Fiscal and tax policy (2014)

The Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Magdalena Sepúlveda Carmona, submitted a report concerning the human rights impact of fiscal and tax policy for the 26th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (June 2014).

Fiscal and tax policies (revenue-raising and expenditure) are an essential tool for States to meet their human rights commitments and combat poverty. As stipulated by the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (art. 2), States must make use of their maximum available resources to realize economic, social and cultural rights. Low levels of domestic taxation revenue, in particular, can be a major obstacle to a State’s ability to meet these obligations.

A human rights-based assessment of fiscal policy is particularly necessary due to the ongoing repercussions of the global financial and economic crises and their impact on the enjoyment of human rights worldwide. The impacts of revenue shortfalls and increased public debt are primarily felt by the poorest and most vulnerable both domestically and abroad, through cuts to budgets for social protection and public services, and a reduction in aid budgets. In many States, efforts to respond to the crisis have not been made in line with international human rights obligations.

The report applies human rights principles and standards to different practices for revenue-raising and taxation, with the objective of: 1) identifying current trends in fiscal and tax policy and their impact on human rights, especially those of persons living in poverty; 2) highlighting concerns raised by particular policies in taxation and spending, as well as good practices; 3) making concrete recommendations to States on how to ensure fiscal and tax policy is in accordance with human rights obligations.

The report considers issues such as tax revenue and distribution, taxation of corporations and the financial sector, intergovernmental tax cooperation, tax evasion and illicit financial flows, and distribution of public expenditure.

The Special Rapporteur invited States, United Nations departments and agencies, national human rights institutions, civil society organizations, individuals living in poverty and social exclusion and other relevant stakeholders to send contributions to the report in the form of research studies, reports and examples of relevant policies.

The questionnaire that was sent by the Special Rapporteur to States can be accessed here in English, French and Spanish, and the questionnaire sent to civil society organisations and national human rights institutions is available here in English, French and Spanish.

  • To see the responses received from States click here
  • To see the responses received from civil society click here
  • To see the responses received from National Human Rights Institutions click here
  • To see the responses received from Special procedures click here

On 16-17 September 2013, the Special Rapporteur convened an expert meeting in Geneva, with the support of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES-Geneva Office), MISEREOR (the German Catholic Bishops’ Organisation for Development Cooperation), the Center of Concern and the Christian Aid.

The expert meeting brought together a small group of experts from civil society, grass roots organizations, UN agencies and academia working in diverse fields including economics, social policy, development and human rights. The participants inputs and experiences will help the Special Rapporteur decide on the direction and content of the report to the Human Rights Council in June 2014.

A list of those who participated in the meeting can be accessed though the following link