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UN Special Rapporteur: Tax policy major determinant in enjoyment of human rights


Picture: Jean-Marc Ferré/UN Geneva

During the current session of the UN Human Rights Council the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, presented a report by his predecessor Magdalena Sepúlveda Carmona concerning fiscal and tax policy, poverty and human rights. The report stresses the role of fiscal and taxation policy as a major determinant in the enjoyment of human rights and makes some reccommendations how to make the global tax system more effective, equitable and transparent.

June 26, 2014 | UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights

UN Special Rapporteur: Tax policy major determinant in enjoyment of human rights

As agreed upon in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and other Human Rights Conventions states have the duty to devote the “maximum available resources” to ensure the realization of economic, social and cultural rights. Therefore, human rights obligations should not only guide states’ expenditure practices but also their revenue raising practices, according to the report.

This means for example critically examining the benefit of tax holidays for foreign companies or equipping tax authorities with the necessary financial and personnel capacities. On the other hand, states also have the obligation to ensure that their tax laws and structures do not erode the national tax base of other states and hamper their ability to exert progressive tax rates. In this regard, the Special Rapporteur explicitly demands high-income states to take responsibility for their failure to prevent tax abuse and illicit financial flows.

Subsequently, the report stresses the importance of international cooperation for the implementation of an adequate global framework to tackle tax evasion, transfer mispricing and suchlike and formulates recommendations like the introduction of system of information exchange between tax authorities, country-by-country reporting standards in extractive industries, the full disclosure of beneficial ownership through national public registers and the upgrade of the Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters to intergovernmental status.

Read the full report here.

You can also watch the presentation of the report in the Human Rights Council (minutes 17 to 33).


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