From Moral Duty to Legal Rule – A Blueprint for Reform of Taxpayer Rights to Fair Treatment in the UK and Australia

John Bevacqua


Tax authorities both in the UK and Australia aspire to treat taxpayers fairly. This article assesses the extent to which these aspirations have been recognised in formal legal rules in both countries. It shows that neither jurisdiction has imposed on the Revenue any broad express legal obligation to treat taxpayers fairly. The legislatures in both jurisdictions have largely left the matter to the judiciary. As a consequence, neither country is far advanced along the path to translating the moral duty of tax officials to treat taxpayers fairly into a clear and certain legal right. This chapter proposes a number of reforms which, taken together, set out a blueprint for addressing this situation. The proposed reforms comprise legislative clarification of taxpayer rights to fair treatment, taxpayer rights to compensation for serious failures to treat taxpayers fairly and formal monitoring and sanctions to ensure compliance with Revenue commitments to treat taxpayers fairly.

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