taxpayer Charter be legally binding or simply a practice statement issued by the tax authorities?
  2. Should the Taxpayer Charter apply to all taxes or only certain taxes (for example income taxes)?
  3. Should the Taxpayer Charter be drafted in very general terms as statements of principle, or should it be detailed and specific?
  4. Is a Model Taxpayer Charter a useful starting point?