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Title: Taxpayers' rights
Authors: Bowal, Peter
Wanke, Irene
Keywords: Human rights;Income taxes;Laws & regulations
Issue Date: 1999
Publisher: Legal Resource Centre of Alberta Ltd. (LRC)
Citation: Bowal, Peter, Wanke, Irene, "Taxpayers' rights", Law Now, Feb/Mar 1999, Vol. 23, Iss. 4; pg. 8.
Abstract: This statement of rights, reproduced here in its entirety, is available on the Revenue Canada website ( In the last few years, this Declaration has been printed on the back page of the Department's general taxpayer Guide to completing the income tax return. One cannot find any analysis and commentary on the Declaration in any books and guides published in the private sector. There are no judicial decisions that interpret and apply the Declaration. The reason for this lack of legal analysis on this Declaration is simple: it has no force of law. The Declaration of Taxpayers' Rights was never enacted into law, much less entrenched as a part of the constitution. It contains no meaningful procedural safeguards. It is a political statement of faith and intention, not a code enforceable at law. Some individual taxpayers in court and in letters will invoke the Declaration, unaware that it has no legal effect. One cannot sue for a government violation of the Declaration. Although a taxpayer may point to a right in the Declaration, it is not an enforceable right. A judge will only take light, general notice of the Declaration when deciding a tax case, because it is merely a government statement of goodwill. Over one million corporations, 158,000 importers, 110 million travellers; 21.3 million taxfilers, 2.3 million GST registrants, 1.3 million employers, 21,000 pension and related administrators, and 75,000 charities: this is what our federal income tax department dealt with alone in 1996-97 (Ensuring Fair Customs and Revenue Administration in Canada, available on website). Virtually, all Canadian taxpayers stand against the unlimited force of different levels of government to have various taxes assessed and collected throughout the year. There are few procedural rights or safeguards for them. While the fairness provisions provide some basis for discretion, there is nothing similar to the broad set of effective and generously interpreted rights for people charged with crimes. Even if the pronouncements contained in the Declaration of Taxpayers' Rights were enforceable, they are lacking in substance. They do not extend the benevolence we expect from government in all facets of daily life. None of these rights, for example, deal with the amount of tax levied. Rather, they only indirectly and partially address calculation and collection methods, so that these are fair and constrain the impulses of such a strong entity to take advantage of weaker parties.
Description: Article deposited after permission was granted by the editor of LawNow magazine, 06/28/2010.
ISSN: 0841-2626
Appears in Collections:Bowal, Peter

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